Go now, Imperial staff tell Gast after bullying report published

No confidence motion also calls for radical overhaul of university’s governance

二月 15, 2022
Alice Gast
Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London

Staff at Imperial College London have passed a second vote of no confidence in president Alice Gast after an independent report concluded she had contributed to “a culture of bullying”.

At an open meeting attended by 800 staff called by trade unions, 93 per cent of those voting backed a motion that reiterated a vote of no confidence in Professor Gast and Imperial’s chief financial officer Muir Sanderson, following a previous vote in January 2021.

The meeting on 11 February follows the publication of a critical report earlier this month into Professor Gast’s leadership, which concluded she had overseen a culture of “favouritism, exclusion, the making of disparaging comments about others and at times a lack of respect for others”.

The report of Jane McNeill QC focused on events in early 2020 but had been kept under wraps until the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that it should be released.

The latest motion also calls for Imperial to undertake a thorough review of governance in consultation with staff and students by August, and implement new structures with more staff participation. These structures stifled the publication of the bullying report, it claims.

Amanda Sackur, a regional support officer with the University and College Union, said Imperial staff wanted “fundamental change, which needs to start at the top”. “The endemic culture of bullying at Imperial has been an open secret for far too long, yet Professor Gast and Mr Sanderson remain in post,” she said.

A “root and branch review followed by a complete overhaul of the governance structure” was the only way for Imperial to “redress its culture of discrimination and intimidation”, she concluded.

Professor Gast, whose remuneration totalled £519,000 last year, will step down in August at the end of her term. Ms McNeill’s report found that Professor Gast “undermine[d]” a colleague “personally and professionally” to the extent that their “self-esteem and self-confidence have been badly affected and [they] has suffered from lack of sleep and weight loss”.

This “adverse and humiliating treatment” included the making of “disrespectful and sometimes unpleasant” comments and the exclusion of the staff member from key parts of their role.

Ms McNeill found that at a senior level, there was a “culture of making disparaging comments about, undermining and excluding others”. Mr Sanderson, she said, “uses language and exhibits behaviours from time to time which are abhorrent in a modern workplace”.

An Imperial spokesman said the college was “working to improve our culture to better live up to our values”.

“This is one of the most important commitments of our institution and community, and remains a top priority,” he said. “We are listening to our community and understand the strength of feeling. Discussions are continuing.”




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