September 29, 2006

Nottingham Trent University Branch of the University and College Union (UCU)

...This site is designed as an on-line resource on branch matters for use by members of the Nottingham Trent University Branch of UCU (University and College Union) and others interested in our work...

...UCU’s forerunners [AUT and NATFHE] produced an array of papers on the topic of harassment and bullying. Most recently the topic of institutional culture and institutional bullying has surfaced as an issue. At one of the last NATFHE conferences one member from a college in the further education sector gave an impassioned speech on how her college had stripped away the mechanisms of debate, reducing the frequency of staff meetings, reducing staff representation on internal committees and even removing staff representation from the college's governing body. This did not mean that staff were denied information. They were regularly sent in-house magazines and e-mails telling them about the college's achievements but this was not seen as a substitute for dialogue and debate.

At the same time as the college had reduced the mechanisms for debate changes had been made to the rights that the students had. A "Students' Charter" and a new "Students' Complaint Procedure" had been introduced. These initiatives were welcomed by staff and fully supported. However, with a declining resource base and with front line staff unable to voice their concerns it meant that such staff were open to criticism and pressure from every angle and were powerless to see that the concerns being raised by the students were genuinely addressed.

Fear of losing their promotion prospects or even of being dismissed provided additional psychological bonds preventing such staff from speaking out. Work related stress increased as did the number of instances of ill health. Staff were, of course, free to walk away from the situation by resigning and the conference was told that each year many did. However, economic pressures often made this an unrealistic option and many staff did not feel that they should be intimidated into a career change...


September 23, 2006

Obituary: Tim Field

By Keith Munday, Member of the Core Group: Freedom to Care, and Honorary President, DAWN

At the time of going to press The Tim Field Memorial Lecture is being jointly organized by the two anti-bullying in the workplace support groups, OXBOW and DAWN. The intention is to hold the Lecture in Oxford on Saturday, 28th October 2006. See:

Tim Field, internationally renowned pioneer of anti-bullying in the workplace, and sometime director of Freedom to Care, died of cancer, at the age of 53, on 15th January 2006.

A fellow member of the Core Group of Freedom to Care has shared her impressions of Tim in the following way: 'I will always be indebted to Tim. I first met him at a Freedom to Care AGM and he struck me as being a quiet, modest man. Later I was to learn how far he had pushed the issue of bullying onto the public agenda. Every documentary I saw on TV listed Tim among its credits. His courage was astounding and he remains for me a beacon of hope'.

Tim had suffered from a serious breakdown as a result of the bullying directed towards him in 1994. But, in spite of this - or, perhaps because of this - Tim went on to establish the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line in 1996, and its accompanying website Bully OnLine, the world's largest resource on workplace bullying and related issues. He wrote the highly influential book, Bully In Sight: How to Predict, Resist, Challenge and Combat Workplace Bullying, in 1996, and co-authored, with Neil Marr, Bullycide: Death at Playtime, an Expose of Child Suicide Caused by Bullying, in 2001.

In 1998, he published, through his own publishing house (Success Unlimited), David Kinchin's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Invisible Injury. In addition to this, he, lectured all over the world, wrote articles, appeared regularly in the media, and set up Bullyonline, an internet-based discussion forum, as well as source of support for those on the receiving end of this unacceptable form of behaviour.

As Honorary President of DAWN (Dignity At Work Now), an anti-bullying in the workplace support and campaign group, of which Tim was Patron, I admired him tremendously. He was a communicator par excellence, a campaigner, a leader, a teacher, and literally a life-saver. He displayed exceptional integrity, courage, loyalty, generosity and determination. He was compassionate, wise, self-effacing, perceptive and truly inspiring.

I first met Tim when he and I attended one of the spate of conferences dealing with workplace bullying in the latter half of the 1990s. He was already gaining a national reputation as a speaker in this relatively new area which was beginning to attract the keen attention of academics, trade unionists, lawyers, health professionals, and those engaged in personnel issues. For me, this was the start of a most enlightening and rewarding relationship which was to be cruelly cut short by Tim's passing.

Tim deservedly achieved an international reputation for his ability to convey with such profound insight and clarity the true nature of bullying in the workplace. His work gained academic recognition through the award of two honorary doctorates. Moreover, his reputation was enhanced even further by his willingness 'to put his head above the parapet' in his determination to expose, and hold to account, the perpetrators of wrongdoing, even though the sacrifices he made in so doing were undoubtedly at considerable cost to his own well-being. Tim was a good man. He has left an enduring legacy for those wishing to share, and to achieve, his vision of a bully-free world.

