UCL Apologises For 'Toxic' And 'Unsafe' Culture
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UCL Apologises For 'Toxic' And 'Unsafe' Culture

Ellen Knight June 14, 2022

University College London (UCL) has issued an apology for a ‘culture of bullying’ at its Bartlett School of Architecture (BSA) after an investigation into allegations of racism and sexism at BSA was concluded.

According to the Guardian’s university league tables, the architecture course at UCL is ranked second only to the University of Cambridge course. The investigation found that the BSA had developed a ‘boys’ club’ attitude leading to ‘a lack of accountability for poor behaviour.’

The report produced by intelligence consultancy Howlett Brown is over 100 pages long, and has discovered a tradition of ‘power, protectionism, and cliques’ within the university’s architecture department. This has led to a ‘toxic’ and ‘unsafe’ learning environment that the report found left some ‘deeply traumatised’ by their time at the BSA.

‘This is what we do, we break you’

One senior tutor was allegedly a bully towards Chinese students, made sexist and racist comments, and threw objects at students. The report found that another tutor allegedly dated students during their time studying at UCL, and invited students to ‘parties involving cocaine.’

The BBC reported that the Howlett Brown investigation also found that some staff members faced accusations of ‘ripping up students’ work’ and ‘physically pushing and verbally taunting them.’ A high-pressure culture also allegedly led staff members to make threatening comments, with one student reporting that they were told: ‘This is what we do, we break you and build you into a Bartlett army.’

Photo by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash

A survey found that 27% of BSA students ‘experienced discrimination’ and that 39% of current and former students taking part in the survey said that ‘someone they knew had experienced bullying and harassment.’

‘Underbelly of bullying’

President and provost of UCL, Dr Michael Spence, issued an apology, stating that these student testimonies ‘expose an inexcusable and pernicious underbelly of bullying and other unacceptable behaviour that is completely at odds with the values on which UCL was founded.’

‘We must, and absolutely will, address that swiftly and robustly.’

Vice-provost for faculties at UCL, Professor Anthony Smith, told the BBC that the university was already taking action based on the findings of the report.

He said: ‘Following receipt of the report, we have removed a number of staff of the Bartlett School of Architecture from student-facing and administrative duties with immediate effect, while we carry out further investigations.

‘We are unable to share the names of these individuals as this could prejudice these investigations.’

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Ellen is a freelance journalist studying MA Broadcast Journalism at Cardiff University. Her work has appeared in publications such as Teen Vogue and Al Jazeera, and tends to focus on politics and current affairs. Her involvement in student radio station Burn FM lead to an interview she conducted winning Student Radio Moment of the Year in 2022. She has been writing for Freshered since February 2022. You can follow her on Twitter @ellenmjknight