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)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Guilty of discrimination?

In beyondblue's latest survey, they found that

"one in four people still think people with depression are dangerous to others."

As a result of vicimisation and harassment at the University of Newcastle, there are many of us who  suffer from depression (as well as other psychological disorders such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder).

Are we dangerous?

The University of Newcastle has treated us as dangerous by physically removing us from our offices, physically and psychologically isolating us, stopping us from entering buildings and even our own offices, preventing us from speaking by gagging us, preventing us continuing to work, stopping us putting up posters, trying to censor our blog, restricting our movements, not responding to our emails, refusing to meet us, etc etc etc.

According to beyondblue, considering depressed people as a danger to others
"feeds into discriminatory attitudes and the stigma associated with depression, which often stops people getting the help they need,'' 
So is the University of Newcastle (which loudly and extensively promotes a respectful workplace) guilty of "discrimination"?

Monday, March 24, 2014


"In 2010 I submitted a Workers Compensation Sick certificate stating my illness was a result of workplace bullying, harassment and victimization. ........

In 2012 the Workers Compensation Commission (WCC) determined that my psychological injury was permanent and caused entirely by the bullying and workplace harassment I had experienced from the University of XXXXXXX.  I was awarded compensation. Days latter the University of XXXXXXX released a statement to the XXXXXXX Herald, denying that it was liable for my injury. My experience is that the University of  XXXXXXX can do or say anything it wants. In my case I observed the University of XXXXXX provide knowingly incorrect and often contradictory information to different legal jurisdictions (NSW Police, Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) and Workers Compensation Commission (WCC)), the Australian Human Rights Commission, the NSW Ombudsman, Employer Choice of Women Committee, medical practitioners, and the press. I have also observed how senior management protects select individuals in the organization by not only failing to follow policy and by corruption of policy process, but also through the use of University funded legal assistance." (emphasis added).(Parliamentary Workplace Bullying Inquiry - Website)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Soft marking at the University of Newcastle?

"THERE is no evidence some universities are softer markers or have lower academic standards than others, according to a four-year study across 11 universities. 
The Office of Teaching and Learning project, headed by Kerri-Lee Krause from the University of Western Sydney, found no patterns in assessment outcomes and learning standards across universities or disciplines."

Meanwhile at the University of Newcastle.........................

“Soft marking” by XXXXXX  - students were given additional marks solely based on making an inquiry about an assignment/exam, not on the merits of their inquiry/complaint or what their query actually was."

"Also “soft marking” by casual staff – markers and clinical educators stated and continue to state that they know that Speech Pathology does not want students to fail so they adjust the marks accordingly. I have been told as recently as mid-2009 by a casual marker that “soft marking” continues to be commonplace and that she had no problem with that."

Law lecturers culled at the University of Newcastle

Law lecturers without PhDs have been culled from the University of Newcastle.  This is part of a push to get rid of lecturers who do not have PhDs - to increase standing on league tables?

This is in direct contrast with the real leading universities of the world.  As a law professor from the University of Queensland (a Group of Eight University) states

"I remember how bizarre it was to be told that the law school would only hire those with a PhD, as though this mattered much in law and even though the Harvards and Oxfords of the world had no such rule."

"You cannot decide whether job candidates must have a PhD, there’s another university-wide rule (and one that makes no sense for teaching law)." (emphasis added)

On the other hand, there are professors at the University of Newcastle without PhDs and lecturers without PhDs, despite the University of Newcastle's selection criteria that new lecturers and professors MUST have a PhD (e.g architecture, music, speech pathology etc.)..  Another example of double standards at the University of Newcastle.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Vice-chancellors are "failed academics"?

According to Professor James Allan, Professor of Law at the University of Queensland,

"most of the higher echelons of Australian university administration that I saw, from vice-chancellors on down, were peopled by what could be described, perhaps a tad unkindly in a few cases, as failed academics."

