June 20, 2024

Fewer leaders, more leadership

 ...Much of the complaint levelled at university leaders stems from common (and often hyperbolic) assessments of their excessive remuneration; their lack of moral authority, ethical integrity, compassion, empathy, and care for others; their non-consultative crisis-management model of governance; and their appropriation of universities as personal legacy and vanity projects. They are also associated with the normalisation of exploitative and precarious labour practices; an epidemic of staff bullying, harassment, and discrimination (habitually by managers they are seen to protect); and the perpetuation of structural inequalities within universities. As if such accusations were not enough, they are also blamed for indecision and apathy not only in the face of government aggression and policy hostility, but also in defending the value proposition of the university as a public good and in responding to challenges of digital disruption and financial vulnerability. When viewed as absentee landlords, the contribution of university leaders, in respect of substantive leadership, is made further hard to ascertain or confirm.
However, if leadership is found wanting within universities, it is not just among those in positions of apex authority. The problem is more diffuse and deep-rooted. Notwithstanding, it has culminated in a blame game and villainisation of university leaders that oversimplifies and fails to redress a systemic failure of leadership within universities; the reasons for which are polymorphous...

April 23, 2024

Shrouded in secrecy: how science is harmed by the bullying and harassment rumour mill


"...Academia continues to struggle with bullying and harassment, despite social protest movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter drawing attention to it. According to Nature’s 2021 global salary and job satisfaction survey, 27% of the 3,200 self-selecting respondents said they had observed or experienced discrimination, bullying or harassment in their present position, up from 21% in 2018. In Nature’s 2022 graduate student survey, 18% said that they had personally experienced bullying, down from 21% in 2019. And in last year’s survey of postdoctoral researchers, 25% reported experiencing discrimination and harassment.

These behaviours create unsafe spaces in academia — particularly for women and minority groups — that reinforce inequalities1drive researchers out of academia and can even put people at risk of physical harm2.

Because misconduct investigations are usually shrouded in secrecy, colleagues are often left to base their responses on rumours and hearsay, and unsure how to interact with an accused peer.

There are also several good reasons for closed investigations, including various competing interests around privacy and due process, many of them employment-law protections. Furthermore, survivors of harassment might not want their cases publicized, and those accused might want to defend their case without being tried in the court of public opinion first.

“Harassment is actually not an individual issue,” says Anna Bull, who is based in York, UK, and is the director of research at the 1752 Group, a UK organization that studies and advocates against sexual misconduct. “It is a community issue.”

...There are no definitive statistics on either the prevalence or the extent of confirmed findings of harassment and discrimination in academia. But, in a 2018 report that summarized studies on sexual harassment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine estimated that more than half of female faculty members and staff have encountered or experienced sexual harassment. In a 2022 survey of more than 4,000 self-selected early- and mid-career researchers in Brazil, 47% of women had experienced harassment at work. Only a small fraction of reported incidents will result in formal disciplinary action. Of those that result in a finding of misconduct, an even smaller number will be made public.

...Total transparency about bullying and harassment cases can also be problematic, because many survivors might not want to disclose what happened to them, says Mark Dean, chief executive of Enmasse, a workplace behaviour-change consultancy company in Melbourne, Australia.

“There’s a reasonable chance that an unwanted announcement will further traumatize an individual,” he says, adding that respecting a survivor’s wishes is fundamental, and should inform any action. The complainant might want to put the matter behind them or they might fear other forms of career-damaging retaliation. Although many colleagues might guess who the complainant is after a suspected harasser leaves, this can be less traumatic than a public announcement, Dean says..."


April 09, 2024

What Makes Narcissists Tick - Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)


...Many, if not most, narcissists get away with bullying, slander, calumny, and abuse (even as prosecutable offenses) their whole lives. How? It's easy:

• make the abuse so outrageous people cannot see why anybody would do such a thing 

• destroy the victim's credibility in advance. 

No one does the things a narcissist does without thinking about the possible consequences. So, they are going to think up ways to avoid those consequences, too.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you want to get away with abusing someone, you first launch a pre-emptive attack on their character, so that nobody will believe them when they soon complain about what you are doing to them…

Everybody knows that when somebody defends himself from accusations with accusations, the crowd always believes the one who accused first and views the defendant as the attacker. This is irrational, because the initial accuser is the attacker and there is no more reason to believe one party than the other.

