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Resources for Responding to Online Harassment

The University of Minnesota is committed to defending and upholding academic freedom. Doing so is more important now than ever before.

In recent years, across the country there has been a dramatic increase in personal, online harassment that targets scholars and researchers. These “trolling attacks” can be professionally disruptive and personally challenging.

The University has resources to assist you if you experience online harassment. A prompt, calm, and organized response can support members of our community experiencing online harassment and can minimize the public effects on all of us.

Mobilize Your Resources If You Experience Online Harassment

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately if you or others close to you are in imminent physical danger.
  • Contact your leader (e.g., dean, chair, head, director) as soon as possible.
  • In partnership with your leadership, contact system University Relations.
    • They can provide counsel and help coordinate response resources such as law enforcement, Provost’s Office, Information Technology, Human Resources, Student Affairs, or General Counsel.

What to Know If You Are the Target of Online Harassment

  • This harassment can be intense, but is often fleeting.
    • The effects of harassment often linger well beyond the immediate episode, which is why it is important to seek support from colleagues even after the harassment ends.
  • Your email, social media accounts, and contact information likely will be publicized.
    • The Office of Information Technology can help you suppress your information on University websites, including your department/unit web pages. The office can also provide best practices for managing your University data.
  • Responding to harassing messages tends to prolong and inflame incidents.
    • Responding to a harasser isn’t as satisfying as it may seem in the moment. “Don’t feed the trolls” summarizes this best practice.
    • Consider suspending all social media activity for a few days, even messages that have no relation to the focus of the harassment.
  • Preserve all evidence—messages, emails, comments, postings, etc.
    • If you would rather not continue to see these messages, consider allowing University Police, Office of Information Technology, or a trusted colleague to handle this task.
  • Media outlets may contact you; you do not need to respond.
    • If you receive media requests or have questions about interacting with the media, please work with your local communicator (unit, college, campus) or University Relations, which will work with other campus resources to guide you.
  • These attacks may affect your classroom environment, as well as peers or others associated with your program.
    • If you believe the incident will disrupt your classroom environment, please discuss that with your local leader.
  • The harassment could involve someone who attends your class.
    • This person may be recording in the classroom or lab. You have the right to prohibit audio or video recording in these settings.

This resource was developed by University Relations at the University of Minnesota.

Thank you to our colleagues at the University of Illinois, who allowed us to adopt much of this content for our use.

Resources to Support Collegues (PDF)

Online Harassment Key Contact Directory (PDF)

Postcard (PDF) 

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