Bullying and harassment
St. Catharine’s College Policy on Bullying and Harassment
The Tutors have been conducting a review of the College’s policy on Bullying and Harassment with a view to ensuring good practice in all aspects of College life.
The policy which follows is an adaptation of already-existing College policy (first approved in 1995), which incorporates recent policy developments and draws extensively on the University’s Dignity@Study policy which can be found online at:
Whilst the Policy set out below remains in force for many forms of Bullying and Harassment, cases of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct should now be considered under that separate and more limited Policy, to be found at:
If, after reading both Policies, you are uncertain as to which Policy applies to the matter you wish to raise, please consult your Tutor or the Senior Tutor.
The College expects all members of its community to treat each other with respect, courtesy and consideration at all times. All members of the College community have the right to expect civilised behaviour from others, and have a corresponding responsibility to behave appropriately towards others.
In order to work and study effectively, students, fellows and staff need a climate of equal opportunity in which they are respected and valued for their contribution, irrespective of their sex, gender identity (including reassignment), marital, parental or partnership status, race, ethnic or national origin, colour, disability, sexuality, religion or belief, or age. The College will not tolerate the harassment or bullying of any member of its community by another.
There is a need for procedures to deal with any less positive relationships in general and in particular with inappropriate behaviour (including bullying, harassment, victimisation, or discrimination) that may affect the well-being of individuals within the College. This document provides guidance to individuals who may experience or witness inappropriate behaviour. It also outlines the action which is recommended to address inappropriate behaviour, with support if needed, in the knowledge that any concerns or complaints will be dealt with appropriately and fairly by the College.
This Guidance is intended primarily for students who have complaints concerning the behaviour of others (e.g. a Fellow, a member of College staff, another student), and who consider that the behaviour constitutes harassment or bullying.
1.2 Definitions: Inappropriate behaviour
Behaviour is defined as inappropriate if:
- it is unwanted by the recipient;
- it is perceived by the recipient as violating their dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment; and
- the behaviour could reasonably be considered inappropriate having regard to all the circumstances, including the recipient's perception.
These definitions apply whether or not there was an intention to cause the effect.
Inappropriate behaviour may include a number of specific behaviours - such as bullying, or harassment on account of sex or gender identity (including gender reassignment), race, ethnic or national origin, colour, disability, sexuality, religion or belief, or age. Also, behaviour that may appear trivial as a single incident can constitute harassment or bullying when repeated.
Such behaviour may be undertaken by a group rather than by an individual; in such a case, the whole group shares responsibility for the behaviour. Organisers of social events such as parties or dinners should ensure that unacceptable inappropriate behavour is not institutionalised as part of such events; examples of such behaviour would include: drinking games, sexually demeaning ‘forfeit’ games and the like, anything (in short) which involves a failure to observe towards others “respect, courtesy and consideration at all times” (see 1.1).
Inappropriate behaviour may not always be conducted in a situation of physical proximity to the complainant; abusive behaviour involving telephone calls or messages, texting, e-mails and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter etc will be regarded with the same seriousness, and may also involve abuse of University Network privileges, which can be temporarily suspended or permanently withdrawn.
It is important to understand that being drunk or under the influence of drugs does not constitute an excuse for bullying or harassment; it may indeed constitute an additional and separate offence. For the College’s policies on Misuse of Drugs and Alcohol, see:
1.3 Definitions: Racial and Sexual Harassment
Racial or sexual harassment of one member of the College community by another is wholly unacceptable behaviour, and it is the College’s policy to take any incidents very seriously and to act appropriately.
Racial harassment has two elements:
a) A hostile or offensive act or expression or a series or combination of such acts or expression against a person, relating to colour, race, nationality, or ethnic or national origin. It also includes incitement to commit such an act or expression. Such behaviour includes derogatory name-calling, insults and racist jokes, racist graffiti, verbal abuse ranging from belittling or suggestive remarks to threats, physical attack, and ridicule of an individual for cultural differences.
b) The effect of such acts or expressions on the recipient is to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for employment, for study, for social life, of which any reasonable person could justifiably complain. Racial harassment can occur even if offence is not intended.
Sexual harassment has two elements:
a) It always involves unwanted attention or treatment which emphasises sexual status or which has a sexual element. It includes harassment or discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Although it is most often found that it is women who are harassed by men, sexual harassment between members of the same sex or of men by women does also occur. It can be physical, ranging from sexual looks to indecent assault or rape, or verbal, ranging from belittling or suggestive remarks and compromising invitations to aggressively foul language or unwanted demands for sex, or displays of sexually suggestive or degrading pictures in the College environment. It also includes inciting or attempting to incite a person to commit an act of sexual harassment.
b) The effect of such behaviour on the recipient is to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for employment, for study, for social life, of which any reasonable person could justifiably complain. Any behaviour that makes the recipient feel viewed as a sexual object, or which treats the recipient less favourably on the ground of his or her sex, is liable to cause offence, even if offence is not intended.
