August 05, 2022

Academics make claims of bullying and racism at another UCL school

Academics at one of the UK’s most prestigious universities claim bullying and harassment has destroyed careers and left staff living in a “culture of fear”.

In a leaked letter seen by the Guardian, nine academics from University College London’s (UCL) Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction said they needed to break their “silence”, alleging that complaints of bullying are “simply ignored”.

It comes after UCL apologised for a “culture of bullying” dating back decades at the Bartlett School of Architecture, which is in the same faculty as the school of sustainable construction.

An investigation by intelligence company Howlett Brown into the architecture school found a “boys’ club” setting. It found some people had been left “deeply traumatised” by their experiences in what was described as a “toxic” and “unsafe” learning environment.

The report has prompted a backlash, with 30 architects and academics accusing the university of a “witch-hunt”. They criticised the decision to publish the findings of an investigation into alleged abuses at the school before the conclusion of a disciplinary process.

The letter from the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction nowargues there is nepotism when it comes to high-profile appointments within the academy, as well as harassment and bullying of older and senior staff to “precipitate resignation or early retirement in order to replace them with cheaper junior staff on fixed-term contracts”.

The letter reads: “We are writing to you because you collectively have the fiduciary duty to govern UCL in the interest of its students and staff. This fiduciary duty includes ensuring that all reports of misconduct and fraudulent behaviour within UCL are diligently investigated through a transparent process.”

It alleges: “We have seen our own academic careers and lives and those of our colleagues destroyed through bullying, harassment and other predatory practices and know that any effort to raise the issues of misconduct or fraudulent behaviour would lead to retaliation endangering our own careers and lives.”

The academics call for complaints to be dealt with appropriately and to end the use of confidentiality clauses so people can speak without reprisal. They accused UCL of not looking sufficiently at the staff experience in their investigation of the architecture school.

Academics from the construction school, speaking about their experiences, say they have witnessed worrying levels of “bullying and deep racism”.

They claim this includes firing faculty members with no due process or warning and “extending probation discriminatorily”.

A UCL spokesperson thanked the individuals for coming forward, promising to launch an investigation, adding they were “sorry to hear about their experiences” and “troubled” by their stories.

“While the Howlett Brown investigation looked into the culture, educational practices and environment at the Bartlett School of Architecture, we know that unacceptable behaviour happens elsewhere in UCL and is not isolated to just one department or school,” they said.

“We are committed to tackling inequalities and to ensuring that our university is an environment in which students and staff can thrive in their diversity.”

They added that others with concern should raise it via university support services. “We guarantee that anyone who speaks to us will be treated with sympathy and confidentiality.”

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2022/aug/03/academics-make-claims-of-bullying-and-racism-at-another-ucl-school

May 12, 2022

Academic bullying is too often ignored. Here are some targets' stories...

 


I complained to our department chair. An investigation committee was created. Through their investigation they found most of my allegations valid, but they gave me two options: 1) continue working under my supervisor and report if additional bad behavior happened, or 2) leave the institution.

I first spoke up, but this made the situation worse. Then, I reported to higher level people in my department and then to the dean's office. They destroyed my life and my scientific identity as well as my dignity. They crushed my entire career.

I complained to the university. They did not follow their own prescribed guidelines for resolving complaints and allowed my PI to remove me from the lab and take away funding.

I spoke to the dean of the graduate school and she helped me get out of the situation. But she made it really clear that if I formally reported nothing good would happen to me or my co-workers.

I complained after graduation, which was a very painful process, since this PI required 15 (!) papers in order to graduate. The university seemed to take it seriously, but 6 months later nothing has changed.

I went to HR [human resources] of the department and of the institution; I discussed it with [a] disability adviser; I discussed it with the international office adviser; I filed a formal complaint with the dean; I consulted with the ombudsperson. The outcome of all of this was zero.

It took me a long time before I reported; I had to be seriously into depression. The outcome felt that it was seen as a problem in communication between us and a cultural difference—not a genuine issue.

I talked to the ombudsman and the dean who both supported me and [took steps to ensure] my appointment wasn't canceled. It was cut short but not as much as initially threatened. I got therapy hours from the institute to help cope (10 hours) and meetings with the ombudsman to keep contact and let me know they hadn't forgotten about me.

I complained to the HR representative, who raised the issue to the head of the department, who then spoke to the bully without giving my identity. The bully then emailed the entire group about it, asking the person who had complained to come forward. Nothing changed, and I resigned a few months later.

I complained to the head of the department, the head of faculty, and the university legal department. All were only concerned with protecting the university. I told them research is suffering and somebody is going to commit suicide if they don't fix the problem. It was terrible. Nobody cared.

I reported the incidents of mobbing to the wellbeing department at my university. They campaigned on my behalf, but the bullying became more subtle and took the form of gaslighting. I wasn't the only target; another student recently committed suicide due to the bullying.

I complained to the department administration. They basically told me there was nothing that could be done. The behavior is so common amongst PIs in my department that I decided not to switch labs and to just deal with it.

