January 13, 2017

A living nightmare - 'Prof' Platon Alexiou... Part 2

'Prof' Platon Alexiou
On page 2 of his CV the following appears:


On page 7 the same paper appears but this time it lists 'Prof' Platon Alexiou as the first author:


However, a basic search on Google using the title of the above paper reveals that Professor Ioannis Michaloudis is the only author of this paper (below). 'Prof' Platon Alexiou is not listed or described either as a 'collaborator' or a co-author...




December 31, 2016

Universities under fire for gagging former employees


Lib Dems say more than 3,500 higher education staff have signed compromise agreements in the past five years.

London Metropolitan University has signed settlement agreements with 894 staff since 2011/12.

Universities have been accused by the Lib Dems of stifling free speech through the use of “gagging clauses”, after the party’s research found more than 3,500 former staff members in higher education have signed “compromise agreements” in the past five years.

Freedom of information requests show that 48 universities have paid out £146m in severance cash to former staff members over the past five years and 3,722 people were asked to sign compromise or settlement agreements, which usually contain confidentiality clauses.

The highest number of such agreements was signed by London Metropolitan University, with 894 agreed since 2011/12. Others with high figures over the past five years include the University of Exeter with 346, Cambridge University with 237, and the University of East London with 184, out of the 48 universities that replied to the Lib Dem requests under transparency laws.


Responding to the figures, Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, said the use of confidentiality clauses in compromise agreements by universities was not appropriate.

“Universities are supposed to be bastions of free speech and forthright opinions, yet our research has shown that confidentiality clauses may have been used not only to avoid dirty laundry being aired in public but now are just common practice in higher education,” he said.

“This is simply outrageous. These gagging orders have a deterrent effect, employers seem to think that employees will just sign away the right to whistleblow.

“The cold wind of gagging staff and stifled debate, much in the public interest, is going through the halls of our bastions of enlightenment and tolerance. This must end, these practices must be stopped.”

Their use was defended by a number of the universities. A spokesman for London Metropolitan University said it was “common practice in higher education, and other sectors, to include compromise agreements in any voluntary redundancy settlements made”.

“Compromise agreements are recognised by statute, and the standard form of severance agreement from Acas includes an optional non-disclosure and confidentiality clause,” he said. “It is important to point out that such clauses do not prevent the individual from making a protected disclosure under whistleblowing legislation.

“A confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement is a standard element of voluntary severance agreements principally because almost all university staff will have had access to personal and private student data which universities have an obligation to protect from disclosure.

“Universities often have to make redundancies for a range of reasons, from the need to adjust to changing student numbers to the closure of courses with low demand or which do not meet the high standards of quality we expect.”

A University of Exeter spokesman said: “During the past five years the University of Exeter’s professional – non academic – services have been restructured to make sure they meet our future needs.

“Settlement agreements were used in these cases when staff left on a voluntary basis with enhanced terms. This is standard practice as part of employment law and protects personal information.

“The University of Exeter is a friendly and supportive workplace, where openness is actively encouraged. There are many mechanisms for staff to raise concerns confidentially.”

A spokeswoman for Cambridge University said: “The University of Cambridge takes pride in its ability to recruit, retain and support its staff. Like any large employer, our people leave the university for a variety of reasons and we are committed to fair and proper processes that respect those individuals.”

Dusty Amroliwala, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of East London, said some staff had been offered voluntary severance as part of restructuring programmes.

“Such voluntary programmes represent good employment practice and are often agreed in advance with the trade union side,” he said. “Compromise agreements provide a legally safe means of bringing to a formal end the relationship between a member of staff and the employer. They protect the interests of both parties to the agreement and are entered into on a voluntary basis.

“Compromise agreements are not drafted to prevent discussion about general failings that might impact on students. Such failings, were they to exist, would normally be in the public domain before the departure of any particular member.

“The university does not adopt clauses in such agreements to prevent the discovery of any specific failing. Rather, it does so to avoid any ad hominem comment. The university is a strong supporter of the practice of free speech. It also recognises the importance of ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect both parties to a confidential agreement.”

The use of compromise agreements in the higher education sector appears to be much higher than in the NHS. The Lib Dems also collected figures for compromise agreements in the health service, which showed they have been used 439 times over the past five years by 44 trusts which paid out £73m in severance payments.

The highest users out of the trusts surveyed showed around 10 per year being agreed with former staff members.

The Department for Education said it was a matter for the employment practices of universities as businesses, while the Department for Health said it has written to all trusts to remind them of their legal obligations.

“We want the NHS to be the safest and most transparent healthcare system in the world,” a Department of Health spokesman said. “A departing employee should never be prevented from speaking out in the public interest where they have genuine concerns – but it’s wrong to say settlement agreements undermine that. We have written to all trusts to remind them of their legal obligations.”

From: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/dec/30/universities-gagging-former-employees-lib-dems-compromise-agreements

December 25, 2016

The curious preference for low quality and its norms…


Kakonomics, or the strange preference for Low-quality outcomes
The curious preference for low quality and its norms…
L-doers segregate themselves in mutual admiration societies…
A conceptual space similar to “amoral familism”…

…We investigate a phenomenon which we have experienced as common when dealing with an of Italian public and private institutions: people promise to exchange high quality goods and services (H), but then something goes wrong and the quality delivered is lower than promised (L). While this is perceived as ‘cheating’ by outsiders, insiders seem not only to adapt but to rely on this outcome. They do not resent low quality exchanges, in fact they seem to resent high quality ones, and are inclined to ostracise and avoid dealing with agents who deliver high quality… They develop a set of oblique social norms to sustain their preferred equilibrium when threatened by intrusions of high quality. We argue that cooperation is not always for the better: high quality collective outcomes are not only endangered by self-interested individual defectors, but by ‘cartels’ of mutually satisfied mediocrities…

We have spent our academic careers abroad, Gloria in France and Diego in Britain. Over this long period of time each of us has had over a hundred professional dealings with our compatriots in Italy – academics, publishers, journals, newspapers, public and private institutions. It is not an exaggeration to say that 95% of the times something went wrong. Not catastrophically wrong, but wrong nonetheless. Sometimes what goes wrong is timing, things do not happen when they are supposed to happen. Or they happen in a different form from that which was planned or are simply cancelled. Workshops have twice or half as many people as one was told to expect, the time allocated to speak is halved or doubled, proofs are not properly revised or mixed up, people do not show up at meetings or show up unannounced, messages get lost, reimbursements are delayed, decreased or forgotten altogether. This experience now extends to internet dealings: relative to those in other countries, Italians websites are scruffier, often do not work properly, remain incomplete or are not updated, messages bounce back, e-mail addresses change with dramatic frequency, and files are virus-ridden.

…Two persons agree to trade some units of good x for some units of good y (goods is to be intended in the most generic sense, and to include intangible resources; x and y can also be the same ‘good’ as when two people agree to meet, the good being showing up at a given place at a given time). Assume for simplicity that goods can be produced at two levels of quality, High (H) and Low (L). H is both more rewarding to receive and more costly to produce than L; H takes more time, effort, skills and organisation. This excludes goods that have only one level of quality – if one pays to have someone murdered, one will regard a non-lethal wounding as a failure to deliver.

There might be domains in which H-ness is undefined, such as an intellectual contribution to a theory which cannot even be proven wrong, or art and fashion in which the lack of objective criteria of quality make H unfathomable. We will limit ourselves to consider cases in which the criteria to establish H-ness are not controversial…

Problems arise if the two individuals agree on H but one of them delivers L. This is, of course, a risk of many exchanges: rational, unprincipled and self-interested agents prefer to dish out L rather than H, while at the same time, one would think, they also prefer to receive H rather than L. Dishonest second-hand car dealers prefer to sell a lemon while charging an H-price. This happens often enough. And it is what happened to us many time. We delivered H and got L, the sucker’s payoff. One of us has now become very cautious before dealing professionally with his old compatriots while the other has started to dish out the occasional L herself…

Our impression, however, is that when the type of Italians we encounter deal with one another, there is no great tension over these mishaps: both parties agree on H and both deliver L. On the face of it, it looks as if they sell each other a lemon, and yet:

• Nobody seems to complain.

