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, February 7, 2013

Post from Professor John Biggs, previously professor of education at UoN for 14 years


I had written to Vice-Chancellor McMillen about the climate of bullying at Newcastle University, pointing out that I had been a Professor at the University for 14 years. I received this from her office:

Many thanks for your correspondence to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen, and for providing the extract from your publication.

Professor McMillen is currently overseas on University business, but has suggested that you might be interested to read her recently published comments on the Report on workplace bullying in Australia by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment. These comments are available on the University's blog:


Professor McMillen has also asked me to convey her sincere apologies for the delay in responding to your correspondence.

Best wishes,  (from VC’s office)

Accordingly I posted this on the blog site in December 2012:

This statement by the VC is basically a bland summary of the report. The fact that the University of Newcastle has over many years been the subject of well supported claims of bullying and of cover-up by the Administration has been ignored. This pattern of cover up has existed since the late 1970s when whistleblowers have been treated very harshly, from Associate Professor Don Parkes onwards, to the point now where the University can boast a blog site "Stop bullying at the University of Newcastle": http://stop-b-uon.blogspot.com.au/  . It seems that the University have reached the point where a culture of bullying has become endemic. Only very recently as I understand it, allegations of bullying involving a doctoral student were being investigated by the Ombudsman but got nowhere because the Ombudsman's office met a brick wall. The Vice Chancellor will need to do more than this to change that culture."


For which I received:

Dear Professor Biggs,

 Thank you for your comment.  We are unable to post it to our blog as it links to a site that contains material that may be considered offensive and contains information that may be misleading.  We invite you to view our 'Think before you post' guidelines at
http://blogs.newcastle.edu.au/blog/2012/08/30/thinkbeforeyoupost/ 

My reply:

Actually I don't see that your guidelines would prohibit my posting. It depends who considers the material offensive: this seems to include anything that is critical of the University. Which is censorship, which is hardly compatible with claims to academic freedom. But since the URL i quote seems to be your problem, I will delete it. Would you please post this then:

This statement by the VC is basically a bland summary of the report. The fact that the University of Newcastle has over many years been the subject of well supported claims of bullying and of cover-up by the Administration has been ignored. This pattern of cover up has existed since the late 1970s when whistleblowers have been treated very harshly, from Associate Professor Don Parkes onwards. It seems that the University may have reached the point where a culture of bullying has become endemic. Only very recently as I understand it, allegations of bullying involving a doctoral student were being investigated by the Ombudsman but got nowhere because the Ombudsman’s office met a brick wall. The Vice Chancellor will need to do more than this to change that culture.

Thank you,

This comment has been awaiting moderation since 15 Jan 2013. For a current issue to a VC’s comment posted last year, I don’t know if the delay in posting my revised comment is in the hope the issue will get cold. I would like to discuss this with the moderator but there is no name or email address to do so.

I’ll post what has happened on this Bullying at UoN site instead.

John Biggs

3 comments:

  1. The University of Newcastle blog that Professor Biggs refers to asks the readers to "Provide your thoughts". In line with the usual cover-ups that the University of Newcastle specialises in, the "thoughts" the Uni blog want are ONLY thoughts that express the University's views. I tried to put up a comment (as have others) but the comments are never published.

    Well the University of Newcastle blog has no comments published - compare that to this blog with over 100,000 visitors, many many comments ..... and counting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I also tried putting my thoughts on the UoN blog and I know two others who did, but our fate was the same as the commentator before.

    The UoN is the biggest spin factory and a gigantic thought-control machine, contrary to all its grandiose public statements of accountability and transparency. It's a secret and secretive world where the HoS and the PVC where I was employed has engaged in deliberate rumour-mongering and spin to push his own agenda and get himself to where he is. Most staff members are kept in the dark about what's really going on and if anyone says anything against their lies, they are on their way out of their job instantly. The truth-telling in that unit is often forced when there is a crisis or someone, often a student, who makes a complaint and they are forced to admit something was going on.

    It's a place where your decency and intelligence works against you because the only thing is encouraged there is backstabbing and conformity to lying and turning a blind eye to wrongdoing and misconduct. One is honest and truthful at one's own peril.

    This only happens because there are no records/minutes kept of important proceedings and no checks and balances are in place. He has his "favourites", a secretive network of ambitious cronies, who'd do anything to get themselves promoted, to feed him with "intelligence" about their colleagues.

    This is the reason why a culture of bullying and coverup has thrived there.

    This comment is necessarily offensive to and critical of the UoN, but I am telling the truth through lived experience.

    ReplyDelete
  3. We salute Prof. Biggs for his integrity and devotion to fighting bullying at the UoN even in his retirement.

    Prof. Biggs and Prof. Don Parks have been the fearless campaigners against academic misconduct at the UoN and they have been sorely missed by the victims of bullying at the UoN because of the absence of people of their courage who have the guts to speak out against evil. They have been fighting for what is right and just, not to get themselves promoted.

    ReplyDelete