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)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Whistleblowing - is it worth the bullying, harassment and discrimination?

Standing up for the truth against unethical conduct within an institution - is it worth it?

Many would say "yes" - it is always worth doing.  Regardless of the consequences, these people say that they have maintained their self-esteem and have a clear conscience.

Many would say "no" - if they had known how soul-destroying it would be, they would not have done it.

A few months ago, ABC News had a short report on "whistleblowers":-
"In the wake of the story about Canberra whistleblower Debbie Scattergood, Kate Evans reports on the aftermath of whistleblowing. Is it worth it?"
The news report features Debbie Scattergood, a public servant, Andrew Wilkie, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and others.

As Andrew Wilkie in this news report said, "Most whistleblowers land up on a heap.  Most whistleblowers suffer terrible consequences for just trying to do the right thing."

So, if you knew and spoke about unethical conduct at the University of Newcastle and have been subsequently bullied and harrassed, do you still think it was worth it? 

Some of our "Stop the Bullying at the University of Newcastle Committee, would say it was worth it.

Some (including me) would say the fallout from it is too great a price to pay!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A season of goodwill wish

The staff in big organisations like the University of Newcastle are not just composed of bullies or those being bullied – that is obvious! 
BUT before the rest of you congratulate yourselves on not fitting into either of these categories, were you one of those watching, knowing, hearing about bullying and keeping silent? 
·        Did you join in when a colleague was given the silent treatment?
·        Did you side with your manager/head against a colleague, without knowing the reason?
·        Did you know who stole from a colleague?
·        Did you watch a colleague being bullied?
·        Did you support your manager/head when they “ignored” university policy?
·        Did you collude quietly with your manager/head when they “got rid of” someone for a fabricated reason?
Were you a bystander?   
·        If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Prize for Peace 1984

·        The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing...
Albert Einstein.
Bystanders are as guilty as bullies; being silent is the same as consent.

Bullying is cowardly and wrong - do you really want to be part of it?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Imagine this ......

Imagine this scenario
You trip over and graze both your knees badly.  They are raw and bleeding.  You clean them up and hobble on with your day.
Most activities are out - even driving your car opens the grazes – every time you bend your knees, it is very painful.
You realize that the day will be difficult – even getting up for a cup of coffee will involve pain.
BUT you know that the next day will be better and those raw knees will gradually heal.  The memories of the fall will fade away…...
Another similar scenario…
Someone trips you up, you fall over and graze your knees badly.  They are raw and bleeding.  As before, doing your everyday activities will be painful.  How can grazed knees interfere SO MUCH with your activities!!  You know that they will heal and you will gradually get back into your normal routine.
BUT the next day, someone trips you up and you fall over again and open up the wounds on your knees.  Wow it is really really sore to clean them and it is doubly painful as you hobble through your day.  Oh well, they will heal now – just bad luck to graze both knees again!
BUT the next day, the bad luck continues – you are tripped over again, fall over and both knees are raw and bleeding…..
This happens again the next day, and the next, and the next……… 
Everything you do is painful – it affects so many of your activities.  You become hesitant about everything in case it happens again… and it does, the next day and the next….
This is what happens if you are ostracized at work.  Everyday, it feels like the wound is opened up, like when….

Should we be smelling a rat??

The University is investigating a member of staff for possible research fund fraud.

Should we be smelling a rat?
  • Why is this particular person being investigated when there have been many cases of research fund fraud that the University has quashed?
  • Is this person being investigated because the Uni wants to get rid of them?
  • Have they made a complaint against one of the protected species at UoN?

What is the truth about this situation?
Will we ever know?  The university is so good at covering up the truth.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dear Santa....

Dear Santa

I have a wishlist for gifts this year - gifts for other people.

Please can you deliver a gift to the following men and women at the University of Newcastle:-

  • those who have bullied and harassed many of us out of our workplaces and jobs and destroyed our physical and psychological health
  • those who colluded and supported the bullies by intentionally ignoring what was happening
  • those who stood by, watched or knew about the bully and the bullying and who kept quiet to save their selves.

Please deliver a large mirror to each of them - a large self-illuminating mirror would be the best.

They can open their gifts and follow John McKay's advice:-

"I am a big believer in the 'mirror test.'
All that matters is if you can look in the mirror and honestly tell the person you see there, that you've done your best". 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What did we say

This website, via posts, comments or the survey, has highlighted issues surrounding the misuse of research funds at the University of Newcastle e.g.
  • researchers using funds for personal use (personal/domestic equipment),
  • supervisors using postgrad students' funds for themselves,
  • research assistants claiming for additional hours/expenses,
  • etc. etc etc.  
Frequently, people who have notified the university of the misuse of research funding have been bullied into silence.

The report in the Newcastle Herald today comes as no surprise: "Uni academic investigated for fraud".

The University has set up a "committee of inquiry... to investigate allegations that the applicant made fraudulent claims against research grant monies".  Setting up such a committee is considered to be "very unusual" and the allegations were therefore assumed to be "very serious".

This is good news - the University is taking steps in this case, even though the committee itself cannot impose "a disciplinary action".

We can give them a few other cases to investigate -  or at least remind them of the info on the fraudulent use of research/university money that they already have in our written complaints, protected disclosures, etc.

7th December 2011 - update: See additional information in today's article in The Australian.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New "Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying" Code of Practice

Safe Work Australia has published a draft code of practice on “Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying”.  This covers aspects such as what workplace bullying is and is not.  It also includes identifying and assessing the risk of workplace bullying. 
On our website, we have provided a forum for people to discuss their bullying; Safework Australia also suggests getting information on absenteeism, complaints, sick leave, staff turnover, exit interviews, workers’ compensation claims, etc , as these could indicate a bullying problem.  Leadership style (e.g. strict, directive) can also be a risk factor. (?University of Newcastle).
The document also has information on “Controlling the risk of workplace bullying”(policy, complaints systems, encouraging reporting, etc).  Many of us know that actually reporting wrongdoing or bullying or making a complaint at UoN means that you become the problem.

On the Safework Australia website, there is a response form for comments regarding the draft code of practice.   Anyone can comment on the code and many of us have learnt by bitter experience how bullying in the workplace should be managed and responded to (or rather should NOT be responded to).  If you want to read the draft code and make a comment, do it before the 16th December .