Indiana Daily Student

IU student pushes for change in viral TikTok after harassment in residence hall

<p>Declan Farley sits at his desk on Jan. 19, 2023. Farley said he was harassed by other students in Spruce Hall, but others said he had few options besides moving rooms.</p>

Declan Farley sits at his desk on Jan. 19, 2023. Farley said he was harassed by other students in Spruce Hall, but others said he had few options besides moving rooms.

Editor’s Note: This story includes mention of suicide. If you are struggling with suicide or your mental health, you are not alone. Resources are available here

Declan Farley remembers someone body slamming his door three times in one night last semester.  

He’d transferred to IU from his hometown of Palmer, Alaska, and was a new student during the fall 2022 semester. Busy with midterm studying in his dorm at Spruce Hall, he texted in his floor’s group chat, asking the person to stop.  

“We do what we want, bozo,” he said they replied.  

It was not the first nor the last time Farley would face harassment and bullying during his first semester at IU; in fact, it began the very first night. 

On Jan. 14, Declan Farley, a sophomore studying management and human organization, posted a TikTok video in which he detailed his experience with harassment from other students on his floor at Spruce Hall. 

“It started with banging on my door and running away, then turned into yelling slurs outside my door,” Farley said in the video. “They have dumped food and put trash outside of my door. Most recently, I saw someone licking the outside of my door while I was inside.”  

Farley chose to transfer to IU in part because it seemed to have lots of resources for LGBTQ students. However, he quickly felt unsafe, he said, facing numerous instances of bullying and inconclusive reports to the university. 

It took such an emotional toll, Farley said, that he attempted to take his own life in October 2022. 

 Declan Farley is shown in his room on Jan. 19, 2023. Goodman Murphy-Smith

As a new openly queer and transgender student, Farley said he felt targeted. Because he had rarely spoken with anyone on his floor but was openly queer, he said he felt like an easy target.  

“They said the f-slur outside my door,” Farley said. “I was like, ‘They know. That’s the only thing they know about me.’”  

In October, Farley reported the harassment to residence hall officials and filed a bias incident report to the university. Farley said he was told his only option was to move rooms and to keep reporting when incidents occurred.  

“Why should I have to leave when I’m the one being harassed?” Farley remembered thinking. 

Over the course of the semester, Farley kept contacting university officials, but he was given either no response or was just referred to the Bias Response Team. He said he was told the students who were involved would be punished, but no change was ever made to his knowledge.  

Farley said his residence hall floor was supposed to have a meeting about the situation at the end of October or early November 2022. However, that meeting did not take place until Jan. 15 — after he posted the video. He was told this was because of lack of communication between faculty members.  

That floor meeting included the building director of Spruce Hall, a graduate advisor, a representative from IU’s Bias Incident Reporting team and a care coordinator, Farley said. During the meeting, he said, IU officials told the students on his floor “the news will be here tomorrow,” referring to news reports about Farley’s situation, and asked them how they felt about giving themselves a bad reputation.

“I felt like that was super inappropriate to say, considering the fact that’s not even relevant,” Farley said. “It’s not about the bad reputation of the floor. It’s about the actions of the floor.”  

After Farley posted the TikTok, IU officials told him the people responsible for his harassment would go through the university’s conduct system if they could be identified. One faculty member told him they would do everything they could to remove those who harassed him from the building. 

Farley is still skeptical any real change will be made.  

“I feel like it’s a lot of talk,” he said. 

Since Farley posted his TikTok, the video has garnered around 379,000 likes and over 1.7 million views as of Jan. 23. Farley said he has received an outpouring of support from other IU students and online. He was also given the opportunity to make a police report, which he said he was not offered and did not know was an option until the video was released.  

Hannah Skibba, IU Police Department public information officer, told the IDS in an email that IUPD and other university support staff are following up on the incident with Farley. 

Most of the other students on his floor had no idea of the severity of the harassment, Farley said, and they are upset at the way he was treated. In another floor meeting held Jan. 18, students pushed for accountability, asking the director of Spruce why IU took so long to handle the situation and why they did not protect Farley. The director of the building was defensive and denied Farley’s statement that IU did not handle the situation correctly, Farley said. The director said university policy prevented them from releasing certain information, he said. When Farley brought up how he was only given the option to move rooms, the director of the building insinuated he was lying, Farley said, saying it wasn’t true.  

Farley said he is speaking out to raise awareness of IU’s poor handling of the situation and to push the university to handle future incidents of harassment with more timeliness and respect.  

IU’s Queer Student Union released a statement Jan. 15 denouncing the harassment Farley experienced and expressing solidarity. Farley said the LGBTQ+ Culture Center has also reached out to him.  

Dave O’Guinn , IU Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, said in a statement emailed to the IDS the university cannot speak to specific student matters to maintain privacy.  

“We are deeply committed to maintaining an inclusive and safe campus for all students,” the release said. “We strive to respond to any report of bias and harassment with a robust process to address reported incidents and behaviors.” 

A spokesperson for IU did not respond to the IDS request for comment about Farley’s allegations that the university did not take his claims seriously.  

Farley plans to meet with IU Student Government to develop a proposition outlining what IU should do better moving forward, he said. Part of that proposition, he said, will include mandatory LGBTQ training for first-year students and resident assistants. He would like IU to release a statement showing support and would like to meet with other administrators to discuss how the university could ensure situations like his are handled better in the future.  

He said he was told the dean of students would reach out to him, but Farley is disappointed he needed to post a TikTok to raise awareness.  

“Now that it’s gotten so much publicity, it’s like now people want to talk to me,” he said. “That shouldn’t be the case.”  

Farley said he wants other LGBTQ students to know they are not alone, and he and others are working to combat incidents of harassment on campus.  

“Hopefully just creating a safer place, spreading awareness about this,” he said. “It’s already kind of given me closure, the fact that people know about this."                                                                                                                                                          

A list of resources is available here if you or someone you know is struggling with suicide or mental health. 

Like what you're reading?

Get more award-winning content delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our Daily Rundown.

Signup today!
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

Powered by Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 Indiana Daily Student