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UMass chancelor Kumble Subbaswamy takes on bullying in workplace

University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, right, is determined to tackle the issue of bullying in the workplace.
KEVIN GUTTING

University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, right, is determined to tackle the issue of bullying in the workplace. KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

In a memo sent to faculty and staff Thursday, Subbaswamy wrote that the university will be taking steps to deal with the bullying at UMass that came to light in a survey released in September.

“While the numbers were consistent with those found at workplaces of all types throughout the country, this is clearly an area in which UMass Amherst aspires to be something much better than average,” Subbaswamy wrote.

In addition to numbers, the survey also featured anonymous comments.

Subbaswamy’s memo cites these “poignant comments” as a reason to move toward eliminating bullying from campus.

“Such behavior is antithetical to the values we espouse as a place where all should be free to take full advantage of the learning and employment opportunities the campus offers,” Subbaswamy wrote.

As part of the initiative, a one-day symposium is in the works for the fall, followed by ongoing workshops led by the Committee on Workplace Climate and Bullying, a 22-person committee chaired by associate chancellor Susan Pearson.

The goal is for the symposium and workshops is to increase understanding about the problem of workplace bullying, reduce incidents of bullying and ensure a more productive workplace for all employees, according to Subbaswamy.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said the initiative has wide support at UMass. “It’s been a really broad-based effort through the campus community,” Blaguszewski said.

Both Subbaswamy and Pearson were unavailable for comment Friday as they attended the memorial for former chancellor Randolph Bromery.

The survey was conducted by the Campus Coalition Against Workplace Bullying, made up of representatives from unions and various staff, including those in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The coalition was formed in summer 2010.

In the web-based survey developed by the coalition, 48 percent of the 2,254 respondents said they witnessed a workplace bullying incident within the past two years and 39 percent reported having experienced bullying, with slightly more women than men reporting it.

Of those who received the survey, 28 percent completed it.

Supervisors were identified by 38 percent of respondents as responsible for the bullying, followed by co-workers at 32 percent and someone of higher rank at 25 percent.

The survey also included statistics based on race and ethnicity and about whether those who experienced bullying and reported it were satisfied by the response. Of these, 44 percent reported being dissatisfied with the response.

Subbaswamy noted that such behavior also violates policies established by UMass trustees, including that employees have integrity and dignity in their conduct, be honest and respectful, give fair and just treatment to all and conduct themselves in ways that foster open expression of opinion and tolerance for the views of others.

Subbaswamy asked in his memo that all people who are part of the campus community more carefully consider how they interact and promote mutual respect and civility.

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