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)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Human rights and silencing individuals

  • According to Human Rights Watch, the Chinese government has detained dozens of activists, writers, lawyers, and others, including the artist, Ai Weiwei. 
  • Respondents to our survey say that the University of Newcastle has sidelined or ostracised them or made their work situation untenable, because they spoke out about unethical behaviour.

  • When released, several Chinese “activists” have been silenced and are not permitted to speak about their experiences in custody.
  • When they have “resigned”, several University of Newcastle "whistleblowers" (at least 12-15) have been silenced (with gagging clauses) and are not permitted to speak about their experiences at the university.

“A political power can easily silence an individual,” said Pu Zhiqiang, a rights lawyer in Beijing. “But in doing so, it also shows its fear and lack of confidence. And it also shows to the world the failings of China’s legal system.”  (NY Times)
So what do “gagging clauses” show about the University of Newcastle?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Indifference, being silent and encouraging the oppressor

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner said.......

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever
human beings endure suffering and humiliation.

We must always take sides.

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.

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.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Calling all New South Wales Members of Parliament

The letter (see previous post) has now also been sent to all the Members of the NSW Parliament.

Here is a list of their names.  We await their response.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Recruitment, promotion and other employment issues

From our website-based survey into the nature of bullying at the University of Newcastle, many respondents have raised issues concerning recruitment, promotion and other employment issues.
·         Members of the “in-group” or favourites are given ongoing positions at the university, instead of other, more qualified applicants (often casual members of staff).  Examples of comments are “There is a large amount of favouritism, especially in terms of promotion and employment opportunities”, “Despite (lengthy) years of casual employment, I was not given an interview for a full time position, even though it was essentially the job I had been doing for the past five years”, “the favourite was offered the job BEFORE interview, even though she did not fulfil the essential criteria of the position”, “my position was deliberately made untenable.  I had worked there for 2.5 years, with nothing but positive feedback. Despite repeated contract extensions in that period, I was suddenly told my position was going out to competitive process in which I was ultimately unsuccessful”.

  ·         A common “reward” for bullies and their collaborators is reported to be promotion e.g. “Bully promoted even though there were other complaints of bullying about her, bully continues to be promoted”, . That bully was then further promoted”, “The bully was promoted soon after her episodes with me. The perpetrator continues to be promoted to various positions around the university, and protected by others in power that uphold and accept her behaviour”, “The result of their experience left them with the attitude that those who report any wrongdoing will be annihilated and those who are committing the wrongdoing will be promoted”.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Survey Summary

Download the PDF Here:


Letter sent to Members of Parliament

This letter, requesting action, has been sent to all Federal Members of Parliament (see names below).

Dear MP
We are writing to request your support to instigate an independent investigation into the bullying, harassment and victimisation of staff and students at the University of Newcastle, NSW AUSTRALIA, who disclose misconduct or make allegations of this form of behaviour.
We constitute a representative group of the staff and students at the University of Newcastle, who have been victims of bullying, harassment or victimisation. Details on our position are provided on our web site Stop Bulling at the University of Newcastle, Oz.
We have considerable evidence of mistreatment of staff and students at the University of Newcastle, and we believe this treatment must in the very least be a breach of the OH&S Act, and the Protected Disclosures Act. This information includes:
v  A response of 175 current/ex staff and students who describe their bullying experiences in our online survey (for summary of responses, see Stop Bulling at the University of Newcastle, Oz).
v  A petition of 217 people (primarily current/ex staff/students) who have signed our online petition supporting an external investigation of the bullying at the University.
v  Evidence that 10,800 people have visited our website (Stop Bulling at the University of Newcastle, Oz).
v  Evidence that 12-15 people have been gagged by the University of Newcastle to prevent them speaking about their whistleblowing and/or bullying.
v  Evidence that at least 28 bullies at the University have been promoted.
v  Evidence that around 20 of the victims of the bullying have either attempted or considered suicide
v  100 comments to the articles on bullying at the University of Newcastle in the Newcastle Herald (comments reporting bullying and knowledge of bullying at the University).
The NSW Ombudsman is an “independent review body”, investigating complaints about public sector agencies.  According to their website, they give preference to
1.      “to matters identifying systemic(eg structural or procedural) deficiencies in administration”
2.      “to individual cases raising serious concerns as to people’s safety and well-being”
3.      “to sensitive issues which are unlikely to be, or be seen to be, properly addressed by the agencies concerned”
4.      “to issues concerning the treatment of whistleblowers”.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Complaints made and complaints upheld

So the latest report by the University of Newcastle states that
"The complaints office received 215 complaints, 88 were deemed formal and 44 were upheld".

So 50% of the formal complaints were upheld but what does "upheld" mean in University-of-Newcastle-speak?

The public would think that if a complaint is upheld, then the person who made the complaint would be supported and those who committed the wrongdoing would be disciplined or removed and new procedures put in place to prevent the same situation every occurring again.

Think again - a formal complaint may be upheld if there is any minute action taken by the University.  So the complainant gets bullied, suffers physical and psychological harm, loses their job, career, personal and family life.