Supporting Colleagues Experiencing Intimidation or Attacks

Online abuse takes many forms and has many names: doxing, astroturfing, dogpiling, cyberbullying and trolling are among the variations.1 Incidents of intentional online abuse continue to rise nationally, and studies show that people who work in higher education are especially likely to be targeted.2, 3

Online attacks often involve individuals as well as organized groups, and they can range from vague, anonymous comments on websites (especially social media platforms) to direct threats of physical harm sent through email or by text message. Online attacks can also trigger off-line threats through phone calls, mail and in-person actions.

Note that a person need not be online to be attacked this way. A newspaper op-ed on a topic of scholarly expertise, a professional presentation during a workshop or training session, or a class lecture or public talk that gets video recorded surreptitiously could generate an attack without the targeted person even being aware of it. While most attacks are of short duration, some people may experience pervasive or severe targeting that lasts longer. Attacks of any duration can be experienced by the target as worrisome, dangerous, and often traumatic.

In this context of intentional acts of intimidation or attack, James Madison University affirms its commitment to academic freedom and freedom of speech of faculty and staff in its employ. Academic freedom in teaching and research is essential to the educational mission of the university. Freedom of speech is essential to JMU’s vision “to be the national model for the engaged university—engaged with ideas and the world.”

Campus policies and procedures that relate to academic freedom, first amendment rights and the behavior of JMU faculty, staff or students toward other members of the campus community may be found here. Note that this is a non-exhaustive list of campus policies and procedures. The page includes the university’s no class recording policy, for example, which prohibits students from recording and posting online. Individual units and offices may also have their own protocols in place.

This document is subject to update as more resources become available.


This information is applicable to faculty and staff in the James Madison Univerity Division of Academic Affairs only.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. 

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