So, people don't do this in good faith. Indeed, the more preposterous the initial accuser's accusations, the more firmly people believe them! They do this out of self interest, because the return allegations make them look bad for eagerly swallowing the first accuser's preposterous and juicy lies whole. 
All con artists are thus protected by the pride of those they con.

The narcissist commits moral mayhem by destroying the victim's reputation and credibility, so that nobody will believe her about him. His description of her is projection, a perfect description of himself... Nobody will even listen to her. Thus, the narcissist reduces her to a hapless and helpless state.

Narcissistic bullies in the workplace, especially as administrators in nonprofit institutions, are notorious for doing this. Their total destruction of the victim's life is so willful and wanton that it can sometimes only be viewed as a deliberate attempt to drive him or her to suicide. And all too often it does…

Attention is a value judgment. We pay it only to things we deem worthy of it. So, by treating others as unworthy of any regard, Narcissus is acting as though they are beneath notice, insignificant and infinitely less important than all-important him. He pays no more regard to them in what he does than you pay to bug you step on while crossing the street. They are nothing; he is everything.

This is how he compensates for that demeaning value judgment his narcissistic parent imprinted on his soul. This is how he edits the shameful image of himself he saw reflected in that parent's contemptuous eye. In other words, he does to others what that parent did to him. Since that's what made that parent a god, that's what makes him a god.

How does he enact this fiction? By treating you like dirt. And by maligning you behind your back. You could define a narcissist as someone who likes to treat others like dirt and ruin their reputations.

This is the game a narcissist plays, in a nutshell. Because he is an emotional imbecile (i.e., mentally of pre-school-age maturity).

The only people he doesn't abuse this way are those he doesn't dare abuse. Or those he can aggrandize himself by association with. Or those he can con and is setting up for a con job. Like psychopaths, narcissists view others as but objects, material to exploit for their own aggrandizement…

Narcissists are predators, but many people fail appreciate the meaning of that term, letting it in one ear and out the other...

Being predators puts narcissists in a special class with psychopaths, that class of people who don't wish you well, no matter how friendly their facade — that class from which sexual predators and all other kinds of predators come…

They're regulating, manipulating your reactions. But you aren't like them. Your reactions come from within. So, what are they ultimately regulating and manipulating? Your thoughts. Manipulation is mind control.

Manipulation is a subtle thing. So subtle that we are usually unaware of being manipulated, unless the manipulator blows it and breaks the spell. So, manipulators are putting thoughts into our heads that we think are ours. A very dangerous thing.

Since a narcissist isn't acting on normal human premises, since all he is doing is playing you for the reaction he wants, truth is irrelevant. Truth or lies — it's all the same to him. Whichever works. Usually that's lies.

It would be more correct to say that there is no such thing as truth to a narcissist. Because there is no such thing as truth when playing Pretend. That's why narcissists and psychopaths beat lie detector tests...

Psychopaths are known to get so good at manipulating people that, by the time they're teenagers, they routinely fool and manipulate mental healthcare professionals, judges, prison officials, parole boards, and social workers who know they are psychopaths, are on the lookout for attempts to manipulate them, and should be immune to manipulation.

It isn't a matter of intelligence: it's a matter of practice, experience. This is because most of what transpires in interaction happens too quickly to think it through…

Don't trust an institution or organization to filter out the personality disordered on the road to the top. Indeed, narcissists have great climbing skills!

Narcissists are expert at tearing down whoever is above them on the ladder of success. That's what narcissists do, nonstop, all their lives, because that's what narcissism is. They get very good at it, because it's an aspect of the disease, an aspect that is more a benefit than a curse in society. In fact, they get so good at climbing over those they throw down that they come out smelling like a rose, because nobody even knows who instigated the talk that destroyed that person…

What's more, narcissists have no compunctions about exploiting and tearing down their betters, because they have no empathy, no conscience. Another big advantage over normal people.

Nor do they have any compunctions about "getting tough" with their subordinates and firing people. They love doing that, because that's what narcissists do — vaunt themselves on others by bullying whomever they can. It's an aspect of the disease. And it's an asset, because it makes them look like good "tough" managers of personnel.

