Tutors taunted: academics offer examples of 'upwards harassment' by students and consider possible motives

June 18, 2009

Verbal abuse

One academic recalled a student "coming in effing and blinding" and then saying: "You are so boring, fucking boring."

Another cited a student whose behaviour was "verbally aggressive, attacking, shouting, leaning forward", while a third recalled a student asking her: "Are you suffering with your menopause?"

Sexual harassment

A female academic told of a male student saying: "Look at Miss, she's sitting in a provocative way."

Another recalled "wandering hands all over my buttocks".

One academic told of an "explicit letter that identified feelings for me ... followed by flowers, cards, phone calls at home, texts". The student involved "stalked me outside the uni. When I went to go home, she was waiting for me."

In another case, an academic received an email that said: "You can fuck me if you pass my essay."

When the lecturer declined, the student threatened to spread false rumours about them "being a pervert and having sex with students".

Electronic communication attack

Academics interviewed expressed concern about the volume of emails sent by students to staff, and the expectation that academics would respond immediately. "Sometimes I get 150 emails a day; there is a lot of pressure to answer emails," one interviewee said.

Another said: "When essays are due you get the most unacceptable behaviour ... Some constantly contact me!"

Changing expectations

"Students make accusations like: 'You're never there', or 'I've been trying to find you but you're never in', when we've been teaching," one academic said.

Another said that student expectations were "high and too often unachievable" and "if they don't get the mark they want, they feel they have been short-changed".

"A student with disabilities offered me £1,000 to write his dissertation," a third said. "He thought he could buy his way through."

What's behind the bad behaviour?

"They blame others rather than looking at themselves," one academic said of their students, adding that they "personally attack my skills and my values".

"[I think] it is related to life experiences, they are brought up in an aggressive way," the interviewee said.

One academic suggested that an increase in the use of illegal drugs was fuelling problems. "We see more drug use and the consequences of drug use ... It's all part of (the students') lifestyle."

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