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US Universities Need Better Policies Against Workplace Bullying

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A new paper published in the First Amendment Studies journal has emphasized changes in faculty codes of conduct to define bullying as a distinctive form of harassment.

Frances Smith and Crystal Rae Coel, the scholars from Murray State University analyzed 276 faculty codes of conduct from a variety of universities and colleges across the United States and found that only 8 contained specific references to bullying.

“Most of the codes mentioned their organization’s aversion to harassment – particularly on the basis of race, religion, sex or other factors prohibited by law – but failed to reflect the fact that bullying and harassment are not the same, and that bullying is not restricted to people in legally-protected categories,” the authors found during the analysis.

The authors further found that the codes also placed emphasis on ’employee engagement’, whereby staff were encouraged to create a positive, collegial atmosphere, however, any specific instruction to refrain from bullying or acting as bystanders in bullying situations was missing.

The paper has demonstrated a need for higher education organizations to consider the messages they present in their faculty codes of conduct related to workplace bullying.

“The majority of the 276 codes we examined do not adequately indicate what bullying behavior is, what to do if you are a target or bystander, and how the organization chooses to proceed when offenses have been made,” reads the paper.

The paper has sought amendments to the codes so as to explicitly cover workplace bullying, and also provide clear guarantees of non-retaliation for employees who file complaints.

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