Narcissists are shameless but subtle self-promoters, expert at carving out the perfect (false) image for themselves. Yet another big advantage.

In fact, being for looks only, they see no reason to work for credit or credentials, so they just fake it whenever possible. They may cheat their way through college or buy a degree from a diploma mill or fake their credentials altogether. On the job they steal the credit that belongs to others…

I should think that a narcissist would not be at home in a smart and sophisticated big business with competent personnel managers, one that measures job performance accurately by objective metrics. Most of the narcissists I have known were in the "helping professions," particularly education. Little real accountability and abundant means to fake it.

Among those who were teachers that I have known or heard about, I noticed a peculiar similarity. They avoided accepting any position that would set them up as the responsible party and a target for criticism. For example, they would come up with excuses for why they could not fill a vacant head-coaching position. They preferred to call the shots from behind the scenes as a "humble" assistant coach, who manipulated the head coach.

…This is why narcissistic bullies in the workplace are a particular problem in private nonprofit institutions.

…In fact, the "helping professions" in general attract more than their share of narcissists: little real accountability and plenty of ways to fake it. All you have to do is fool people: you never have to prove that you are doing a good job.

…No one wants others to see them as bad. Moreover, that's the kiss of death to a predator, because it's like a repellant that warns potential prey to mistrust and stay away from him. Indeed, if you were a malignant narcissist, what would be your biggest fear?

Exposure, right? You're like a vampire to whom the light of day is lethal. Your greatest fear would be the same as that of any hungry, stalking predator — exposure.

You'd live in constant fear of people finding out that you're a wolf beneath your sheep's clothing, that you just use people, that you want to take away anything they have that you don't have, and that you will vandalize their image to improve your own. You'd live in constant fear of them learning the shocking truth about your past exploits, about the many you've used and trashed in your wake. You'd live in constant fear of people discovering, not just what you do for a moral living, but whom you do it to.

Since narcissists are such expert con artists, how do you spot them? …Here are eight red flags:

• puts on a conspicuous display of goodness and kindness
• damages the images of most others
• has a history of past upheavals
• hated for mysterious reasons by people close to them
• exhibits unnatural and perplexing behavior — backwards reactions to things
• is a control freak, trampling privacy/boundaries
• is extremely self-absorbed
• has a hostile reaction to attention and credit given others

…If you know a narcissist's history, you will usually see a track record of mysterious upheavals in his life. He suddenly up and moves to a different school or job in a different town every few years.
 That is, every time the good angels in his Pathological Space start comparing notes, get his number, and become enraged.
From: What Makes Narcissists Tick - Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

March 31, 2024

Wolverhampton University's Chief Operating Officer, Samantha Waters, Formerly Samantha Gainard, is at it again

 It has come to light that Samantha Waters, the Chief Operating Officer, formerly known as Samantha Gainard, has a history marred by controversy. This raises serious questions about her conduct and leadership at the University. 

In a previous incident where Waters, then Samantha Gainard, was suspended from her role as Dyfed Powys Police's head of legal services following allegations of an affair with the force's married deputy chief constable and questionable payments to her ex-husband's law firm.

(see https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3504259/Police-legal-director-accused-affair-married-deputy-chief-constable-suspended-payments-ex-husband-s-law-firm)

Despite her past indiscretions, Waters has managed to climb the ranks, now holding a senior position of authority within the institution.

Upon joining the University of Wolverhampton, Waters made a deliberate effort to rebrand herself, shedding her previous identity as Samantha Gainard. This strategic move was accompanied by a noticeable change in image, perhaps in an attempt to distance herself from the scandal that plagued her when she worked at Dyfed Powys Police.

However, recent events have brought Waters' past back into the spotlight, raising questions about her fitness for her current role. As the University's Chief Operating Officer, Waters holds significant responsibilities, including oversight of whistleblowing procedures, safeguarding protocols, and crucially, financial affairs.

It is this last point that has raised the most eyebrows among the university community. Waters wields considerable power over the institution's purse strings, a fact that seems incongruous given her past missteps. How could someone with a history of controversy and allegations of impropriety be entrusted with such crucial responsibilities?

Moreover, while there is no direct evidence of a connection, it is notable that the University of Wolverhampton finds itself in significant financial debt, reportedly exceeding £100 million. Waters, in her position of oversight, would undoubtedly have some influence on the university's financial decisions and strategies.

The irony of the situation is palpable. A figure with a tarnished past now holds the keys to the university's financial stability and integrity. The concerns among students, staff, and stakeholders are not unwarranted, as Waters' track record raises legitimate doubts about her ability to lead effectively and ethically.

Calls for transparency and accountability have resurfaced, with many demanding a thorough examination of Waters' actions and decisions within the university. The specter of her past indiscretions looms large, casting a shadow over her current role and the institution as a whole.

As the University of Wolverhampton grapples with these revelations, the need for clarity and reassurance grows more urgent. The decision-makers must address these concerns head-on, ensuring that the institution's integrity and financial well-being remain steadfast in the face of controversy. Until then, Samantha Waters' ascent to a senior position within the university remains a subject of scrutiny and unease.

University of Wolverhampton in Chaos as IT Hack Unveils Deeper Troubles

The University of Wolverhampton, already at the bottom of all league tables, now finds itself in a darker place after an IT hack crippled its systems, throwing students and staff into chaos and confusion. What's more alarming is the cover-up and misinformation campaign led by the university's Chief Operating Officer, Samantha Waters, as the true extent of the crisis remains a mystery.

It has been a difficult four weeks since the initial breach, and yet, half of the university's critical systems are still down, plunging the campus into a state of dysfunction. Students are left without reliable internet access, cashless food outlets are paralyzed, and classrooms are disconnected from the network, forcing lecturers to return to online learning.

The most disconcerting aspect of this situation is the University's attempt to sweep the severity of the situation under the rug. Samantha Waters, the supposed beacon of assurance, has been caught in a web of incompetence, cluelessly parroting that "everything is okay" while students and staff are left in the dark.

Waters is ruthlessly silencing anyone who dares ask questions about the crisis. Questions about a potential data breach and whether the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has been notified are met with distraction and then exclusion from vital conversations. Staff and students are wondering if there is something more sinister lurking beneath the surface?

To add insult to injury, the University announced they had acquired naming rights for "the Halls," a long-cherished music venue in the heart of the city. This move reeks of desperation and misplaced priorities, especially considering the university's dire financial condition, They were over £100m in debt, and as a result many academics have 'disappeared' over the last year following redundancy due to their areas being cut - thanks to the efforts of John Raftery, who came in as the hatchet man and then left under a cloud himself.

"It's an insult to injury," said one student, who wishes to remain anonymous. "We're struggling to attend virtual lectures, access basic services, and they're spending our money on stupid vanity projects?"

If they had any idea of the venue's historical significance and its deep roots within the local community, they wouldn't have dared to tarnish its legacy.

As the University of Wolverhampton grapples with this IT breach and a leadership seemingly out of touch with reality, students and staff are left to deal with things without compensation or the real facts. What little was left of its reputation is now marred by even more incompetence and insensitivity.

March 29, 2024


Homosocial reproduction, a concept introduced by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, refers to the tendency of corporate managers to select individuals who are socially similar to themselves for hiring. This phenomenon highlights how individuals in positions of power often replicate their social characteristics in the selection of new members, contributing to the maintenance of existing power structures within organizations.

March 24, 2024

How sacked whistle-blower Susanne Täuber’s career fared after she spoke out

Denied promotion, Täuber describes what happened to her after she publicly challenged her university’s gender-equity policy.

I began a position as a gender-equality researcher at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 2009, achieving tenure in 2015. I was studying factors that undermine the effective implementation of policy into practice. In 2018, after being passed over for promotion, I lodged an official complaint about gender bias. The following year, I argued that the university’s gender-equity policy jarred with my actual experiences at work.

I was dismissed on 7 October 2022. On 8 March last year — International Women’s Day — a district court judge ruled that my dismissal was justified. The ruling referred to a “permanently disturbed working relationship”, but also stated that the university “played an important, if not a decisive role” in creating it.

