November 16, 2006

University staff urged to assist bullying survey

Alexandra Smith, Friday November 3, 2006 -

A Nottingham Trent academic is launching a study to help discover the extent to which university staff are being harassed, attacked and even stalked by disgruntled students.

Deborah Lee, a sociologist at the university, is urging all university staff to take part in the online survey, which will be available in the new year, to shed light on the issue.

The research follows an earlier pilot study carried out by Dr Lee that focused solely on lecturers.

In her book, University Students Behaving Badly, 22 academics from UK universities, aged between 25 and 65, revealed their experiences of being physically attacked, stalked, verbally abused, bullied, sexually harassed or maliciously accused of poor teaching by students.

Dr Lee highlighted the case of Stella, a 38-year-old senior marketing lecturer at a pre-1992 university, who was physically attacked by a student who objected to failing an assignment. Her line manager was unsupportive, declaring that Stella was "just a girl who couldn't manage students".

The sociologist said: "The problem at the moment is we don't know how bad the problem is."

The Universities Personnel Association (UPA) is funding Dr Lee's new study, the results of which universities would be able to use to help them update their human resources' policies.

The executive officer at UPA, Helen Scott, said: "This is not just about academics, but all staff across universities because we are interested in the wellbeing of all staff.

"We were very interested in funding this study because we are interested to know the extent of the problem, if there is one, because then we could work to prevent it or help staff deal with it."

The joint general secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt, said: "Lecturers do an extraordinary job and the role many of them take in providing pastoral care for students, particularly those away from home for the first time, is often overlooked.

"They need to be confident they can continue to do their jobs and provide this extra care without fear of recrimination. Universities have a duty of care to protect their staff from harassment and they need to ensure that instances where students over step the mark are treated seriously."

No comments: