Bullying, racism and discrimination

The UK is a country that believes in respecting all cultures and backgrounds, and in defending the rights of minority groups. This is reinforced by the law through the Race Relations Act. If you are discriminated against, you should report it to College, or to the JCR Committee, CUSU or the local branch of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Although racism and discrimination is not really an issue in Cambridge, since the community itself is remarkable and defined by its diversity, if you ever feel threatened or treated unfairly, there are many people you can turn to for help.

What to do

You should always keep a record of the incidents which are causing you distress.

Before deciding what to do about the situation, you may find it helpful to seek confidential help and advice. Many people find it difficult to think clearly about a situation which is causing them distress. Discussing the problem with someone else gives you the opportunity to analyse how you feel about it, what effect it is having on you, and what you believe is needed to solve the problem.

Discussion with any ‘advisor’ will normally be strictly confidential, and further action involving you will not be taken without informing you. You should be careful to protect your own confidentiality, and must also protect the confidentiality of all others involved in the situation. You should be aware there are limits to confidentiality. If you state that you do not want any further action to be taken, you may be asked to confirm this in writing. Action of some kind may, however, still need to be taken to protect others, although every effort will be made to maintain confidentiality.

If you can avoid confrontation you have a better chance of solving the problem. If you are unhappy with somebody’s behaviour towards you and feel able to tell him or her how you feel and what you would like to see changed, either face to face or by letter, this may resolve the situation and restore good working relationships. If seeking resolution in this way you may want to ask for support on a confidential basis, either to help you to work out what to say or to accompany you when you meet the person you are complaining about. Because of the possibility of counter–accusation or recrimination, it is probably wise to alert a supporting person to the problem before you approach the person concerned, even if you feel able to take this action on your own.

Even if you are able to resolve the situation yourself, you may wish to inform an ‘advisor’ in your own institution or that of the person complained against so that he or she is aware of any situation or incident which could cause future difficulties.

Computer–based problems

If the behaviour which is causing you distress involves messages or offensive material sent to you by computer of which you cannot identify the source, you can send an email to confidential@ucs.cam.ac.uk, which will be dealt with by a senior member of the Computing Service. You can also make an appointment via Reception to see the appropriate person in the Computing Service for advice and assistance about the problem.

Informal complaints

The complainant may be unable or reluctant to directly approach the person complained against. In such a case, the complainant may ask the Senior Tutor or their College Tutor, or another member of staff, for help in achieving an informal resolution of the problem.

The person approached will usually proceed to identify a senior member of the University or College who is willing and able to act as a mediator or conciliator. In those cases where a complaint is made by a student concerning a member of University staff, the student has access to the internal mediation service maintained by the Human Resources Division.

Every effort will be made to achieve prompt consideration and resolution of a complaint. The aim should be to conclude matters expeditiously–within a period normally of no more than six weeks if term–time, or eight weeks if outside term. Both the complainant, and the persons or institutions who are concerned in the complaint, will be expected to co–operate in achieving that result. If for any reason the informal process does not seem to be working, or is taking an unacceptably long time, either party may withdraw from the process.

Formal complaints

Since formal complaint is commonly stressful and burdensome to all parties, it is important to make every effort to achieve resolution informally before resorting to it.

If the above approaches have not or would not have the desired effect or the matter is particularly serious, you can make a formal complaint to the Senior Tutor who will then arrange for a formal investigation.

Notes about your complaint:

  • If your complaint is not upheld, you may still expect steps to be taken to help restore reasonable working relations between you and the person against whom you made the complaint.
  • If your complaint is found to be malicious or vexatious, disciplinary action may be taken against you.
  • If action is taken against someone as a result of your complaint, you can expect to be informed of this (though not necessarily of the nature of the action).