June 2006


Checklist of mobbing indicators

'...Perhaps the most important indicator is shown here as No. 12, the enlargement of some real or imagined misdeed or fault in order to smear the target's whole identity, so that he or she is seen as personally abhorrent — a totally alien other, a dangerous, repugnant entity that turns the stomachs of good and decent people.

1. By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.

2. Rumours and gossip circulate about the target’s misdeeds: “Did you hear what she did last week?”

3. The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.

4. Collective focus on a critical incident that “shows what kind of man he really is.”

5. Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, “to be taught a lesson.”

6. Unusual timing of the decision to punish, e. g., apart from the annual performance review.

7. Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.

8. Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target, e. g. a vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.

9. High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the mobbers.

10. Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to “speak up for”or defend the target.

11. The adding up of the target’s real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.

12. The target is seen as personally abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.

13. Disregard of established procedures, as mobbers take matters into their own hands.

14. Resistance to independent, outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.

15. Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.

16. Mobbers’ fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from mobbers, or both...'


September 20, 2006

How to humanize higher education and reduce human suffering

By: Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D., C.Psych. Coquitlam, B.C., Canada

'Year 2005 has been dubbed the "year of suffering" by Erin McClam, Associated Press writer. Last year was dominated by natural disasters and human tragedies - from tsunami, Katrina to Iraq war. The faces of suffering continue to haunt us.

Across the land, away from the spotlight, a different kind of suffering goes on unnoticed - in homes, workplaces, schools, and universities. I am talking about intentional cruelty against other human beings, such as physical and emotional abuse, bullying, oppression and exploitation...

How can people be so cruel? All kinds of explanations have been offered - sociological, psychological and spiritual. For example, the theology of human depravity can be used to account for the historical and continuous presence of evil in human societies. Poverty and privation are frequently cited as societal causes of violence. A host of internal and external factors, such as competition, greed, envy, scapegoating, abuse in childhood, blind ambition provide psychological explanations.

A more important question is: how can we create a kinder and gentler society? Different visions of utopia have been proposed, but none has succeeded. A society of harmony, equality, and compassion continues to elude us.

Does higher education make us more humane?

...we believe by promoting the values of humanism and liberal democracy through education, we can set people free from their intolerance, prejudice and brutality. There is a broad consensus that higher education can help create a civil society, which respects everyone's right to freedom, justice, dignity and quality of life. Indeed, education maybe our best hope for a better world.

Given the above assumptions and expectations, it is most disturbing to see many idealistic and enthusiastic students become disillusioned and cynical because of their negative experiences in centers of higher learning. Some students have been intimidated and verbally attacked by professors because of their political or religious leanings as documented by David Horowitz. Some have been sexually abused. Others have been exploited and abused by their supervisors -- some may have been tormented to the point of suicide.

Suicide on university campuses

...Too often, some students fear, suicides get written off as tragic flukes, but that sort of thinking is flawed, they say. For every Ph.D. candidate who kills himself, there are hundreds who become clinically depressed, drop out, or grimly endure bad situations in silence because of poor relationships with their advisers. This year, it was Mr. Altom; next year, it could be someone else, the argument goes.

In fact, it has been. Mr. Altom, who was about to enter his sixth year at Harvard, was not the first chemistry student to kill himself. There have been eight graduate-student suicides at Harvard since 1980. Four of the students were in the chemistry department, and three of the four, including Mr. Altom, worked for the same research adviser: Elias J. Corey.

...In 2002, Psychology Today reported an increase in clinical depression in both undergraduate and graduate students, and 30% of university counseling centers surveyed have reported student suicides. A more recent study by the American College Health Association showed that 15 percent of students met the criteria for clinical depression and suicide was second to accident as the leading cause of death among college students.

Is graduate education dysfunctional?

The causes of depression and suicides are many and varied. These range from latent psychological disorders prior to admissions, personal immaturity, inability to cope with pressure and failure, unrealistic expectations, loneliness, meaninglessness, broken romantic relationships and difficult student-advisor relationships.

Almost all universities provide adequate student counseling services to support students experiencing academic or psychological problems. However, these centers typically stay away from handling academic grievances and advise students to bring their complaints to their department heads.

