Academic & Student Affairs

Student Anti-Bullying & Harrassment Policy

Appendix 3


Student Anti-bullying and Harassment Policy

1.       Policy Statement

Queen’s University Belfast is committed to a working and learning environment which is free from harassment including discrimination, victimisation and bullying, and in which no student feels under threat or intimidated.

In striving toward the achievement of such an environment, allegations of harassment and/or bullying by students will be taken seriously by the University.  If substantiated, allegations of harassment and/or bullying may provide grounds for disciplinary action under the University’s Conduct Regulations, and may give rise to a student being required to withdraw from their course.  The University recognises that incidents of harassment and/or bullying can affect a person’s work, morale and health. Therefore, all complaints (informal or formal) will be dealt with promptly and treated confidentially.  Information shall only be divulged on a need to know basis and with the knowledge of the complainant.

This procedure applies to all students and relates to those who are being bullied by another student, a member of staff or whilst on placement. The procedure aims to highlight the actions a student should take if they believe they are being subjected to behaviour which may be considered as harassment and/or bullying.

2.      Definition of Harassment/Bullying

Bullying can be defined as ‘behaviour which is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate denigrate or injure the recipient.’

Harassment falls into two categories, although there may be some overlap:

(i)   Where the harassment is on the grounds of sex, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religious belief or political opinion.
(ii)  As outlined in the Protection from Harassment (NI) Order 1997.

Harassment may constitute a breach of the University’s Equality and Diversity Policy (see Appendix 2: Equality and Diversity Policy, General Regulations, University Calendar).

Harassment may also be a criminal offence and may contravene Health and Safety legislation.  Complaints of this type of harassment can also be brought under the Protection from Harassment (NI) Order 1997.

For convenience, all further references to harassment in this policy should be taken to include bullying.

3.     Examples of Harassment

This list is neither exclusive nor exhaustive and other forms of behaviour may be regarded as harassment:

    (i)            Oral or written harassment through derogatory remarks, jokes, insults, offensive language, gossip and slander.  Written harassment includes, but is not limited to, letters, emails, postings on websites and texts.
    (ii)           Physical conduct ranging from the invasion of personal space and/or inappropriate touching to serious assaults.
    (iii)          Open aggression, threats, shouting.
    (iv)          Unjustifiable exclusion e.g. withholding information, isolation or non-co-operation of colleagues, exclusion from classroom and social activities.
    (v)           Intrusion by pestering, spying, following and/or stalking.
    (vi)          Incitement to commit any of the above.

The University will respect the particular sensitivity of allegations of harassment and their consequences and the need for confidentiality. As a general principle, confidentiality will be agreed and maintained wherever possible. However, there may be situations where confidentiality has to be broken and this will be made clear to the student. For example, if a student tells a member of staff in confidence something that constitutes an unacceptable risk to the student, another person or the University, the member of staff will have to take action. The decision on whether a complaint should be progressed normally rests with the student, but action may have to be taken against the student’s wishes to address an unacceptable risk.

4.      Source of Advice and Help

If a student believes they are being harassed, there are a number of options to consider. Every situation is different and the action the student takes depends on his/her particular circumstances. The student can decide to seek advice or discuss the matter with a member of staff in the School, the Student Guidance Centre, Counselling Service, Harassment Advisory Service or Students’ Union. Students are advised to act promptly and should not feel the unwanted behaviour is their fault, or that they have to wait until the situation is intolerable.

5.       Making a Complaint:  Informal Procedure

It is appropriate to use the Informal Procedure where the student simply wants the behaviour to stop, where the alleged harassment is not serious, or where it has not been repeated.  A student is not obliged to attempt to resolve the matter informally.

A student should seek to resolve the matter in the first instance by discussing it with a member of staff in the School, a Community Support Worker if the incident occurred in student accommodation or with a Harassment Adviser. The role of these individuals is to listen to the concerns and provide them with support and guidance on how they can proceed with a complaint by:

    (i)            Assisting the student in deciding on an appropriate course of action.
    (ii)           Giving information about the procedure and the options for taking a complaint forward.
    (iii)          Providing information about sources of student support, including counselling or other professional support.
    (iv)         Referring the student to a Harassment Adviser to assist with the informal resolution of the problem.

Brief details of the complaint and any subsequent meetings will be recorded but will only be used if formal proceedings ensue.

Whatever action is taken, it is recommended that the member of staff, Community Support Worker or Harassment Adviser arranges to meet with the student after a suitable period of time to monitor the situation and review possible courses of action if the matter remains unresolved.

If the above steps fail to produce a resolution, or if these options are unacceptable to the student, the issue may be raised under the Formal Stage of the Procedure.

6.       Formal Procedure

The Formal Procedure will normally be adopted where the alleged harassment is serious, or if it continues after the Informal Procedure has been invoked.  In each case, the Head of Student Welfare should be informed and the Student Care Protocol followed.

Those cases which cannot be successfully resolved within the informal process, or are too serious to consider within the informal process, will be investigated in accordance with the University’s Conduct Regulations (Section VI, University’s General Regulations) and, if appropriate, may be referred to the Fitness to Practise Procedure (Section V, University’s General Regulations). A complaint against a member of staff, or by a student whilst on a placement, will be investigated in accordance with the Student Complaints Procedure (Section IV, University’s Regulations).

In order to carry out a formal investigation, the student must provide written details of the incident(s) which have led to the complaint.

7.       Investigation     

When a complaint has been received and the disciplinary procedures have been invoked, the matter shall be dealt with under the University’s Conduct Regulations (Section VI, General Regulations, University Calendar), if the matter is considered to be serious.

While the formal complaint is under investigation, an alternative location, or timetable for the work of the student who made the complaint will be considered where requested (although there can be no guarantees that an alternative location can be found). Where it is necessary to facilitate ongoing professional or working relationships between the student and the person who has been alleged of harassment, no meeting should take place between the two individuals without a third party being present. This arrangement should be facilitated by the Head of School or his or her nominee.

Once an investigation of a formal complaint as described above has been carried out, the Head of School, or his or her nominee, should review the situation after an appropriate period of time, to ensure that no victimisation or further harassment has occurred. Where specific time bound commitments were identified as part of the final report, it should be ensured that these have been suitably met.

Following a finding of harassment, any repeat behaviour of this nature will result in further disciplinary action.

8.      Complaints of harassment are treated seriously by the University.  Therefore any student who makes a false, frivolous, malicious, mischievous or vexatious complaint will be dealt with under the University’s disciplinary procedure.

9.       Monitoring and Review

This policy will be monitored and reviewed and a report will be made to Education Committee annually.  Schools will be expected to maintain records of all complaints of harassment and should forward details to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs.