‘The Allegations’ engendered mixed feelings – it was funny, and the writing was good, and certainly for the first half it was a good read but then it started to drag. It contrasts the fortunes of two men – friends and academics – who are both faced with allegations. Tom is accused of bullying and harassment by colleagues whilst Ned faces allegations of rape from the past. Tom is tried by an internal procedure overseen by fellow academics and the department for ‘Workplace Harmony’ – a set up that lacks openness, whilst Ned is taken through official channels. Whist Tom was a likeable character brought down by a sarcastic sense of humour we all found Ned difficult to like or sympathise with.
We had a lively discussion about the boundaries between banter and intimidation in the workplace, and how the continual drip of jokey negative comments can wear you down and make you question your self-worth. This wasn’t just restricted to the obvious categories of ethnicity or gender but also generalised comments about professional grouping for instance – and that rejoinder to make the offense acceptable ‘Of course, this doesn’t apply to you’. We also discussed historical sex abuse allegations and the importance of them being pursued to ensure that lessons are learned and processes put in place to reduce the risk of repetition. There was an irony about reading this book as the court case involving Carl Beech was drawing to a close highlighting the importance of thorough investigation of claims for the protection of both parties. We touched on the fate of whistle-blowers – punished for speaking out.