April 29, 2008

We welcome HEA - we can only hope that they have learnt something

We welcome the visit to this blog by the Higher Education Academy on April 29, 2008 at 5:23pm. We can only hope that the HEA had a good look around and discovered the horror stories about institutionalised bullying in some HEIs. If they did, then they'll know that their suspension of a distinguished Professor follows a sad and normal trend. We recommend that those in power within the HEA read some interesting literature about mobbing in academia. In the meanwhile, this blog will continue to expose HEIs that ignore their own policies about dignity at work.

April 27, 2008

Academic freedom is a crucial right that must be maintained

We the undersigned wish to express our deep concern at the attack on academic freedom indicated by the Higher Education Academy’s suspension of Professor Lee Harvey as Director of Research and Evaluation. This appears to be an inappropriate use of disciplinary procedures. Many of us have worked closely with Professor Harvey and know that he has always been deeply committed to improving the quality of the student learning experience. To that end he has never been afraid to raise important issues and encourage thoughtful debate. We fear for the future of academic freedom if academic experts in any area are not allowed to express their considered opinions, even in a personal capacity. We firmly believe that academic freedom is a crucial right that must be maintained; free inquiry is not merely a right; it's a necessary element of any system that strives for progress.

Steve Aldred
Matthew Badcock
Professor David Boyd
Dr Joyce Canaan
Veronica Coatham
Matthew Cremin
Dr Haydn Davies
Gary Hazeldine
Professor Ann Hill (NTF; FHEA)
Dr Jane Hill
Professor Howard Jackson
Dave Keefe
Professor Julian Killingley
Anthony Lewis
Barbara McCalla
Alan Mabbett
Dr Bill Madhill
Dr Rob Mawby
Professor Chris Painter
Bill Roper
Professor John Rouse
Professor Douglas Sharp
Greta Shields
Cynthia Slater
Professor Philip Smallwood
Dr George Smith
Dr Neil Staunton
Graham Wright

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

April 25, 2008

Of course they do, don't they all?

HEA draws worldwide criticism over suspension, 24 April 2008, Times Higher Education. By John Gill

Academics from around the world have joined in criticism of the Higher Education Academy following the suspension of its director of research and evaluation. Lee Harvey was suspended from the post, pending investigation, after he criticised the National Student Survey in a letter written in a personal capacity and published in Times Higher Education.

It is understood that the HEA is investigating whether he broke a clause of his contract banning him from writing letters for publication without the academy's clearance.

Dozens of academics, some from as far away as South America, South Africa and Australia, have rallied to Professor Harvey's defence after Times Higher Education reported his suspension. Via posts to the Times Higher Education website and letters to the HEA, many accuse the academy of trampling academic freedom. The suspension was "totally unacceptable", said Chris Rust, a fellow of the HEA. "I would suggest that the academy ... needs all the friends it can get," he added.

John Rouse, dean of law, humanities, development and society at Birmingham City University, said he was "shocked, astonished, appalled" by the suspension. In a letter to Bob Burgess, HEA chairman, he said: "This reflects badly on the HEA's attitude to academic freedom."

Carmen Fenoll, former pro vice-chancellor of the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo, Spain, urged the HEA to rethink its position. "This is not in the benefit of this prestigious institution," she said.

Orlando Albornoz, a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, said: "It is devastating news for scholars living in countries like Venezuela ... I feel sorry about what has happened in this case in Great Britain, which we still look upon as a place of academic freedom."

Catherine Rytmeister, a higher education researcher writing from Sydney, Australia, said Professor Harvey "must be reinstated without delay".

The HEA said it had "full and fair" disciplinary procedures and supported academic freedom.

See: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=401505

Of course they do, don't they all have "full and fair" disciplinary procedures...

April 23, 2008

Did they or did they not... and 'tick box' exercises

No automatic adverse inference for failing to complete discrimination questionnaires

In D’Silva v NATFHE & Others, Mr D’Silva, a university lecturer and member of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) union, claimed the union had discriminated against him on grounds of race in the way it handled his applications for legal assistance in bringing discrimination claims against Manchester Metropolitan University. His complaints were dismissed by the Employment Tribunal. He appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). His appeal included a claim that the Tribunal had refused to draw adverse inferences of discrimination from the alleged failure of the union to fully answer a Race Discrimination Act 1976 questionnaire.

