Harassment and bullying
We will reduce the incidence of bullying and harassment
An organisational culture that values diversity and aims to be inclusive must be built on respect for the individual, whatever their identity, circumstances or background. This requires us to be sensitive to shifting societal norms and to be clear in our messaging and training on behavioural expectations. It also requires us to be effective in dealing with bullying and harassment, for which as an institution we have zero tolerance.
Bullying is not legally defined but is generally considered to be repeated behaviour which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically. Harassment, by contrast, is defined in the Equality Act 2010 in relation to protected characteristics to include unwanted behaviour, whether intentional or not, that is offensive, intimidating, humiliating or otherwise harmful; it includes emotional, physical or sexual harm.
No forms of bullying or harassment should be tolerated at Imperial.
In a university setting we need to be particularly mindful of the complexities surrounding sexual harassment, given both the scope for power imbalances (e.g. between staff and students), and the many forms in which it may occur (e.g. comments, non-verbal communication, grooming, sexual invitations, promised resources in exchange for sexual access, or assault), some of which may not initially be perceived as harmful.
Imperial has made significant efforts in recent years to reflect on and improve the institutional culture. The “Have Your Say” campaigns and ongoing work arising from the 2016 Institutional culture and gender equality report are making positive strides. Yet we know from surveys of staff and students that incidents of bullying and harassment still affect a significant number of people. Recent publicity, particularly around sexual harassment in Hollywood, Parliament and within higher education leads us to suspect that we do not yet have a clear idea of the scale of the problem.
What is clear is that we have to do better if we are to succeed in eliminating bullying and harassment at Imperial. We need to bolster credibility in our procedures so that no victim feels inhibited from reporting instances of harassment.
We will develop a coherent and credible approach to harassment.
A working group chaired by the Assistant Provost (EDI) has already been charged with reviewing existing policies and processes for reporting and dealing with cases of sexual harassment, and is due to report later this year.
The working group will bring forward proposals to more effectively enable staff and students to report incidents, and to receive support and redress. As far as possible, the lessons learned from this work will be applied to all other cases of bullying and harassment.
Awareness and behaviour
We will publicise the ongoing work to improve our organisational culture and create more opportunities for staff and students to get involved.
We will facilitate the roll-out of Active Bystander training for staff and students (pioneered in the Faculty of Engineering) across the College. This helps to equip people with strategies for dealing with poor behaviour that can occur in professional, educational and social settings at the College. At the same time it raises awareness of many of the biases (conscious and unconscious) that hinder our institutional culture from being fully inclusive.