February 07, 2009

Conduct unbecoming...

In a letter to the Times Higher Education (THE) ('Conduct unbecoming', 5 February 2009) the three authors raise the question of 'the integrity of your magazine'. As indicated by the comments below I, too, wonder whether this is a question that needs to be explored or discussed in the public domain.

I am aware that in 2008, a few months before the University of Leicester was given the THE award of 'University of the Year' - a category for which the THE editor, Ann Mroz, was one of the judges - the THE had received information indicating less than respectable results of staff surveys at the University of Leicester over the previous four years. Some of those results were worse (in percentage terms) than data published by the THE in relation to similar issues at other institutions, for example, the issue of bullying of staff. Yet the THE did not publish the Leicester results, or a letter to the THE in which reference was made to those results.

Since October 2008, when the University of Leicester received the THE award, the THE has included more 'promotional' material relating to that University in its magazine - including in the 'Campus round-up' pages in its edition of 5 February 2009. In those pages, the reader is told that staff are to be given an extra day's holiday this calender year 'in recognition of their contribution towards [the University being given the THE award].' The Vice-Chancellor, Bob Burgess, is quoted as saying that 'the national accolade... is a testament to the very high standing of the university.' The content of this latest material in the THE might lead a cynical reader to wonder whether the University of Leicester is preparing the ground for an application for the THE's forthcoming 'Leadership & Management Awards', for which the editor of the THE, Ann Mroz, will again be one of the judges.

I would like to suggest three questions:

1) Does the THE's apparent enthusiasm for including 'positive' information about the University of Leicester - even when the THE has received negative information (which may indicate an even worse position in respect of the treatment of staff than that highlighted by the THE in relation to other institutions) - add to concerns about the 'integrity of the magazine' or its imprtality or its need to keep the public interest at the top of the agenda?

2) Is the THE now in effect a public relations agency for the University of Leicester?

3) Do the THE criteria for choosing the 'University of the Year' exclude data or questions about the very important issue of the treatment of staff, to include matters such as bullying and suicide or attempted suicide [of staff]?



Anonymous said...

Taken from bullied blogger

I am an ex Leeds Met staff who probably would still be there if it were not for the bullying and the lack of collegiate decision taking. After many tortuous negotiations, I had tears in my eyes when I decided that I would go... A curious fact was that the VC, a person who was strong on ethics and morale did not always apply these principles, as his interaction with certain staff seems to demonstrate. Suspicion, lack of trust, strong underhand techniques were used to get what the VC had ordered in the privacy of his office. An earlier comment about senior management and their collusion to the bullying culture is more worrying. A bullied senior management or even middle or junior manager will very likely turn into a bully himself or herself.
How will this culture be changed? Will the senior management, turned into bullies, be asked to resign? Where will it stop?

Aphra says:

I am a member of staff at a prestigious university.

I too believe that I have been bullied...

I have taken out grievances which I feel are met with silence and denial... by the senior management and by the governors...

Other staff at the university have taken constructive dismissal... because they believe they were the target of wpb...

...our stories cannot be told in the public domain yet...

...yet we listen to the stories that are seeping out with a feeling of silent satisfaction that the cracks are staring to appear...

... thanks to the efforts of those who are prepared to stand up to our professors who refuse to address the issues themselves...

..and what is UCU's role in all of this Sally?

...why do the union reps in my university ignore my emails?

...why the silence?

In solidarity

Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

There is one thing and one thing only that bullying universities understand. That is bad PR. Whatever actions that can be taken to expose the bullying through websites and through Tribunal cases is what will yield action. But the measures must be sustained and incessant for them to achieve the desired goals. They cannot be permitted to enjoy a moment's peace.