The EAT dismissed Mr D’Silva’s appeal. It held that failure to answer a questionnaire, or indeed to provide other information or documents, does not automatically raise an inference of discrimination. While these are matters from which an inference can be drawn, it held that the drawing of inferences from such failures is not a "tick-box exercise". It is necessary in each case to consider whether, on the facts, the failure in question is capable of constituting evidence supporting the inference that the respondent acted discriminatorily in the manner alleged and, if so, whether, in the light of any explanation supplied, it does in fact justify that inference.

The EAT suggested that if a claimant pursues this point in circumstances where it is obvious that the failings have no bearing on the question of discrimination, he or she runs the risk of being penalised.

From: http://www.mondaq.com and: http://www.personneltoday.com

April 21, 2008

Timing is everything when you are stating the obvious...

On a day that UCU was in court (see: UCU in court) and a major issue relating to academic freedom of expression has been exposed at the HEA - UCU for the time being does not seem to have an opinion on this, what does UCU do? It releases an important report on college staff dissatisfaction. The report itself is worth reading, although there is nothing terribly new. Some highlights:
  • 86% of college teaching staff responding feel they make a valuable contribution to society
  • half do not feel valued by their employers
  • only 22% believe they are rewarded adequately
  • 51% feel they can't achieve a good work-life balance. This compares badly with other workplaces. In the UK as a whole, 66% of employees in all sectors say they can
  • 51% of teaching staff say they're likely to leave FE in the next 5 years
  • less than a third would recommend their college as a good place to work.
And what does Sally say?

'You really have to ask whether talented young people will want to enter, let alone stay, in a profession where dedication and achievement fail to command respect and adequate reward. If the government is not careful, it will find a yawning staffing gap in its skills strategy.

'Learners are very satisfied with their college lecturers. Lecturers deserve the satisfaction that comes from fair treatment, respect and just rewards.

'If the government is not careful... and so we pass the buck to the government after having discovered and stated the obvious when over at THES comments - many from other countries - take on the HEA (a body answerable to Universities UK, i.e. the bosses). What a radical union and how scared HEA must be of UCU! The government is not careful Sally, so what are we going to do about it? Perhaps release another report...

April 18, 2008

Academics criticise HEA for flouting principles of intellectual freedom

The Higher Education Academy has suspended its director of research and evaluation after the publication of a letter in Times Higher Education.

Lee Harvey's letter, which he wrote in a personal capacity, criticised the National Student Survey. Academics have condemned the suspension as a restriction of academic freedom. Times Higher Education understands that Professor Harvey is accused of breaching his contract by writing a letter for publication without HEA clearance. The decision to suspend him was taken by HEA chief executive Paul Ramsden, against whom Professor Harvey had previously lodged a grievance on an unrelated matter.

Earlier in his career Professor Ramsden was involved with the pioneering student experience survey in Australia, a forerunner to the UK NSS. Professor Harvey described the NSS in his letter as a "hopelessly inadequate improvement tool".

Today, in another letter to Times Higher Education, four academics condemn the HEA's handling of the case, which they say is a "breach of academic freedom".

Lyn Fawcett, chair of the University and College Union higher education committee in Northern Ireland, said he would consider quitting as a member of the HEA if Professor Harvey were not reinstated.

He said: "One has to question the integrity of the HEA if they are not prepared to allow someone who is a specialist in an area to have an expert opinion. It also raises questions about not just academic freedom but personal freedom. That an individual should not be allowed to express an opinion in a personal capacity outside of work is a disgrace."

Another fellow of the HEA, speaking anonymously, said: "You don't shut down a debate that has never been had. There's an atmosphere of intellectual terror surrounding this that is indicative of how afraid people are to speak out about anything."

Bernard Longden, professor of higher education policy at Liverpool Hope University, said: "We talk about the need for higher education to be a 'critical community'. Is this the most effective way that it can handle criticism?" Sean Mackney, HEA deputy chief executive, refused to comment on the suspension or the prior grievance between Professor Harvey and Professor Ramsden. He said: "The academy is a strong believer in the freedom of academics to publish and say what they wish about any matter. It would not be proper for me to comment on (this case) further."

