September 30, 2008

So much for the joyous academic life

When I first started grad studies, I saw first-hand how the faculty behaved as I was a student rep in the department meetings. I found it astonishing that well-educated and (supposedly) mature adults should behave in such a manner. What made matters worse was that the chairman sat there and did nothing.

Later, when I was teaching for a living, I was a target for administrative abuse myself. Someone in my department took an extreme disliking to me for some reason and began a subtle campaign to push me out, increasing when he became assistant head. When we got a new department boss, the new chap was quickly turned against me by my adversary.

This harassment continued for several years, especially after I added more credentials to my qualifications. The allegations against me became increasingly outlandish, though actual proof of my transgressions were never provided (to protect the students, apparently). Unfortunately, the dean at the time had a tendency to back the department heads, so I was out of luck there. Even the institution's staff association was of little help.

Eventually, I quit, but at a time and in a manner of *my* choosing. I'm sure that I irritated my enemies by doing that. It took me a bit more than two years to rid myself of all the stress built up from that place.

While doing my Ph. D., I locked horns with my supervisor. Over half way through the time allowed to complete my degree, he told me that he wasn't interested in what I was investigating. The remaining time was far from peaceful, but I did finished my thesis, though largely on my own once I developed the key concept of my research topic. I passed my defence and convocated and haven't had any dealings with my supervisor for several years.

I spoke with the university ombudsman about my situation. My choices were:

- continue as before,
- fire my supervisor and find a new one (if one was willing to take me on),
- change topics and possibly put up with more abuse, or
- throw away all the time and effort I put into my degree by quitting.

I chose the first one as one major undertaking at a time was enough for me. I know of other people who were in similar situations and they walked away.

So much for the joyous academic life.


September 29, 2008

Academic Bullies

One professor uses an alias, refusing to disclose his location beyond "the south of England." Embroiled in a lawsuit with his university, he sees a doctor for post-traumatic stress disorder. Another academic whispers into the phone, fearful her colleagues will overhear her. Yet another scholar has left academe altogether to escape the stress that caused her to lose sleep, along with clumps of her hair.

These college professors — and others who share similar stories in the safety of the Internet — blame their troubles on a single phenomenon: the academic bully.

This is no playground bully brandishing fists in search of lunch money. The academic bully plays a more subtle game. He — or, just as likely, she — might interrupt every time you speak in a committee meeting. Or roll his eyes at your new idea. Bullies may spread rumors to undermine a colleague's credibility or shut their target out of social conversations. The more aggressive of the species cuss out co-workers, even threatening to get physical. There is nothing new about this type of academic bullying. What's new is how it's talked about now, and, thanks to the blogosphere, where and how often.

Over time, say experts who study bullying, this kind of behavior in the workplace can lead to serious stress, a dip in productivity, an inability to attract new hires, and in some cases, a dysfunctional work environment. In academe, where tenure allows bad apples to stick around longer, bullying can be particularly debilitating.

"There are high costs, and often there are hidden costs," says M. Sandy Hershcovis, an assistant professor of business at the University of Manitoba, who studies workplace aggression. Her research has shown that victims of bullies often suffer from depression and anxiety, and that they are at an elevated risk of becoming bullies themselves.

Colleges may provide a particularly ripe environment for bullies because campuses are so decentralized, says C.K. Gunsalus, special counsel to the University of Illinois College of Law, where she is also an adjunct professor. Some faculty members abuse the little power they have, whether it is over a graduate student's future, a junior colleague's promotion, or simply anyone whom they view as a threat.

The growing use of adjunct professors, who often lack influence and the protection that tenure can offer, may also encourage academic bullying: Part-time faculty appointments now count for more than 40 percent of the academic work force, and 65 percent of recent appointments, according to an article in the magazine Academe, published by the American Association of University Professors.

And department chairmen, who often lack management training, don't always know how to respond to bullying. That gives the bullies free rein...


The Third Annual Tim Field Memorial Lecture

Saturday 8th Novembr 2008

The organisers warmly invite you to The Third Annual Tim Field Memorial Lecture to be held at Aston University in Birmingham, at 1.45 pm, on Saturday, 8th November 2008.

The event has the full support of Tim's family.

In 2006 we were privileged to have Professor Charlotte Rayner (from Portsmouth University) deliver the first memorial lecture, and, last year, Professors Duncan Lewis and Michael Sheehan (from the newly created Centre for Research on Workplace Behaviours at Glamorgan University) gave a joint presentation. This year's event will be different in format, and we very much envisage that the issues raised and the lessons learned will be applicable across the whole range of occupational sectors.

As in previous year's the event is free (although donations will be most welcome), but this time, as the number of places is limited, admission will be by ticket only.

'Difficult Labour' is an Interactive Theatre Programme, exploring the story of Catherine Lawrence, a midwife, who is experiencing bullying in the workplace. The performance explores Catherine's struggle to understand the pressure she experiences and the increasing desperation which leads her to an ill-judged attempt to collect evidence of her treatment. The performance is followed by a facilitated workshop through which audience members are encouraged to understand better the circumstances which lead to Catherine's crisis and to find positive ways forward for all concerned. Follow-up material will expand on the issues raised, helping promote greater understanding of bullying issues.

The programme has been created through co-operation between representatives of DAWN and OXBOW, John Somers and students from Exeter University's Department of Drama. The production team acknowledges the great help given by a range of individuals in the development of the programme. The Director, John Somers, can be contacted at:

Requests for tickets should be submitted a.s.a.p. to Keith Munday:
and include the following information: your name, preferred postal address for future communications about the event, your telephone and mobile numbers, and your e-mail address.

Any questions you may have can be directed to Keith Munday at the above e-mail address, or on his mobile phone: 07979732037.

September 28, 2008

New study seeks those accused of bullying at work

New research in the University of Adelaide's School of Psychology will examine what happens to managers who have been accused of workplace bullying by their staff.

PhD student Moira Jenkins, who is also a registered psychologist, is carrying out a study of managers accused of bullying their workers to see how they are affected by such accusations.

"Most organisations now have bullying and harassment policies and complaint processes aimed at dealing with inappropriate behaviours such as bullying and harassment. However, evidence suggests that some employees use these complaint procedures to complain about all sorts of workplace conflict, and behaviours that are not necessarily bullying," said Ms Jenkins.

"There are very few studies that have examined how complaints affect the people who have been accused of being a bully, especially managers who often have to keep managing the team while they are under investigation for workplace bullying."

Ms Jenkins is looking for managers who have had a complaint of workplace bullying made against them in the past year to hear their perspective on the accusations, the way the complaint was addressed, how the complaint affected their ability to carry out their job and the support they received. Study participants will be interviewed and asked to fill out a short survey.

Interviewee confidentiality is guaranteed and nothing will identify individuals or workplaces.

"I hope that the results of this study will help organisations better manage workplace conflicts before they become complaints of bullying," said Ms Jenkins. "Hopefully it will also give some guidance on how to best support managers who have allegations made against them."

People interested in taking part in the study should contact Moira Jenkins by phoning 0412 733 453 or emailing

September 27, 2008

Ethics and Education Seminar

Ethics and Education Seminar which is being held on 18 December from 5-7 p.m. at St George's University of London,Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE.

To reserve a place contact Sandra Jago, phone: 020 8725 0196

September 15, 2008

Please do help... [USA]

I am a full prof. I am aware of misconduct, to put it mildly. I went from probably the most preferred faculty member to the most harassed. I did not formally blow a whistle. I face so much hostility from the admin, it cause a devastating physical illness (as can be documented). I am not a trouble maker.

It has gone on for three years, part of which I was on leave seeking medical help. I returned to pure hell. I am popular among the colleagues, and my courses are packed (even though they are hard). I run a doc program and feel very respected in my field. I don't get raises anymore (used to get huge raises that it was almost uncomfortable).

The sad part is, I just love being a prof and love my students. I have a hard time writing these days with the distraction of constant badgering, retaliation, rumors, being held against my will in meetings, asked to sign fabricated papers would compromise my ethics or coerce me into pleading guilty to false charges, or even incriminate me.