• When we got L in return for giving H and complained, the L-party seemed more annoyed than apologetic. They seem to treat this as excessive fussiness.

• H-doers do not seem to receive much admiration, quite the contrary, they elicit suspicion. As an Italian university ‘barone’ once put it, “You don’t understand Diego, when you are good [at your work] you must apologise”.

• ‘Italians’ end up in LL even if they are playing a repeated game and plan to trade with each other in the future. In other words, they are not deterred from dealing with each other again and do not expect the other party to be deterred by getting L.

• They do not abandon the H-rhetoric, and, more or less explicitly, keep promising high standards.

• A feeling of familiarity develops among L-doers: L-prone people recognise other L-prone people as familiar, as ‘friends’.

…to the raw payoffs of free-riding we must prefer to avoid the embarrassment of being seen as a free-rider or the discomfort of being made to feel of inferior quality or both – emotions that would be triggered if the other party gave us H while we saddle them with L. By contrast, when both parties tacitly accept a “discount” they are not cheating each other. Rather, they are entering a relation whose advantages for each depend on the reciprocal tolerance of L-ness. Not only you want pressapochismo for yourself, you also want it in others.

…we need to have some prior knowledge, obtained either through direct experience or vicariously, that “this is how things work”; in other words we need to expect both that our partners in the exchange are, say, likely not to pay as well or as promptly as they say they will, and, on the other hand, that they are not likely to resent it if we fail to deliver a perfect H…

…In one respect, the type of person who prefers LL to LH is like the types with the other two preference rankings: they all prefer to put less effort in what they do and deliver L rather than H. None of them likes to do H for its own sake. But in another respect the type that prefers LL to LH is different for he is not the purely self-interested individual, the one who always prefers H for himself regardless of other people’s feelings and judgments, but, while equally ‘lazy’, our L-doer is a “pro-social” type who, to the advantage of maximizing purely his interests (LH), prefers a mediocre payoff provided that he does not suffer embarrassment or discomfort (LL). They dread being the only sinner around.

One-off encounters may suffice to set off these emotions and make L-doers happier to receive an L even from a stranger. Naturally, if the two parties are not interacting just once and envisage a string of future exchanges, the potential force of these negative emotions could intensify. If we dislike being made to feel that we are exploiting a stranger, we would dislike even more to be seen to be exploiting a familiar person…

When these conditions obtain, people expect rather than just accept a certain amount of L-ness. Usually, if one promises to deliver H and delivers L instead, one would think of this as a breach of trust. But in our case it looks as if they rely on each other not to be entirely trustworthy, they trust their untrustworthiness. Not only do they live with each other’s laxness, but expect it: I trust you not to keep your promises in full because I want to be free not to keep mine and not to feel bad about it. There seems to be a double deal: an official pact in which both declare their intention to exchange H-goods, and a tacit accord whereby discounts are not only allowed but expected. It becomes a form of tacit mutual connivance on L-ness…

It follows that L-doers will try to establish the – perverse – trustworthiness of others with whom they are considering to interact. They will look for signs of L-ness and select as partners only those that emit credible ones. And, for their part, L-doers will endeavour to signal their L-ness to persuade other L-doers of their trustworthiness. Anyone who gives an indication of liking H-ness, of not being a committed L-doer, will be shunned. We can expect that L-doers will try to avoid dealing with H-doers…

…A major problem of selecting people for their L-trustworthiness is that the most credible signs of it are emitted by those who not only choose L as a strategy and could under different conditions revert to H-doing, but by those who can only do L: the best way to persuade others that one is lax and incompetent, and thus a good ‘friend’, is not by pretending but by truly being lax and incompetent – by being a genuine L-type. This contributes to the inverse meritocratic selection, a phenomenon sadly rife in Italy. The custom police secretly recorded the conversations between Paolo Rizzon, chair of cardiology in Bari, and other colleagues involved in university appointment committees, among them Mario Mariani, cardiologist in Pisa. Rizzon can be heard boasting to Mariani: “He was the best and we screwed him!” He refers to Eugenio Picano, a candidate whose impact score in terms of citations of scientific articles was nearly six times greater than the next best candidate who got the job. Inverse selection is endemic in Italian academia, and much of it occurs because of corruption and nepotism. But the selection of L-doers rather than H-doers can arguably be sustained by the desire to keep L-doers strong and unchallenged…

A key feature of our situation is that the dominance of LL preferences remains veiled by the H-rhetoric. Both parties collude by engaging in a sort of “joint mimicry” and pass themselves off as H-doers. A teacher who pretends to teach, benefits from students who pretend to learn, and vice versa. By jointly mimicking H, both parties may aim at fooling outsiders, or simply fool themselves into sustaining a self-image of better quality.