However, a member of HEA staff, speaking anonymously, said there was a "great deal of unease" in the organisation, adding: "If, as we understand, the suspension is retaliation to the letter, then it is absolutely ridiculous and actually very damaging to the academy."

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

UCU in court

My three day adjourned case against the UCU starts again in the London Kingsway Tribunal (next to Holborn Underground) at 10 am on Monday the 20th April 2008. If any of you can attend between Mon-Wed we welcome your support.

Please make sure if you attend that you sit on the same side as my Counsel or otherwise it will send the wrong signal of support to the Tribunal.

The case is in regard to the discriminatory rule 5.6 introduced by the UCU in 2006 during the amalgamation of the Union to deny members legal aid for questioning their legal advice.

Mr Wilkin is going to give evidence first followed by the following people Ms Sally Hunt, Mr Paul Mackney, Ms Brenda Kirsch (UCU editor) and Mr Andrew Pike

From received email.

April 17, 2008

Don't let bullies crush your zest

Workplace bullying is often subtle but can destroy a victim's health, confidence and career. Harriet Swain outlines the steps you can take to nip this growing problem in the bud and where to get help.

He's going to make some comment. Or maybe she will, and then they'll all smirk. You're just waiting for it to happen. But maybe it won't. Or maybe it will and they're just having a joke. Maybe they're right - you are paranoid.

The problem with being bullied at work is that it is often subtle, says Matt Witheridge, operations manager at the Andrea Adams Trust, which specialises in workplace bullying. "In isolation, many of the events that make up workplace bullying can be trivial - simply a remark here and there," he says. "The important thing about bullying is its persistence."

P. K., who writes a blog on university bullying, says most academics who are bullied do not realise it until their health suffers or they have lost their job or gone through disciplinary procedures. He cites a checklist of indicators that bullying is taking place, which includes the following: rumours and gossip circulate about the target ("Did you hear what she did last week?"); the target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees; there is a collective focus on a critical incident that "shows what kind of man he really is"; there is emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications; the bullies put a high value on secrecy; the target's real or imagined sins are added up to make something that cries for action.

He warns that even if one or more of these things is clearly taking place, institutions will tend to defend the person accused of bullying because he or she is an employee.

But Witheridge says the worst thing you can do is suffer in silence because by the time you realise there really is a problem it is often too late to do anything about it and you may have already suffered considerably.

He advises getting as much support and advice as you can, including from organisations such as his, from family members, who are likely to be affected by your problems, and from doctors. As well as being able to treat symptoms of stress, many GPs are becoming increasingly aware of how widespread bullying is, he says.

Roger Kline, head of equality and employment rights at the University and College Union, advises keeping a diary of everything that you regard as contributing to the bullying. You should also keep copies of all letters, e-mails and anything else, such as notes of phone calls, that help establish what is going on.

He also suggests talking to your union rep, ideally the one in your own department because he or she may be aware of a pattern of bullying. "There may be other people currently being bullied, or the individual or individuals bullying you may have a history that the rep knows about but you don't," Kline says. "It may be possible to respond collectively." If there is a conflict of interest with the rep, who may be a friend of the bully, for example, you should talk to your branch or local association secretary.

P. K. says that a good union rep may be able to save your job, but it is unlikely he or she will be able to get redress against the perpetrator of the bullying. "Remember, if it went to disciplinary action your colleagues and people you consider to be your friends will think first of their jobs and won't stick their neck out for you," he warns. Nor is there any specific law in the UK against bullying.

But Kline says it is worth checking your institution's policy on bullying and harassment or dignity at work. While he advises against following any procedure without taking advice, it is useful to know what that procedure should be.

Witheridge says that making a formal complaint becomes much easier in an institution that has a good anti-bullying strategy. The strategy should set out who should deal with the complaint, how long it should take and what exactly bullying is.

Keren Eales, spokesperson for the College and University Support Network, says if the bullying can be classed as verbal or physical abuse you may also want to report it to the police, taking with you any evidence.

But a CUSN fact sheet on the topic suggests tackling the problem informally, by speaking to or writing to the person you feel is bullying you or asking someone else to speak to them on your behalf.

Charlotte Rayner, professor of human resource management at Portsmouth Business School, says the informal approach is almost always the best one to take. She says it is important to challenge unacceptable behaviour quickly and gently and not to escalate the situation. If you are not aware of informal ways of handling bullying, such as harassment advisers or mediators, ask your institution because it may prompt them to provide such methods if they don't already have them.

