December 26, 2009

Whistleblower Ex-Lecturer Convicted of Harassment Against British Knight

On 22 December 2009, Dr Howard Fredrics, former Senior Lecturer of Music at Kingston University, London, was convicted in absentia of harassment against Sir George "Peter" Scott, Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University for having operated a website that revealed evidence of misconduct by the University. The conviction was handed down by the Kingston Magistrates Court despite a compelling police investigation report that indicated that there was no evidence that the site contained anything that could lead to such a charge.

Kingston Police Report on Content of Website,
Kingston Police Report on Content of Website,

Dr Howard Fredrics failed to appear in Court on 22 December to answer charges that by virtue of operating a website, since July 2007, he had breached Section 6 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The Act, which was devised to deter stalking, was, in this case, applied for the first time ever towards the dissemination of musical works contained on the website.

In addition to the songs and song parodies that refer to a number of widely-publicized scandals at the University in the past few years, including the National Student Survey Scandal, and the External Examiner Scandal, whereby staff were recorded pressurising students into falsifying their responses to the Survey in order to inflate Kingston University's position in the League Tables, and whereby an External Examiner in the now defunct School of Music was found by the Quality Assurance Agency to have been pressurised by School administrators into changing her damning report on academic standards.

In May of 2009, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) ruled on a complaint made by Prof Scott concerning Dr Fredrics' alleged use of his personal name in the domain name of the site. WIPO, however, issued a strong rebuke of Prof Scott's claim of trademark infringement in finding that Prof Scott held no trademark interest whatsoever in the domain name in question, and that Dr Fredrics had properly registered the domain name.

Following that ruling, Prof Scott filed a complaint with the Kingston Police, alleging that Dr Fredrics' site allegedly constituted harassment of him personally, despite the fact that it contained no references to any matters relating to the personal or private life of Prof Scott, and the fact that the vast majority of the site did not relate at all to Prof Scott. Indeed a police report produced in September 2009 after a thorough investigation of the contents of the site, showed that there was no evidence whatsoever of any material that could sustain a charge of harassment. Despite this finding, however, the Crown Prosecution Service refused Dr Fredrics' solicitor's application for discontinuation of the prosecution, and the Court further refused an application for postponement when Dr Fredrics' solicitors were forced to withdraw from the case for reasons related to a separate professional matter on the day before the trial was set to begin.

As a result of the refusal (in breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights) by the Court to postpone the case so that Dr Fredrics could locate suitable representation for the trial, and because both Dr Fredrics and one of his key witnesses both suffered from documented illnesses and were unable to appear, the trial went ahead in Dr Fredrics' absence. It was, however, only after the Court found Dr Fredrics guilty of harassment that the Clerk of the Court informed the presiding Magistrates and courtroom observers that Dr Fredrics' lawyers had withdrawn. By this time, however, the ruling was issued and Dr Fredrics' guilty verdict stands.

Following the trial, a warrant was issued for Dr Fredrics' arrest for having failed to appear in Court. His whereabouts are unknown, however, a spokesperson indicated that he intends to contest the verdict through the appeals process. If, however, he does present himself to authorities, it is likely that he will be held without bail pending his appeal, notwithstanding his ongoing poor state of health, and his current lack of legal representation.

Dr Fredrics is due to appear along with representatives of Kingston University at a Pre-Hearing Review on 6 January 2010 in the Employment Tribunal, followed by a seventeen-day full merits hearing in April-May 2010 of his case for unfair dismissal, whistleblower victimization, disability discrimination and wrongful/automatically unfair dismissal. The efforts by the University's lawyers to, in the name of Prof Scott, launch various civil and criminal proceedings against Dr Fredrics are seen by Dr Fredrics as thinly veiled attempts to silence his right to free speech and artistic expression, with the ultimate goal of preventing him from receiving a full and fair hearing of his ongoing Employment Tribunal case.


December 18, 2009

Anonymous said

I was bullied out of my job by a manager who hates Christians. The University supported her over me because they wanted to avoid bad publicity. Their policies on bullying were meaningless and they didn't follow their own procedures. I know of 13 other people who have left due to bullying at the University. My advice to anyone in UK HE who is getting bullied - DON'T GO TO HR UNLESS YOU ARE A MANAGER - either leave or get a good lawyer.