The problem of harmful clinical supervision has received increasing attention in recent years (Ellis, 2001), but the detrimental effects of bad dissertation advising are much less researched ...The conclusion seems self-contradictory, until one realizes that academic and professional excellence can co-exist with dysfunctional relationships. While the survey showed that most students had good relationships with their advisors, "a substantial minority felt exploit". About one quarter of the students surveyed felt that their advisors used them as a source of cheap labor to advance their own research and help fulfill advisors' teaching and research obligations...

From my own experiences and observations of elite research universities, graduate students are expected to put in as many as 80 hours per week. In some universities, graduate students are asked to teach an entire course at either the undergraduate or graduate level without any remuneration or acknowledgement, because it is considered an honor to teach the course for a famous professor. This kind of unfair treatment is unheard of in any other kind of organizations...

These illustrious professors are willing and able to make personal sacrifices to achieve eminence in their fields; are their students prepared to make the same sacrifices? Maybe there should be a warning to potential graduate students applying to elite graduate schools: "Admission to this school may be hazardous to your health and well-being. Only the toughest and brightest need to apply."

Bullying and intimidation in higher education

I can understand the need to work 80 hours a week to find a vaccine against AIDS or avian flu, but I can't appreciate the value of such all-consuming passion for fame, money and power. The allures of big science can be just as destructive as the greed of big business and big military-industrial complex. To sacrifice students for personal gains is deplorable.

James Cook University actually has a university policy against bullying and intimidation between supervisors and students, and considers such behavior as a breach of the University Code of Conduct.

...Students' inability to identify bullying makes it difficult for them to respond effectively. Here are some common characteristics of workplace bullies, which can be readily applied to university professors:

* Workplace bullies are autocratic control freaks.
* They make it known that they have the power to destroy the career of their targets.
* They constantly demand respect and consideration whilst treat their subordinates as non-persons.
* They inflict intolerable pain and suffering on others without showing any consideration for the feelings of their victims.
* In spite of their absolutist and unethical behaviors they often get promoted, because they are selfish, manipulative, dishonest and convincing.

What can you do if your supervisor is a bully or psychopath? Your options are very limited, because of the risks of filing a grievance complaint, especially when your supervisor is very influential in the field. Typically, administrators try to cover up for the offender because they don't want to offend a superstar who brings in lots of money and prestige to the university.

The reward systems of most research universities are based on academic accomplishments and financial gains without paying too much attention to students' well-being. Like a steam-roller, the graduate education machine keeps on moving forward faster and faster, without considering how many young lives it has destroyed...

The need to humanize higher education

All kinds of reform of graduate education have been proposed, but few have been implemented or enforced. This inertia can be attributed to a university culture that values ranking and revenues in a highly competitive environment...

Much progress has been made in the area of sexual harassment on campuses. In many universities, there are designated sexual harassment or human rights officers. University administrators are inclined to take sexual harassment complaints seriously because of political correctness... However, in the area of academic bullying which affects more students, little progress has been made.

Most universities have developed policies and procedures to handle difficult advisor-student relationships and grievance complaints, but these guidelines are generally not very effective because of fear of retribution on the part of students and the fear of offending valued professors on the part of the administration. Furthermore, these guidelines do not even recognize the possibility that supervisors may have the problem of bullying and psychological impairment...

Success stories of the humanistic movement

Emory university has already made fundamental changes to humanize medical education with positive results. "We're trying to abuse students less," says Dr. Jonas Schulman, the driving force behind the reform, "and we want to make sure we're sending the message that we place a premium on people skills..."

There are also serious efforts to humanize the hospital. The key to Planetree Institute's patient-centered model is to create a health care environment in which not only patients experience caring, kindness, and respect, but also their families and the hospital staff. Susan Frampton (2003) has documented that they can dramatically increase patient satisfaction level simply by adding a human touch to hospitals.

...Leadership skills are just as important as research skills, because professors often have to manage large research teams of strong individuals with different personalities, cultural backgrounds, and creative ideas. The autocratic leadership style no longer works in the corporate world; how can we expect it to work in an academic community of free thinkers?

Humanizing higher education can be beneficial to both students and society. By creating a caring and engaging environment, universities can become a positive force in reducing human suffering and improving the quality of life for all...'