But if it proves impossible to resolve the matter informally, Kline says you need to take advice on formulating a grievance. This will need to set out your concerns and say clearly what you would like done, referring to the bullying and harassment or dignity-at-work policy and reminding management of the agreed timetable.

Alternatively, you could just try to tough it out or move to another area or organisation. P. K. says: "One response is to get out fast before you lose your health and get out when you are not at knives drawn with your manager." If you do decide to stay and fight it out, be prepared for it to take time.

Meanwhile, if you see someone else being bullied, say something, Witheridge urges. "One of the worst things is bystander apathy when people in the same team see what's going on and keep their head down because they don't want to attract similar attention."

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

April 15, 2008

Now there's a thought

HR is like many parts of modern businesses: a simple expense, and a burden on the backs of the productive workers ... They don't sell or produce: they consume. They are the amorphous support services." So wrote Luke Johnson recently in the Financial Times. He went on: "Training advisers are employed to distract everyone from doing their job with pointless courses." Mr Johnson is no woolly-minded professor. He is in The Times Power 100 list, he organised the acquisition of PizzaExpress before he turned 30 and now runs Channel 4.

Why has human resources acquired such a bad public image? Like most groups, those in HR are intent on expanding their power and status, hence the name change from personnel. As personnel managers, they were seen as providers of a service and even, heaven forbid, as being on the side of the employees. As HR they become part of the senior management team, and see themselves as managing people.

My concern is the effect that that change is having on science. The problem with HR people managing science is that they have no idea how it works. They think every activity can be run as though it were Wal-Mart. That idea is old fashioned even in management circles. Good employers know that people work best when they are not constantly harassed and when they feel that they are assessed fairly. If the best people don't feel that, they just leave. That is why the culture of managerialism and audit will in the end do harm to any university that embraces it…

The "unrepentant capitalist" Luke Johnson also said in the FT: "I have radically downsized HR in several companies I have run, and business has gone all the better for it." Now there's a thought.

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

Oh, Kingston, Kingston...

The following is a message received from a current student at Kingston University, which reveals the endemic culture of bullying, and which has extended to infect the lives of students. Names and other identifiers have been deleted at the request of the student, who fears retribution:

"I would like to remain anonymous until at least after I graduate but bullying within Kingston University is not just limited to academic staff. Students particularly postgraduate students are bullied if they raise any grievance about the way that the university is run, some are threatened with suspension from their course. A part time [DEPARTMENT DELETED] professor, [NAME DELETED] I think his name is, has made allegations to his students about the bullying of staff/postgraduate students including to the point that several of them left/dropped out.

The university would often use technicalities to suspend students, one student who had a grievance about the university was suspended for a week because he forgot to update a change in his term time address for example. There is an article in this issue of The River [student newspaper] that claims one student was bullied by her fellow students and when she made a formal complaint she was suspended from her course for a day, the reason being lack of attendance (she wasn't attending because she was getting bullied).

One way to test what I am saying is to make a FOI request for reasons why students have been suspended from the university and watch them either delay or not honour it. It is widespread.

The student union lacks enough independence from the university to deal with this issue. The [NAME OF CLUB DELETED] club was threatened with having its funding removed if it didn't remove one student from it. This often encourages the clubs and societies to take matters into their own hands and encourages student members of these clubs to intimidate members of the club into leaving. Bullying does not only occur among academic staff. It seems to be almost institutional."

April 14, 2008

Staff give sector managers low marks

It is worse when the policies that are supposed to protect you are merely there as window-dressing. As someone suffering from work-related stress and depression who brought a grievance against their line manager for ignoring the health condition and threatening disciplinary action for things that were directly related to the health condition, only to be told by the Dean of the faculty that the issues were essentially "all my fault". I have no faith in any of the management in my institution. They are totally useless, ignore their duty of care to staff, and when real problems emerge, haven't got a clue how to deal with them.

And this is the third institution at which I have seen such poor management, and the second at which I have been subjected to bullying and harassment which management have completely ignored despite the effects on my health and their so-called exemplary policies. Policies are just words on a page. If they are not backed by real effective action, then you might as well have nothing.