2.1 College: Fellows and Staff Cases
If you are a Fellow, you can approach the Master or alternatively seek advice outside the College following the procedures outlined in the University’s Dignity@Work Policy. If you are a member of the College staff, you can approach your Head of Department, the Human Resources Manager, or the Bursar.
2.2 University: Student Cases
If you have a complaint about inappropriate behaviour in a University rather than College context, the University’s Dignity@Study policy:
offers detailed advice on whom you may approach in the University. If you wish to approach your Tutor for confidential advice at this stage, you should feel free (but not obliged) to do so.
2.3 College: Student Cases Informal Stage
In the College context, if you are an undergraduate or graduate student who feels uncomfortable as a result of the behaviour of another student or of a Fellow or member of College staff, the best resolution may well be by means of an open and honest discussion between the individuals involved, with support as necessary, but no student will be pressurized into any meeting the idea of which causes them discomfort or distress, and at which allegations are likely to be made of such seriousness that an informal process may be inappropriate. It is important to register the nature of the complaint as soon as possible or make someone else (preferably an individual with some authority) aware of the situation and to seek appropriate informal advice and support; often this can resolve the matter quickly and informally. If you are a student in this position, you can approach any of the Tutors, the Dean, the Chaplain, the College Nurse, or one of the JCR or MCR Welfare Officers. A student can expect to be given advice on how to proceed and on an appropriate course of action, advice about what would constitute an appropriate remedy, and an opportunity to consider whether there is a complaint to be addressed. A student will then be in a position to decide whether, and if so how, to proceed further. See Section 4 below for further advice on how to act if you are a student who believes that you are being bullied or harassed.
If you approach a senior member of the College with a complaint about inappropriate behaviour you can be assured of complete confidentiality whilst that complaint remains at an informal stage; senior members will take your complaint seriously and provide advice throughout the process. You will not be put under pressure to make a formal complaint and nothing you say will be passed on to a third party (including your family members) without your consent.
If an individual feels unable to do this s/he is strongly encouraged to at least confide in someone s/he knows, telling them the details of the situation at the time it takes place in order to ensure s/he has some immediate support. It is also advisable that a written record is made of the behaviour or events as soon as possible after they have occurred.
2.4 College: Student Cases Formal Stage
If a complaint cannot be settled to the satisfaction of all parties through informal means, then a formal process may be initiated. Allegations of inappropriate behaviour will be taken very seriously by the College, and, if proven, could result in disciplinary action. Disciplinary action lies in the first instance within the remit of the Dean; in very serious cases, the Dean may refer the matter to the College’s Discipline Committee. See the Dean’s Notice:
Disciplinary action might include (but is not limited to) a student being removed from College accommodation, being barred from entry into College or certain areas of it, being required to observe a curfew and present themselves daily to a College Officer, being required to leave College temporarily or (in extreme cases) permanently. The College will take action to ensure that a student raising a genuine concern related to harassment and bullying, or other inappropriate behaviour, is not victimised as a result. However, if such allegations are proven to be vexatious or malicious, a complainant may be the subject of disciplinary action.
2.5 Complaints Policy
If a situation involving or appearing to involve inappropriate behaviour is not settled by the College to the satisfaction of the complainant through either the informal or formal procedures outlined above, then the complainant may wish to have recourse to the College’s Complaints Policy, which can be found at:
This Policy also involves both informal and (in the event of a failure of resolution through that stage) formal processes.
3. Criminal offences
Some types of harassment may be criminal offences; a convenient list of some of the relevant legislation (including what are defined in law as ‘Protected Characteristics’) may be found at:
Students are strongly encouraged to inform the police about any forms of harassment that are criminal offences. Students should consider doing this themselves, but they may prefer to ask someone else to help them do so, or to inform the police on their behalf. Internal action according to the procedures set out in this document may still take place whether or not the police decide to proceed. However, in some cases there may have to be a delay whilst police investigations are carried out. There is a Police Liaison Officer assigned to the College, at present PC Simon Railer , who can be contacted at:
If a student is physically injured in any way in an assault, or if they suffer rape or a sexual assault, the individual should seek medical help and advice immediately (remember that the Porter’s Lodge is manned 24 hours a day in termtime). It is also very important in such circumstances that the police are informed. A student may seek advice and help from internal sources of support such as a friend, a College ‘parent’, the JCR or MCR Welfare Officer, Tutor, CUSU officer, or seek support from external specialist organisations such as the Rape Crisis Centre (see details at: http://www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/selfhelp/other).
