Durham alumni withhold donations after Trevelyan Principal intimidating behaviour allegations

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Several members of Durham’s alumni community have decided to withhold regular donations to the University after the Principal of Trevelyan College was allowed to remain in his post despite complaints of intimidating behaviour, including sexist remarks, towards colleagues.

Professor Adekunle Adeyeye, who was appointed as Principal in January last year, will continue in his role at the college. The Observer reported that two people have filed formal complaints against Professor Adeleye, while another three staff members have left Trevelyan College amid concerns about his behaviour.  

Durham University has told Palatinate that they do not on individual cases, but that all staff have a right to “work and study in a safe and respectful environment.”

Staff interviewed about Adeyeye’s behaviour described him as aggressive, speaking with “venom and nastiness” in exchanges that took one colleague “close to a breakdown”. This individual later stopped working at the college. Other accounts of his behaviour claimed that he “engendered fear” and created an “awful atmosphere”. Several colleagues also noted that this was part of a wider problem with bullying at the University.

“I have cancelled my standing donation to the University until it takes real steps to combat bullying and sexism towards both students and staff, and I will be encouraging my whole alumni network to do the same.”

-Anonymous Durham Alumnus

In light of The Observer‘s investigation, Palatinate has discovered that over 20 alumni have decided to withhold their donations to the University while Professor Adeleye remains in his position at Trevelyan College.

One alumnus commented: “I had very fond memories of my time at Durham University, but as recent reports from the Durham University Womxn’s Society show, this is a problem that goes deeper than just one college.

“As a result, I have cancelled my standing donation to the University until it takes real steps to combat bullying and sexism towards both students and staff, and I will be encouraging my whole alumni network to do the same.”

Another, who graduated in 2020, told Palatinate “I intend to withhold any further donations and involvement with the University until it can prove that it is truly dedicated to tackling these deep-rooted problems with bullying and misogyny.”

A spokesperson for the University told Palatinate: “We believe everyone has the right to work and study in a safe and respectful environment. All our staff and students are expected to follow the University’s values on behaviour and regulations on conduct. Where behaviour falls below expected standards, we take robust and decisive action.

“These matters are being fully and fairly addressed in line with our published policies.  Those procedures have not yet concluded but we have and will continue to follow appropriate due process. We do not on individual cases.”

They also described how important it was that staff feel well supported when they allege misconduct: “Where a colleague raises concerns of potential misconduct by a colleague, the University will support them and follow the relevant University procedures which include but are not limited to the Human Resources & Organisational Development: Grievance Regulations – Durham University or the https://www.dur.ac.uk/hr/policies/respectatwork/.  

“Colleagues will be provided by support from within their Department and Human Resources, which may include access to the Employee Assistance Programme, should the colleague find this beneficial. 

“The University also has a network of Bullying and Harassment Support Advisors, who can help and support colleagues. Staff can be supported/accompanied in relevant meetings by a colleague or someone from the campus trade unions.  The University is clear that all colleagues must be entitled to raise their concerns without concern of any adverse consequences for doing so.

“Continuing alumni engagement and support is critical to the success of our colleges and to the University. We are working closely with College supporters to ensure alumni networks are updated appropriately.”

“I intend to withhold any further donations and involvement with the university until it can prove that it is truly dedicated to tackling these deep-rooted problems with bullying and misogyny.”

-Anonymous Durham alumnus

Last month, Adeyeye stepped down from his role on the University’s Respect Oversight Group, which oversees the University’s bullying policy, after he was approached for by The Observer.  Adeleye did not respond to The Observer’s request for comment. 

A Palatinate investigation found that 96 claims of bullying and harassment were submitted using the University’s Report and Support tool between October 2019, when the tool launched, and June 2021.  76 of these reports specified a gender, with three-quarters of such reports submitted by women. 

