Easygoing campuses a magnet for stalkers

November 2, 2006

The relaxed relationships between academics and their students have made university campuses a natural haven for stalkers, it was claimed this week.

Writing in The Times Higher , Bran Nicol, the author of Stalking , says the confusion of roles often leads to obsessive relationships.

Harassment, stalking and violence by students against university staff has become such a pressing issue that the Universities Personnel Association is funding a study to help universities update their policies.

"We are looking at all aspects of student violence against all members of staff - not just academics," said Helen Scott, executive officer of the UPA. "We need a better understanding of the problem in order to put appropriate procedures in place."

The survey will be conducted by Deborah Lee, a sociologist at Nottingham Trent University, and published next year. Dr Lee's book University Students Behaving Badly builds on a 2005 Times Higher survey that found that institutions had recorded 1,000 incidents of abuse, stalking and physical attacks on staff over five years.

But there were concerns that this did not reveal the full scale of the problem because dozens of universities had no records.

For Kevin McCarron, a reader in American literature at Roehampton University, the survey is timely. "I was stalked for well over a year by a student," he said. The "violent and threatening" woman even leapt at him from behind a bush. "The incident was extremely ugly. I did not report it to the university as I felt it was something I should be able to handle. It resolved only when she left the university."

He said many lecturers were reluctant to report such incidents.


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