Bullying and harassment are endemic to higher education.
Fortunately, victims can turn to an objective human resources department to have perpetrators investigated fairly and in line with the principle of natural justice.
Louisa Carter, an HR Business Partner at Malum University, takes pride in holding bullies accountable for their actions. “We at Malum University have zero-tolerance for bullying and harassment. If we find that you are engaging in unwanted behaviors towards any member of staff, we will come down on you like a ton of bricks.”
Ms Carter recalls the most recent case, more than a decade ago, when a professor was actually found guilty of sexually harassing a PhD student. “We told him, ‘Look, this kind of behavior is inappropriate. You’re going to have to take this 30-minute training course on sexual harassment.’ That did the trick, all right. We haven’t received a single valid complaint against him since.”
Equally gratifying for Ms Carter is her role in combating vexatious complaints against staff at Malum University.
“We also have zero tolerance for baseless complaints here at Malum. In fact, we believe that anyone complaining of bullying without hard evidence is guilty of bullying.”
As recently as last week, a member of academic staff made a bullying complaint against Ms Carter. This individual, who must remain anonymous because of a confidentiality clause in his settlement agreement, accused Ms Carter of luring him into a meeting under false pretences and blindsiding him with threats of termination.
“As soon as I received that bullying complaint against me, I took swift action to investigate it, in accordance with our HR policies and procedures here at Malum University.”
The investigation consisted of a “fact-finding” mission in which Ms Carter asked herself a series of questions about the incident in question.
At the conclusion of the investigation, Ms Carter determined, on the balance of probabilities, that the evidence against her was “shaky at best,” and that she had committed no violations of university policy.
However, Ms Carter found persuasive evidence during the course of her investigation that the member of staff whom lodged the initial complaint against her was guilty of leveraging the complaints procedure as a form of bullying. After investigating the grievance, Ms Carter initiated disciplinary proceedings against the complainant. After a brief period of stress leave, he resigned his position.
“I’m just glad that justice could be served,” explained Ms Carter. “Hopefully this will send a strong message to anyone else thinking of filing a bullying grievance against any of our HR Business Partners. We will hold you accountable.”
Professor Andrew R. Timming
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