The last straw was that I met with ADA, and I already had a small reasonable accommodation for something else. They were very nice, as always. Now they want new documentation even regarding the old accommodation (which is incurable). So, the stress is making this all worse (although I have learned to meditate and deal with A LOT). Will it ever end?

ADA suggested an alternative strategy than the one determined by my doc. This is a major univ. I cannot believe what has gone on. I love being a prof, but not sure it's all it was cracked up to be... not here. I DO NOT want to leave. I like what I made for myself. I need to remain in this geographical location. I asked before, but I will ask again, since I have not made progress. WHAT KIND of LAWYER do I need? How does one find a university/higher ed, ADA, harassment, employment, and grant mismanagement fund atty? I need one and it cannot wait any longer.

The disgraceful, despicable and disgusting employers responsible for the current situation of our colleague above, are more than shame to the human race. One feels the pain and anguish of our colleague. If you live in the USA, perhaps you can offer some help. Email him at:

September 12, 2008

What the government believes...

And in the UK, based on government's lax response to a petition banning SOSR (Some Other Substantial Reason) basis for dismissal, staff who report being bullied or that others are being bullied face dismissal with no recourse, as it is perfectly legal to sack someone if their reporting of bullying 'causes' a breakdown in working relationships.

Here is the petition and their rather lame, but not unexpected response:-

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Protect the rights of all workers in Britain by supporting the passing of legislation outlawing the dismissal of employees on the grounds of “some other substantial reason” (SOSR) in the absence of gross misconduct.”

Details of Petition:

“The EAT decision in Perkin v St. Georges NHS Trust, strengthens the right of employers to dismiss workers on the grounds of “Some Other Substantial Reason” (SOSR). This decision encourages employers to violate the basic British principles of fairness embodied in British employment and human rights law by discriminating freely, and by intimidating potential “whistleblowers” into silence, whilst citing the competent employee’s “difficult” personality. Employers have been able to claim that a “breakdown in working relationships, “caused by” the employee renders a dismissal substantially fair, even where the dismissal has been ruled by a court to have been procedurally unfair (e.g. where the employer is a public body and has violated the employee’s rights under Human Rights Act of 1998). We therefore call for legislation that would remove the vague and easily abused “SOSR” basis for dismissal while retaining the right to dismiss an employee on the grounds of gross misconduct.”

The Government’s response:

Under employment law, dismissal must be for a valid reason and fairly carried out - the five potentially valid reasons are; capability, conduct, redundancy, retirement, that continued employment would breach a statutory requirement. In addition, the law allows for ‘some other substantial reason’, where an employer has a good reason for dismissing an employee which is not one of these five. The legislation has been in force for some thirty years and there is extensive case law to guide the tribunals on what constitutes ‘some other substantial reason’. The Government does not believe that SOSR permits employers to act unfairly.


Are PhD students neglected by their supervisors?

If things had gone according to plan, Paul Jones would be seeking work as a university lecturer. Instead, he is unemployed and trying to pursue a legal action against the university where he failed to complete his PhD.

The 26-year-old claims that his research is in ruins because the School of Business and Economics at the University of Exeter put unreasonable demands on him as a graduate teaching assistant when it placed him in sole charge of a module for final-year students. He claims that the supervision for his PhD was inadequate during the same period and that when he raised his fears of falling behind with his thesis, he was bullied by a lecturer who threatened him over a reference.

The university says that it disputes his version of events and does not accept his complaint, one of an increasing number being pursued by students in the UK. Though it is rare for cases to hit the headlines – most are either dropped or settled out of court with confidentiality clauses – lawyers say that they are most likely to be hired by students on postgraduate courses rather than students on undergraduate degrees, because the postgrads are older and have more to lose.

"It is disturbing to note the extraordinary number of calls we have received from aggrieved students in recent years," says Mike Charles, a partner at Sinclairs, the education law firm that is assisting Jones. "The number is certainly increasing; perhaps unsurprisingly, in view of the tuition-fee increases that result in students having greater inclination to turn to the law when they feel let down."