The fact that people prefer LL exchanges while paying lip service to H-ness makes our situation different from the transparent mutually agreed exchange of lower quality goods that we mentioned at the onset. In the latter case there is no H-façade. There is also, more importantly, no externality, both parties get what they expect and no one else suffers from L being exchanged. While in our case, at the very least, the credibility of H-promises is undermined. If, in addition, our exchanging characters work for an institution that purports to be delivering an H-service, the value of the institution’s service will be tacitly eroded by each LL exchange, as a school in which both teachers and students pretend to be teaching and learning respectively…

…When the value of a good depends on its H-image rather than on their actual H-ness, and the image can partially resist the erosion caused by low quality, then there is an advantage to keep up the H-façade. There exists a fraudulent business in Southern Italy of adulterated olive oil made up mixing hazelnut and sunflower-seed oil, sold under the label “extra-virgin olive oil”. When Leonardo Marseglia – director of the Casa Olearia company in Apulia – was charged with contraband and fraud against European Union (and then acquitted) for having sold bogus oil under the label “extra virgin”, he justified himself in an interview by arguing that thanks to his adulterated oil many people could afford to buy oil with the label “extra virgin” at a reasonable price. Some people, he claimed, are interested in having at least the image of H-ness. “We pretend to buy good olive oil and you pretend to sell it”. (In zoologists’ jargon this is a case of “cooperative mimicry”, in which those who are apparently fooled cooperate with the mimic, with a view to fooling someone else.)…

L-doers may want to keep up a credible façade with their surrounding Hcommunities because they gain from this: Marseglia had an interest to pretend to comply with EU community standards because he was receiving EU oliveoil subsidies. Also, L-doers manoeuvre to prop up their reputation for H ness with their naïve local audiences by being seen standing shoulders to shoulders – briefly but as noisily as possible to be heard far and wide – with H-doers, as in the case of L-universities liberally dishing out honoris causa degrees. And which distinguished scholar would want a degree honoris causa from a University that frankly admitted to having abysmal standards? Finally, the maintenance of an H-façade may simply satisfy the need to reduce the cognitive dissonance between what one practices and what one preaches. The gap between the H-standards and the L-standards creates uneasiness among L-doers. Even if they cultivate specious legitimising reasons to practice L-ness (as we shall see below), many still seem aware that there is another set of reasons, which enjoin one to do H. The dissonance is reduced by interacting always with the same people, whom one can trust for not challenging one’s standards. L-doers segregate themselves in mutual admiration societies…

…One might suspect that L-doers are similar to those who in schools or factories gang up against those who work better and harder than they do, in general against those who keep up or raise standards of performance making the rest look like worse performers or forcing them to increase their own standards. Especially when the rewards are insensitive to the quality of performance – e.g. the salary at the end of the month is the same – there is no point producing at H level of quality. There are certainly elements in common between our case and this case. Agents form a cartel by agreeing to produce L and punish those who produce H for they break the agreement. For anti-stakhanovites as well as for our L-doers, doing L amounts to doing H with respect to their cartel agreement…

…This L-norm may occupy a conceptual space similar to “amoral familism”, a set of practices and beliefs that E. C. Banfield (1958) identified in southern Italy as being the source of lack of economic and cultural development. In his fieldwork in Montegrano, a fictitious name he coined for a poor southern Italian village of 3,400 people, Banfield explained the extreme poverty and backwardness of the village by a lack of cooperation due to the ethos of its inhabitants of “maximizing the material short-run advantage of the nuclear family” and discounting any moral consideration for the whole community. In our case, we have a similar social norm that encourages people to maximize the short run advantage of a connivance relation that tolerates side-interests and LL-preferences, while avoiding a form of HH-cooperation, which, while more individually demanding, would be beneficial for the whole community (having a high level of teaching at the university, publishing high quality papers, etc.)…

