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 28, 2013

UNITED STAND AGAINST BULLYING - PROTEST

We have been alerted to this protest.  For further information or questions, please email directly to standupagainstbullying15032013@gmail.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Asking in vain

Three members of our group emailed Professor Caroline McMillen, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Newcastle.  We suggested a meeting with her to share the findings of our website survey of students/ex-students and staff/ex-staff.  The findings of this survey (based on 195 reports of bullying) was accepted as a submission to the parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying. 

McMillen replied that she has

"always followed a personal principle that I do not respond to anonymous letters.  That principle also extends to engaging with individuals who post anonymous messages on line".




Anonymous???  We gave our names in the email and she responded to us by name.

She also stated that "this is her personal position".  Is she not Vice-Chancellor of the University, acting on behalf (and hopefully for the good of) the University?

Not surprisingly, she declined to meet us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Government's response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying

The Government has published its full response to the Report from the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying which took place last year..

Their response states that


"We acknowledge the significant and in many cases very personal contribution made by more than 300 individuals and organisations to the Inquiry through evidence and submissions." 

 A number of individuals who have been bullied out of the University of Newcastle made submissions and a summary of our survey (195 respondents) was also accepted as evidence.


Their response also states that 
"The Government supports or supports in principle 19 of the 23 recommendations, and notes four recommendations. The Government thanks the Committee, and all the contributors to the Inquiry, for their efforts in developing this report."

The complete Government response can be read here and a short media release can be read here.



New CIO (Chief Information Officer) position available

"The University of Newcastle is on the hunt for a chief information officer after Mary Sharp's departure from the role in December last year."

"The University hopes to appoint a permanent replacement who is able to understand and anticipate future directions in teaching. "

The University of Newcastle should also notify applicants that they will have to be involved in blocking emails that relate to bullying or anything that is critical of the University, no matter how much evidence is presented.

Here is what happened to our emails when we were trying to give staff and students an opportunity to describe their bullying experiences.

"Anti-bullying messages blocked at request of Mary Sharp (49215723): media@newcastle.edu.au (state 14)."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Shorten proposes beefed-up anti-bullying measures

  


Bill Shorten has appeared on ABC News 24 today.  Watch the video clip here.


"Employment Minister Bill Shorten says new anti-bullying measures before Parliament will provide a greater role for the Fair Work Commission."

Monday, February 11, 2013

"When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn"

Professor John Biggs' chapter demonstrates clearly how the history of cover-up and collusion at the  University of Newcastle has become its established way of operating.  Here is a sample of relevant quotes (emphasis added).

“The University of Newcastle faced many difficulties, and instead of admitting there were problems and endeavouring to correct them, generated poor public relations by appearing to refuse to admit that any problems existed, or that if they did, it was because of recalcitrant and difficult individuals outside — never inside — the Administration.”
“Two notorious cases, the Spautz Case and the Bayley-Jones Case, wasted millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements, both in and out of court, not to mention the incredible waste of man hours, stress and pain, for over a decade.”
The damage caused by the University’s handling of just the Spautz and Bayley-Jones cases was colossal: to the people concerned, to the University’s own national and international reputation, to its finances, to staff morale and division amongst staff, to time-wasting, to the general functioning of the University as an educational institution. One could be forgiven for thinking that the Administration of the University of Newcastle was unable to get anything right, no matter who was Vice-Chancellor.”
A culture of lying and cover-up had become endemic, resulting in 2003 in the University being investigated by the St. James Ethics Committee, over yet another plagiarism case.”
“The life of the University went on as usual, with Spautz, Bayley-Jones, the Rose incident (whereby a newly appointed professor left within weeks claiming he had been misled), the Academic Plan (which disadvantaged selected departments without prior consultation), the Rigged Failure Rates (another face-saving case where the University breached its own examination regulations) and other items on David Clark’s list to keep us amused.”
“I called an emergency meeting of Faculty Board. We passed two sets of resolutions for Senate to endorse: (1) expressing grave concern at the way the matter had been handled, especially the appalling lack of consultation, (2) requesting the proposals be withdrawn and alternatives explored.
Senate agreed with both resolutions by a large margin. The VC’s wrist was slapped for his nonconsultative modus operandi, and Council was asked to scrap the plan and go back to the drawing boards.”

“… here we’re looking at a whole string of things, and most follow the same pattern: a problem, a long period of indecision, then a sudden decision made by one or a few select senior administrators, with minimal consultation (least of all with those most affected), and little or no published rationale or case made. Such a style is the antithesis of everything a university is supposed to stand for. The essence of academic work is to arrive at the best approximation to truth or the best decision. So, you base a case on evidence and sound public argument; you invite criticism, not reject it as an impertinence.”
“… part of the tragedy is that universities must take much of the blame for this, in their refusal to listen to whistleblowers, and so to clean up their act.”
How is it possible that the University continues to act in the same way? - on-going cover-up and collusion rather than dealing with issues constructively.

Bullying and physical violence

The common view on bullying is physical violence in the school playground.  We know that bullying takes many forms, both physical and psychological.  Either type of bullying should be condemned.

In our survey of 195 respondents (students and staff of the University of Newcastle), bullying usually took the form of more subtle psychological abuse (e.g. being humiliated, undervalued or ridiculed, exclusion, ostracism, removal of areas of responsibility, etc).  Does this reflect the fact that as a whole, students and staff at the university are more educated and therefore more "civilized"?

However in our survey, the least commonly occurring behaviours were actual physical violence (4%) and injury as a result of violence (6%).  These figures may appear to be extremely low, nothing to worry about. 

Nevertheless, these figures mean that
  • 8 adults experienced actual physical violence 
  • 12 adults were injured as a result of violence.



Thursday, February 7, 2013

WARNING - BEWARE OF THIS WEBSITE!!!


As you will have noted from the previous post by Professor John Biggs, the University of Newcastle told him that

"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/ " (our emphasis)

We hope the University of Newcastle will let us know which material on this site is "offensive" and what information may be "misleading" - after all, they are the masters of spin and are experts in putting out "misleading" information.
 

PS Note that Professor Biggs has written a chapter on the University of Newcastle - see here. Otherwise follow link on this blog entitled "University of Newcastle - Prelude to Dawkins".

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Over 100,000 visitors to this blog

We have now had over 100,000 visitors to this blog.

If the University of Newcastle had acted appropriately to the reports of bullying and whistleblowing, this blog would not have been needed - that would have been great.

The top ten most frequent visitors to our blog came from the following countries, but visitors have come from a vast number of countries worldwide.


Australia
  67064
United States
  12872
United Kingdom
  3367
Belgium
  1979
Canada
  1298
Russia
  940
Indonesia
  719
Germany
  712
France
  705
India
  241