A senior executive at Imperial College London is stepping down after the publication of damning details from a report on bullying by him and the Russell Group university’s president.
Muir Sanderson, Imperial’s chief financial officer, is leaving after he and the president, Alice Gast, were found to have “created or contributed to a culture which involves and tolerates favouritism, exclusion, [and] the making of disparaging comments about others”.
The publication of parts of the report this month “caused renewed disquiet, frustration and anger across the college community”, staff and students were told in a message on Tuesday by Imperial’s chair, John Allan, who is also Tesco’s non-executive chairman.
Gast – who, like Sanderson, has admitted and apologised for bullying – is staying on until August, despite calls to go sooner.
Details from an independent report by Jane McNeill QC on allegations of bullying were published this month after attempts at suppression were rejected by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Sanderson’s behaviour towards one victim was described as “aggressive and intimidating”. She was undermined and spoken to in a condescending and offensive way, for example being addressed as “young lady” and being told to “watch her tone”, the report said.
“The evidence I heard also raises questions about whether MS’s character and powerful role within the college, encompassing the roles of both CFO and COO, impact on good decision-making in the college,” McNeill wrote.
Another witness alleged that Sanderson had used the expression “[leaving] the plantation”. He has said he had no recollection of using the term.
Sanderson was also alleged to have regarded a reference made by a former senior employee to a “one-armed black lesbian” as a joke. The report said it was “troubling in this day and age” that one of the most senior employees at an institution such as Imperial College should think this was a joke.
The report found Gast had bullied a colleague but that her treatment of some others did not amount to bullying.
Sanderson has apologised for bullying two colleagues. The report found he had bullied one person and said it made no finding that he had bullied another.