Bullying on Campus: Survey Says It Exists

Bullying on Campus: Survey Says It Exists

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
screen shot of survey results

Nearly 41 percent of the 542 UNH employees who recently completed a workplace bullying survey say they have experienced bullying on campus at some time during the last five years, with 77 percent of them rating the behavior as “moderate” to “severe.” 

The survey was sent to 2,727 employees in October at the request of a task force composed of representatives from the OS, PAT, EE and Lecturers councils. Approximately 20 percent of those who received the survey responded. 

In the survey, employees were asked whether they believed they had been bullied at work during the last five years, and, if so, whether the behavior was currently ongoing, and the severity of the incident. 

According to Wikipedia’s definition of bullying, an essential prerequisite is “the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power….Justifications and rationalizations for such behavior sometimes include differences of class, race, religion, gender, sexuality, appearance, behavior, strength, size or ability.” 

Bullying was described in the survey as, but not limited to, humiliating remarks, unwarranted or unprofessional criticism, verbal or written harassment, racist or sexist comments or jokes, and physical violence. 

Professor Malcolm Smith, co-chair of the bullying task force, called the survey “a very important study for the climate and culture of UNH.” 

“These results are an indication that current UNH policies and procedures are not getting at the problem of campus bullying,” Smith said. 

Sari Bennett, assistant vice president of Human Resources, said employees who feel they are being subjected to bullying should contact HR. 

“We encourage employees to bring these concerns to their supervisor or HR partner,” Bennett said. “Our partners have worked hard during recent years to be visible and build strong relationships with the departments they serve and all the employees who work there.” 

Employees can meet with HR partners to discuss in confidence any concerns they may have. A list of HR partners by department can be read here

Of the employees who reported experiencing bullying in the last five years, 38 percent of them said the behavior had affected their work. Another 25 percent said it had been “somewhat disruptive,” 34 percent found it “distracting”, and 4 percent said it had no effect on their productivity. 

Additionally, of those who reported experiencing bullying:

  • 64 percent said it affected their personal life and habits

  • 52 percent said it affected the stress in their family

  • 66 percent said it changed their interest in work

  • 73 percent said it adversely changed their view of UNH

  • 63 percent reported the bullying incidents to HR and/or their supervisor

  • 15 percent who reported were satisfied with the outcome

     Those who didn’t report cited fear of a negative impact on their job, not feeling safe, and feeling it wouldn’t make any difference as some reasons for not reporting.

 So what should be done?  According to the survey, a clear policy prohibiting bullying, and better education and training on bullying issues were favored equally by 66 percent of the respondents. 61 percent said there should be progressive discipline related to bullying and 76 percent of the survey takers favored “a university-wide commitment to creating a civil workplace where bullying behaviors are not tolerated.”

Smith, one of the co-constructors of New Hampshire's current bullying law for public schools, has been involved in research on civility and school climate issues for nearly 30 years. He presented the survey findings at the December meeting of the OS Council.

The task force hopes to give policy recommendations to the four councils at their retreat in the spring.