Bullying at the University of Newcastle (Australia)

We are working to highlight and stop academic workplace bullying at the University of Newcastle, Australia. We are a group of staff and students who have been bullied for speaking out about misconduct.

Help make a difference –

*answer our survey,

*contribute to the blog, or

*contact us.

This will help us gather as much information as possible so that we can put an end to this bullying with its’ decades-long history.

“Systemic bullying, hazing and abuse generally are identified with poor, weak or toxic organizational cultures. Cultures that are toxic have stated ethical values that are espoused but not employed, and other non-ethical values which are operational, dominant, but unstated.

Such cultures thrive when good people are silent, silenced, or pushed out; when bad apples are vocal, retained, promoted, and empowered; and when the neutral majority remain silent in order to survive. Those who are most successful in such a toxic culture are those who have adapted to it, or adopted it as their own”. (McKay, Arnold, Fratzl & Thomas, 2008)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bullying and "Dobbing in your mates"

This post has been received and is published here anonymously at the request of the writer.

"From non-Australian to unAustralian in one breath!
A new question should be added to the citizenship test for prospective Australians:-
Q. If I become aware of dishonesty and/or malpractice amongst my work colleagues, I should
a)  ignore it, knowing my mates will do the same.
b)  discuss it with my immediate manager
c)  congratulate my work colleagues and give them a round of drinks at the pub.
As a non-Australian-born Australian, it is very difficult to comprehend the extreme depth of feeling about "dobbing".  It is understandable that surviving in extreme circumstances as in the early stages of white settlement relied on "mateship" amongst the settlers.  However, two centuries later, it is surprising that the notion of dobbing in your mates still has such a powerful influence - even more so when this occurs at a tertiary education institution.
Academics have had the privilege and benefit of further education.  It would be presumed therefore that they realise the effects of their behaviour on the academic community.  We rely on the research of others to broaden our knowledge and practice but would not want any irregularity to occur at any stage in this research.
What about the effects on the students?  Many students realise that their education is more than just getting the right grades (or at least sufficient to pass).  Therefore they do want to obtain the most from their university years.  It is doubly hard for them to be working diligently but seeing their studies thwarted because lecturers do not work in a principled fashion.  Students are directed not to plagiarise etc, but clearly see their lecturers behaving dishonestly.  To see students as consumers is to grossly underestimate their commitment to further education.  Students have invested a huge amount of time, energy, planning, hopes and aspirations into their studies, never mind the financial cost. 
My experience, and probably that of others, is that education and principles do not necessarily go together.  I have been removed from my teaching duties and research community and have been prevented from obtaining other employment.  The institution has closed its ranks at all levels and refuses to state why I have suffered such consequences.  I can only assume it is the result of reporting various instances of malpractice on the part of colleagues, even though I did this through the correct channels.
Belonging in Australia is closely tied up with mateship and not dobbing in your mates.  Any person or action contrary to this is "un-Australian ". In a report in the SMH (15.03.2005), Joseph Pugliese of Macquarie University stated that the term un-Australian is often intended to exclude people from the nation.  He said "What's at stake is that sense of belonging.  I see it as a term used to discriminate between individuals and groups that refuse to conform to the dominant culture. I see it as a divisive term, one that's predicated on an 'us and them' mentality."  
Does this mean that those people who have spoken out on this blog and in other fora are un-Australian because they refuse to conform to this university's "dominant culture" that tolerates and colludes with malpractice, mismanagement and dishonest behaviour?  "

Sunday, November 14, 2010


From our survey (now OVER SIXTY reports of bullying at the University of Newcastle), it is clear that the form of bullying resorted to (by staff to other staff and to students) is bullying that leaves no physical mark - in this academic workplace, bullies rarely use physical bullying or anything that leaves any paper trail. 

From our survey, the following behaviours were reported by over 50% of respondents:- 
  • Removal of areas of responsibility or shifting of goals posts without consultation
  • Having your opinions and views ignored
  • Your employer not following proper procedures or using these to intimidate you.
  • Being treated unfairly compared to others in your workplace
  • Being humiliated, undervalued or ridiculed in connection with your work
  • Gossip and rumours being spread about you or having allegations made against you
  • Exclusion, isolation, freezing out, ostracism
  • Intimidating behaviour from people at work
  • Feeling threatened in any way while at work
  • Prevented from expressing yourself (e.g. interrupted when speaking).
 Most of these behaviours are "silent" bullying - the bully/bullies ostracise the victim by denying their existence - isolation, views ignored, expertise denigrated, etc etc.

What is the reason that bullies in higher education institutions resort to ostracism?

Is it because

  • bullies know that ostracism results in the greatest psychological and physical damage to the victim and requires the longest recovery?
  • bullies know that this type of bullying is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove and thus they remain invincible?
  • bullies feel that they are "civilised" human beings and therefore would never stoop to such low behaviour as actual physical violence?
  • or what??????????????????????

Sunday, November 7, 2010

All staff and students are of concern

We would like to emphasise that this blog and survey reflect our concern for ALL STAFF AND STUDENTS at the University of Newcastle.  By stating "academic workplace bullying" we meant the university as an academic (rather than government, health, school etc) workplace - not just academic staff.  Every staff member in an organisation may be affected by bullying.  At a university, this includes academic, general, research, administration etc etc staff and all students (whether pre-degree, undergraduate, postgraduate, language courses etc) and previous students and staff of the university.  So we warmly welcome contributions and thoughts from all of you.