July 17, 2007

A reply from Boris...

Dear Mr Proudhon,

Thank you for your email and the blog link, which I read with interest.

Bullying is abhorrent wherever it takes place and I condemn it in the strongest terms. I don't think it right for me to comment further on specific cases, for the simple reason that universities are autonomous institutions and must be trusted to resolve internal disputes without interference from politicians.

Yours sincerely,

Boris Johnson MP

Firstly, we are happy we got a reply. Secondly, we are unhappy about the reply itself. Boris has now moved on to become candidate for mayor of London - good luck to him. We await to hear and see who the next opposition spokesperson will be for higher education, and then we will ask them too to comment.

Regarding the above reply and in particular "...universities are autonomous institutions and must be trusted to resolve internal disputes without interference from politicians", well, Boris my friend you do live in dreamland. This is the point, they can't be trusted to resolve internal disputes, and if politicians don't stick their necks out, well... HEIs are not really accountable to anyone... and so the ritual continues... Thank you Boris for your thoughtful remarks, we are impressed.


Anonymous said...

It's deja vu, again, Boris:-

Mr. N. Dempsey (Minister for Education): The Universities Act 1997 confers autonomous statutory responsibilities on universities in the day-to-day management of their affairs. My Department does not collect information on the issues raised by the Deputy. I have no proposals to carry out a study on bullying in Irish universities.

Dáil Éireann 578 Written Answers Bullying in the Workplace.

Michael Pyshnov said...

To trust that "universities are autonomous institutions and must be trusted to resolve internal disputes without interference from politicians" we must first assume that the people there are honest people. This is very often not so. Moreover, they often make decisions based on political considerations, they are biased. Persistently, we are given this blanket statement about the supposed goodness of universities. But we know for a fact that this statement regularly serves as a formula for allowing any cover-up of any prejudice, fraud and lie. It serves as a shield to protect corruption.

Moreover, the US court ruled that for instance the professor-supervisor has fiduciary obligations toward his graduate students. That is - not only the a priory innocence does not exist here, but there is the highest level of accountability here! The university, its personnel can be held accountable in court on any indication of the breach of the stictest fiduciary obligations! Where is this "independence" and "trust"? They are a myth!

Michael Pyshnov.

Michael Pyshnov said...

I want to make it even clearer.
When an official tells you that universities are trusted, etc., what he means is that indeed they are trusted PROFESSIONALLY, i.e. you can not complain to court that your grades are low or that you were denied tenure. As long as university's professional decision was made IN GOOD FAITH, no one has jurisdiction to interfere.

The situation is reversed when you have evidence of (as a minimum) acting NOT IN GOOD FAITH. (At this, you are NOT complaining of the professional side of the matter.) The only other thing you need to sue is to show that you already complained to the university court internally and that they did not satisfy your complaint. At this point the court must consider your complaint as a matter of JUSTICE. (The court does not have to consider why your complaint was not satisfied in university court.)

Bad faith, breach of duty, fraud, discrimination, preconceived decision, etc. are such matters that require the strict court PROCEDURE. A university court can, in principle, consider such matters (under the so-called procedure of natural justice), but if you are not satisfied with their decision, you have right to go to court and ask for the court PROCEDURE, period.
The law must be very similar in Britain, US, Canada and Australia.

I suppose, complaints to the administrative body, such as the state ministry, are problematic because they have jurisdiction to consider the breach of policy and regulations, not the matters of justice. Although, if your matter is very serious, they have duty to refer the matter to criminal prosecution.

All of the above will never be made known to you by the officials; they keep you in the dark.

Michael Pyshnov said...

Sorry, there is another point.
Anything framed as tort of negligence will not have court jurisdiction. Negligence (in the process of education) is barred as a cause of action, because it falls short of acting in bad faith. It has to be something like intentional tort (both, your claim and the evidence adduced must not claim or show negligence).

After I delivered my 1-hour long argument in the Supreme Court of Ontario, the lawyer for the UofT could only beg the three judges: "Please, don't open the floodgates" (as an appeal to keep a better public policy). But the court allowed my law suit.

So, fellows, go and open the floodgates. Officials will not help you (the pretext - "We can not give you a legal advice").

Anonymous said...

Michael, any developments in your case?

Michael Pyshnov said...

Nothing new now. The provocation was strong enough from the beginning. They wait.
Look also in http://pyshnov.wordpress.com

Anonymous said...

Could this happen in England Boris?

Can we trust our universities?

What if they appoint people whom they later discover can't be trusted?

What are they to do?

Where are they to turn for help?

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

Boris - there is a growing body of research that suggests that workplace bullying is rife in British Universities.

Michael Pyshnov writes very well about the issue of trust on this blog.

Many universities do not appear to have the capacity to deal with this growing problem - yet you say that universities are autonomous and are trusted by the government to deal with internal disputes.

Our union, UCU, generally chooses not to help its members who seek help when they believe they are being bullied. They have not taken one case to an Employment tribunal.

Research suggests that the institutional response to bullying is to be passive. Despite the growing body of research about bullying - your response also is to be passive.

To do nothing.

I work in a prestigious research university where I believe there is workplace bullying. Trying to address the bullying has resulted in my becoming ill and taking time off work.

When I returned to work I was ignored and I believe the bullying continued unabated.

As an academic I have much work to do - there is much research to be done in the area of education that I work. I have been unable to carry out this research because I believe that I have been a target of bullying which to date the university choose to ignore.

I am very fortunate in that my temperament so far has allowed me to survive the bullying...but at an enormous cost to my health. My family too have suffered.

There are people like me who risk everything to speak out about bullying...there have been others... Tim Field for example has written passionately about bullying. His books are packed with practical advice - I read them a few years ago with tears streaming down my face. At last someone was naming the behaviours that I was experiencing.

Tim Field has sadly died. His words live on.

To date those of us who dare to speak out against bullying are often not supported. We are seen as trouble makers...as mentally unstable... we can therefore be ignored.

Universities are funded by public money. Millions of pounds is lost each year through workplace bullying.

Most universites cannot be trusted to deal with workplace bullying - they do not have the skills and understanding. They do not even know where to begin.

Your trust is misplaced Boris. Given the growing body of research which uncovers the bullying within universities it is also possibly an abdication of your responsibilities.

Aphra Behn