Code of Practice on Unacceptable Behaviour
This Code sets out the University’s approach to dealing with behaviour it deems unacceptable. All students (including alumni) and staff, their representatives, and members of the public with whom the University communicates, are covered by this Code, including those engaged with one or more of the University’s other codes and procedures (e.g. Student Conduct, Complaints, Appeals or Fitness to Practise). Incidents of unacceptable behaviour are relatively infrequent, but where staff, students, or the work of the University are adversely affected, appropriate and relevant action will be taken.
37.2 Aims of the Code of Practice
37.2.1 To ensure the fair, honest and consistent treatment of all individuals with whom the University interacts, through any means of contact and communication.
37.2.2 To make the University community and members of the public aware of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour and the action that will be taken to manage this.
37.2.3 To ensure that University students and staff do not suffer as a result of the unacceptable behaviour of others and are not placed at risk.
37.3 Definition of Unacceptable Behaviour
37.3.1 It is understood that, in upsetting or distressing circumstances, and in certain forms or stages of ill health, people may act out of character and may become persistent, angry or upset. However, where it leads to aggressive behaviour or unreasonable demands, it is considered unacceptable. Similarly, behaviour which disrupts normal University activities, intentionally or not, is considered unacceptable. Members of the University community are entitled to be treated with respect and courtesy.
The University also has procedures for students and staff who consider that they are being harassed (see §37.7).
37.3.2 Aggressive/Abusive Behaviour
Any behaviour or language (spoken or written) which causes staff or students to feel unduly concerned, afraid, threatened or abused is not acceptable. Aggressive/abusive behaviour might include any of the following:
- demeaning, abusive, indecent or offensive language or comments (including those in writing);
- threatening behaviour or language, or actual threats;
- written, verbal or physical harassment;
- comments that discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age, disability, religion and belief or other irrelevant distinction;
- unsubstantiated allegations;
- use of aggressive or inappropriate gestures.
37.3.3 Unreasonable Demands and Undue Persistence
The University will always aim to provide assistance where required, and will not refuse reasonable requests. However, where unreasonable demands are made, this will be considered to be unacceptable behaviour. Examples of unreasonable demands could include:
- demanding responses within inappropriate timescales;
- expecting staff to discuss complaints or grievances in a public context (such as lectures or seminars);
- persistent emails or mass circulation of emails;
- making lengthy or repeated phone calls and expecting attention from staff outside normal office hours;
- approaches to other members of staff, other people or agencies when due process has already commenced or has been completed.
Where demands impact on the work of the University, by taking up excessive amounts of time and therefore disadvantaging other areas of work, the University will consider this to be unacceptable.
Similarly, undue persistence will be viewed as unacceptable. The nature of the request may be reasonable, but the persistent behaviour in pursuing it may not be. This might include refusal to accept that the University can no longer assist, or the pursuit of a closed complaint, appeal or other matter with no new evidence. Again, this takes up excessive amounts of University time and resources.
37.3.4 Disruptive Behaviour
Behaviour which disrupts or interferes with any academic, administrative, sporting, social or other University activity is not acceptable. This may include:
- persistently interrupting others;
- behaviour which distracts others from the main activity, or disrupts the good order of the event;
- engaging in antisocial behaviour;
- aggressive or abusive behaviour (see above);
37.4 Management of Unacceptable Behaviour
37.4.1 The manner in which the University deals with unacceptable behaviour will depend on the nature and extent of the behaviour. This may range from asking the person to modify their behaviour or restricting contact with them, to invoking its disciplinary and conduct procedures or, in the most serious cases, the involvement of the police.
37.4.2 Where violent behaviour is actual or threatened, the incident will normally be reported to the police. All personal contact with the person who acted in, or threatened, violence will be ended and further communication will take place only through a specific third party, or be restricted to written communication. The individual may also be suspended from the University, or prohibited from entering the University campus. The matter will also be dealt with under the Code of Student Conduct if the person is a registered student of the University, or under the University’s staff disciplinary procedures if the person is an employee.
37.4.3 Where abusive language is used, either spoken or written, the person concerned will be asked to modify their language. The University will not respond to ongoing abusive correspondence and, it may also exercise its right to end personal communication with the individual concerned and require any future communication to take place through a third party. The matter is likely to be referred under the Code of Student Conduct if the person is a registered student of the University or to the University’s staff disciplinary procedures if the person is an employee.
37.4.4 Persistent sending of email messages may result in suspension of the sender’s University email account and blocking of incoming emails from external accounts. Disciplinary processes will be invoked for staff or students under the IT Code and the relevant disciplinary and conduct procedures.
37.4.5 The University has the right to end telephone calls where the caller is abusive, aggressive, threatening or uses offensive language. The caller will be asked to stop; it will be explained that this behaviour is not acceptable, and the call will be ended if the caller does not stop. The matter may be referred under the Code of Student Conduct if the person is a registered student of the University, or to the University’s staff disciplinary procedures if the person is an employee.
37.4.6 Where unsubstantiated allegations against staff are made to, or in the presence of, a third party (for instance, in an email sent to a group of people, or at a meeting), the University may exercise its right to invoke disciplinary procedures against a student or member of staff and/or to initiate legal proceedings against any person.
37.4.7 Where unreasonable demands are made and/or undue persistence is used, the University may decide to restrict contact to certain days/times and with a nominated person, or to restrict communication to that made through a third party. This may happen where contact or demands are so excessive that they adversely affect the opportunity to carry out normal duties and provide a service to others.
37.4.8 Restrictions may subsequently be relaxed and normal relations re-instated if an agreement is reached with all parties and any conditions imposed continue to be met.
37.4.9 Where a complaint has been submitted under the University Complaints Procedure or a student has submitted a formal appeal against an academic decision, the University reserves the right to suspend the case until after any disciplinary or police procedure has been completed.
37.4.10 The University will always advise the person in writing of the action it intends to take, and the reason for it.
37.5 Appealing Against a Decision to Restrict or End Contact
Anyone with whom we restrict or end contact under this Code has the right to appeal against this decision. In the case of a student, the appeal should be made, in writing, to the Clerk of Senate; and for staff, through the Staff Grievance Procedure.
37.6 Recording Unacceptable Behaviour
Incidents of unacceptable behaviour may be recorded and kept on file for a minimum of six academic sessions, thereafter it shall be retained for the remaining duration of an individual’s registration as a student or term of employment with the University. Any restrictions on contact made in accordance with §37.4.7 will also be noted.
37.7 Other Relevant Information
Fitness to Practise Procedure (Students) (Regulation 36)
Code of Student Conduct (Students) (Regulation 33)
Complaints Procedure (Regulation 29)
Disciplinary Procedures (Staff)