Bully in Sight

How to predict, resist, challenge and combat workplace bullying. Overcome the silence and denial by which abuse thrives. By Tim Field. Read online.

December 10, 2009

Are Workplace Bullies Sabotaging Your Ability to Compete? Learn to identify and extinguish problem behavior

...The problem with workplace bullying is that many bullies are hard to identify because they operate surreptitiously under the guise of being civil and cooperative. Although workplace bullying is being discussed more than ever before, and there may eventually be specific legislation outlawing such behavior, organizations cannot afford to wait for new laws to eradicate the bullies in their midst. In order to survive, organizations must root out workplace bullying before it squelches their employees' creativity and productivity, or even drives out their best employees, thus fatally impacting an organization's ability to compete in this new era...

Recent commentators have used different ways to describe bullying behavior, but they agree that a bully is only interested in maintaining his or her power and control. Because bullies are cowards and are driven by deep-seated insecurities and fears of inadequacy, they intentionally wage a covert war against an organization's best employees - those who are highly-skilled, intelligent, creative, ethical, able to work well with others, and independent (who refuse to be subservient or controlled by others). Bullies can act alone or in groups. Bullying behavior can exist at any level of an organization. Bullies can be superiors, subordinates, co-workers and colleagues.

Some bullies are obvious - they throw things, slam doors, engage in angry tirades, and are insulting and rude. Others, however, are much more subtle. While appearing to be acting reasonably and courteously on the surface, in reality they are engaging in vicious and fabricated character assassination, petty humiliations and small interferences, any one of which might be insignificant in itself, but taken together over a period of time, poison the working environment for the targeted individuals...

Bullying is not about a "clash of personalities," a "misunderstanding," or "miscommunication." According to two psychologists who have conducted surveys on bullying, (1) bullies use surprise and secrecy to gain leverage over those targeted, (2) they are never interested in meeting someone else halfway so trying to negotiate with a bully is useless, (3) they routinely practice psychological violence against specific individuals whom they intentionally try to harm which is devastating to the targeted person's emotional stability "and can last a long time."


December 06, 2009

Eliminating Professors. A Guide to the Dismissal Process. By Kenneth Westhues

With publication of this book and his continuing research on the subject, Westhues has virtually founded a new field in sociology. ... Tongue in cheek, the book gives supervisors step-by-step advice on how to get rid of a misfit professor named PITA (Pain In The Ass): oddly, but typically, the only one in the proximate institutional setting who actually gives a damn about what they do. His or her commitment will tend to embarrass and threaten all those (the overwhelming majority) around him or her, whose only commitment is to their paychecks and leisure. The book is amusing but very scary at the same time.

David S. Clarke, Professor of Management of Technology, Southern Illinois University, and Editor, Knowledge, Technology, and Society, in his weekly e-newsletter, 2003.

The book's chapters—highly readable, personal, engaging, and illuminative—alternate between a suspenseful narrative of Westhues's own case winding its tortured and exasperating way through an appeal, and the "how-to" chapters, which are written, this reader presumes, with an intensely ironic, but tellingly effective voice. They sound like advice-to-administrators' manuals, of which genre the readers of this journal should be overly familiar. But let the reader beware that Westhues skewers them with a satiric intensity that chills the blood.

David W. Leslie, Chancellor Professor of Education, The College of William and Mary, book review in The Journal of Higher Education, 2000.

...a remarkably perceptive account of the techniques useful for getting rid of unwelcome academics. Of course, it can also be read by those who are targeted, and their supporters, as a primer on what is likely to happen and how best to oppose it.

Brian Martin, Associate Professor, Department of Science, Technology, and Society, University of Wollongong, book review in Campus Review (1999).


A Sample Chapter from Kenneth Westhues, Eliminating Professors: a Guide to the Dismissal Process, Lewiston: NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1998.

