University launches probe after Sheffield academic is accused of bullying and racial discrimination

An internal investigation has been launched after an academic from a Sheffield university was accused of “racially discriminating” and “bullying” one of the students.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 10:59 am

The senior lecturer from Sheffield Hallam University is said to have shown “aggressive behaviour” towards the student in a series of incidents last year when classes were conducted virtually.

According to copies of a formal complaint, leaked by a senior member of university staff, with accompanying witness statements sent to The Star, the academic, who was referred to as 'Dr X', “continuously tried to bully, belittle and undermine” the student in front of others during an online group meeting.

The complaint also read that 'Dr X' used inflammatory language in order to suppress the student's views and bullied them throughout the year - and students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) had reservations of ‘Dr X's temperament’.

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Sheffield Hallam University

The complaint read: “I was scared to do anything because of any repercussions and (Dr X) made me felt *sic as I did something wrong.

“I was having a breakdown almost every other day throughout semester two due to the failings of several members of staff.”

It is claimed ‘Dr X’ had “some sort of vendetta” against the student by questioning their capability to take up a managing role.

“I was too scared to speak, this situation ultimately kept me quiet and the stress from the previous issue kept me silenced,” the student said.

“I felt alone and no one was there for me when I needed help. I was too scared to speak. A term called professional bullying should exist, Dr X would be the definition of this.”

On other occasions, ‘Dr X’ also allegedly berated the student in front of others for not meeting expectations.

“I felt isolated, I felt alone and I felt I needed to proof *sic myself at every hurdle because of the way (Dr X) perceived me,” the student said.

“In (Dr X’s) head, (Dr X) based my mark on the way I looked, talked or maybe, race. (Dr X) did not treat anyone else like this. I can't see why (Dr X) thought it is appropriate to treat me differently and these series of events emphasise the fact that (Dr X) cannot be impartial.”

A witness statement, which corroborated the allegations, said the student was mentally affected by ‘Dr X’s behaviour –resulting in the student struggling to concentrate in classes.

The witness then found out that the student had started self-harming as a result of the situation.

In response, the university confirmed it has received a student complaint which is now the subject of an internal investigation.

A Sheffield Hallam University spokesperson said: “It is important not to prejudge the outcome and allow this process to conclude. The university will undertake any appropriate action following the conclusion of the investigation.

“Sheffield Hallam is a safe and respectful community. Anyone in our university community who believes they have experienced harassment or abuse can report it anonymously or get support from an adviser through our Report and Support service at reportandsupport.shu.ac.uk.”