June 07, 2007

These things happen...

Anonymous said:

I've just read The Criteria at: http://bulliedacademics.250free.com/divestors_of_people.html and in particular "7. Staff are demorilised [sic], de-skilled or demoted." Ah, how that rings true!

The names and disciplines in the examples below are fictionalised, but parallel exactly what happens in certain universities that, since I still need to pay the mortgage, I shall not name. I suspect that many of you may find these to be familiar stories.

Dr T, well published (journal papers, a Harvard Press text book listed in Encarta), is told that, instead of teaching macroeconomics in which he has a PhD and considerable experience at his previous institution, he will have to teach marketing. He knows absolutely nothing about marketing, has never taught marketing, has absolutely no interest in marketing ... however, his head of school tells him the every member of staff should be prepared and willing to teach across the whole gamut of the school's curriculum. So he does ... and spends money on text books to keep a week ahead of the students, since he's never been offered any professional development opportunities to support him in his new role. He notices that the 'school bullies' are, on the other hand, never required to "teach across the whole gamut of the school's curriculum".

The following year Dr T is asked to teach human resource management (about which of course he knows nothing), and the year after that to teach needlework and clean the toilets. A once promising career in tatters. Pompous colleague Mr W, meanwhile, with very little background in macroeconomics is, on request, allowed to teach ... yes, you're way ahead of me there ... macroeconomics.

Dr R has pulled in a research grant for 223k euros. He informs his head of school, who replies contemptuously: "So what do you want? a pat on the head?"

Plain ol' Mr F, who does not have a degree (but then neither does his head of school), is suddenly named on the school web pages as "Dr F" and elevated to 'Director of Research' (though he does not have a single research publication to his name).

Dr L is putting together a major international conference on the political history of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1960 to 2003. His colleague Dr J, who is black Congolese from Katanga province and a well published expert on the political history of the DRC (his father served in the 1960 administration of Patrice Lumumba), is told by Dr L that there is no role for him in this conference and that any paper he submits will be discarded unread.

These things happen. You know they do as well as I know they do, because we all know of people to whom these things have happened. The media occasionally publish a couple of column-inches on surveys of generic bullying, on university teachers quitting to become gas fitters, on low morale among academics ... but, to my knowledge, there has never been a thorough investigative report on what *really* happens in our institutions. We need courageous journalists to publish alternative league tables based on well-researched and prominently publicised cases such as those I've fictionalised above and they're all true, believe me. Let's see how that would impact on student recruitment.

Yes, by all means the THES ... but for heaven's sake don't be half-hearted about it! don't let it be just a couple more column-inches this week to be forgotten about by next week. And who reads the THES anyway? We do ... and we don't need to be told what we already know. So where should we be looking for such stories? The Daily Mail, Channel 4, The Voice, The Independent, TimeOut, and wherever else it will be read by a wider public ... and a wider public that crucially includes those 18 year olds who are deciding where they will study next year. Those 18 years olds who might feel short-changed if taught macroeconomics by Mr W or Congolese political history by Dr L ... or needlework by sad and broken Dr T.


Anonymous said...

Plain ol' Mr F sounds familiar - we had a plain ol' Mr T who claimed to be a Dr in the timetable, coursebook, grant applications (hence commanding a greater grant award), staff directory and staff biography. Plain ol' Mr T conducted staff appraisals and ran the Postgraduate Studies Board on behalf of the Head of Department for five years before he was handed a PhD by the same Head (in a completely alien discipline, no less).

I foolishly imagined this was a serious misdemeanor, but the university hasn't responded in any way, despite a public posting with names, dates and grant details.

Anonymous said...

Thank you whoever took the time to write the posting - this is hopefully not just a blog for naming and shaming. There are other blogs where that can be done by those who feel the need.

Yet your contribution captures so much of the essence of wpb.....and the impact on students who come to university with such high hopes...only to be confronted in some cases by universities where those who had any integrity have left becaue they are not prepared to work in cultures of bullying.

Those of us who stay to try to expose the bullying are generally beaten into a pulp by the bullies and mobbers until we can barely think straight.

Aphra Behn