My Court of Appeal hearing was in November 2023, and I found out in January that I had lost. For me, the appeal was important in getting clarity, for thousands of academics in the Netherlands, as to whether or not they can safely publish their research, especially if it is critical of their institutions.

Sadly, the verdict provides no closure on the protection of academic freedom. But, because my case drew so much attention at the time — including a sit-in by students and a petition signed by more than 3,600 academics around the world calling for my reinstatement — I can now draw on a global network of colleagues who have gone through similar experiences. A fundraiser organized on my behalf by Stichting Inclusive Action North, a Groningen-based social-justice alliance, was an immense relief. I wish that every person affected by bullying had access to such a financial lifeline.

I have worked with academics from around the world to conceive of ways to tackle the censorship and related problems that are increasingly faced by academics. I participated in the Academic Freedom Under Attack webinar series last September, organized by higher-education researcher Carlos Azevedo at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK, and critical-management scholar Ronald Hartz at Ilmenau University of Technology, Germany. Hartz was among a group of academics made redundant in 2021 by the University of Leicester, UK. I have also been invited by the Radboud Gender & Diversity Studies and the Radboud Women Professors Network in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, to deliver the keynote speech for International Women’s Day this year. Alongside such public events, I regularly meet with people who have been targets of discrimination, harassment and power abuse in academia, and I try to support others who are going through similar experiences.

Academia is a system that desperately clings onto preserving the power and privilege of a happy few. Since my dismissal, I have not done paid work. I doubt that moving to another European country to seek employment would do the trick. All over Europe, academics face the same problems. The factors that undermine academic freedom are present everywhere: the steep hierarchy and power differentials, the dearth of tenured positions, the structural workload being handed down to precariously employed, underpaid and undervalued academics, the intellectual and labour exploitation of the most-vulnerable academics and the push by universities to silence criticism...

...What happened to me taught me more about my area of expertise than any amount of books and articles could ever have. My case was also mentioned last month when the European Parliament published its 2023 Academic Freedom Monitor of European Union Member States. The monitor notes “concerns for a potential chilling effect on academics wishing to address issues of management or other controversial issues”.

My advice for others would be to take a long hard look at the academic environment they’re in and to trust their gut feeling. I doubted my experiences and the accounts of other victims for years, always thinking, “it cannot be that bad, it cannot be that biased”. This self-doubt was more taxing than what came after — the crystal-clear realization that this is a rigged system. So, if you can: don’t waste time doubting yourself. Walk away and take your bright mind to a place where it will be valued.

March 20, 2024

Counteracting deliberate ignorance of academic bullying and harassment

...According to a 2019 synthesis of 70 empirical studies from 20 countries, on average, 25% of faculty self-identify as being bullied and 40–50% report having witnessed bullying within the past year. Women, junior researchers, and members of minority groups are more likely to be bullied and harassed. Moreover, many targets suffer persistent abuse (up to half for 3 years or more; 10–20% for 5 years or more). Yet only a minority of bullying and harassment cases are officially reported, with many targets hesitating to report mistreatment due to fear of retaliation or the belief that their concerns will go unheard...

Deliberate ignorance—defined as the conscious choice not to seek or use information—is known to serve important psychological and social functions, such as regulating emotions or avoiding liability...

...The bystander effect has been demonstrated in many studies: The mere presence of bystanders in critical situations can reduce an individual’s probability of helping. Classic explanations are twofold. First, the more people are present, the lower the experienced sense of personal responsibility. Responsibility diffuses. Second, almost all group members can privately reject a norm to help and, at the same time, believe that almost everyone else accepts it. Ignorance can be pluralistic. Recent research suggests that bystander ignorance may also be deliberate, with people having various psychological motives for turning a blind eye to misconduct. For example, consciously choosing not to seek information—one form of deliberate ignorance—can be a way of regulating one’s emotions and deflecting responsibility. Deliberate ignorance can help to avoid distress and the anticipated guilt for not getting involved. Consciously choosing not to act on relevant information—a second form of deliberate ignorance—may be used as a strategic device to eschew responsibility and to avoid possible harm to oneself...