Failure to report an attack immediately after it occurs does not prevent a student from lodging a complaint at a later date. However, it is advisable to report the incident as soon as is possible. While it is advisable to report an incident as soon as possible, not doing so does not prevent a complaint being lodged later.
4. Advice for students who feel that they are being harassed or bullied
You may find it useful to consider the following points:
- 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. You should not feel that your unwillingness or inability to confront someone directly about their behaviour in any way prevents you from seeking advice, support, or indeed from making a complaint; that is, it is not a necessary first step in any process. Discussing the problem with someone you trust 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' (the Tutors, the Dean, the Chaplain, the College Nurse, or one of the JCR Welfare Officers) will 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 (where a threat of physical harm to others or yourself is involved). 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.
- You should always keep a record of the incidents which are causing you distress.
- 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 you are 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 about whom you are complaining. 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.
- If you want to communicate this message in written form, you will find a simple form of words suggested at the end of this section. You should note that e-mail is not a secure form of communication, so may prefer to use sealed hard copy.
- Even if you are able to resolve the situation yourself, you may wish to inform an 'advisor' in your own College or that of the person complained against (if a member of a different or no College) so that he or she is aware of any situation or incident which could cause future difficulties.
- Since any complaint procedure is often stressful and burdensome to all parties, it is important to make every effort to achieve resolution informally before resorting to it. If you have tried a direct approach and it has not worked, or if you do not feel confident enough to try it, you may ask an appropriate 'advisor' to seek to resolve the problem on your behalf. You may also agree to co-operate with an independent conciliator seeking to mediate.
- If you are not satisfied with the outcome of a formal investigation you may be able to complain to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA):
- 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).
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, which will be dealt with by the senior College Computer Officer. You can also make an appointment to see the senior College Computer Officer for advice and assistance about the problem.
Using the right words
The following suggests a format and some words which it may be helpful to use in a letter, an email, or in speech to someone whose behaviour you feel is inappropriate:*
- Describe the behaviour very precisely, where and when it happened. If you are vague the person causing the problem may not understand what you are talking about.
- Tell the person how you feel about what has happened.
- Describe the effect it is having on you (you may find you are avoiding the person, or working less effectively so that your study performance is affected).
- Say precisely what you want to happen. Including the steps outlined in 1-2 above you could write or say:
On the [date/day], at [time], you [describe the behaviour precisely]. Your behaviour made me feel [describe your feelings and reactions].
I wish you to stop [the behaviour]. You are harassing/bullying me and I have made a written record of the details. If this behaviour towards me is repeated I may make an official complaint.
This form of words (adapted from Eliminating Sexual Harassment, Herbert 1994, p. 102) is one which should be recognised by everyone as a signal that a complainant is objecting to harassment or bullying and is seeking an informal resolution of the problem. Ensure that you keep a copy of any written communication and write a detailed account of any oral discussion as soon as possible after it has taken place.
* Clearly, in cases of serious assualt, sexual or otherwise, this would not be the appropriate response; please refer instead to Section 3 above.
5. Advice for students who are accused of harassment or bullying
- You may seek confidential advice (see Section 1.2 above for appropriate College contacts). It is advisable to seek advice before taking any other steps. Any discussion will be confidential but you should be aware of the limits to confidentiality.
- Listen carefully and calmly to what is being said. If you find that you have unintentionally caused offence, or you believe that your words or actions have been misinterpreted or misjudged then you will need to keep calm in order to try to reach an understanding with the person accusing you.
- If you believe the accusation to be unfounded say so, but arrange to seek advice and support as soon as possible whether the situation is resolved informally or formally.
- You may wish to be accompanied at any interview or other stage in the procedure by a member of College, e.g. your (or another) Tutor, your Director of Studies, or another student.
- Be prepared to participate in conciliation or mediation if an attempt is made to resolve the matter informally.
- If a complaint made against you is not upheld you may expect steps to be taken to help restore reasonable relations between yourself and the person who made the complaint.
- Be honest. If you come to realise that you have harassed or bullied another person be ready to change the behaviour causing offence. You may wish to seek support in changing your behaviour in future: the University Counselling Service or another counsellor recommended by the College may be able to help you.
- If a complaint made against you is upheld and where there is evidence of wilful misconduct or seriously irresponsible behaviour, this may lead to disciplinary procedures against you.
- If you are not satisfied with the outcome of an investigation of a complaint made against you, you may complain in accordance with the relevant procedure.
- At all times you should observe confidentiality and you can expect all other parties involved to do the same. You should also ask any witnesses or advisors likewise to maintain absolute confidentiality.
Paul Hartle, Senior Tutor
9 December 2015
 Please be aware of the possibility, should you wish to contact the Police Liaison Officer, that PC Railer may no longer be in post; should that be the case, the Head Porter or Senior Tutor will be able to identify and advise you concerning the relevant Officer.