September 08, 2008

Take That, You Bully! Victims fight back in the blogosphere

Academics can be found all over the Internet commiserating about academic bullying, including on The Chronicle's own forums and blogs. There are debates over how to resolve bullying, warnings to other scholars, and even primal cries for help.

Historiann ( This blog, subtitled, "History and Sexual Politics, 1492 to the present," is written by a history professor, Ann M. Little, whose posts about her own bullying experience prompted a flurry of reader comments.

"Kelly" writes: "Most days I just want to die because nothing I do works. They say "suck it up, ignore them, etc. etc.," but it just doesn't work. Even the ex-academic women exam supervisors are bullies. I will never forget a particular experience this year where I was shouted at, and told that I was stupid, it cut me to the bone and I just spent the first half an hour of the exam in a daze. I hate that place, everyday it just makes me sick."

"Cahulawassee River Rat" writes: "For the last 2 years I have been working in a department full of bullies, and now I realize that I am not alone. I knew there were similar issues elsewhere, but it is nice to see people coming forth with similar experiences. You hit the nail on the head: the bullies hate change. It will never change until the power structure changes, and that is not likely to happen in my department. I am continually reminded that I will not be renewed if I do ANYTHING to make the tenured faculty upset. Who the hell can function in an environment like that? I am working on getting out but I am finding it very difficult. I feel like getting out of teaching altogether. Why do highly educated people feel that the "Because I had to go through this, so do you" attitude is acceptable? This is supposed to be academia!"

On Hiring ( Readers were eager to comment about bullying on this Chronicle blog.

"Another bullied" writes: "Both my dean and department head are bullies. I don't want to work here and no one else does either (they bully everyone). I have been here longer than anyone in my department (other than the bullies) — a whopping nine years. I would like to move jobs, but here are my questions: who do you use for a reference when your supervisors are losers and bullies? And if bullying is so widespread as these comments suggest, who says moving a job will make things any better? Someone recently commented to me that it is better to work for the devil you know, than the one you don't know. It is very discouraging."

"Elle2" writes: "Bullying research shows that bullies know who to pick on — for instance, single faculty members, those who have limited mobility in job terms because of a spouse, those who need their jobs because of a sick parent, and so forth. If I had to do it again, I'd show no vulnerability to any colleague whatsoever. I'd be sure to have a spouse-equivalent attend parties, invent a mythical trust fund, keep all family details to myself, and in general give them no reason to think that I couldn't quit on the spot if I needed to."

"Callie" writes: "There's a bully in our department that constantly pitches temper tantrums and is rude and obnoxious to everyone who works in our group — except the boss. We all walk on eggshells around this person, and it does affect morale and productivity because we dread having to deal with this person on a daily basis. In this case, fighting back is out of the question. You either learn to deal with it or move on."

"DrFunZ" writes: "Eventually the bully or bully club does something totally outrageous and enough people are incensed. That is the precise time to rally the troops who have been abused and others who are horrified at the abuse, band together and stick it to the bully at every corner — faculty meetings, elections, dean's reports, private meetings, etc. Propose some good-hearted committee, or one that wants to collaborate or cooperate and you will see that the bullies do not want to play anymore. … They will retreat to their caves, licking their wounds. Do not be deceived, however, they are only plotting their return."

Bullying of Academics in Higher Education ( Mainly a compilation of news articles and roundups of other blog posts on bullying, one of the blog's three main pseudonymous posters was candid about one university.

"Pierre-Joseph Proudhon" called one university "a concentration camp … hundreds of thousands of pounds are wasted in fighting legal cases against good academics who are being bullied out of their jobs. Does anybody care that a serial bully university is wasting money and resources in such a fashion? Does nobody have the decency to stand up to this monster bully and say 'enough is enough'? And so more and more continue to suffer, to be victimized, to be bullied out of their work — many work in fear, in a concentration camp that knows only one thing: to eliminate any dissent. No compassion, no empathy, no mediation … just fear."



Leonard Nolt said...


This blog on Bullying of Academics in Higher Education is very interesting. I'm very familiar with the problem of bullying in health care, the field in which I am employed. I was employed for 30 years at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho and left in 2006 after being seriously injured with PTSD as a result of two and a half years of being the target of bullies, initially from a co-worker and then eventualy from management as they repeatedly ignored my reports of patient care being jeopardized by the bully. I had an excelleent 30-year work record and an impeccable record of honesty and integrity but that made no difference when I reported the bullying problem. I was ignored, threatened, ordered to lie about the problem and the PTSD injury if asked and told I would be fired if I reported any more problems with the co-worker's behavior or talked about the problem with any other employees. The Employee Relations Manager from the Human Resource Dept. threatened to fire me when I reported the PTSD injury to him on July 18, 2005! So much for a medical center displaying concern about the health and safety of their patients and employees. Saint Alphonsus is a part of the Trinity Health care system headquartered in Novi, Michigan. I reported the problem to a vice-president at Trinity Health requesting assistance and received none, not even a response for months. After leaving Saint Alphonsus I reproted what happened to me to about 450 of my former co-workers in order to warn them of the danger that exists there. Management at Saint Alphonsus retaliated against me by initiating a "punitive psychiartric" admission to their psychiatric hospital, (not to another psychiatric hospital that was nearer). They claimed that I had multiple serious psychiatric problems but never told me nor any member of my family what those problms were. We first found out about those phony diagnoses five months later when my attorney got a copy of my medical record. I was locked up for six days but not offered any treatment nor was I told the real resons why I was locked up. It was to discredit my reports of abusive injury-causing behavior originating from upper-level management at St. Alphonsus. That this sounds like echoes from the former Soviet Union or another totalitariam government is indicative of the excessive power that businesses and corporations have today, and of their willingness to abuse that power and use it against respoonsible citizens and health care workers who report health and safety hazards that exist at local facilities. Retaliation against whistleblowers is standard procedure at Trinity Health facilities even though the Joint Commission that provides accreditation for hospitals forbids such misbehavior. Best wishes to you who are working to stop bullying in the academic world, and thanks for this blog which provides useful information for those like myself who are trying to address the abusive way management at some health care facilities mistreat their employees and endanger their patients. For more information about my experience check my blog at under "workplace psychological abuse."
Leonard Nolt

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your courage in telling your story and sharing it on this site. I think many of here are familiar with the retaliation against whistleblowers phenomenon in the UK academic workplace. Ethics and regulations in academe, as in your field, seem to go out the window when it comes to silencing whistleblowers. And I'm sure many of us are dealing with or have struggled with PTSD in the aftermath of psychological trauma in the workplace. I look forward to checking out your website. Best of luck.

Rosa Luxembourg