There might be a sort of disposition to develop amoral-familistic relationships outside the family, with people who become “familiar” thanks to a shared proneness towards LL exchanges. In our case it is the L-disposition that creates the familiarity…

Our basic point so far can be summed up thus: if you give me L but in return you tolerate my L we collude on L-ness, we become friends in L-ness, just like friends we tolerate each other’s weaknesses. But if you give me H that leaves you free to disclose my L-ness and complain about it. So you are not my friend, I fear and resent you, and if I cannot punish you for producing H, at least I avoid dealing with you. While in an ordinary world it is L-doers who are punished by avoidance and exclusion, in an L dominated world it is H-doers who are ostracised. Essentially, the L-exchange can be seen as a cartel of mediocrities who pretend to be H...

… The payoffs can be tilted in favour of L-ness endogenously, by coalitions of L doers who join forces to sanction H-doers and to reward each other. In turn, this is frequency dependent: coalitions of L-doers are more likely to emerge the higher the number of “naturally born” L doers, of real L-types who are smart enough to join forces and gain power. When the number of H-doers is low, H-doers find it harder to meet, interact and reward each other generating virtuous circles. Part of the explanation for the emergence of LL-dominance is endogenous.

…We can expect L- cartels to develop where either or both following conditions obtain:

• Rewards have a weak sensitivity to H-ness, such as when jobs are ultra-safe, salaries flat, upward mobility has barriers, and friendship-based promotions dominate over merit based ones. The only H-doers left will be those driven by principle, by intrinsic motivations – the inveterate perfectionists.

• Punishments for L-doers are low, or have a low probability of being meted out or are negotiable; where “forgive” dominates “punish”, where, to jest, catholic sanctity fattens skulduggery…

…Social norms, in the dominant interpretation, would exist as an antidote to our natural antisocial proclivities. The interest of our case is to suggest that this distinction does not stand up, and that those whom we think of as free-riders too operate within a normative structure – a special “cement of society” that glues L-doers together to the detriment of the common good…

Gambetta, D., & Origgi, G. (2013). The ll game the curious preference for low quality and its norms. Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 12(1), 3-23.

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December 22, 2016

2016 Highlights...



Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: Effects of Psychological Harassment: 'Individual Effects Many studies show that psychological harassment has extremely negative effects for individuals...

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: Mr Elkadi...: "...As someone with an inherent knowledge of Elkadi, having had him as a head of school I can confirm his management practices can be...

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: A living nightmare - 'Prof' Platon Alexiou...: This man presents himself as a real 'Professor' - In fact he has not written a single scientific paper... This man presents himself...

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: The Australian National University... [With links....: A little over a year ago the Canberra Times, the local newspaper in Australia’s capital city,  ran a story...

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: Bullying and Discrimination at University of Leice...: My name is Max Casu; I was a mature Ph.D. student at the UoL. Unfortunately all my excitements about the above Ph.D. turned into...

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: The many faces of Prof. Hassan Abdalla...: The one on the right...

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: Ulster's Academic Genocide - Year Zero With Vc "Ba...: Readers of this site will be familiar with the bullying that's befallen Deakin University. Here in the UK, Ulster University recently...

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: 'Professor' David Vaughan...: What allegation was made against 'Professor' David Vaughan, and why did police go to his house?

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: Ian Farren

December 19, 2016

Ex-Stanford professor: I was pushed out after reporting sexual harassment

Stephen Hinton wouldn’t leave her alone. After Michelle Karnes politely rejected the Stanford professor and former dean, according to her complaint, he didn’t back down.

It was July 2012, and he allegedly told Karnes, then an untenured professor, that he had a “crush” on her and was “tormented” by his feelings. She said she made clear she didn’t want further contact. But Hinton – a powerful faculty member who had hired her – allegedly continued to confront her at the gym, telling her he wasn’t “stalking”, but wanted to talk.

“I just wanted to crawl out of my skin, I was so uncomfortable,” Karnes, 42, said in an interview. “I was really scared.”

