UCL Bartlett School of Architecture apologizes following formal report investigating misconduct at the college

Bartlett Bombshell

UCL Bartlett School of Architecture apologizes following formal report investigating misconduct at the college

22 Gordon Street, home to the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. (shadowssettle/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

A 120-page report produced by a legal consultancy Howlett Brown for the University College of London’s Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL BSA) cites incidents of bullying, verbal and physical abuse and sexual misconduct and harassment. The allegations come primarily from students and accuse staff, including tutors—not named in the findings—of unwarranted behavior and systemic concerns spanning back decades.

Claims against the school and several staff members were first announced in October 2021. Victims subjected to the behavior came forward and the school launched the independent review. Following the release of the investigation’s findings on June 9, UCL put forth an additional apology, condemning the behavior and has committed itself to undertaking the recommendations laid out in the review; this includes firing employees with accusations laid against them and conducting further investigations.

Immediately after the damnatory report was published, UCL director Bob Shiel resigned from his post; he will still remain on staff in a teaching position. Bartlett United, a group formed to support students and victims, has demanded Bartlett Dean Christoph Lindner also leave the institution.

In a statement from the college following the published report, Dr Michael Spence, President & Provost of UCL, said:

“I am deeply shocked by the experiences of some of our students and staff during their time at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Coming forward to disclose what they have been through has taken enormous courage, and I really admire and thank them for doing so.

Most importantly, I want to apologize to everyone who has suffered because of the culture of bullying, harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct within the BSA. What you have been through is wrong and should not have been allowed to happen. I recognize your pain and distress and the myriad long-term consequences of what you have experienced.

We know we have a long way to go to rebuild trust, but we are committed to taking action.”

Howlett Brown conducted its investigation in four stages. In the first stage, the firm “learned about the BSA’s history and purpose”; the second stage involved fact gathering—speaking with individuals and focus groups at the school; for the third phase, an extensive document review of the school’s current policies was undertaken; and the final stage analyzed these findings to develop a course of action.

The report outlines the allegations by listing the reported incidents. It then categorizes the complaints by type and presents them as distinct issues or themes that require further investigation and addressing. These themes are: Systemic and Structural Concerns; Ineffective Processes; Harassment, Micro Agressions and Sexual Misconduct; Bullying, Gaslighting and Psychological Abuse; Culture of Favoritism and Fear; The Open Secret About Bad Actors; and Wellbeing and Psychological Safety.

UCL has pledged that it will take steps to review its current policies and structures, including how complaints are filed and the scope of its support services. Howlett Brown also recommended staff interfacing with students participate in training and support programs related to proper workplace behavior and offered suggestions for restructuring academic relationships and processes, including how “Crits”—reviews of student work—are carried out.

The Architects Registration Board (ARB), the U.K. licensing authority, has spoken out against the school and the on-going investigation, stating it found the report’s findings “deeply concerning.”

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has also responded, with RIBA president Simon Allford stating: “Every educator and education provider has a duty to support the wellbeing and safety of their students, as well as their academic development, and have effective mechanisms in place to eradicate unacceptable behaviour. This report identifies extensive failings which have been acknowledged by the university who have made the commitment to taking immediate action. This, I am well aware, will be cold comfort to those who have suffered.” Allford went on to note that RIBA is “currently exploring a new Education Code of Conduct for validated institutions, similar to the RIBA Code of Practice for Chartered Practices.”

Issues broached in the Howlett Brown report go beyond architecture education and are cited as long-standing problems in the industry itself. Last month, staff at SCI-Arc were placed on administrative leave following allegations of abuses of power at the Los Angeles institution..

“The report highlights that the culture of bad behaviour at the BSA comes against the context of longstanding problems with the culture of the architecture sector more widely,” the school said in its statement. “To that end, UCL is also today announcing that invitations have been issued to others, from practicing architects to other educational institutions, to tackle the issues highlighted in the report head-on.”

AN will continue to follow this story, reporting new information as it develops.