Psychological motives for deliberate ignorance can depend on the bystander’s status relative to the perpetrator. Strategic motives may be more pronounced in relationships with power asymmetries. For example, junior scientists may anticipate being unfavorably treated by a higher ranked perpetrator and remain deliberately ignorant to protect themselves. Emotion regulation may be a more significant motive when bystanders and perpetrators share a similar rank (e.g., a peer-to-peer relationship between two tenured professors). Witnessing a peer’s unethical behavior can be distressing, and deliberate ignorance can help bystanders to regulate their fear of confrontation with a peer, their guilt for not helping a target, or both.

Perpetrators may choose to ignore the distressing and even traumatizing effects of their behavior on targets in an attempt to escape social or legal accountability. In turn, this can preserve their power and status in academic hierarchies and help them maintain a positive self-image (see Fig. 1). We review policies that address deliberate ignorance in both perpetrators and bystanders and propose corresponding interventions intended to contribute to more ethical environments for all participants in academia...

One important psychological motive for bystanders not approaching targets and inquiring about their wellbeing is to avoid possible harm to themselves. This motive may be particularly pronounced when a perpetrator is more senior. Career progression in academia can depend on a senior scientist’s support, particularly in close-knit fields or disciplines. Whistle-blowers, therefore, need special protection. Beyond legal protections and anonymous reporting systems, a robust whistle-blower protection system includes anti-retaliation policies, optional relocations and fall-back supervision agreements. Further, protection from emotional and mental harm can be supported through the institutional provision of free, anonymous, and independent counseling services. Witnesses who feel protected and have confidence that due process will be followed may be more likely to report unethical practices. This requires a firm stance at the institutional level, with clear and robust consequences for perpetrators (e.g., official reprimands, withdrawal of funding, or even dismissal) being established and enforced...

March 15, 2024

Update to The Envy of Excellence, two decades later, 2020

 ...The closest I have come to listing causes of mobbing was in a 2006 article in Academic Matters, where I identified ten factors that increase the likelihood of a professor being mobbed. Three were characteristics of the workplace:

  1. A discipline with ambiguous standards and objectives, especially those (like music or literature) most affected by postmodern scholarship;

  2. A supervisor – president, dean, department chair – in whom, as Nietzsche put it, “the impulse to punish is powerful”; and

  3. An actual or contrived financial crunch in the academic unit (according to an African proverb, when the watering hole gets smaller, the animals get meaner).

    The remaining seven factors on my list of vulnerabilities were characteristics of the target:

    1. Foreign birth and upbringing, especially as signaled by a foreign accent;

    2. Being different from most colleagues in an elemental way (by sex, for instance, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, class origin, or credentials);

    3. Having opposed the candidate who ends up winning appointment as one’s dean or chair (thereby looking stupid, wicked, or crazy in the latter’s eyes);

    4. Being a ratebuster, achieving so much success in teaching or research that colleagues’ envy is aroused;

    5. Publicly dissenting from politically correct ideas (meaning those held sacred by campus elites);

    6. Defending a pariah in campus politics or the larger cultural arena;

    7. Blowing the whistle on, or even having knowledge of, serious wrongdoing by locally powerful workmates.

    “The upshot of available research,” I concluded, “is that no professor needs to worry much about being mobbed, even in a generally vulnerable condition, so long as he or she does not rock the local academic boat. The secret is to show deference to colleagues and administrators, to be the kind of scholar they want to keep around as a way of making themselves look good. Jung said that ‘a man’s hatred is always concentrated on that which makes him conscious of his bad qualities..."

    Kenneth Westhues


March 02, 2024

Professor David Vaughan, BA Ceramic Arts and Ceramics


David is not a real Professor; he has never undertaken any research. He acquired the title by simply demanding it when he was appointed Principal of the Cumbria Institute of the Arts (CIA) from September 1991 until retirement in August 2007, when the University of Cumbria was formed. 


He never attended classes, visited the campus, or engaged with his teaching colleagues during this period. He was too busy running around the country promoting himself by participating in various committees and pretending he was knowledgeable.

David would turn up at the end of the academic year to chair the Exam Boards, the only time anyone saw him. His view of academics complaining about mistreatment is that they should be suspended indefinitely until they give up and resign their positions. Unsurprisingly, his wife divorced him because he was a bully.

This is a vain man seeking acknowledgement at any cost. He used his position of power to bully, threaten and intimidate.