A university investigation of Karnes’ sexual harassment complaint concluded that Hinton, who is 20 years older, had made an “unwanted sexual advance”, but it’s unclear if the professor faced any consequences. On the contrary, Karnes says that administrators retaliated against her for speaking up and pushed her out of Stanford.

Hinton vigorously denied the allegations, claiming they had a “platonic, reciprocal relationship” and pointing out that a university investigation concluded his conduct did not constitute sexual harassment.

From Karnes’ perspective, however, the university went to great lengths to protect a senior faculty member and silence his accuser, prioritizing the institution’s reputation over her wellbeing.

Her story comes on the heels of numerous sexual misconduct controversies at Stanford, one of America’s most prestigious universities, and as women in academia across the US have increasingly spoken up about assault, harassment and discrimination.


Karnes’ story boosts the claims of Stanford students and faculty who argue that the institution has policies and a broader culture that systematically fail to acknowledge the problem, leading administrators to punish victims while not holding perpetrators accountable...

More info at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/19/ex-stanford-professor-i-was-pushed-out-after-reporting-sexual-harassment

December 16, 2016

Imperial College review reveals 'bullying behaviour'


The pursuit of excellence at one of the UK’s top universities has helped to create a culture of bullying, discrimination and fear, according to a report.

The report, based on a year-long research project at Imperial College London, heard that staff at the institution are too scared to speak out about problems, leaving them vulnerable, unheard or undermined.

Imperial’s provost, James Stirling, said that the institution must do better and was committed to gender equality.

The institution commissioned researchers from the University of Sussex’s Centre for Gender Studies to look at gender equality at the institution because of events at student Varsity rugby matches last year.

The university apologised to the women’s rugby team after they were left playing to an empty stadium when the coaches ferrying spectators back to campus were allowed to leave early.
The team had alleged that they were treated unfairly compared with the men’s team and that a member of staff was overheard saying that they did not care “how those fat girls” got home, although an investigation found no evidence of the verbal abuse.

The research project collected data from almost 250 staff and students through in-depth interviews, focus groups, an open text survey and an anonymous blog. The researchers also used documentary analysis and observations at the college.

The full report has not been made public but an 11-page review document was circulated among staff by email on 9 December and has been published on Imperial's website.

It says the research found that Imperial's focus on excellence "had served the College well in many ways" but "this dominant focus had a negative impact on wellbeing and social equity".

“There were many examples given to the researchers of bullying and discriminatory behaviour…Bullying also intersected with categories such as class, gender (and gender identity), race, disability and sexual orientation,” says the review document.

Many of those questioned linked bullying and discrimination with the “'elite’ white masculinity” of the majority of the staff population, according to the report. “Examples of misogynistic and homophobic conduct were given and one interviewee expressed concern that the ‘ingrained misogyny’ at Imperial was so deep that it had become normal,” it adds.

The report also found that staff felt senior management would turn a blind eye to the poor behaviour of people deemed valuable to the university.

Despite a no-tolerance stance on harassment and bullying and support initiatives for those affected, the research found that staff and students did not speak up about issues. Participants said they did not speak out because they feared nothing would be done, that they would lose their jobs or that it would make matters worse.

“'Speaking up’ also intersected with equalities issues, and women in particular reported being silenced in various ways,” according to the review.

Many of those who took part in the research said that the sector-wide gender initiative Athena SWAN was seen as little more than a “box ticking exercise” that had “provided a veneer” to hide inequality at the university.

“There was a feeling from some participants that the College did not promote equality and diversity at all…The researchers noted that it is difficult to promote equality and diversity within an institution which is ‘so profoundly gendered, classed and raced’,” says the document.

Participants reported a lack of community spirit at the university and said that departments were played off against each other. Staff and students also said that they felt that asking for support was viewed as “shameful, weak and evidence of failure”.

In a news article about the report published on Imperial’s website, Professor Stirling said: “We strongly believe that Imperial is only a world-class institution because of our talented, diverse community. We want everyone at the College to feel supported, respected, and able to excel. That is why we are committed to ensuring gender equality and eradicating sexist behaviour wherever we can, at all levels.

