Imperial staff call for president’s resignation over bullying

Union branch say allowing president and chief financial officer to stay sends a ‘terrible message to staff’

December 15, 2020
Alice Gast - Top 10 universities run by women

Staff at Imperial College London have called on the institution’s president and chief financial officer to resign, after they were found to have bullied other members of staff.

An independent investigation into the behaviour of president Alice Gast and chief financial officer Muir Sanderson concluded that the pair had bullied colleagues earlier this year. Both have offered formal apologies and have faced disciplinary hearings, but have been allowed to remain in their roles.  

Members of the University and College Union at Imperial have called for their resignation “on the grounds of gross misconduct”.

Michael McGarvey, Imperial’s UCU branch president, said allowing them to stay in post, while some victims left the college, was “undermining the position of staff who remained and perpetuating the climate within senior management that allowed the behaviour to take place”.   

The union and the students’ union have written to the chair of Imperial’s council asking to see the full report produced by the independent investigator. So far, Imperial has only published the recommendations, which included providing both the president and chief financial officer with coaching, reviewing the university’s harassment policy and governance structures and implementing new appraisal systems.

UCU has also called for an independent commission to investigate “the failure of leadership that produced such an outcome and the lack of democratic structures of accountability that prevented the president and CFO from being held properly to account”. 

“We hear too many stories about inappropriate behaviour being tolerated within our institutions because the perpetrator is a senior member of staff – this sends a terrible message to staff and creates a culture where bullying can thrive,” Dr McGarvey said. “Universities have to lead from the top and create a culture of mutual respect in the workplace.”

In its most recent statement, Imperial said that the “leadership team will drive changes as a result of [the investigation’s] recommendations, while redoubling ongoing efforts to improve the college’s operations, culture, transparency and management. They will build on a great deal of established and ongoing work from people throughout Imperial who are helping develop a better working environment.”

The details of the investigation and disciplinary process remained confidential to protect the privacy of those involved, including witnesses, the statement said.

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Sure she should go just because she is a woman does not mean she should be allowed to get away with bullying - it is unacceptable to bully senior academic staff like this.

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