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 comment 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.
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 comment 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.”
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 comment 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