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,

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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, June 20, 2011

Ostracism as bullying

William James stated in 1897 that it is worse to be unworthy of attention that it is to be subjected to physical torture.

Some of the most commonly experienced behaviours reported by 166 current or past staff and students in our survey were

·         opinions and views ignored (70.6%)
·         exclusion, isolation, freezing out and ostracism (58%)
·         withholding of information that affected work performance (47.6%).

·         45.5% were given little or no feedback on performance
·         39.2% were prevented from expressing themselves.

This is ostracism.

Ostracism is an insidious means of informal punishment or social control that brings immediate pain to the individual affected” (White 2009).  Ostracism threatens meaningful existence in ways that bullying does not (Williams 2007, 2009).

Ostracism “becomes brutally painful when done over months or even years. This form of workplace bullying carries the deepest scars and the longest recovery.  It affects an individual’s very core of self worth. ”  “The employee’s core need for a sense of belonging as well as their self esteem is under attack particularly when ostracism is severe and continuous” (White 2009).  Long-term ostracism leads to alienation, depression, helplessness and worthlessness and results in substantial rates of depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts etc (Williams 2009). 
  • “Bullying by exclusion and denial is still bullying, but in a sickening and psychotic way”
  • “I felt very isolated and bullied throughout the whole thing”.
Ostracism may be worse than bullying– bullying (verbal or physical) is perceived immediately as unfair, wrong and hurtful and other people empathize immediately with bruises. (Williams 2009)  

It is not surprising that ostracism is often the preferred method used to intimidate staff and students at the University of Newcastle – easy to deny and difficult to prove.

“Unlike verbal or written insults or threatening physical gestures, ostracism is mostly invisible. The victim has little to no evidence to document unfairness or harassment at work” (White 2009).  “Those who use it need not acknowledge they are using it; they can deny it easily, and what proof is there of ignoring?  It’s essentially a non-behaviour, leaving no bruises or harmful words for which to apologize” (Williams 2007).

  • “I was punished (enforced isolation and loss of career) for exposing misconduct/bullying”
  • The "word" has gone out amongst academics in my field in Australia and I am essentially unemployable in the work (lecturing and research) that I love to do and was apparently good at”.
  • “The bullies (and the reputation of the uni) had to be protected and I was designated as a pariah, a non-person to be eliminated from academia”.
Complaints and Protected Disclosures to the University of Newcastle are easily dismissed because it is difficult, if not impossible, for the victims to provide direct evidence of this ostracism, even if indirect evidence supports the victims' claims.


  1. Not only at your University, but also at mine.
    I see blatant ostracism that borders on outright bullying - daily.

    These actions are nothing more than shamelss attempts at controlling and manipulating people.

    I personally stay away from all those who engage in that behavior. They are like poison.

  2. I went on an access course and then man aged to to get into Plymouth uni to study dietetics but i had to leave becuase i was completely ostracised by the other 37 people on my course, i tried so hard to speak to people but they just didnt want to know and some were outright nasty. I had my 30th birthday that year and nobody got me a card.
    When i left, nobody cared or said goodbye. I completed the first year and got an overall 'first' and received a letter of commendation from the examiners. I still want to be a diettian now, it was my dream job and I wish I could go back to uni and finish my degree.

  3. I am being ostracised at my place of work in a large organisation. It has left me depressed and suicidal. My managers weren't interested and said that Human Resources told them that nothing could be done. In my opinion, the law should be changed so that ostracism is treated the same as bullying as until then victims will continue to suffer and the perpetrators will continue to get away with this inhuman behaviour and worse still suicides will be inevitable.

  4. nearly two yrs on and I still want to be a dietitian and feel angry that I was unable to weather the bullying at uni. I was so embarrased at the time and I still have nightmares about it. I desperately want to return to uni to complette my degree but just feel hopeless and that I have made a complete mess of my life.