Message from the Chair of Council - publication of 2020 investigation report
In 2020, when an investigation upheld allegations of bullying against Imperial’s President and CFO, it deeply concerned many members of our community. I have listened and learned from those of you who have shared your views with me since then.
Later today, Imperial will publish parts of the 2020 investigation report into allegations made against the President and CFO. This follows a decision from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
I am writing to the community, so you can read what we will be publishing [pdf] and understand why parts of it will now be released.
The 2020 independent investigation
On receipt of a whistleblowing complaint, the College commissioned an independent legal expert to investigate the complaint. Some of the allegations were upheld. Both the President and CFO were the subject of a formal disciplinary process, and a series of actions were taken by them and by the College to make significant changes. Both Alice Gast and Muir Sanderson offered apologies to those affected and to the Imperial community. They fully committed to making changes in their own conduct and working practices.
When this disciplinary process concluded in 2020, in line with College practice, we did not publish the investigation report. This was to protect the right to privacy of those involved, including the complainants, the accused, and more than 50 witnesses who gave evidence. We considered the College’s various obligations and took HR and legal advice when making this decision. Participants in such processes have a reasonable expectation that their contributions are kept confidential.
Taking into account the understandable community interest and concern, we published the report’s key findings and 12 recommendations in 2020. All those recommendations were accepted and are being implemented by the College, the President and the CFO.
A Freedom of Information request from the Daily Mail sought the release of the entire report. The College originally refused this FOI request, considering confidentiality obligations to our people.
The ICO has decided that the public interest in disclosing more about the investigator’s findings on the President and CFO outweighed privacy and other concerns around parts of the report relating to these leaders. Crucially, the ICO agreed with Imperial that there is a significant amount of private information concerning others involved in the investigation, which has now been redacted from the report.
As a result, Council has concluded it would be beneficial to share the redacted report with the community first and then more widely, and the President supports this decision.
Cultural change: living up to our values
Great strides have been taken to improve Imperial’s culture – tackling underlying issues – and to become better at living up to our values. This is some of the most important work we commit to as an institution and as a community.
Bullying is a serious matter. We must continue to challenge, investigate and act to eliminate such behaviours.
Staff and students throughout the College have contributed positively. This work continues, including through initiatives such as Imperial Together which is underpinned by a new Values and Behaviours framework, drawing on consultation with hundreds of staff and students over a two-year period. The Imperial Together initiative includes an associated Action Plan, which sets out key ambitions and actions across all the projects and activities designed to help build and strengthen a positive and kind culture. This is vital work, which speaks well of the whole community’s determination to improve the College’s culture.
We have made it easier to raise concerns and receive support where behaviours fall short of our values. This includes the Report + Support tool, which helps disclose unwelcome behaviours such as bullying and harassment – and can be used (anonymously, if preferred) by anyone who experiences or witnesses such behaviour.
We are concerned that Alice Gast has been subject to abuse and threats. This has no place in our community or wider society. We deplore this behaviour.
Improving our culture remains a top priority for Council and for Imperial’s entire leadership team. Where we fall short, we will act. We continue to listen and learn from the whole community. Thank you for all you are doing to help improve the way we work together.
Chair of Council
Message sent to Imperial staff and students on Thursday 3 February 2022.