While pursuing his case through the internal procedures, Jones says that he discovered an email from a senior academic at Exeter warning of the risk of putting a teaching assistant in charge of a final-year undergraduate module at a time when students were becoming "increasingly snotty and litigious".

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, which handles complaints against universities, confirms the trend of increasing postgraduate dissatisfaction. It draws attention in its latest annual report to the proportionately higher number of complaints from graduate students, saying they represent 37 per cent of the workload...

The biggest stumbling block for litigants is being unable to prove inadequate supervision. "If you claim that you suffered loss as a result of negligence on the part of the university then, essentially, you are claiming that the academic involved was professionally negligent and you will have to find another lecturer to back up your claim as an expert witness," he says.

Recent cases have suggested that universities are likely to settle the most viable claims rather than run the risk of larger losses and the publicity of a court case. But they are likely to defend weaker claims to make a stand. Because settlements almost always include a confidentiality clause, that gives the impression that student claims are less successful than they are in practice, he says...

A spokesman for the university said: "It is unusual for graduate teaching assistants to deliver a full course module in the Business School and this would only be contemplated where they displayed a very high level of ability. In Mr Jones's case, he had been involved in delivering aspects of this module for the two previous years."

A hearing chaired by the deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Neil Armstrong, did not accept that unreasonable teaching demands were placed on the student. "It was not unreasonable for a graduate teaching assistant to be asked to teach an entire module and it was not in breach of the university's code of practice," said Professor Armstrong.


September 11, 2008

What is Corporate/Institutional Bullying?

Corporate/institutional bullying occurs when bullying is entrenched in an organization and becomes accepted as part of the workplace culture. Corporate/institutional bullying can manifest itself in different ways:
  • Placing unreasonable expectations on employees, where failure to meet those expectations means making life unpleasant (or dismissing) anyone who objects.
  • Dismissing employees suffering from stress as “weak” while completely ignoring or denying potential work-related causes of the stress. And/or
  • Encouraging employees to fabricate complaints about colleagues with promises of promotion or threats of discipline.
Signs of corporate and institutional bullying include:
  • Failure to meet organizational goals.
  • Increased frequencies of grievances, resignations, and requests for transfers.
  • Increased absence due to sickness. And
  • Increased disciplinary actions.
If you are aware of bullying in the workplace and do not take action, then you are accepting a share of the responsibility for any future abuses. This means that witnesses of bullying behavior should be encouraged to report any such incidences. Individuals are less likely to engage in antisocial behavior when it is understood that the organization does not tolerate such behavior and that the perpetrator is likely to be punished.

From: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries

September 10, 2008

How we cope with pain...

Feeling mistreated can hurt, especially when it comes to the heart (1). An 11-year study of 8000 senior civil servants in London found that those who strongly agreed with the statement "I often have the feeling that I am being treated unfairly" had an increased risk of heart attack (hat tip pharmagossip ).

Out of the 567 people who agreed very strongly with this statement, 51 suffered a heart attack or severe chest pains, known as angina. By comparison, 64 out of the 966 people who felt mild mistreatment had these heart problems. The results appear in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (2,3).

There is growing evidence that despair can have all sorts of ill effects on the body (4, 5). Wrongly suspended and bullied doctors frequently suffer permanent ill health, and many have committed suicide or have experienced myocardial events (6, 7).

Doctors who have been suspended (often for whistleblowing) have a mortality rate of over 2%. This is higher than the mortality rate for open cardiac surgery and is entirely induced by employers. The mortality falls principally into two categories. (a) clinical depression ending in suicide and (b) myocardial infarction. Myocardial infarction is four times more common among suspended doctors than other doctors of the same age and sex. It has been recommended that affected individuals should take low dose asprin to reduce the risk of cardiac events (7).

