A leading London university is planning to publish annual data on harassment, bullying and sexual misconduct after investigations by the Guardian and the Observer revealed the scale of these issues at top British institutions.
University College London (UCL) said it would proactively make sure information was shared for better transparency. It follows a Guardian investigation that found nearly 300 academics across the UK, including senior professors and laboratory directors, had been reported for bullying in the last few years.
The university was one of a number of top institutions that declined to provide figures for the investigation. But in an email sent to staff Prof Ivan Parkin, dean of the faculty of mathematics and physical sciences (Maps), said UCL was working on proposals to make sure in future this information was made public. The email also discussed a number of measures that the institute was taking to improve its response to bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct, including banning the the use of non-disclosure agreements to resolve bullying and appointing a preventing sexual misconduct manager. “I wanted to update you all on what UCL is doing with respect to harassment and bullying. The Maps faculty will be the pilot faculty for an online reporting tool at UCL. “There was also an article in the Guardian over the weekend about harassment and UCL were listed as not responding to a freedom of information request (FoI). I wanted to reassure staff that we treat all issues relating to harassment and bullying very seriously and UCL is responding to newspapers over this issue,” Parkin wrote. He added that the FoI team had difficulties gathering the information in the timescale and are working to proactively publish this data. “Regarding the issue more broadly … UCL is also currently in the process of reviewing our policies and procedures. Measures already introduced include training for 1,000 staff, which will be rolled out to a further 2,000 staff this year. A new full time preventing sexual misconduct manager has also been appointed,” the email added. An investigation by the Observer into sexual misconduct in academic science in July revealed cases at a number of universities in the UK where victims’ accounts failed to be handled appropriately, with little or no action taken to investigate matters and hold alleged perpetrators to account. Victims and witnesses of sexual misconduct in UCL’s science faculty were among those to say they were unhappy with the way such complaints are dealt with. Michael Arthur, UCL’s president and provost professor, said: “It has become clear that all institutions can and must do better in preventing and addressing bullying and sexual misconduct. UCL is no exception. We must strive to enact bold changes at an individual, institutional and policy level. “UCL has learned from past cases and I will be doing my utmost to drive through the necessary improvements to ensure that going forward, our values of respect and tolerance are upheld by all.”