The Student Room Group

Am I being bullied by lecturer?

Hi everyone. Apologies for the length of this but this happened today and I'm freaked out.

I'm trying not to give away too many details in case the person in question is reading this but the basic facts are that I'm studying for an undergraduate degree in psychotherapy. It's my ideal career, my practical work/placement is going well, the lecturers who monitor our practical work have said I have the natural skills to do this job well, and my academic work has been pretty decent. However there is one lecturer who I have disliked since day 1.

When I started we were learning online due to Covid restrictions but from the first virtual class he came across as incredibly disingenuous and I just felt he was very slimy. I also noticed that he would use things that people shared in group discussions to upset them at a later stage (eg bringing up one student's bereavement on numerous occasions and actually looking happy/smug when they got upset). He also never once taught any of the syllabus: we would be given the relevant notes and material in advance but during class he would just get students to discuss things that were often not related to the course content. He wouldnt answer questions about assignments so we went in blind. He would frequently claim that the work is meant to be "difficult" emotionally and that if we weren't upset when writing assignments about personal experiences then there was something wrong with us (which seems bizarre - one of the requirements for the degree is that you regularly attend personal therapy where you can deal with and process any difficult stuff - to be so affected that your assignments make you cry seems pretty odd). There is a small group in the class who love him (all of whom are self obsessed and not suited to being therapists) and it's like he gets off on their praise. And he proudly declared one day that he is not a curious person, so he never interested in learning why his clients do/say/feel the way they do, and as such most of his clients go to him for over a decade which is really unethical - a therapist who is curious and gently unearths stuff with a client is more likely to see that client develop self realisation which will then help them grow and heal.

Last year i witnessed in class him pushing and pushing a student to discuss something deeply traumatic. He said she "had" to reveal it because of how this degree is supposed to be challenging - but revealing that trauma before being ready to, and in a large class, is hardly going to help her. I was furious and engaged as little as I could for the rest of that module. I could tell he knew I was ****ed off at him but I couldn't care less.

On top of this is the fact that on the final day of that module a few of us were in early so we were having tea in the canteen. He came in to say hello - he had no reason to do so - and came up behind me and rested his hands on my shoulders for several moments as he spoke. I was absolutely frozen, and it felt like my initial dislike of him was spot on. And also I feel like no older male lecturer should touch a younger female student under any circumstances?

This year he is teaching us again despite the fact that he isn't meant to teach past 2nd year. And in class today, instead of teaching he tried to get us all to play a game and talk about our "feelings". I said I had no particular feelings re: the game and he was clearly seething. He then rounded on me and fired question after question at me like an interrogation about my placement - trying to find out if I have ever had difficult clients or ethical dilemmas and if not why not, repeating the same questions in an attempt to catch me out, trying to find out if I am "competent" and I know writing it down here it doesn't read as particularly nasty but the students were horrified and said it was like he was trying to break me and get an emotional reaction. I answered every question with a one word answer in a monotone voice and he was clearly rattled that I didn't react. But it's evident that my initial suspicions were right - that he pushes people to get a reaction and if they do crack/get upset he revels in it/gets off on it. He has never singled out another student like did with me today so it does feel like victimisation and like an abuse of power.

I know from conversations with other people in the course that any complaint about him will be fruitless because he always claims that the degree is meant to be upsetting. And also, he'll know that he got to me. But the thought of sitting in his class being victimised or potentially something worse is freaking me out and making me not want to go back after Christmas. Does anyone have any advice how to deal with a lecturer like this, or anyway of phrasing a complaint that it has to be taken seriously?
Reply 1
What exactly is the hierarchy like in terms of your department at uni? For example in my dept, if I had a complaint against a lecturer, I’d be able to go to our course leader, and if it was a complaint beyond that I could go upwards until I hit the dean. I know that’s a pretty big jump but it’s an example - is there anyone you could talk to that would be able to look into this unbiasedly and with authority? So sorry this has happened - it seems horrendous and unfair. No degree should push you to this state emotionally and that’s something you should be able to bring up as wrong, not as a fruitless complaint :frown:
Reply 2
Original post by AnaaaElec
What exactly is the hierarchy like in terms of your department at uni? For example in my dept, if I had a complaint against a lecturer, I’d be able to go to our course leader, and if it was a complaint beyond that I could go upwards until I hit the dean. I know that’s a pretty big jump but it’s an example - is there anyone you could talk to that would be able to look into this unbiasedly and with authority? So sorry this has happened - it seems horrendous and unfair. No degree should push you to this state emotionally and that’s something you should be able to bring up as wrong, not as a fruitless complaint :frown:

Thank you so much for your reply. We have a rep for the entire year but based on experiences of classmates in previous 2 years, the rep can only do so much (ie put forward a complaint but senior staff in the department regularly fob these complaints off or say that complaints are "being considered"). I've also been informed that a past student raised an issue with a different lecturer harassing her and the lecturer was informed who made the complaint and then started emailing her demanding to know why she was complaining about him! So I don't really feel I have any support if i do make this formal - even though surely the touching thing is a fairly serious offence given the whole #MeToo movement and discussions on consent and touching etc.
Reply 3
This is genuinely outrageous.
Reply 4
Original post by gjd800
This is genuinely outrageous.

I really appreciate you saying this because the whole thing has messed with my head...The idea of having to sit through his classes for the rest of the module makes me sick but he occupies such an important position that I don't see any alternative :frown:
It might also be worth checking if your uni has a whistleblowing process. Some unis have this in place so you can report this kind of behaviour anonymously.
Reply 6
Original post by emilygillan
I really appreciate you saying this because the whole thing has messed with my head...The idea of having to sit through his classes for the rest of the module makes me sick but he occupies such an important position that I don't see any alternative :frown:

It's hard. I'd always say to complain and string him up (proverbially), but I understand why that is very difficult and maybe even a non-option. Ultimately, I'm not sure we can give any advice here - you seem to know what your options are, it's a case of weighing them all up. I hope that whichever way this goes, it settles down. This guy is a piece of work and he'd last ten minutes in my place.
If you’re not comfortable making a complaint then your best tactic for now is to document what has happened and when (and any evidence that you have about it) and to try to get witnesses for future sessions. Ideally that would be student reps or other staff observing his sessions. If that isn’t possible then ask him and the other classmates will agree to you recording his sessions (don’t record without permission). Scrutiny may be enough to prevent him from continuing his behaviour (and if it isn’t then it gives you absolutely solid evidence to make a formal complaint).

Have you spoken to your SU about the process for raising complaints and what privacy and protection the university provides if you raise a complaint. If a university doesn’t follow their own policies and procedures then it makes it very difficult for them to defend themselves against escalating complaints.
Original post by emilygillan
Hi everyone. Apologies for the length of this but this happened today and I'm freaked out.

I'm trying not to give away too many details in case the person in question is reading this but the basic facts are that I'm studying for an undergraduate degree in psychotherapy. It's my ideal career, my practical work/placement is going well, the lecturers who monitor our practical work have said I have the natural skills to do this job well, and my academic work has been pretty decent. However there is one lecturer who I have disliked since day 1.

When I started we were learning online due to Covid restrictions but from the first virtual class he came across as incredibly disingenuous and I just felt he was very slimy. I also noticed that he would use things that people shared in group discussions to upset them at a later stage (eg bringing up one student's bereavement on numerous occasions and actually looking happy/smug when they got upset). He also never once taught any of the syllabus: we would be given the relevant notes and material in advance but during class he would just get students to discuss things that were often not related to the course content. He wouldnt answer questions about assignments so we went in blind. He would frequently claim that the work is meant to be "difficult" emotionally and that if we weren't upset when writing assignments about personal experiences then there was something wrong with us (which seems bizarre - one of the requirements for the degree is that you regularly attend personal therapy where you can deal with and process any difficult stuff - to be so affected that your assignments make you cry seems pretty odd). There is a small group in the class who love him (all of whom are self obsessed and not suited to being therapists) and it's like he gets off on their praise. And he proudly declared one day that he is not a curious person, so he never interested in learning why his clients do/say/feel the way they do, and as such most of his clients go to him for over a decade which is really unethical - a therapist who is curious and gently unearths stuff with a client is more likely to see that client develop self realisation which will then help them grow and heal.