Chapter 18: Making the Star Chamber Work

So that this book may be of maximum practical value, this chapter sets forth in point form some helpful hints for the professors, secretaries, and students who sit on harassment tribunals. Not being professional administrators, these people may lack managerial sophistication. Whoever appoints them will do well to provide them with guidelines that will ensure the tribunal’s effective operation.

These tips are for the modal situation, where the tribunal needs to bring down a finding of DR. PITA’s guilt and a recommendation for punishment. Cases where DR. PITA herself appeals to the tribunal are easier to deal with, usually by finding a plausible way to rule her complaint out of jurisdiction.

These suggestions are based on the functioning of ethics and harassment committees in actual cases at Waterloo and elsewhere. Since policies differ somewhat among universities, these measures must not be applied mechanically but with due regard for the enabling statute in a given institution. Still, the functioning of such tribunals is quite similar across universities. I was surprised that a fictional depiction of a university ethics tribunal in 1996, on the popular TV sit-com Third Rock from the Sun, was a credible composite of actual cases in my study.

1. The tribunal should extend its jurisdiction or catchment area however broadly is required to take up the complaint against DR. PITA—whether the incident occurred on campus or off, in his professorial role or outside it.

2. Ideally, DR. PITA should be found guilty of something before he finds out what it is. The Harassment Officer may assist one or more complainants in drawing up a plausible preliminary indictment for subsequent approval by the tribunal as a whole.

3. To enlist DR. PITA’s cooperation in his own undoing, confound the roles of counsellor, prosecutor, and judge. In conversations with an official he believes is being friendly, he may make incriminating statements that can later be held against him.

4. Make sure the victim-accuser is on side. More than one case has been lost, even with many ardent complainants, because the alleged victim did not herself find DR. PITA’s behaviour objectionable.

5. Reward accusers. For lowly undergraduates, the attentions of important university officials may be reward enough. Financial compensation or revision of grades, on account of injuries sustained, may also be considered.

6. Avoid falsifiable statements in the indictment. Vagueness and innuendo are far more effective than charges that lend themselves to being disproven.

7. Once the decision is made to proceed to a formal hearing, move as quickly as possible, showing a sense of great urgency. A hearing that cannot be arranged promptly may not be able to be arranged at all.

8. Ignore DR. PITA’s lawyer, if he has one, and forbid the lawyer’s presence at the hearing. Explain that domestic tribunals of a university proceed by norms of collegiality, and that legalistic, adversarial measures are out of place.

9. If the faculty association or other bodies attempt to intervene on DR. PITA’s behalf, accuse them of trying to exert undue influence. Insist that the tribunal will not bend to the political pressure being applied.

10. Ignore claims that the tribunal is biased against him. Respond as one chair did: “I am satisfied that this committee member has no apprehension of bias.”

11. Disregard evidence in DR. PITA’s favour on substantive grounds. Describe it as irrelevant or not germane to the issues under consideration.

12. Disregard evidence in DR. PITA’s favour on procedural grounds. Say it was submitted at the wrong time, to the wrong official, or in the wrong format.

13. If there is evidence that DR. PITA has discussed the case outside the tribunal (he may admit, for instance, having talked about it with his wife, his dean, or some colleagues), charge him with breach of confidentiality.

14. If DR. PITA speaks his accusers’ names outside the tribunal, charge him with breach of confidentiality and with attempting to damage their reputations and cause them to suffer.

15. If DR. PITA (or his colleague-advisor, if the policy provides for one) objects to the tribunal’s procedures, remind him that this is not a court of law, that collegiality must be insisted upon, and that the tribunal will not entertain editorial comments.

16. Ignore the references to context that DR. PITA is almost sure to make. Explain that the tribunal’s only concern is with this particular incident, not with what may have happened before or after.

17. Find an excuse to make a confidential investigation that may yield additional complaints and is useful in any case for damaging DR. PITA’s reputation. Contact former students, for example, or advertise in the newspaper. In a case against a policeman pita, the tribunal set out to contact each of the 2,047 women he had had something to do with during his eight years on the force.

18. Try to provoke DR. PITA into losing his temper or doing something rash, then make appropriate additional charges. Like most professors, DR. PITA is so proud and vain that the hearing itself will insult and fluster him.