This posting is dedicated to my pathology colleague, Dr Chris Chapman who died on 4/11/98 at the age of 56. Chris Chapman was a Principal Biochemist at Leeds General Infirmary working in conjunction with Leeds University, was made redundant after alleging corruption and fraud in the research being carried out. He was sacked the day before his 50th birthday to avoid paying him pension. He was re- instated following his legal victory. In a saga characterised by whitewash and obfuscation, inquiries were held to clarify the facts before a number of senior academics were given early retirement and replaced. However, this was too late for Chris.

See also
  • Jean Lennane. The canary down the mine: what whistleblowers' health tells us about their environment [Link]
  • Lennane K.J. "Whistleblowing": a health issue. British Medical Journal, 1993. 307: 667-670 [Link]
  • Yamey G. Editorial: Protecting whistleblowers. Employers should respond to the message, not shoot the messenger BMJ 2000;320:70-71 [Link]
From: Scientific Misconduct Blog: Take good care of yourself - the health hazards of truthtelling.

September 09, 2008

It was the moment of truth, after which they all got back to lying... is designed to help inform the public about political psychology; that is, psychologists violating established codes of ethics to carry out the political agendas of others, especially employers. Political psychology is often used to facilitate workplace mobbing...

When one imagines using mental health professionals to target undesirable individuals, one almost always thinks of totalitarian governments such as the former USSR, China, and Cuba. There is a long and ugly precedent of using mental health professionals in those societies to target politically undesirable people and have them placed in mental institutions involuntarily.

Human rights groups refer to this practice as "political psychiatry."
Victims of political psychiatry are usually people who have filed grievances or complaints against employers or officials, or are union organizers, people who have publicly criticized officials, members of minority religions, and whistle-blowers. Because of reports of the former Soviet Union and China committing political dissidents to mental institutions, the World Psychiatric Association passed the Madrid Declaration in 1996 declaring that "all forms of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment on the basis of the political needs of governments are forbidden." Unfortunately, no such declarations have been made for or by psychologists to condemn political psychology...

In this case, an SIUC faculty member was mobbed by the university administration with the help of some of her departmental colleagues because they disliked her opinions, which were expressed through grievances, guest columns and letters to the editor, speeches, union activism, and by joining in a suit with other faculty members against the board of trustees to protest the firing of a popular chancellor.

As a result, her office was moved out of the department and her mail was stolen. Frequent whispering campaigns were held in the hallways by colleagues who quickly scattered behind slammed doors when she was sighted. She was unjustly blamed for negative tenure votes and missing department materials. The nameplate on her door was vandalized and she learned that she was referred to as "the little twerp" by some.

The university administration then hired a licensed psychologist who, the faculty member was told, would conduct counseling and conflict resolution for her deeply divided department, but who instead wrote a report for the administration indicating that the faculty member was destructive and in need of discipline and professional help.

The administration disseminated the psychologist's report to over 20 people on the campus.
In this case, the psychologist made an unsubstantiated assessment of the faculty member based solely on what the faculty member's "enemies" had said about her...

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."


September 07, 2008

Legal help with your grievance against your Uni - UK

Through talking to a number of academics, the following seems to be very good source of legal help for victims of workplace bullying:

There could well be more, but at this stage the above organisation is doing a very good job, and they are very busy...

September 06, 2008

An important test...

The case of Howard Fredrics v Kingston University will be an important test of the Education Reform Act 1988's provisions that guarantee the rights of academics to challenge accepted wisdom without fear of losing their jobs. The right to report quality of service issues, as stipulated in contractually mandated staff regulations, and to hold minority viewpoints is at stake in what promises to be a landmark case to be heard in the London South Employment Tribunal in January 2009.


I have a dream...

Every day I wonder what would happen were all the targets of mobbing and/or bullying 'within an inch of their sanity' to find a safe way to 'come out' and speak the truth to power. Silence serves only to empower bullies, as the quotes above remind us.

Why then are we silent? What do we fear? Among other things, public shame, disgrace, and humiliation; the loss of careers, livelihoods, reputations, and family homes; the hypocrisy, indifference, and finger-pointing ignorance of colleagues; the devastating impact of media publicity on our spouses, children, relatives, and friends.

