Bullying is contrary to the Equality Act 2010 and the University’s Dignity and Respect Policy. Bullying and harassment are never okay. It can be difficult to understand what it is unless you’ve experienced or witnessed it.
What is bullying?
Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour involving the misuse of power that can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, humiliated, undermined or threatened. Power does not always mean being in a position of authority but can include both personal strength and the power to coerce through fear or intimidation.
Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. Non-verbal conduct includes postings on social media outlets. Bullying may include, by way of example:
- shouting at, being sarcastic towards, ridiculing or demeaning others;
- physical or psychological threats;
- overbearing and intimidating levels of supervision;
- inappropriate and/or derogatory remarks about someone's performance;
- abuse of authority or power by those in positions of seniority; or
- deliberately excluding someone from meetings or communications without good reason.
What is harassment?
Harassment is unwanted conduct, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual's dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Harassment may occur physically, verbally, or non-verbally and it can be intentional or unintentional. It also includes treating someone less favourably because they have submitted or refused to submit to such behaviour in the past.
Protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 include: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. Harassment is unacceptable even if it is not directly related to a person's protected characteristics.
Harassment may include, for example:
- unwanted physical contact, including touching, pinching, pushing, grabbing, brushing past someone, invading their personal space and more serious forms of physical or sexual assault
- offensive or intimidating comments or gestures, or insensitive jokes or pranks
- mocking, mimicking or belittling a person’s disability
- racist, sexist, homophobic or ageist jokes, or derogatory or stereotypical remarks about a particular ethnic or religious group or gender
- outing or threatening to out someone as gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans
- ignoring or shunning someone, for example, by deliberately excluding them from a conversation or a social activity.
A person may be harassed even if they were not the intended "target". For example, a person may be harassed by racist jokes about a different ethnic group if they create an offensive environment.
How does this link to Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom ?
The University has a duty to protect its staff and students from unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation or threats of violence on the grounds of race, sex, age, religion or philosophical belief, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, or pregnancy or maternity. However, the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 should not be interpreted to undermine freedom of speech and academic freedom. As a result, students’ learning experience and the working environment of staff may include exposure to research, course material, discussion or speaker’s views that they find offensive, contentious or unacceptable, but are nonetheless lawful, and unlikely to be considered unlawful harassment or discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
In the context of its duties in relation to freedom of speech and academic freedom, the University will consider the potential impact on staff and students who may feel upset, vilified or marginalised by views expressed and how to ensure those students feel included and welcome within the University environment and are able to participate fully in activities and discussions.
Help and Support
Visit our support articles for advice and guidance
Support for Students
Support for Colleagues