July 20, 2012

University of hard knocks

Staff relations at one of Australia's top universities have become so dysfunctional some employees spend working days "crying in the toilets". More than two thirds of the academic and general staff at the University of NSW - many in senior positions - said they had been bullied at work.

Some claimed to have been sexually assaulted. Many of the alleged bullies are women and university authorities have been accused of failing to address the issue, a federal parliamentary inquiry into workplace bullying has been told.

A submission to the inquiry prepared by the National Tertiary Education Union said a confidential survey of more than 550 UNSW staff uncovered complaints about "unfair treatment, public humiliation, arbitrary misuse of power and repeated shouting, swearing and threatening behaviour in their work units". Almost 40 respondents said they received or witnessed "unwanted sexual attention" while others reported "illegal discriminatory activity, pressure to retire and demeaning and discriminatory jokes".

One senior staff member was heard to comment on a colleague, saying she looked like "Princess Diana after the accident with the steering wheel through her face".

The submission said: "This was reported to senior management in the workplace but the respondent was unaware of any action taken.

"Some of the open-ended responses described incidences that amounted to physical and/or sexual assault.

"Another said that seeing colleagues crying in the toilets was a daily occurrence."

UNSW vice president of university services Neil Morris said yesterday university chiefs had met the NTEU to discuss the report on workplace bullying.

"While there are isolated cases of bullying -- as with any large organisation -- the university does not accept there is a culture or pattern of bullying at UNSW," Mr Morris said.

"None of our internal measures of bullying complaints or claims match the NTEU data and, in fact, are much lower."

Federal Tertiary Education Minister Senator Chris Evans did not respond to a request for comment.

NTEU branch president at UNSW Dr Sarah Gregson said in the submission she feared bullying was becoming an unacknowledged but deeply corrosive aspect of campus life: "The evidence we gathered suggested that, although UNSW has a bullying policy and other guidelines that outline acceptable workplace conduct, these policies are routinely ignored and harmful behaviour is often excused."

The submission said many staff feared speaking up about bullying, were demoralised and would like to leave UNSW.

"We were surprised at the number of relatively senior staff members who were also being bullied," it said.

The union has recommended a range of reforms.

From: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-news/university-of-hard-knocks/story-e6freuzi-1226429497231



Bullying in Australian universities is widespread and should be investigated across the tertiary sector, says the academic responsible for a damning report into one of Sydney's top universities.

Sarah Gregson's Report into Workplace Bullying at UNSW, first reported in the Herald in March, uncovered a culture of bullying and intimidation at the university, and has now been submitted to a federal inquiry into workplace bullying. Dr Gregson, an academic at the university and the local branch representative of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), said she would be lobbying the union to extend her survey to other institutions.

''I've sent that report to a range of activists around the union and they say there's nothing in there that they're not very familiar with, so we just need to keep continue to keep campaigning … We'd like the parliamentary inquiry to recommend improved legislation in the area.''

In an email to staff yesterday the vice-president, university services at UNSW, Neil Morris, rejected Dr Gregson's report, saying there was no pattern of bullying and the research methods were not sound...

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/tertiary-education/tertiary-bullying-needs-action-says-academic-20120719-22d52.html#ixzz21BlLhuoQ


Imagine if there was in the UK a National Inquiry into Workplace Bullying just as the one taking place in Australia right now.  Imagine what it would uncover in UK universities... and why is UCU not asking for such an inquiry?


Bullied out of University of Newcastle said...

Here is another view on the bullying at the University of NSW, Australia - including comments from Furedi, a British sociologist.

Wild bullying claims infantilise the workplace
by: Julie Hare
From: The Australian
July 20, 2012 12:00AM

WORKPLACE bullying is so widespread at one NSW university, two in three people claim to have been bullied, while an amazing 83 per cent of staff claim to have witnessed it.

Based on a staff survey at the University of NSW last year, the National Tertiary Education Union says the most common form of workplace bullying was "someone being treated differently from other colleagues" at 75 per cent, followed by "arbitary decision making with negative impacts on someone (60 per cent). The survey also included "imposition of unreasonable deadlines" as a criteria for workplace bullying.
In all 550 people out of a total staff of 8210 staff responded to the NTEU branch survey.
UNSW roundly rejected the survey, questioning its methodology.
"The extraordinary disconnect between the survey's findings and the total number of complaints received at the institutional level and statistics from other sources, highlights the study's questionable methodology," said Neil Morris, UNSW's vice-president of university services.

UK sociology professor Frank Furedi says "virtually every challenging and unhappy experience can be rebranded as bullying".
Professor Furedi, writing in The Australian on July 7, said: "The term bully speaks to a culture that increasingly finds it difficult to draw a distinction between the behaviour and feelings of children and those of adults", adding that the "workplace is increasingly subjected to the emotional standards formerly associated with the playground".
"The diagnosing of assertive management styles, plain speaking, undiplomatic behaviour, sarcasm or normal bitchiness as claims for legal intervention and for financial resources implies adults possess the emotional and moral resources formerly associated with children."

Mr Morris said in a statement he was "puzzled" by the NTEU's continued use of "misleading information in public forums, that can only be aimed at damaging the reputation of the university and its staff."

By deadline, NTEU national president Jeannie Rea had not responded to questions from the HES as to whether she stood by the findings of the report.

Anonymous said...

The aforementioned item could easily have described some of the problems I had at the place I used to teach at.

I documented a number of incidents involving my department head and and which he directed at me. Individually, they were minor and inconsequential and included things such as social snubs and the like. Taken for face value, my concerns would have been seen as petty. In fact, they were treated as if they were by a former president of our staff association. His attitude was that I was being immature and childish.

What I knew, and what the former president refused to acknowledge to me, was that those incidents were part of a greater plan. Yes, they were, by themselves, trivial as such things are often part of real daily life. But, if seen in an overall context, my department head was using them as weapons.

By complaining about what seemed to be unintended slights and insults, my credibility was being undermined, much like the boy who cried wolf. A few minor incidents might not add up to much, but enough of them could be part of a major long-term campaign. But, if such incidents are not recorded or reported, and something much worse happens, a bullying target has next to no case whatsoever. Silence is, after all, consent.

Looking back over the years at what happened, I knew I was right. Unfortunately, I was one of those people who was caught either way. I was either a whiner for reporting minor matters, much like a tattling schoolboy, or, had I said nothing, I would have been an unwitting collaborator in my own misery.

Sadly, it's all perfectly legal and the bullies know it.

Anonymous said...

UCU are dominated by the hard left while regular members bow to their superior strength and skills. If they could be persuaded to become involved in grappling with we would see some action - they are impressive!