In July 2020, A survey conducted as part of a University-wide report by the Durham Commission on Respect, Values and Behaviour revealed 18% of staff respondents and 30% of student respondents said that they had experienced some form of bullying or harassment whilst at the university. 

The report detailed how 25% of staff who work in colleges have experienced harassment and bullying, the highest proportion of any group within the University. In particular, college housekeeping staff reported being “treated as invisible” and faced rudeness from other staff, students, and parents.

Professor Adeleye is a Professor of Physics, specialising in nanotechnology. Before joining Durham in January 2019, he studied at the University of Cambridge, and the University of Ilorin in Nigeria. The University’s Respect Oversight Group which he left first met in December 2020, with plans to meet four times a year. Members include Professor Simon Hackett, SU President Seun Twins, and Jack Simmonds, the MCR President’s Committee Chair.

Image: Durham University

7 thoughts on “Durham alumni withhold donations after Trevelyan Principal intimidating behaviour allegations

  • Horrible to see, especially after the trouble with the Welfare Officer!

  • Sadly it’s not just Trevelyan College where senior college staff bully their colleagues. As a victim myself in another college, I attempted suicide, had a complete mental breakdown, but HR and Occ Health did nothing and threatened me with dismissal if I took it further. I was told I had to remain silent or I’d be dismissed. That senior college staff member is still in post and I’m suffering PTSD because of the ordeal.

  • Sadly this doesn’t just happen at Trevelyan College, but also at others. As a victim myself, I endured three years of harrasement and bullying behaviours by a Vice Principal at another college. The treatment I received from the college, HR and Occ Health was disgusting. Upon submitting a grievance, I was threatened with dismissal if I continued with my complaint. I was also told that by submitting a grievance, I would recieve a harassment warning for requesting an investigation into the turmoil I suffered. I suffered three years of hell, attempted suicide, became severely depressed, and all the uni did was continuously threaten me with dismissal if I pursued my grievance, despite having 3 years worth of written evidence (email trials etc).

    That Vice Principal is still in their position …

  • As a Trevs alumna I am horrified by this. Under no circumstances could I donate to Trevs as long as this situation goes unresolved.
    I am also disgusted that the college, founded specifically to further women’s education, has not had a female Principal since Deborah Lavin, who left around the time the College became mixed.

  • What is it about badly running a glorified youth hostel that makes these academics think they are so much better than other people?

  • The chickens have come home to roost for Durham. I was a PhD in the business school and suffered continuous bullying issues. This university is a disgrace

  • I’m an alumnus (back in the 00s!) and some research for a PhD recently took me back to Durham. What I discovered was very unsettling. I contacted the now retired VC who didn’t even reply. I think what I would tease out of the above comments, as way of explanation from someone who has been both in Durham and away from it, is that serious complaints are not being dealt with because of the quite high degree of nepotism in the University. My complaint related to a member of staff who I subsequently discovered had been employed on the basis of being the friend of the head of that department (a department that had also promoted that person’s spouse); not surprisingly the complaint which was valid and concerning (and had involved the VC) went nowhere. Chains of relationships in Durham are preventing complaints from being dealt with in a timely manner (2 years is far too long; Durham likes to retire staff with complaints open against them; the University is good at quoting its policies but staff demonstrably do not follow them); I sympathise with HR etc who have to consider tribunals but a bulk of the blame for some of the ill-matched staff who have been employed at Durham lies with HR; were they coerced or was it just an easy ride? Perhaps it’s time they said. There is much truly suspicious and unsettling behaviour at Durham and having called it out with evidence and received no (direct) response I’m forced to conclude this is because the university is a corrupt one. I don’t say that lightly, I do say it with some authority based on my experience; the dishonesty I encountered was really quite extraordinary and because of self-interest among a chain of staff members connected by friendship or relationship or marriage etc, apparently impossible to correct. My experience was but a snapshot of wider conditions. I’m now working with a journalist to put this into print which is what I suggest others who have been so affected (as clearly they have been) do as well.


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