“These findings remind us that we cannot stand still. We must do better,” he said, adding that the process may not be easy.

“I am confident that by working together we can create as supportive and inclusive an environment as we can, since that is what all our staff and students deserve,” he said.

Last year, Imperial carried out a review of its use of performance metrics after the suicide in 2014 of Stefan Grimm, a professor of toxicology at the institution who had been told he was “struggling to fulfil the metrics” of a professorial post.

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/imperial-college-review-reveals-bullying-behaviour

December 04, 2016

19 Former Psychiatry Faculty Sue Dartmouth Over Layoffs

Nineteen former faculty members of the psychiatry department at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine have filed a lawsuit alleging that the college violated their employment contracts and college policy that entitled them to severance payments when it laid them off.
Diana Lawrence, a college spokeswoman, said officials had no comment on the lawsuit.
The dispute is the latest to arise in the wake of the college’s moves to erase what officials had estimated was an annual deficit approaching $30 million at Geisel.
As part of what officials described as a restructuring, Geisel’s entire psychiatry department was transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Most of the department’s clinical research faculty and staff were let go by the college and hired by the medical center.
“Responsibility for the employment, finances, and operational support for clinical research programs, as well as the clinical practice of psychiatry” was transferred to D-H on July 1, according to the college’s audited financial statement.
The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Grafton Superior Court by Norwich attorney Geoffrey Vitt, says that in April 2016, Geisel informed the plaintiffs and most other faculty in the psychiatry department that their positions were being eliminated.
“Some, but not all, affected employees” were offered jobs at D-H, the lawsuit says.
D-H is a health system with ties to Dartmouth but has its own financial and governance structures.
Employees who left Dartmouth and went to work at D-H found “material differences in the compensation and benefits” at the health system, the lawsuit alleges.
About 250 employees of Geisel’s psychiatry department and clinical research units got jobs at D-H, according to D-H’s audited financial statement for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
That year, Dartmouth posted a $112 million loss from operations that included a $53.5 million charge for “restructuring expenses” at Geisel for such items as severance pay, endowment transfers, rents and the services of consultants, according to the financial statement.
That cost could rise if the former Dartmouth psychiatry faculty members prevail in their lawsuit.
The former employees who signed on to the lawsuit, including 12 physicians and three full professors, had a combined 211 years of employment at the college, according to their complaint.
Those hired before June 20, 2011, are entitled to two weeks of pay for each year of service, up to 52 weeks, according to the lawsuit, which cites a Dartmouth “separation of employment” policy. The roster of plaintiffs in the lawsuit includes 12 faculty members with service ranging from nine to 27 years. That same policy entitles more recently hired employees to at least two weeks of pay, or to one week of pay for each year of service, up to 26 weeks, the lawsuit says.
The policy guarantees all of those laid off a cash payment equal to the college’s contribution over three months to their health plans, the lawsuit says.
“Nothing in the layoff policies excludes PhD or MD-level employees,” the lawsuit says.

November 29, 2016

The Australian National University... [With links...]



A little over a year ago the Canberra Times, the local newspaper in Australia’s capital city, ran a story announcing that the insurance premiums paid by the Australian National University (ANU) had risen from around $4 million to $11 million per annum over the last three years.

A statutory authority of the Federal Government, Comcare provides workplace insurance for several government agencies, including the ANU. While the premiums it charges them have on average doubled over this period, the ANU has been singled out for a particularly dramatic increase.

Why might this have occurred? The advice on Comcare’s website is unequivocal. It states that the “rate for each employer provides an indication of the employer's effectiveness in preventing injury or illness and in helping employees return to work quickly and safely after a work-related injury or illness.”

When pressed for its own explanation, the ANU however argued that the insurer was merely trying to recoup recent operational losses.

A detailed, forensic, rebuttal of ANU’s reasoning would require access to the kind of sensitive financial and operational information that Universities and Insurers alike are these days loathe to release. But if we take Comcare’s advice at face value and conclude that the increase must be explained, at least in part, by a decline in work safety at the ANU, what might be its source?

