Bullying, harassment, and cheats: FoI reveals college cases

One student was expelled from Dundalk Institute of Technology due to alleged disorderly conduct and sexual harassment against a staff member.

The college said there was “possible criminal proceedings pending” in a separate case involving two staff members and the alleged misuse of email.

Details released under Freedom of Information also show a student sitting a University College Dublin exam in Singapore is still suspended after breaching the university’s student code in a case which may have involved cheating, while students from UCD’s Agricultural Society were reprimanded and fined regarding an incident in Dublin city centre.

FoI requests to the 21 main publicly funded third-level colleges found that in the period 2013 to 2016 inclusive, more than 200 cases of bullying or harassment were formally investigated, with the figure including cases between academic staff, students, and both.

In a small number of cases, college staff were targeted, sometimes online, by students.

Just half of the third-level institutions provided costs as to the amount of money spent on internal and external investigations of those cases, with the 10 colleges spending a total of €605,456 on dealing with the allegations.

Colleges with the largest number of cases of either bullying or disciplinary issues included Dublin Institute of Technology, with 32, Dundalk Institute of Technology with 19, and UCD, also with 19.

Of the third-level institutions that reveal expenditure in investigating and finalising cases, Dun Laoghaire IDAT spent the most on a single case — regarding a complaint between staff members, a 10-month investigation which ultimately found that the evidence did not support a finding of bullying cost a total of €107,128.

Sligo IT had three complaints of bullying submitted to its HR manager over the four-year period, all involving staff making allegations against other staff members.

All were investigated externally and a sanction was applied in one case, with total legal costs amounting to €131,367.

Cork Institute of Technology was the only third-level institution nationally which said it had no claims of bullying and no investigations into disciplinary matters across the four-year period.

In 2014, an online survey of almost 400 third-level students found that 14% of respondents said they had been affected by bullying.

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