19. In the report at the end, find DR. PITA guilty of something, even if it is not what he was initially charged with. The important thing is to find against him. The precise nature of the finding is of secondary importance.

20. Write a long report, preferably at least ten pages single-spaced. Number sections and paragraphs. Include lots of footnotes. Be vague and repetitive. Include nothing that could be quoted out of context as being in DR. PITA’s favour.

21. Recommend multiple punishments: for example, requirements to make several different apologies, go for counselling, and attend a series of workshops, in addition to a financial penalty.

22. Do not let your animus against DR. PITA show, nor lead you to write things that are obviously untrue. Senior managers will not take kindly to a report so extreme they are obliged to reject it, and may deny you the rewards you will otherwise receive for your service to the university.

23. The report should include innuendo so damaging to DR. PITA that he will not himself release it publicly, however strong his objections. Suggestions of sexual predation or mental unbalance serve well.

24. Do not release the report publicly, lest the tribunal be revealed as a kanagaroo court. After my first ethics hearing, the provost put the report on the Internet. I understand from him that he now regrets that decision.

25. For the same reason, never release audio-tapes of the proceeding, much less a transcript. If this cannot be avoided (in connection with an appeal, for instance), DR. PITA may be allowed to listen to the tapes under administrative supervision, but under no circumstances should he be allowed to walk away with a copy.


November 24, 2009

Save University of California

Dear Colleagues,

As you may know, the University of California is facing very devastating budget cuts that could lead to the end of affordable and accessible public higher education in the state of California.

The University of California has been the premiere public university in the United States, offering extraordinary teaching and research opportunities for international students and faculty as well as affordable education for students of any means. Students are now looking at tuition hikes that will put the university out of reach for many of them. Faculty are undergoing salary cuts and loss of staff which means that the research and teaching activities of the University are curtailed.

Many of the cuts are happening behind closed doors, which means that shared governance has been set aside as a basic principle of administration.

Please take a look at the attached petition and see whether you might lend your support to our efforts to achieve transparency to the budget, an affordable education for students, and maintain the tradition of academic excellence at the University of California. It is most important that our international colleagues register their concern about the future of our university during this quite perilous time.

November 18, 2009

Howard Fredrics Criminal Defence Fund

Dr Fredrics stands accused of harassment in connection with this website and breach of the public order in connection with an alleged conversation with Sir "Peter"Scott in the Kingston shopping area, during which issues related to Kingston University's ongoing conduct were allegedly discussed among Dr Fredrics, Mrs Fredrics and Prof Scott.

Dr Fredrics faces trial on 22 and 23 December and is facing up to 6 months in jail for these charges.

Defending himself against these allegations is very expensive and, with all of the previous efforts by the University to run up Dr Fredrics' legal bills to defend a baseless complaint to WIPO and to deal with a veritable deluge of paperwork sent by the University's lawyers in connection with his Employment Tribunal claim, matters have become quite dire.

Dr Fredrics kindly asks for your contribution, in order to help to defray some of the costs of defending himself against these recent charges, to which he has pleaded "not guilty."

How to donate

November 15, 2009

Loved lecturer loses his battle to keep job at 65

THE 65-year-old lecturer who waged a six month battle against forced retirement has been told by the university that he has to leave his job in February.

After two weeks of waiting for a verdict, Ron Delves, a senior film studies lecturer, has been told that he must leave the university at the end of this semester, after a final internal tribunal rejected his bid to stay on.

“I feel deflated. I expected the result in the post this morning and was not prepared for the news tonight.

“It was as though the final meet had never happened. All the reasons they gave were the same as always - it’s the university policy and I don’t have adequate researching qualifications,” the KU lecturer of 14 years said.

Whilst the University can lawfully ask staff members aged 65 to leave, it has no obligation to do so.

A petition signed by 56 film students was given to the Dean of Faculty before the tribunal. “More than anything else I will miss the students. I will miss teaching,” he said. Mr Delves has taught at KU for four years and was described by a student as “truly motivational”.

