Recently, the chair of the faculty senate at my institution began an effort to systematically address issues of faculty bullying/harassment. In particular (but not exclusively), we are worried about the exploitation of non-tenured and non-tenure-track faculty by senior tenured faculty. The institution has a policy on employee-employee harassment that is vague - something like "all employees have the right to be treated respectfully. The institution will have a process to address claims of harassment."

The institution does not have a process beyond 1) informally complain to the deans and 2) file a formal complaint with HR. The second process is a matter of record keeping and thus does not lead to negotiation and resolution except for egregious and repeated offenders. The first process is not formal, so each dean handles cases as he/she sees fit.

We are seeking to propose a process and are looking for research on best practices. We are aware of the ombuds model that some institutions use. Are there other models? Has research been done on how effective they are?

Note: We are only concerned with non-sexual harassment, like "I will not support your application for tenure unless you X," where X is some activity not normally required for tenure, like teach a number of extra courses without pay, perform clerical duties for other faculty, etc. It also includes abuse of full-time and part-time adjuncts - "We won't renew your contract unless you do X," again where X is not in their original contract. Our institution has very clear and legally mandated processes for addressing sexual harassment.

  • At some institutions a faculty union might represent faculty members who have a grievance. I doubt that helps since you probably will not wish to create a union for this purpose. Oct 14, 2014 at 21:11
  • Perhaps AAUP could help you answer this question. If not, I suggest checking faculty handbooks from institutions similar to yours. Oct 14, 2014 at 21:12
  • I'd say one of the keys to a successful system is that one only needs to file a complaint, after which the system takes care it is being properly handled. If the person filing the complaint has to very carefully track the already difficult process then it is prone to leaving cases unsolved. Also, a junior researcher might not be willing to take a "risk" complaining - you should give the possibility for others to take action too. Option of (some) anonymity would then be a +.
    – mmh
    Oct 17, 2014 at 18:11
  • Would an answer with specific examples of policies and procedures be acceptable?
    – user21984
    Oct 18, 2014 at 0:21
  • 1
    In lieu of best practices, I will accept an answer with policies and procedures as long as it contains some research data on effectiveness. For example, what percent of faculty participating in the process feel that their issues have been resolved [Likert Scale]? Also, was there a change in culture (i.e. number of reported incidences of harassment/bullying) before and after? Etc.
    – Ben Norris
    Oct 20, 2014 at 10:16

1 Answer 1


This is just some examples of preventative actions that I have encountered as an Adjunct in an Australian University.

One method employed by my and many other universities is for any existing or new member of staff to undergo training, of which anti-bullying and anti-harrassment modules are undertaken, an example is from the University of Western Sydney - the page has the modules, but also includes a workplace agreement page and information about the procedures are if you find yourself being bullied. These procedures are linked with the state/national legal framework already in place, such as Australia's Fair Work Commission. Another example is from the University of Western Australia and a very extensive policy document from the University of Adelaide.

Many Universities have adopted a 'zero tolerance' policy, such as in the anti-bullying document from the University of Newcastle.

An example of a 'best practices' guide, is the University of Western Sydney's document UWS Workplace Bullying Prevention Action Plan 2014 - 2016, in response to

In 2012, the University conducted a staff engagement survey on a range of management and human resource practices. Although 62% of staff agreed that UWS was adequately responding to bullying and abusive behaviours, this was highlighted as a potential area of organisational risk for the University

In Appendix A of the document, they extensively outline the 'Best Practices' for preventing bullying at the University, through evaluating and controlling the risk of bullying, which must be done in a clear an unambiguous way with a core emphasis on preventative measures. As it is a new document, no data is yet available about its effectiveness.

Another example is the University of the Sunshine Coast's Responding to Workplace Bullying - Procedures page, where specific procedures are laid out in accordance to health and safety and fair work laws.

Research into the effectiveness is hard to come by, according to the article Workplace Bullying: An increasing epidemic creating traumatic experiences for targets of workplace bullying (Farmer, 2011), the reason why a full analysis of the effectiveness is in part due

Currently, a gap in the literature exists concerning the participation of “bullies” in many of the research studies published to date. Future research could look to include “bullies”, in such avenues as focus groups when looking to discover why workplace bullying occurs. If recommendations such as those noted above, ranging from zero-tolerance workplace bullying policies, education and training, and advocacy and awareness are continued to be drawn upon in the fight against workplace bullying, then it is the hope with the persistence of researchers and advocates, workplace bullying will one day reach similar status to policies which prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace.

As with all best practices, it is incumbent on people to implement them and to follow them - and to report when something goes wrong.

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