I spoke to the department chair and was told I am the problem. I then spoke with the ombudsperson and was told I am NOT the problem, but because it was not gender-based bullying, there was nothing that could be done.

From: https://www.science.org/content/article/academic-bullying-too-often-ignored-here-are-some-targets-stories

April 11, 2022

Durham University failing on bullying, staff say

 One of Britain’s leading universities is failing to stamp out bullying and harassment, some of its staff have said, after a college principal was allowed to remain in post despite complaints of intimidating behaviour towards colleagues.

Prof Adekunle Adeyeye, the head of Durham University’s Trevelyan college, is alleged to have frequently reduced colleagues to tears and made sexist remarks.

He stepped down from the university’s bullying policy committee after the Guardian approached him last week, but he is understood to remain in post as a college principal.

Previously the Guardian has spoken to five former members of staff who say they experienced intimidating behaviour or misogynistic comments from Adeyeye, who joined the university in January 2020.

Two people had filed formal grievances against him in a matter of 16 months and three have left over concerns about his manner.

The institution’s University and College Union branch said in a statement on Thursday that the case highlighted “extremely important structural issues at Durham”, which has been dogged by complaints about bullying and harassment on campus.

The union, which represents nearly current 1,300 academics and staff at the university, said: “While we can’t comment on this particular case while the proceedings are ongoing, there have been similar cases in the past.

“It appears that the university has in many instances been reluctant to address the structural problems which have allowed bullying to take place and settled for short-term solutions.”

It said that too often “positions of power are abused, and workers and students experience bullying, harassment and other forms of exploitation” and “too often, procedures and policies meant to protect people fail to do so.

“This case highlights how official top down initiatives, even if well intentioned, are often ineffectual and can be easily manipulated.”

The union branch committee called on the university to “state publicly and unequivocally that intimidatory, sexist behaviour and bullying are unacceptable and will not be tolerated”.

The university said in a statement: “We do not accept any form of prejudice or discrimination at Durham University. We condemn any incidents of racism, harassment and bullying in the strongest possible terms and will take action in line with our published policies.”

A spokeswoman said everyone had the right to work and study in a safe and respectful environment, and that all staff and students were expected to follow the university’s regulations on conduct and values on behaviour.

She said colleagues would be supported when they raised concerns of potential misconduct. The complaints against Adeyeye were being “fully and fairly addressed in line with our published policies and procedures”, she said, and that the process had “not yet concluded but we have and will continue to follow appropriate due process”.

A disciplinary investigation last month upheld several complaints against Adeyeye, including some of possible misconduct or gross misconduct...

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/aug/05/durham-university-failing-on-bullying-former-staff-say

Damning report reveals details of bullying at helm of Imperial College

Britain’s highest-paid university chief and another senior executive created a culture of favouritism and exclusion at Imperial College, according to damning details of a report released after she had attempted to suppress its publication.

Imperial’s president, Alice Gast, last year apologised after an independent report found that she and the college’s chief financial officer had bullied members of staff. However, they have resisted calls by student and academic representatives to resign, while she attempted to block the report’s release under freedom of information.

But redacted details were published on Thursday after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) rejected Gast’s arguments against the release and disagreed with her attempts to downplay the findings against her as “relatively minor”.

They include accounts of Gast and Muir Sanderson’s behaviour and its impact on victims who were bullied in 2019 and 2020. Jane McNeill QC, who carried out the investigation, said some witnesses had expressed a fear of retaliation.

McNeill found that Gast and Sanderson had “created or contributed to a culture which involves and tolerates favouritism, exclusion, the making of disparaging comments about others and at times a lack of respect for others”.

Referring to Gast and Sanderson by their initials, the report goes on to state: “In relation to both AG and MS, several witnesses described a culture of favouritism: you are ‘in or out’; ‘the favourite child’; ‘a hero or zero’; or in the ‘in gang or out gang’. One witness said that there were a lot of employees at any one time ‘in the rubbish pot’.”

McNeill’s report found that Gast had bullied a colleague, which she has apologised for, but that her treatment of some others did not amount to bullying. Sanderson has apologised for bullying two colleagues. The report found he had bullied one person and said it made no finding that he had bullied others.

Barry Jones, the London regional official for the University College Union, said: “It is shameful that President Alice Gast and CFO Muir Sanderson still remain in post after being found to have bullied staff and treated them with such disrespect. UCU members report an endemic culture of bullying at Imperial, a culture which hits marginalised staff the hardest.”

Imperial
 is subject to an investigation by the universities watchdog, the Office for Students, over the bullying allegations. It was announced last year that Gast – the highest-paid university chief among the elite Russell Group – is to step down from her £554,000 role when her contract expires this year.

Sanderson’s behaviour to one victim was described as “aggressive and intimidating”. She was undermined and spoken to in a condescending and offensive way, with “stark examples” such as being addresses as “young lady” and being told to “watch her tone”...

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2022/feb/03/damning-report-reveals-details-of-bullying-at-helm-of-imperial-college