I had a dream last night: a reality television programme featuring targets on this site and their individual stories, especially those involving elimination rituals, with television cameras recording each day leading up to the event.

Or perhaps a series of BBC special reports on mobbing in UK universities--the recent TUC results would seem reason enough to launch a full-scale UK investigation. The series could be called 'Halls of Shame'. Each episode would feature a different target in a different university. Where necessary or requested, individuals could be anonymised (but with facts of the matter scrupulously and confidentially verified to the BBC).

Think of the outrage and scandal that would ensue from the exposure of evidence that the UK's greatest universities are frittering away public money to cover up private scandals.

True, I talk of dreams . . . and perhaps of nothing as well. Academics, after all, are private creatures, hardly prone to the egotism of public displays, particularly when their self-esteem resides in the gutter in the aftermath of mobbing. All we really want is for the insanity to stop and return to our former lives of quiet contemplation, teaching, and research on the subjects of our passions and expertise.

There must, though, be some way--a powerful way--to train a media spotlight on the problem and thereby illuminate one of the darkest secrets in the hallowed groves of UK academe.

Rosa Luxembourg

From the depths of despair...

People left my faculty in my prestigious university destroyed by their experiences and yet the world goes on, it does not stop when people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity, when people are raped murdered, but the crime has happened and even though the sun is shining and people are going about their daily business the target waits in agony for justice to be done.

When people are raped murdered but the crime has happened, and even though the sun is shining and people are going about their daily business the target waits in agony for justice to be done.

People left my faculty in my prestigious university destroyed by their experiences and yet the world goes on it does not stop when people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity...

When people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity...

When people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity...

When people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity...

When people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity...

When people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity...

When people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity...

When people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity...

When people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity...

When people are bullied to within an inch of their sanity...

The crime has happened...

FUCK YOU BASTARDS, she sweetly shouted...

Aphra Behn

September 05, 2008

More than 3 million bullied at work, study claims

One in seven people admits to being bullied in their current job, while one in five says that bullying is an issue at their place of work, according to new research.

A YouGov study for the TUC found that bullying is most prevalent in the private sector, where 19% of people said that they were targets, compared to 12% in private companies and just 8% in the voluntary sector.

In addition, professional and associate professional workers are the most likely to be bullied; something the TUC believes is due to the large numbers of these workers in public sector jobs such as teaching and NHS positions.

The research also revealed that men (16%) are more likely to be bullied than women (12%). It suggests that those in middle-ranking jobs (earning £20,000 to £60,000) and the older age groups (45 to 54-year-olds) are most in the firing line and report the most bullying.

The TUC says the figures mean that 3.5 million people across the country are facing workplace bullying. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "This level of bullying at work is completely unacceptable. Every organisation needs to have an anti-bullying policy, and every manager should ensure that there is zero-tolerance of bullying either by line managers or workmates."

Nice words from Mr Barber, but... sorry, not good enough... anti-bullying policies mean nothing and are worthless unless organisations become accountable for their actions to external bodies that have power to impose penalties. Certainly in the context of HEIs such policies mean nothing... NOTHING...

September 04, 2008

Dismissal hearing in employee's absence

Employers who are sceptical about an employee's GP signing them off sick just before a disciplinary hearing should obtain their own medical evidence before pressing ahead in the employee's absence. In William Hicks & Partners v Nadal, the employee's GP had written confirming that, due to stress, she was unfit to attend the disciplinary hearing or put her case in writing. The employer did not accept this as it was aware she had been conducting negotiations, including with a potential new employer.

The manager decided to proceed to dismiss her in her absence, even though she had been off sick for under two weeks and was due to see her doctor again the next day. The EAT ruled the dismissal unfair: it was unreasonable to ignore the GP's evidence, given that the manager was not medically qualified, had not seen the employee and had not put the conflicting evidence to the GP (or any other doctor). It would only have been reasonable to reject the GP's views if the employer had compelling evidence that the employee was pulling the wool over her GP’s eyes or authoritative contrary medical evidence about her fitness.

