Student condemns University support after housemate bullying

A student has spoken out against the University after months of bullying

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.”texting

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.”

2 comments

  1. Situations like this can be traumatising for students and difficult for the University to resolve. Although the University has its own policy of Harassment and associated procedures for dealing with student-on-student harassment and bullying, a victim would need to make a complaint (which they may feel fearful about). When the victim and perpetrator live in the same house off-campus it is sometimes pragmatically necessary for the victim to get police involved to speed up the process of unlocking financial support resources. (Although it may sound like an unfortunate process, all alternatives their own disadvantages too.)

    The key problem is that a private landlord would rarely be able to offer a victim alternative accommodation, they are usually unable to evict a perpetrator tenant (without a court conviction) because the perpetrator and victim have the same protection as tenants and they often would be unwilling to release the victim from the contract (and accept financial losses). So the victim may sometimes need to enter second tenancy contract and pay for both rooms. The university’s hardship fund may be able to cover the additional cost of alternative accommodation, but the assessment process may take a bit of time and strong evidence of harassment is required (hence the need for formal University investigation and/or police involvement). When students live in campus accommodation the situation is much easier to resolve as the University (as a landlord) has a large ‘stock’ of properties and can often relocate the student to an alternative accommodation (and deal with disciplinary side of things afterwards); a University can also use its general disciplinary powers to evict or otherwise ‘punish’ perpetrators a bit more easily.
    If anyone reading this experiences similar problems please remember:
    (1) College provosts, deans and tutors can provide some initial advice to students that experience harassment or bullying off-campus (students are members of their college regardless of whether they live on or off campus) and on what support is available from the University and how to access it. Advice is also available from Student Support Service and supervisors. Ask for advice / help from people you’d feel most comfortable with, but please do ask sooner rather than later! (2) If you require some advice on how one can deal with harassment you can talk to your College Provost or University’s Equality & Diversity Office. Talking to them does not mean that formal action will necessarily be taken. In vast majority of cases (with standard exceptions of someone presenting a risk to themselves or others and similar) you will be in control of what happens next. (3) You can report harassment to the police when there was no physical threat or violence. Harassment is a crime!

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  2. These situations frequently occur and regularly people gang up on one person resulting in isolation and depression. No one can succeed to the best of their ability in this situation. Each department should ensure all those living out in houses know what their rights and responsibilities are.
    What constitutes harassment? Why is it important to clear up after yourself ?
    A simple sheet read through and signed. My child had to ring parents to get bills paid.
    Brighton should lead the way in addressing an ongoing problem which swamps support services and prevents students working effectively.

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