Mistreatment, the act of treating a person badly or unfairly, occurs when behaviour shows disrespect for the dignity of others and interferes with the learning process. Examples of mistreatment include sexual harassment; discrimination or harassment based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation; humiliation, psychological or physical punishment; and the use of grading and other forms of assessment in a punitive manner. Though more subtle, the quality of training and the investment in the learner-supervisor working relationship must not vary based on the learner’s future career aspirations.
The occurrence, either intentional or unintentional, of such incidents interferes with learning as it erodes trust between a research supervisor and a learner, be it a graduate student or a postdoctoral fellow.
As such, the Faculty of Medicine are expected to function with a high level of professionalism. This means functioning with:
- Honesty and Integrity
- Altruism and Respect
- Responsibility and Accountability
- Compassion and Empathy
- Dedication and Self-improvement
Is it mistreatment?
Research training and graduate studies are challenging and intense. Supervisors are expected to help learners achieve research excellence and to provide the mentorship required to achieve program learning objectives and/or career goals. In the context of the multiple challenges posed by training in a research environment, it can be difficult to distinguish between what constitutes mistreatment, and what does not.
A student’s academic goals, a postdoctoral fellow’s research goals and a supervisor’s work are all closely aligned. Research funding and publications benefit both the learner and supervisor, and as such, participation in grant and manuscript writing can be busy and exciting times. In times of high stress, demands may increase, and while a learner may feel deadline pressure, this pace and level of expectation should not be sustained.
To help learners and faculty better understand what constitutes inappropriate behaviour or mistreatment, the following examples, may be of use.
Mistreatment includes, but is not limited to:
- Public belittlement or humiliation.
- Requiring performance of tasks intended to belittle or humiliate.
- Conduct intended to insult or stigmatize a student.
- Intentional neglect.
- Verbally abusive language or inappropriate anger.
- Offensive remarks based on gender, race/ethnicity or sexual orientation.
- Threats of physical harm or actual physical punishment (e.g, hitting, slapping, kicking).
- Reducing mentoring and opportunities based on learner’s career aspirations
- Being denied training opportunities based on discrimination.
- Unwanted sexual advances.
- Use of professional position to engage in romantic or sexual relationships.