"First off, we pay our vice-chancellors a lot of money here. There have been seven-figure salaries. Of the universities I have worked at and visited, the Australian ones pay their people the most. Our vice-chancellors make three times what the Prime Minister makes; even deputy vice-chancellors make more than twice as much. And virtually no professors actually in the class room make as much as whole swathes of mid-level university bureaucrats."

So "failed academics" reaching their level of incompetence in management?

Are these huge salaries (Caroline McMillen apparently earns near $800,000) the reason why management at the University of Newcastle are SO SO DESPERATE to collude with each other in covering-up any complaint, misconduct or corrupt act ?  

Would you want your six-figure salary threatened by someone reporting plagiarism, harassment, victimisation, bullying or other form of academic misconduct?

Suicide, depression, PTSD.....

According to Safety Australia,

"Being subjected to workplace bullying doubles the risk of having suicidal thoughts."

45 survey respondents from the University of Newcastle had considered or attempted suicide.
56% (of 195 respondents) suffered from depression.

In addition, many of the people who have been harassed and victimised at the University of Newcastle have been diagnosed with depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder and have needed treatment from psychiatrists, psychologists and/or have spent time in a mental health unit (e.g. at the Mater).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Costs of destroying those who report misconduct and corruption

All academics have a role to play in challenging violations of integrity (Cleary, Walter, Horsfall and Jackson 2013).

According to the University of Newcastle Policy no.969, staff  "should report any wrongdoing they witness within the University of Newcastle" and "should report all activities or incidents that they believe are wrong."
If not
-  "departmental and institutional reputations will be compromised."
-   "there will be financial costs through lower productivity, absenteeism, high staff turnover, and compensation pay-outs, along with the inestimable losses associated with poor staff morale (Bond et al 2010)."
-   those who remain may be those with "less alternative employment opportunities, and over time they may become demoralised, work below their peak ability, and be less committed to good teaching practices and to students".
-   "they may themselves begin to adopt undesirable practices as the negative and damaging behaviours become normalized."(Cleary et al 2013).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Focussing on individual bullying distracts attention from institutionalized violence

"We note that the frequent (and often unhelpful) organizational response to bullying is to implement training courses to remedy the flaws of the individuals concerned, make counseling available to help them deal with stress, offer mediation, and implement so-called zero-tolerance polices within the organization that emphasize that individual bullying, harassment, and other forms of victimization will not be tolerated. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to confirm that these approaches will help and a growing body of evidence to suggest that they do not........

..we can propose that the reason for this is that such organizational measures target only subjective violence, seeking to locate the full ethical responsibility for bullying with individual persons. The organization might respond by trying to incriminate or rehabilitate those found guilty of bullying, but in so doing, it fails to look seriously at its own complicity in the violence that has been perpetuated.........

The organization here is positioned only as the “problem solver” rather than accepting that it is part of the problem, the latter position being a much more unpalatable, albeit necessary, form of self-knowledge to confront." 
 (Rhodes, C., Pullen, A., Vickers, M. H., Clegg, S. R., & Pitsis, A. 2010).Emphasis added.

So why did Mark Pigot really disappear?

Mark Pigot's short-lived role as CIO at the University of Newcastle has been in the news again.

ITNews has headlined their report "Uni of Newcastle CIO quits after three months".

So did he leave of his own accord?

"A university spokesperson declined to comment on Pigot's departure or specifics of the IT strategy, but said the IT roadmap was aimed at "building our position as one of the top universities in the world".

Did he feel somewhat overwhelmed by the task of getting the University of Newcastle to be placed as "one of the top universities in the world" (only 300 places to go)? 

Mark Pigot was previously employed by the University of Sydney and is now with Woolworths.  He previously gave evidence before the ICAC investigation into the "The recruitment of contractors and other staff by a university of Sydney IT manager".

Early April Fool's Day joke?