University employees are, as a matter of course, at risk of injuris that arise from such activities as repetitive strain, operating laboratory equipment, or work-related travel. Such injuries when they occur, however, are generally well reported and workplace responses can be both swift and effective. Neither seems to be the case here.

The obvious source of this dramatic growth, then, is psychological injury, in particular that arising from alleged workplace bullying and abuse. Certainly, the particular prevalence of such behaviours at the ANU has been brought to the attention of both the current and previous Vice Chancellors, and many recent instances have resulted in successful Comcare claims.

This should be a matter of considerable institutional and public concern. Bullied staff can lose much more than their job and career path. They can also be left with long-term psychological disability. No organisation, let alone an organisation supported by public funds, and with an explicit public good as its underlying remit, should consider the prevalence of such a state of affairs as acceptable.

Staff at the ANU are especially vulnerable to toxic work practices because, unlike other Australian Universities, they do not have recourse to an ombudsman or similar ‘disinterested’ arbitrators when there are allegations of internal wrong-doing.

It is all too easy for senior management and HR staff to become judge, jury, and executioner when confronted with issues of staff behaviour. Senior Management also has access to funds to pay out difficult cases, funds that almost invariably come with associated ‘gagging clauses’ to ensure that the possibility of underlying managerial and cultural problems remain hidden from further scrutiny.

It is especially concerning, then, to learn that the University has now been taking the advice of its Council and actively encouraging claimants to avoid Comcare altogether. They are being asked instead to approach their industry superannuation fund for disability cover, effectively bypassing Comcare’s powers of scrutiny as well as transferring the financial burden back to the employees themselves. At the same time ANU is also now seeking to remove itself altogether from the Comcare scheme and self insure.

This raises the real spectre of the proverbial turkey being in control of Christmas. There is a growing perception at the ANU of a nexus between staff who raise matters of legitimate concern and staff subsequently being confronted with unsafe managerial behaviours. It suggests that behaviours injurious to the health of employees are not merely the result of the actions of a few ‘bad eggs’, but are in fact becoming a normalised tool of University industrial relations. As former ANU academic, David West, recently wrote:

The modern university most rewards those who demonstrate both loyalty to superiors and effective control of subordinates. Good managers are those who gets things done, which tends to mean that they are not hampered by either sensitivity for others’ feelings or democratic scruples. They are assessed according to results rather than the methods they employ, by ends rather than means. It is little surprise, then, that managers are sometimes tempted to resort to a more intense regime of control. The rhetoric of instruction and compliance has largely replaced the more collaborative discourse of request and consent.

More traditional academic cultures of management by consensus, on the other hand, requires Universities to select leaders skilled in internal communication and conflict resolution, and to foster not just mission statements but also broader corporate cultures that are premised on values of honesty, competency, and shared vision.

Long abandoned governance structures that used to give academic staff a controlling stake in deciding who led them, from Head of Department right through to Vice-Chancellor may have had their critics, but at least they helped encourage such cultures to survive, if not flourish.

What has tended to arise in their place, as researchers in the US have found, is based on a much more negative perception of employee capacity, responsibility and core motivation. Trust in staff is replaced by demands for constant scrutiny. Managerial appointments are now routinely made from above without genuine staff consultation, and they are secured by the emergence of massive salary divide between this new class of academic leaders and the staff they manage. 

A culture of mobbing” can all too easily follow wherein apparently ‘non-compliant’ academics can quickly find that they can easily be stripped of the capacity to function in, let alone, enjoy, their workplace.

To be sure, it is not just the institution as a whole or the individual victims who suffer from this growing toxicity. We are all the worse for it. The burden of pay-outs, legal and medical costs, and, indeed, insurance premium blowouts that inevitably follows is eventually carried by a combination of increased student fees (or poorer student services) and the general taxpayer. 

Most concerning, however, is the possibility that such an industrial culture serves also to undermine the capacity of universities to nurture free thought in our society. In the light of recent political events, that role has never seemed more important.

Workplace bullying and abuse of staff is a symptom, therefore, of a much deeper malaise. Our universities urgently need to apply some of their once hard-won, and much-vaunted, critical thinking skills to the way they run themselves. And it is time for senior leadership at the ANU in particular to make safe and easy for the academic and professional staff they manage to do so.