- There is no place for abuse and bullying at UiB

A recent report shows that bullying and harassment are prevalent in the higher education sector. “All our employees and students should experience the University of Bergen as a good place to study and work,” says Rector Dag Rune Olsen.

“The report indicates that there may be a number of unrecorded cases here. I urge anyone who is subjected to abuse to report it. As soon as we become aware of any such incidents, we intervene,” Rector Dag Rune Olsen says.

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On Thursday, ’The survey report - bullying and harassment in the higher education sector’ was presented. The figures for UiB show that twelve percent of the respondents have been bullied or harassed in their current position during the past year. 

This figure is too high, according to Dag Rune Olsen.

“This is not just about numbers and percentages. The incidents that lie behind the numbers may have serious and long-lasting consequences for the people concerned. This worries me,” says Olsen, who adds:

“A university should be a safe place for all students, members of staff and academics. We cannot tolerate any form of harassment. We provide the resources to equip managers at all levels to be able to detect and deal with such cases as soon as we become aware of them. Abuse, insulting behaviour, bullying, and abuse of power have no place at UiB,” says Olsen.

Improved whistleblowing procedures after #Metoo

A total of 2 percent - 37 people - of those surveyed at UiB responded that they have experienced sexual harassment.

“This is not something with which the sector wishes to be associated,” says Olsen.

The #Metoo campaign made it clear that sexual harassment is a widespread social problem, which requires reflection, cultural change and action.

“It became obvious that the scope was greater than we had been aware of, and that the ways in which we have dealt with this type of incident could have been better. Today we have a better-functioning apparatus in place for dealing with reports of unwanted incidents. However, guidelines and procedures alone are not enough if we are to eradicate the problem of sexual harassment. This issue also involves attitudes and culture, which take a long time to change,” says Olsen.

Serious incidents have consequences

According to the report, one employee stated that they had been threatened, forced or pressured into sexual intercourse during the past year.  

Olsen says that the management has dealt with one case of a particularly serous nature in the last year, and that this has had consequences for the employment situation of the accused person.

“The report indicates that there may be a number of unrecorded cases here. I urge anyone who is subjected to abuse to report it. As soon as we become aware of any such incidents, we intervene,” says Olsen.

Concern for PhD candidates

The Working Environment Act prohibits bullying and other inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. UiB also has clear guidelines regarding bullying and harassment, and all managers of institutes, departments and faculties have a responsibility to ensure that these are adhered to.

According to the report, PhD candidates state more often than other groups that they have been subjected to sexual assault. This concerns UiB’s management.

- Director of Human Resources: Speak out!

“PhD candidates a vulnerable group, and this must be followed up with specific focus by managers and supervisors. Here we need to become better at providing information, and be clearer about the systems and procedures that apply for working life in general and for UiB in particular,” Sonja Dyrkorn Director of Human Resources says.

“We need to be notified so that we can act, and this requires people to speak out. Managers also have a particular responsibility for ensuring that bullying, harassment and abuse do not occur,” says Olsen.

At UiB, the HR Division has initiated extensive training of managers, employee representatives and safety representatives. The students have been provided with a digital whistleblowing channel, where they can report any unwanted incidents. On sikresiden.no, members of staff can find information on how to deal with and report incidences of bullying and harassment. The HR Division is working to put in place a digital whistleblowing system, where whistleblowers can report objectionable conditions, corresponding to the Si-fra page for students.

Dyrkorn stresses that anyone who is subjected to, or who witnesses, punishable offences should notify the police. UiB also has safety representatives, a student ombudsman and an occupational health service that can be contacted in the event that a whistleblower does not wish to report the matter to the police or their immediate supervisor.

“Anyone who approaches their manager, employee representative or safety representative to let us know about bullying or harassment will be taken care of. They can be assured that they will be met, heard and followed up,” says Dyrkorn.

    This is bullying and harassment:

    • Bullying is a situation in which one or more people feel that they are being systematically, and over time, subjected to negative actions by one or more people in a situation where the person affected has difficulty defending themselves against these actions.
    • Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention that makes somebody feel humiliated, degraded or intimidated. This may include sexual remarks or jokes, sexualised content sent by email, SMS or via other platforms, various forms of sexual abuse or any other inappropriate behaviour.
    • As an employee, you should also speak out if you become aware that harassment is taking place. Serious abuse should also be reported to the police.
    • If you are subjected to harassment, please report it to your immediate manager, another manager, or your safety representative. The safety representative is the employees’ representative in matters pertaining to the working environment. It may also be a good idea to make your own notes in which you describe the incident(s). Note the time and place, what happened, and how you reacted.
    • If you are unsure, or do not wish to pursue a formal complaint, you can contact your union representative, the Occupational Health Service or the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority in order to discuss the matter informally and confidentially. You should also speak out if you witness other people being subjected to harassment.