Last year i witnessed in class him pushing and pushing a student to discuss something deeply traumatic. He said she "had" to reveal it because of how this degree is supposed to be challenging - but revealing that trauma before being ready to, and in a large class, is hardly going to help her. I was furious and engaged as little as I could for the rest of that module. I could tell he knew I was ****ed off at him but I couldn't care less.

On top of this is the fact that on the final day of that module a few of us were in early so we were having tea in the canteen. He came in to say hello - he had no reason to do so - and came up behind me and rested his hands on my shoulders for several moments as he spoke. I was absolutely frozen, and it felt like my initial dislike of him was spot on. And also I feel like no older male lecturer should touch a younger female student under any circumstances?

This year he is teaching us again despite the fact that he isn't meant to teach past 2nd year. And in class today, instead of teaching he tried to get us all to play a game and talk about our "feelings". I said I had no particular feelings re: the game and he was clearly seething. He then rounded on me and fired question after question at me like an interrogation about my placement - trying to find out if I have ever had difficult clients or ethical dilemmas and if not why not, repeating the same questions in an attempt to catch me out, trying to find out if I am "competent" and I know writing it down here it doesn't read as particularly nasty but the students were horrified and said it was like he was trying to break me and get an emotional reaction. I answered every question with a one word answer in a monotone voice and he was clearly rattled that I didn't react. But it's evident that my initial suspicions were right - that he pushes people to get a reaction and if they do crack/get upset he revels in it/gets off on it. He has never singled out another student like did with me today so it does feel like victimisation and like an abuse of power.

I know from conversations with other people in the course that any complaint about him will be fruitless because he always claims that the degree is meant to be upsetting. And also, he'll know that he got to me. But the thought of sitting in his class being victimised or potentially something worse is freaking me out and making me not want to go back after Christmas. Does anyone have any advice how to deal with a lecturer like this, or anyway of phrasing a complaint that it has to be taken seriously?

Hi there

I am sorry to hear about your situation and what happened in your lessons. What the lecturer is doing is really outrageous, and it is not fair that students have to put up with this. I do no think that any course is meant to be personally upsetting, and there is normally more support for emotionally difficult courses.

I would recommend speaking to the module's conveyenor or the course leader? Perhaps they are able to do something about the situation if you explain you are uncomfortable with how the lesson are delivered. If this does not work, could you maybe try speaking with the timetabling department to switch to another lecturer's lessons.

I understand that this is a difficult situation and filing a complaint can be challenging. If your University has a student support team, do reach out to them for support should you feel the need to. They may also be able to direct you to the right people for you to make a complaint.

Chloe
University of Kent Student Rep
Reply 9
Original post by emilygillan
Thank you so much for your reply. We have a rep for the entire year but based on experiences of classmates in previous 2 years, the rep can only do so much (ie put forward a complaint but senior staff in the department regularly fob these complaints off or say that complaints are "being considered"). I've also been informed that a past student raised an issue with a different lecturer harassing her and the lecturer was informed who made the complaint and then started emailing her demanding to know why she was complaining about him! So I don't really feel I have any support if i do make this formal - even though surely the touching thing is a fairly serious offence given the whole #MeToo movement and discussions on consent and touching etc.

I would definitely look into high level complaint processes your uni has, especially beyond just your department. Some of the replies above have suggested a similar course of action and I think it's needed since this is honestly outrageous. I hope you yourself are doing ok, and please do take your time and give yourself plenty of care - you don't deserve to be in a situation like this!

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