Imperial bullying questions ‘deflected and ignored’, claim staff

UCU branch demands answers after passing motion of no confidence in president and finance chief

February 1, 2021
Imperial College London
Source: iStock

Serious questions about the Imperial College London bullying scandal remain “deflected, ignored or unanswered”, staff have warned.

Imperial president Alice Gast and chief financial officer Muir Sanderson were allowed to keep their roles despite being found to have bullied colleagues last year.

In a letter to the pair, also sent to provost Ian Walmsley and chair of council John Allan, Imperial’s University and College Union (UCU) branch says staff are yet to “receive a satisfactory response” to their questions about the pair’s disciplinary hearings and were concerned that the college’s council had not been permitted to see the full report conducted by QC Jane McNeill.

The college council has ultimate responsibility for the appointment of both the president and the chief financial officer, so would need to see the full report to “fulfil their obligations under the college charter”, the letter says.

“Transparency and accountability should be guiding principles at Imperial, no less when college staff feel deeply disturbed by the emails and public disclosures [about the case] they have received,” the letter says. “Indeed, one of the recommendations in Jane McNeill QC’s report into the bullying was of the need for improved transparency by both the individuals involved and college management.”

The QC’s investigation, which found that Professor Gast had bullied one person, while Mr Sanderson was found to have bullied two colleagues between late February and mid-March, also recommended disciplinary hearings for both, which have since taken place.

The letter from UCU queries whether the disciplinary panel had heard from the victims of the bullying, and “If not, how was the panel able to reach a considered judgement of the bullying that took place?”

It is not clear what, if any, sanctions have been taken against Professor Gast or Mr Sanderson, only that they have both been offered coaching.

The letter comes after the UCU branch “overwhelmingly” passed a motion of no confidence in the president and chief financial officer in January.

In response, the university pointed to a previous statement which said that “the details of the investigation and disciplinary process remain confidential to protect the privacy of those involved, including witnesses”.

Imperial’s leadership team was working to implement the recommendations from the QC’s report, “while redoubling ongoing efforts to improve the college’s operations, culture, transparency and management”, the statement added.

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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