"After all the coverage in The River, and the petition, I thought I might stand a chance,” he said. Mr Delves was told to expect the news within a fortnight of the tribunal. He received the verdict on the 14 October, but has been told that he can make a further appeal against the decision. “I will make the appeal, but it will probably be the same result,” he said.

Mr Delves was told in February that he was expected to resign in the year he turned 65, unless he had strong reasons for wanting to stay. The appeal process has consisted of three meetings over six months, in which Mr Delves claims the university has been unclear about why they want to get rid of him.

“If they simply want to get rid of me because I am turning 65 then I object on these grounds: It’s pure ageism,” he said.

Stephanie Henderson-Brown, a second year history of art, design and film student, said: “I am devastated. I will be truly sorry to see him go.” Mr Delves will leave before he can pioneer a new film studies module in The Western, planned for the second semester.

University officials were unavailable to comment on the decision.


November 10, 2009

Instances of workplace bullying double - UK

New statistics have revealed a record number of British workers have been bullied in the last six months.

Figures from the union Unison show that more than a third of the 7,000 workers who took part in a survey have experienced bullying over the last half a year, double the number recorded in 1997.

Among the top complaints were rudeness, criticism, excessive work monitoring, intimidation, exclusion and withholding information.

Of those questioned, 80 per cent said the abuse had affected their physical and mental health and a third had decided to take time off, or even left their jobs as a result.

Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary, said: "The fact that bullying has doubled in the past decade is shocking.

"Workers have the right to earn a decent living in a safe environment. They need to be treated with respect and not forced to take time off work because bullying has made them ill.

"Only last week figures showed that 13.7 million working days are lost every year as a result of stress and depression in the workplace.

"It makes sound moral and financial sense to look after your workforce."

Mr Prentis said the union would continue with its calls for the government to revise the current dignity in the workplace bill to include an anti-bullying policy.

Today's research also coincides with Ban Bullying at Work Day as the union tries to encourage employers and employees to make a stand against bullies.



November 08, 2009

A question of 'conduct unbecoming' revisited

Should those who are concerned about these things wonder whether the questions posed in the posting on this website, 'Conduct unbecoming...' (February 07, 2009), have taken on greater urgency? Here are some observations: On 29th October 2009, there was a letter from Professor Robert Burgess, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, to 'the Leading Researchers of Tomorrow', in the appointments section of the Times Higher Education (THE) (p. 75). That letter advertised a 'New Blood lectureship scheme.' In the letter Robert Burgess stated that the THE had 'applauded Leicester's very different approach, declaring the University "elite without being elitist".'

Actually, according to the THE, it was Robert Burgess himself who made this declaration: see 'The Winners' booklet for the 2008 THE Awards, included with the THE on 30 October 2008 - '"Elite without being elitist": this is how Bob Burgess, vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester, describes his institution.' Does the THE approve of this? Not a very good example for students or new blood researchers, is it? (And what would the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) or IUSS parliamentary select committee members say?)

The above letter from Robert Burgess also tells the reader, 'Earlier this month the Times Higher Education named the University of Leicester as winner of the award for "Outstanding Student Support".' (For those who are interested in these things, that category was sponsored by the QAA.) The particular programme for which Leicester was 'rewarded' was named 'Access to Employability', which, it was said, 'aims to dismantle the barriers to employment that confront students and graduates with disabilities' (see the booklet included with the THE on 22 October 2009).

To refer back to the posting on this website on 7th February 2009, perhaps one could add to question 3 the question: Do those involved in judging for the annual THE awards ever ask for data relating to the treatment of staff by the institution in the particular area in order to ascertain whether the institution is fully committed to tackling the relevant problem, or whether the programme might largely be a PR exercise? Sources of such data might be staff survey results, grievances and legal claims. I suggest that had the judging panel done so in this instance, it might have been disappointed.

Lastly, did anyone notice that Robert Burgess was himself on the THE judging panel this year, as was the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Academy (Paul Ramsden), of which Robert Burgess is the Chair? I am sure that neither of these men were involved in the judging of the award that went to Leicester, but is it really appropriate to have on a judging panel of this kind people directly connected, or connected through association, to a shortlisted institution?

