Staff and students back Newcastle University bully claims

MORE former and current University of Newcastle staff and students have spoken out about bullying at the institution, claiming a culture of "intimidation" exists.

More than 20 people contacted The Herald in response to yesterday's report about an academic who says she suffered years of harassment after reporting plagiarism in 2003.

It took the university more than five years to investigate the allegation and two staff members were counselled regarding "acceptable publication practices" last year.

Dr Michelle Adams's case will go back to the Industrial Relations Commission tomorrow.

University Vice-chancellor Nick Saunders has strongly denied a culture of bullying at the institution.

A former geographer, who worked in the same faculty as Dr Adams, told The Herald she was forced to leave the university following a "major breakdown" due to years of bullying.

The academic said she also supported a student in a plagiarism claim, this time against another student.

The woman, who signed a confidentiality agreement when she left, said the university had a history of "eliminating people who report misconduct because they do not want it exposed".

"I felt very isolated and bullied throughout the whole thing."

Another former academic, Stuart Pearson, said he chose to leave rather than put up with bullying.

Dr Pearson described what he witnessed at Newcastle as "vicious" and "dysfunctional".

"When you leave you realise just what the place is like, it's like a weight lifts off your shoulders," he said.

Two other academics, who still work at the university, said cliques and bullying were part of the institution's culture and had been for a long time.

The pair, who work in the same school, said people with dissenting voices were hounded into submission or bullied out.

"In so many cases the bullies are actually rewarded for their actions and when staff see this happening it creates a culture of fear," one said.

The university did not respond to The Herald's request for comment yesterday.

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