A new research area has been founded at the University of Newcastle.  That is surely good news for this university which is placed between 275 and 300th in the world??

Caroline McMillen and her top managers continue their slash and burn campaign on the Callaghan campus to fund "Caroline's legacy" of the city campus and to employ barristers and other legal professionals to destroy anyone who has a complaint against the University..  The academic study of Chinese disappeared, industrial design has almost been destroyed, the counselling service is under threat, treatment groups for stroke patients have been axed, and on and on.

So what is this new area:  WINE STUDIES

"Wine Studies is a new humanities and social science-based research area at University of Newcastle. Cross-faculty collaboration in this field, presently includes scholars from History, Social Science, Business and Tourism."

Julie Macintyre is the sole (?) academic involved.  "Julie's doctoral research began to identify the framework for a new Humanities and Social Sciences research field: wine studies. " (For more information about Julie's "invited presentations" to the "Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association" see her website).

Friday, March 14, 2014

Can we help you with the problems we caused?

Yamada states that
"Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and employee wellness programs are among the features of many contemporary workplaces, especially larger organizations that are in a position to devote time and money to extended human resources operations."

In less-than-wonderful workplaces, however, EAPs and wellness initiatives can play an ironic role: They exist in part to deal with the dysfunctional and unhealthy aspects of the organization itself.
  • UoN website - "As part of our commitment to staff wellbeing The University of Newcastle provides professional and confidential counselling for our most important asset - you!"
"EAPs are designed to help workers deal with personal problems that may impact their job performance and health. ... What if the problems and challenges that lead workers to contact an EAP or partake in a wellness program are triggered by work-related stress or even mistreatment?

"The focus is typically on the individual. However well meaning and helpful at times, they often are constrained in addressing systemic problems that may prompt someone to seek help. "

"..how many dysfunctional, unhealthy organizations look like pure gold on paper because they offer these useful benefits, without addressing some of the internal, core reasons for why their workers access them."

From the University of Newcastle website .... a few examples

-   "Staff may also access the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a free and confidential service that provides counselling, advice and support."

-   "informal ways of dealing with bullying may include: .....seeking advice, support or counselling from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or undertaking personal development courses from Human Resource Services."    

 -   "We are a healthy university. We create an environment that promotes healthy learning, working and living environments. Packaged as part of our Healthy UoN program, a range of activities and services are available for students that encourage positive physical, spiritual and mental health. Our counselling service is on hand to help you with personal or study-related issues."

-   "Students can use our free confidential counselling service to discuss any personal or study-related issues."

-   "The Counselling Service provides free and confidential counselling for all students. Our counsellors are professionally qualified psychologists and social workers. We offer support, information and assistance to clarify and resolve a range of issues, which might otherwise interfere with personal wellbeing or academic effectiveness. Personal issues may include stress, anxiety, depression, bereavement, relationship problems or family difficulties. We also assist with adjustment to university life and address academic issues such motivation, concentration and procrastination. In addition to booked appointments, we offer weekly Walk in Clinics."

-   "As part of our commitment to staff wellbeing The University of Newcastle provides professional and confidential counselling for our most important asset - you!"

-   "The University will provide timely access to a counselling service for staff members and their families
through an Employee Assistance Program."

-   "The Campus Care program has been established to provide confidential advice for all University community members, linking them with staff experienced in the assessment and management of concerning, inappropriate or threatening behaviours within the University community."
"The Counselling Service is available to students free of charge, on a confidential basis at each of the campuses at the University of Newcastle."
and on and on........................

Thursday, March 13, 2014

No excuse

"Why is this psychological injury of SO MANY staff at Newcastle University being treated so lightly? If it were a physical injury criminal assault charges would be laid. What makes it worse is that the most senior managers of the University are professionals in the medical field. ..There is no excuse for them allowing this assault to occur. It is the responsibility of the University Council to immediately suspend them pending an independent investigation." Newcastle Herald 20.03.2010.