Even worse - my union joined in and continues to perpetuate the bullying because I complained to them as well (the perpetrators at one university were all local executive members, so in breach of union rules as well as the employer rules). Kline and his ilk paid no heed to anything I said, so for him now to say that bullying is a problem, is shutting the door long after the horse has bolted. Bullying in higher education is rife and the sooner I get back to the private sector, the better.

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

April 13, 2008

Anonymous said...

Thanks for having this site. In the US, it is almost impossible to do anything legally or otherwise about bullying. We have no contracts or any recourse.

I have my lawsuit going against a physics association headed by a female academic -- only because they reacted differently to bullying based on gender: when men bully, violence is feared, so action is taken.

When women bully, people seem to point to personality flaws in the victim like my employer did with me. Also in my case, where I was a manager of two bullies who mobbed together because they applied for my job but did not get it (I did), the employer said "support staff" (ie women) are naturally emotional and you as their boss have to listen to their venting, but in your office behind the door where it does not bother us!

I agree that some of the women who advanced prior to us have become Queen Bees towards the next generation of women, such as the female who is in charge of the physics society. I wish I understood their or her hostility. It ruined my career.

(sister of physics brothers)

April 12, 2008

More on the serial offender...

Kingston loses tribunal - 20 October 2000 - Phil Baty, Times Higher Education

Kingston University dismissed senior lecturer Agi Oldfield unfairly, giving her an ultimatum to "resign or be sacked" after she made informal complaints of harassment against her line manager and complained about breaches of her contract, a tribunal has ruled.

Ms Oldfield, a principal lecturer at the school of human resources management, resigned from Kingston, but the South London tribunal ruled that she was constructively dismissed. The university "repudiated" her contract by giving her the ultimatum, said the tribunal chair, Mr I. S. Lamb, in his judgment.

In late 1997, Ms Oldfield complained orally to David Miles, dean of the business faculty, saying she felt harassed and bullied by her line manager, Christine Edwards, who had questioned Ms Oldfield's competence.

The tribunal did not adjudicate on the allegations and counter-allegations between Ms Oldfield and Professor Edwards, but found that the difficulties were handled badly, at the expense of Ms Oldfield's career.

The university repeatedly asked Ms Oldfield to withdraw her allegations, she was assigned a new line manager and removed as an MA course director. In June 1998, Ms Oldfield brought a formal grievance, saying she had been "summarily removed" as course director of an MA in breach of her contract.

"The considerations of the continued employment of Ms OldfieldI her role and job title, responsibilities and pursuit or withdrawal of the allegations against Professor Edwards, wereI overlapping with each other," said Mr Lamb in his written judgment.

During the grievance hearing Ms Oldfield was told by personnel director Elizabeth Lanchbery - criticised by the tribunal for being "underhand" - that if the issues could not be resolved, Ms Oldfield might have to be "sacked", Mr Lamb said. Ms Oldfield's grievance was rejected and rejected again at appeal by vice-chancellor Peter Scott.

In October 1998, Ms Oldfield was offered a job at Surrey University, despite an "unfavourable verbal reference from somebody at Kingston", the tribunal said. "By then, Ms Lanchbery had said to Ms Oldfield that it would be best if she accepted the position, because unless she resigned, she would be sacked," said the judgment.

Mr Lamb said: "Up to September (when the job at Surrey came up) Ms Oldfield was pursuing the internal grievance procedure. As she did so, there was a gradually deteriorating background state of affairs relating to her relationship with Christine Edwards, in particular the factor that Christine Edwards questioned her competence.

"(Ms Oldfield) was constantly told to withdraw her allegations, although she was not formally pursuing them... We accept the evidence that the final straw in the course of events was the statement by Ms Lanchbery that the applicant should resign or be sacked," he said.

The university believed "there had been a breakdown of relationships and that Ms Oldfield was behaving unreasonably", said Mr Lamb. "The university did not act reasonably in treating that as a sufficient reason for dismissal.

"What (Ms Oldfield) had done was to pursue the grievance procedures... as she was entitled to do. She was willing to record that she was not pursuing her complaints against Christine Edwards. The university's responsibility in that situation was to find her alternative responsibilities commensurate with her position as a principal lecturer. Instead it adopted the 'take it or leave it' attitude...

"We accept that the effective cause of her resignation was the breach of contract by the (university) and the outright repudiation of her contract by the ultimatum." The tribunal decided unanimously that Ms Oldfield's complaint of unfair dismissal was "well-founded".

