June 02, 2007

And the ritual continues...

a) First this:

b) Then this:

The Unkindly Art of Mobbing

From Academic Matters: the Journal of Higher Education, OCUFA, Fall 2006, pp. 18-19. Ken Westhues describes how academics can gang up on unpopular colleagues — and alerts readers to the signs that an academic "mobbing" is in the works.

'... If the target refuses to leave or acquiesce, the mobbing may escalate to a formal outburst of aggression. Mobbers seize upon a critical incident, some real or imagined misbehavior that they claim is proof of the target’s unworthiness to continue in the normal give and take of academic life. A degradation ritual is arranged, often in a dean’s office, sometimes in a campus tribunal. The object is to destroy the good name that is any professor’s main resource, to expose the target as not worth listening to. Public censure by the university administration leaves the target stigmatized for life. Formal dismissal with attendant publicity is social elimination in its most conclusive form...' [http://arts.uwaterloo.ca/~kwesthue/unkindlyart.htm]

c) And then, the icing on the cake:

Real academic freedom
Academics should be free to call into question our most cherished beliefs - to slaughter a whole herd of sacred cows, if that's what is required. Critical inquiry is the starting point for stable and enduring knowledge about the world, and that often means upsetting people.

But academic freedom doesn't mean that academics can say whatever they like, whenever they like. Academic freedom doesn't mean freedom to swear at their students in class, just as it doesn’t mean freedom to behave badly at dinner parties. There are certain standards and restrictions that academics should be expected to comply with, given their position as professional - and adult - members of society.

So that is why the case of Sal Fiore, a senior lecturer in computing at Wolverhampton, sacked for criticising his employers online, is not really an academic freedom issue. In an online discussion forum, Fiore linked Wolverhampton to bullying allegations, and he also conributed to a blog, 'Bulliedacademics.blogspot.com', discussing his university. Heretical books are one thing, but this is an academic behaving like his students on Facebook, who moan about people they don't like.

Academic freedom means something very specific: the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. This is inherently valuable, and can be exempted from normal administrative and professional regulations. The deputy director of a company would not expect to keep his job if he criticised the ideas of the top director. This is not the case in academia, a sphere based on the free contest of ideas. But an academic could expect the sack if he criticized his boss's hair colour or personality, which is not a matter of ideas at all, but merely a matter of bad behaviour.

So defend academic freedom - for academics that know the difference between ideas and tittle tattle
. [Speaking our mind.]

d) Further:

'...At a practical level, every professor should be aware of conditions that increase vulnerability to mobbing in academe. Here are five:

• Foreign birth and upbringing, especially as signaled by a foreign accent;
• Being different from most colleagues in an elemental way (by sex, for instance, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, class origin, or credentials);

• Belonging to a discipline with ambiguous standards and objectives, especially those (like music or literature) most affected by postmodern scholarship;

• Working under a dean or other administrator in whom, as Nietzsche put it, “the impulse to punish is powerful”;

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


Anonymous said...

"you have persistently, in both written and verbal communications, made threats of legal action against the University and members of its staff"

and that is a breach of disciplinary warning for misconduct?

...hmmm, get Wolverhampton the hell out of academia. How dare they claim they are academics?

Anonymous said...

Issues of workplace bullying are complex...if they weren't then we wouldn't be in the mess we are now.

The pain, the anger, the humiliation..the frustration are all part and parcel of workplace bullying.

As a while middle class woman I didn't really understand the raw emotions felt by those who have to deal on a daily basis with racism etc. As an academic I discussed these issues with my students... went to conferences that explored issues of social justice - a key note lecture at BERA last year....but emotionally I hadn't been there.

I have been there now - as I believe that I am a target of workplace bullying - I have been in the shit of emotions that are raw and unstoppable.

It is not a good place to be....

...but there are games that have to be played... through building a power base that slowly shifts the perceptions of those who have access to power...

....it is a game that pushes me to the edge of endurance with a pain that is unbelievable....

Aphra Behn