In contrast, an employer may be able to conduct disciplinary proceedings in the employee’s absence where their refusal to attend is unreasonable. In Balogun v Centre West London Buses, EAT, dismissal was fair where a union representative had advised the employee not to attend because he unreasonably considered there to be a breach of procedure.

The circumstances of these cases pre-date the statutory dismissal procedures. Employers may now be able to argue that it is "not practicable" to comply with the procedure within a reasonable period if the employee is likely to be unfit to attend a meeting for a long period. Medical evidence is likely to be key, but the employer's obligations under the statutory procedure will fall away if an employee fails to attend where it was reasonably practicable to do so. Employers will also need to consider reasonable adjustments to the procedure for disabled employees, such as holding the meeting away from the employer's offices or allowing a wider category of companion.

September 03, 2008

About academic freedom...

This article raises two critical issues regarding academic freedom. First, following the 1988 Education Reform Act, UK academics no longer have tenure. Consequently, they may be unwilling to report academic fraud and misconduct for fear that they will loose their jobs. On the 17 June 2008 the BBC Website featured an article entitled "Whistleblower Warning on Degrees", in which a UK academic at a world-famous UK university, stated that postgraduate degrees are awarded to students lacking in the most basic language skills (See at

Following from this article, the BBC received hundreds of emails from students and academics at other universities confirming that this practice was widespread (see at However as was reported in a subsequent BBC article: "Students: Customers or learners?" (see at most of the academics who reported this academic corruption to the BBC had to do so anonymously, as they do not have tenure, and hence do not have academic freedom and were afraid to speak out freely about the decline in standards.

When compared with other EU states, the UK has the lowest level of protection for academic freedom (see at: which means that corruption is less likely to be reported in the U.K., than in other EU states.

Second, in the majority of nations both academic freedom and, more importantly, its limits, lack a precise definition, which means that the concept is open to abuse –such as false reporting of data, or unjustifiably claiming authorship of academic publications which were written by others. Consequently, in a forthcoming journal article in Higher Education Policy, I have contended that a working definition of academic freedom is required which goes beyond traditional discussions of the rights of academic staff and specifies, not only the rights inherent in the concept, but also its accompanying duties, necessary limitations and safeguards.

With respect to the dissemination of research results, I have argued that “In exercising academic freedom, staff must ensure that, as agreed by their academic peers and relevant academic associations and professional bodies, their research outputs:

(A) accurately and honestly report the full results of their research and are not subject to plagiarism, forgery, misleading manipulation or partial reporting of research data and results;
(B) acknowledge fully and fairly the relative direct and indirect contributions of co- and joint authors, academic colleagues and other people and organisations (including sponsors) involved in the research;
(C) do not compromise the anonymity of research participants, co-researchers and sponsoring bodies, breach personal or institutional confidentiality, or infringe intellectual property rights agreements.” The adoption of such a definition among universities would do much to curb the (apparently) rising tide of fraud in academia.

In a recent article in Higher Education Quarterly, Professor Sir David Watson posed the question “Does Higher Education Need a Hippocratic Oath?”, the answer would seem to be “yes – and as soon as possible”

By Terence Karran, from:

September 02, 2008

Some quotes...

• Gagging clauses and payouts of public money should be barred by law. If the institution can't withstand the public scrutiny of a Tribunal proceeding they ought to get out of the business of education.

• Self-regulation is a joke. There IS no self-regulation -- only self justification. Until the government steps in and/or all universities are privatized so as to give up the illusion of accountability, bullying will continue to vex academics in the UK.

September 01, 2008

Influence of British academe? ; )

Influence of British academe? ;)

I know it happens everywhere, but I am just gobsmacked by the number of cases I have just heard of quite by accident. Three different people in the same small field in three different UK departments? In my own RG uni I know of at least three mobings in addition to my own and three other serious bullyings. All women as it happens. All cases I am aware of involved the withdrawal, retirement and/or removal (ie silencing by comp agreement) of the victims. My Union rep told me he has seen this over and over again and most people sign on the dotted line and don't fight back, so lord knows what the REAL numbers are.