A student has spoken out over the inadequacies of the University’s Student Support Services system after she allegedly underwent months of psychological bullying within her own home.
Sally, who wished for her real name to be withheld, felt “alone and without a life in her own home” after falling out with a housemate.
She told Nouse: “He verbally abused me, sent numerous abusive text messages, cyberbullied me through Facebook and psychologically tormented me. Even after locking myself in my room, after one particular incident, he continued to bang on my door and shout at me. He would often smash objects such as plates and cups and kick doors to intimidate me.”
Sally went on to say, “I wasn’t eating properly and I had difficulties sleeping. I wasn’t able to do any academic work and I was missing lectures and seminars.”
The University eventually provided Sally with funds to leave the property. Nouse understands that the harassment allegations have been fully investigated by the University, although outcomes of such investigations are confidential.
However she has gone on to accuse the University’s Student Support Service staff of a “failure to understand the grandeur of the situation”.
Sally told Nouse: “They didn’t respond to my emails very quickly and there are several emails they never bothered to respond to at all. I think they should have dealt with the situation faster. In the beginning, the staff there only suggested I should look for alternative housing and find somebody else to replace me.”
Sally believes this lack of understanding stemmed from the psychological and non-physical nature of the bullying. According to Sally, the housemate never threatened her with any kind of violent act. The bullying could also not be classed as domestic violence due to the fact the pair had never been romantically linked.
Sally said she felt that had he hit her “he would obviously have been removed.”
“because he didn’t hit me, he psychologically bullied me–it wasn’t a clear cut case.” The student also sought advice from the University’s counselling service, the Open Door team. Despite showing empathy, the student believes that the service did not offer appropriate advice.
“Despite being empathetic Open Door told me not respond to any aggressive texts, outbursts and incidents”, Sally told Nouse. When asked whether this helped the situation, she said: “While Open Door supported and advised me as best as they could, they were unable to suggest a better course of action.”
Sally went on to say: “It was my academic department who fought and continue to fight for me.”
The student also believes that the case calls for greater attention to be given to students who live off-campus: “When you are in halls it can seem a lot easier to inform a college tutor and to move quickly into different accommodation. When you get to second year and third year and you’re living outside, you’re effectively left on your own and expected to deal with it.”
Sally believes that in-house bullying is an issue which needs to be brought to awareness. She told Nouse: “Mine can’t be a unique situation.”
George Offer, YUSU Welfare Officer, commented on the situation, saying: “Although one student has spoken out, it’s important to remember that Student Support Services help hundreds of students every year, most of whom are really satisfied with the help they get. Casework is often complex, and the University doesn’t always get it right, but if you’re ever unsure what help you can or should access in difficult situations remember you can get advice from YUSU.”
Sally warned other students of the possibility of bullying, saying: “When you get put in student housing, there is a tendency to accept anything that occurs. But at 18, 19, 20 you have only lived with your parents.
“You know that everybody can be a bit rowdy or a bit lairy. You don’t know what is normal or what isn’t normal. I’d advise others to trust their instincts. If it seems like it’s not getting better–don’t blame yourself and get out.”
A University spokesperson declined to comment on the situation, saying: “We are not able to comment on individual cases.”
“The University’s harassment policies do cover situations that may arise online and via social media. The Open Door Team do help address issues and provide ongoing support but won’t always be able to address issues entirely to every student’s satisfaction.”
“Off campus students have access to all support services whether this be those based in their College, Student led support (including Nightline) or from Student Support Services.”