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In this issue we examine serious allegations of bullying at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh. Earlier this month, these made national newspaper headlines for a third time so warrant investigation.
There are various claims of unfair treatment, discrimination and abuse of HR systems chronicled in our coverage (pp 294–297)
We report that an investigation by Intersol Global, commissioned by the University of Edinburgh (UoE), found evidence of ‘shocking levels of harassment’ and an ‘intolerable breach of basic health and safety’. Intersol filed a full and summary report on the matter but the university has refused to publish either. A copy of the summary report was, however, sent to this journal this month.
At the centre of the bullying and harassment claims is the head of the vet school, David Argyle. According to allegations made by several current and former employees, he has created a fiefdom that recognises people he favours and who will do his bidding, and others who get inferior treatment, who will be passed over for promotion, for example, or professionally undermined and who may find themselves on a ‘hit list’ to go.
Vet Record has received testimonies from several people who have worked under Argyle and we publish them on pp 296–297, with fuller accounts online.
Of course, this journal cannot label Argyle as a bully, but merely report on the allegations by staff in the Intersol report or in their testimonies. What is clear though is that there are questions for the UoE’s senior management.
Moira Whyte, head of the college of medicine and veterinary medicine at UoE – and Argyle’s boss – insists that all allegations have been thoroughly and robustly investigated. The investigation she refers to was internal (in connection to a collective grievance by staff) which found no misconduct.
But the university has not disputed the findings of the Intersol investigation and, in response, it says it will be rolling out some staff training. There is, surely, a mismatch between the seemingly damning conclusions of the report and the university’s relatively tentative response to it?
How seriously is the university taking this?
In its report, filed in April, Intersol recommended the university conduct an anonymised survey of all staff to understand the extent of concerns. Having promised it would arrange such a survey, the university has now said there is no need – because there would be nothing in it that the management doesn’t already know. That alone speaks volumes. How seriously is the university taking this?
Concerns around bullying allegations have been longstanding – this journal has seen evidence of serious written complaints brought to the university management since 2015. Today, it would seem with good reason, many staff lack trust in the school’s senior management and HR department to be fair.
If the university is satisfied that there is no bullying and harassment of staff, it must have nothing to hide so should publish the full Intersol report (perhaps with names redacted) for all – including this journal – to see. It could, of course, also refute any allegations it deems fallacious.
As for Argyle, he has not commented on the matter publicly. However, he did send an email to trusted colleagues and associates on 9 October, a copy of which was sent to this journal. In it he refutes all bullying and harassment allegations and refers to the internal investigation that exonerated him. His email also contains some inaccuracies and accuses the press of having an agenda against him.
As the current RCVS junior vice president, Argyle is due to become president next year. If Edinburgh university is so sure that there is no case to answer, there could surely be no harm in allowing RCVS council members to read the full Intersol report themselves.
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