The voices of the victims are rarely heard.
The 21 Group is publishing testimony from victims of bullying in UK universities. All names are anonymized. The intention is not the settling of scores. We want to show how bullying occurs in universities and to reveal the long-lasting and pervasive harm done to the victims.
If you wish to submit a contribution for possible publication on this page, please describe how you were bullied, or how it has affected your prospects and health. Then email it to email@example.com We will treat your disclosure with complete confidence. We will be in touch to arrange a call to talk more.
Our first four testimonies come from the same university.
” .. collusion of influential figures within the university …”
” Navigating a gruelling year-long investigation, I was eventually cleared of an allegation of research impropriety that left me emotionally shattered. What’s truly disheartening is the collusion of influential figures within the university who conspired to intimidate and harass me, casting doubt on my research integrity. Despite the profound harm inflicted on my well-being, they evade accountability. Currently on sick leave while awaiting a grievance resolution, my passion for academia has withered away. The stark injustice is undeniable, funding my own legal defence while they bask in institutional support. It’s a painful, uphill battle where justice seems a distant and elusive concept “
“…it is very hard to get over things like that in one’s past …”
“I had supportive comments from a few, but they seemed unwilling to stand up for me in wider circles. Also, several senior people seemed to ‘manufacture’ issues for me to deal with in order to add to an already unmanageable workload. And then there was a bunch of middle people who were just rude or uncooperative and who also spread malicious stories about me. In the end, almost everyone in the department either turned against me, or was completely indifferent to my fate. There were meetings in which almost the whole department either criticised me, or sat mute while others criticised.
In terms of the ongoing effects of bullying, in my own experience it is very hard to get over things like that in one’s past completely. It is now over 7 years since I left the University, and I still often go over some of those situations in my mind. It has left me anxious when dealing with interpersonal conflicts. I have frequent panic attacks around people I do not know. I enjoy being outdoors with my dogs in the garden, and not having to deal directly with people too much.”
“It was my whole life and it was taken away …”
“I once possessed a vibrant enthusiasm for research. It was my whole life. I really looked forward to coming into the department, exchanging ideas with colleagues, inspiring research students, helping junior colleagues. Now I am struggling. I am despairing. A senior professor in my department conspired to intimidate me, to harass me, to bully me. I have had many, many months of devastation and demoralisation visited upon me. I have a loss of interest in research, it all seems so pointless. I was publishing ten or more papers a year. Now this has dwindled to almost nothing. I was winning international awards. Now I am embroiled in an endless grievance procedure against a senior figure in the department, with no hope of winning, no hope of justice, no hope of fairness. It has been going on for 2 years.
The ordeal has ruined my personal life. Sleep is hard and is plagued with nightmares. I have been on sick leave for 3 months. I no longer care about the university. I have had support from friends, colleagues and former students, but from the university just bland exhortations to see my GP. It was my whole life and it was taken away. I thought I would be at my university for ever, now I know I will never return to my department. I am looking for jobs elsewhere.”
“Not even a tiniest droplet of compassion for the victim ….”
“I observed horrific mistreatment of an administrator in my department. The bullying by the head of department was prolonged. It went on in mild fashion for 1 year, in a stronger fashion for 1 year and in an unacceptable fashion for the final 2 months. It nearly ended in a tragedy. My problems all started when I intervened on her behalf. I emailed university HR for help in dealing with the victim, who was in the throes of extreme mental distress. HR did not offer any help. Not even a perfunctory email saying, “Call the counselling service”. They literally did not care, not even a tiniest droplet of compassion for the victim.
Instead, the head of school set the HR department on me. I could not believe it at first, but of course, I understand it now. A cosy relationship develops between a head of department and a head of school. They talk every week, they have lunch together, they end up knowing each other really well and trusting each other. So the head of department just said it was the other way round, the powerless administrator had been bullying him and I was part of a conspiracy with her to mob him. And the head of school believed him. It is snug at the top.
Even so, I thought it would quickly sort itself out. I had reckoned without the dishonesty and malice of our HR department. Two and a half years later, I am on sick leave, I am being bankrupted by lawyer’s fees, while my head of department has his lawyers paid for by the university. Sleep is an elusive luxury for me. I have nightmares where I dream of hanging myself in my office. I have lost all faith in the basic integrity of senior people in my university. Because the problem with my university and its anti-bullying policy is that my university is the biggest bully of them all, and it has the biggest stick”