April 09, 2008

Human Resources 'Fully Resourced'

Another milestone was reached by our university last week with the news that, following the latest round of appointments, there was now one human resources manager available for every member of academic staff.

"This is an exciting breakthrough," declared Louise Bimpson, our Corporate Director of Human Resources (formerly the Personnel Officer). "Only last week, a survey by Coventry University revealed that university academic staff had the worst perceptions of their managers of any employment sector. What better way could there be to resolve this unsatisfactory situation than by drastically increasing the overall number of managers who can provide management training?"

She went on to tell our reporter Keith Ponting (29) that this latest increase in human resources meant that all academic staff could at last be liberated from their "traditional obsessive concern with teaching and research" and be free to develop their leadership andperformance-management skills, as well as their capacity to harness their endeavours to the strategic goals of the university going forward.

Asked by our reporter if there was any reliable evidence that the employment of ever-larger numbers of human resources staff had done anything whatsoever to improve the performance of individual universities, Ms Bimpson said that "the HR revolution still had a long way to go". "But," she added, "always remember that the Tower of Babel wasn't built in a day."

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

A serial offender?

Beneviste v Kingston University [2006] UKEAT 0393_05_1703 (17 March
2006) http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2006/0393_05_1703.html or

Benveniste v Kingston University [2007] UKEAT 0008_07_2803 (28 March
2007) http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2007/0008_07_2803.html or

Dutt v. Kingston University [2007] UKEAT 0351_06_2408 (24 August 2007)
http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2007/0351_06_2408.html or

April 06, 2008

Ban on [university] student who spoke out on the net

A student who criticised Anglia Ruskin University has been suspended. Disgruntled Naomi Sugai has also been threatened with legal action over her "unfounded" comments on a website.

Naomi posted a video on YouTube complaining about a number of blunders on her £4,750-per-year MA course in management. Her complaints included classes being cancelled without warning and not being able to take advertised modules.

The university has now threatened to sue her over a statement on the site - and warned the 24-year-old security guards will remove her by force if she tries to enter its East Road campus.

Miss Sugai said: "I am really annoyed about this, and I'm not going to take it lying down. The course has not been like they made it sound and, by bullying me more, the university is only making this worse."

She did not remove the offending statements about a member of staff as requested and Steve Bennett, the university's secretary and clerk, warned Miss Sugai: "Should you attend the campus during your suspension, security staff have been instructed to remove you and, if necessary, seek assistance from the police.

"Given the seriously defamatory nature of your comments this matter has also been referred to our solicitors."

Earlier this month, Miss Sugai of Bosworth Road, Cherry Hinton hit out at the "slow and inefficient" university, threatening to report ARU to an independent adjudicator.

The letter from Mr Bennett said: "I wrote to you on March 17 and warned you unless all unfounded allegations were removed from your YouTube site you would be suspended. I regret to note that you have not removed this content.

"I must therefore advise you that you are suspended pending disciplinary (and potentially legal) action against you."

Miss Sugai told the [Cambridge] News she never received a warning about being suspended, and is now taking her own legal advice.

The video has been viewed more than 900 times, and she has been contacted by a number of students with similar concerns.

An earlier letter from Prof Martin Reynolds, pro vice chancellor of the university's Ashcroft International Business School, said: "We would appreciate a response to our request to remove the video. "Its contents are potentially distressing for other Anglia Ruskin students and it undermines the programme you are studying."

After being contacted by the News, Mr Bennett said the suspension was not for complaining, but in response to "serious unfounded allegations against a senior member of staff".

He said: "On March 17, I wrote to the student and asked her to remove the allegations within 48 hours, otherwise she would be suspended forthwith. "As the remarks were not removed, I wrote to her on March 20 informing her that she was suspended pending disciplinary action."

The news comes days after emails encouraging staff to allegedly "bully" students into giving it good ratings in the National Student Survey were leaked to the News.

After propping up the Sunday Times league table, partly due to what vice chancellor Mike Thorne described as "very poor" reviews from undergraduates, he asked staff to advise students positive responses would improve the prestige of their own qualifications. He wrote: "It does occur to me that we need to ensure students are aware of the relation between the grades they give and, thanks to the league tables, the perceived value of their degrees."

