The physics department has warned students to be “mindful of your behaviour and conversations” in a “gentle reminder” to promote respect and courtesy.
An email sent at the beginning of this term told students that the department is “committed to promoting an environment where everyone is treated with respect and courtesy” and urged all students to play their part in doing this.
It goes on to say: “This [showing respect for others] involves discouraging harassment, bullying and victimisation by making it clear that such behaviour is unacceptable, and supporting those who suffer from it and who are considering making a formal complaint.”
The email also quotes the physics department’s student handbook, warning: “violent, aggressive, drunken, destructive or other undesirable behaviour can be met by a fine or suspension.” These punishments may also be incurred by sexist, racist or homophobic behaviour.
Felix understands that the email was not prompted by any specific incident, suggesting no formal complaint has been made at this time.
One physics undergraduate Felix spoke to identified sexism as “a really widespread issue”, saying: “The conversations in the computer suite are pretty disgusting, and you can always overhear something offensive. Hearing conversations about graphic sexual violence is really commonplace.”
They also told Felix that “people really love to shit on the department.” Over the past few years the Department of Physics has faced a number of problems with student satisfaction: in last year’s National Student Survey they came last in terms of satisfaction, while student unhappiness led to a drop in the league tables last year.
The Department of Physics was this month taken over by Professor Michele Dougherty, who replaced Dr Kenny Weir, the acting Head of Department.
The email concludes by referring students to details on the College’s complaint procedures and a sexual misconduct survey, which closed earlier this week, run by the National Union of Students. Students facing harassment are advised to talk to their personal or senior tutors before taking any formal action.