Staffer fired, students expelled for bullying

SIENA YATES
Last updated 07:44 27/12/2012

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Bullying and threats have caused four students to be expelled or suspended and one staff member to be fired at Wintec during the past two years.

Data provided to the Waikato Times under the Official Information Act show the polytech has investigated 21 harassment cases since the beginning of last year, which is four more than it had in the previous five years.

Bullying and threats, sexual harassment and electronic harassment were the big issues, some of which were solved as easily as through mediation, but others required trespass orders and police attendance.

One of the more serious complaints resulted in a staff member being fired for bullying last year, and another staff member is under investigation by Human Resources for electronic and sexual harassment.

A complaint against one student for physical abuse and threats forced them to withdraw from study and leave Wintec, while another was suspended for bullying, and two others were expelled for threats and/or abuse.

Wintec chief executive Mark Flowers said harassment of students or staff was "obviously not desirable" but, because of the huge volume of people on campus each day, it could always happen.

Wintec communications director Erin Anderson said the increase probably had more to do with a rise in reporting, not offending.

"If anything there's probably a slight increase in harassment by technology, whether by phone, email or social media - it's a whole lot more prevalent than before, but now we have the tools to monitor and record that," she said.

Of the 21 complaints, six of them involved electronic harassment.

She said if any complaints were or could become criminal, Wintec's policy was to "strongly recommend" they pursue the matter with police and all outcomes, including dismissal, were the result of following the correct processes.

Waikato University had nine complaints during the same period, six of which were upheld or partly upheld, resulting in apologies or mediation to resolve the issues, and Te Wananga o Aotearoa had only one complaint, which was not upheld.

AT A GLANCE

Wintec: 21 complaints. One staff member fired, one under investigation. One student withdrew from study, three had their enrolments cancelled or suspended. Four complaints involved police. Two trespass orders given.

Waikato University: Nine complaints. Three upheld, three partly upheld. Three for verbal abuse, five for verbal abuse relating to race, personal circumstances, and one by a staff member against another for bullying and harassment.

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Te Wananga o Aotearoa: One complaint, not upheld. 

- Waikato Times

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