Story from: http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk

Check the YouTube video and further comments

April 01, 2008

Workplace bullies and the academy - bullies weren’t exactly the brightest bulbs in the chandelier!

Check out this brief article in the New York Times about bullies in the workplace, their strategies and the toll they take on individuals and the productivity of the organizations they work for. In response to this article’s request to hear stories of workplace bullying, there are 466 comments, and they’re still being posted this morning as I write. (Don’t miss comment #53 from Liz, an attorney and Army Reservist who said she has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder not from her tour of duty in Iraq, but rather from her civililan job!) I read the first one hundred comments, and have noticed some interesting themes:
  1. While careers in medicine and the law are heavily represented in the incidents reported here, the academic workplace is specifically mentioned in ten out of the first 100 complaints: see comments 2, 17, 25, 30, 44, 55, 64, 70, 86, and 96. Yep, folks, read ‘em and weep: Chairs bullying junior faculty, Deans bullying tenured faculty, professors bullying students, and in one case, students bullying a professor, so there’s something for everyone.

  2. The article notes that “a large share of the problem involves women victimizing women. The Zogby survey showed that 40 percent of workplace bullies are women,” and the comments bear this out. Comment 55 from Dana, a graduate student, writes that the faculty member making her life miserable “was awarded her doctorate in the late 1960s, when women had a tougher go of it in higher education. I’m convinced through my experience with her and others that that generation of feminists approach their careers with a grand chip on their shoulders - and take it out on those of us who came in through the next feminist wave of a decade later.”

  3. Just looking at the syntax and writing style of the comments, you can see the toll that workplace bullying takes on people. So many of the comments are in all lower-case letters (people reporting bullying seem to refer to themselves as “i” instead of “I”), and they are full of run-on sentences. I couldn’t read more than 100–my guts were churning and bile was rising in my throat, and there’s only so much rank injustice that a girl can take on a sunny, spring morning!

  4. There are a few commenters who try to jolly the others out of their misery (”try making friends!”), and others who claim that bullying victims are just whiners who can’t take criticism. But, those reactions seem naive on the one hand, and cruel on the other. The clear lesson is that people who are being bullied need to leave those jobs in order to preserve whatever’s left of their health and sanity.

On the question of women bullying other women: I don’t think it’s fair at all to tar a whole generation with that brush–after all, some of the most supportive, nurturing people who have mentored me and many other junior women are from that generation. Until fairly recently, it was only that generation of women faculty who were senior enough to engage in bullying. Sadly, Historiann is familiar with women bullying women–it was considered not a bug, but rather a feature of her former department. The bullying women were “useful idiots” who could be relied on to police junior women; the senior men could then hide behind their skirts and deny that gender bias was an issue. I don’t think this kind of behavior can be pinned on the generation of women who earned their degrees in the 60s and 70s–I’ve seen it in people whose degrees are from the 1980s and 1990s, too. The critical issue is power, not generation, and most regular faculty with 1990s Ph.D.’s are tenured now and therefore have at least a small purchase on power and influence in their departments.

The one advantage that academics have over people in other lines of work is that bullies aren’t as able to affect our prospects for other employment the way that bullying bosses in private industry can. If we keep publishing and maintain connections with supportive scholars outside of our institutions, we can get out of a bad job. We don’t need letters of recommendation from our department chairs–if you’re an Assistant Professor, a letter from a supportive Associate Professor will do nicely to testify implicitly, if not explicitly, that you’re not a troublemaking malcontent but rather an excellent colleage with limitless potential. The only exception to this is if your bully happens to be someone of importance in your field–but this is probably unusual: by definition, people who are important in their field spend their time writing books, working with students, and hobnobbing at conferences with other people important in their field. In general, they don’t have the time, let alone the inclination, to try to mess with someone else’s career. In my experience, the bullies weren’t exactly the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, to put it charitably. They weren’t terribly productive scholars or successful teachers, which is probably why they felt so intimidated by smart young things who were clearly going places. So, they chose to make their post-tenure careers as hall monitors rather than as scholars.

Et vous, mes amis
? Any thoughts as to why the groves of academe are such fertile fields for bullies? (Or, conversely, why academics are such thin-skinned, overly sensistive complainers?) Do you have your own stories to share? Discuss.
From: http://www.historiann.com