Anonymous contribution

November 04, 2009

Perhaps a lot of people don't realise...

Perhaps a lot of people don't realise that it's not just academics who are victims in the bullying culture at Kingston University. Admin/Support staff including those in KUSCO (the service company wholly owned by the university and set up by them to save money - joke) bear the brunt of stalinist diktats. I for one wholeheartedly support Dr. Frederics in his continued fight against the mindless morons who run this institution. Cripes, am I allowed to say that?


November 01, 2009

Not Your Child's Playground: Workplace Bullying Among Community College Faculty

Community colleges have provided an entree into higher education for many women. Yet, women faculty perceive the overall climate of community colleges as “chilly.” To deconstruct the interpersonal dynamics that may lead to perceptions of a chilly climate, this study examines the prevalence of workplace bullying among and between community college faulty. The purpose is to understand the nature of harassment, the ways in which women define and respond to it, and the importance of contextual factors in the prevalence.

Workplace bullying is a form of interpersonal aggression that has implications for how individuals perceive the organizational climate, job productivity, and job satisfaction. Findings from this study indicate that workplace bullying among faculty includes many subtle practices characterized by informal and formal use of power, faculty workplace bullying is affected by several enabling structures specific to the context, and victims typically respond with avoidance. This study has implications for harassment policies, faculty involvement in institutional governance, and the gendered nature of interpersonal dynamics.


Leadership Styles as Predictors of Self-reported and Observed Workplace Bullying

The connection between leadership or management style, on the one hand, and perceptions of bullying, on the other, has received little attention within bullying research. Hence, the aim of this study is to examine the relationship between subordinates' ratings of their immediate superiors' behaviours, and both perceived exposure and claims of observations of bullying at work. Based on a sampling process which emphasized randomness and representativeness, the responses from 5288 respondents in Great Britain taking part in a nationwide study on psychosocial issues at work were included in the analysis.

Bullying correlated with all four leadership styles measured. Yet, 'non-contingent punishment' emerged as the strongest predictor of self-perceived exposure to bullying, while autocratic leadership was the strongest predictor of observed bullying. Hence, while observers particularly associate bullying with autocratic or tyrannical leader behaviour, targets relate bullying more to non-contingent punishment, i.e. an unpredictable style of leadership, where punishment is meted out or delivered on leaders' own terms, independent of the behaviour of subordinates. In addition, laissez-faire leadership emerged as a predictor of self-reported as well as observed bullying. Thus, leadership styles seem to play an important but complex role in the bullying process.


October 24, 2009

Website ban for academic bailed on harassment charges

Ex-Kingston lecturer faces six months’ jail if found guilty. Melanie Newman reports

A criminal court has banned an academic from adding material to a website criticising Kingston University’s vice-chancellor. Kingston Magistrates’ Court imposed the ban on Howard Fredrics as a condition of bail after he was charged with harassing vice-chancellor Sir Peter Scott.

Dr Fredrics was dismissed from his job as a music lecturer at the university in 2006 and has been involved in an employment dispute with the university ever since. He faces up to six months in jail if found guilty.

The harassment charge brought against Dr Fredrics relates to his website,, on which he regularly posts songs, performances and other material critical of Sir Peter and the university.

The magistrate said that since July 2007, when the website was set up, Dr Fredrics had “pursued a course of behaviour which amounted to harassment” of Sir Peter. He was also charged with breach of the Public Order Act 1986 relating to a chance meeting with Sir Peter in Kingston in summer 2009. The charge sheet says the academic used “threatening words or behaviour” to “cause harassment alarm or distress”.

The academic was given bail on condition that he did not contact the vice-chancellor by any means or add further material to his website.

In 2008, Dr Fredrics published on the website an audio recording of a psychology lecturer at Kingston telling students to give the university good scores in the National Student Survey because “no one will employ you if they think your degree is shit”.

Sir Peter later complained to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) that Dr Fredrics was breaching his trademark by using the site.

But in May 2009, WIPO ruled that Dr Fredrics had the right to continue using the domain name, saying that Sir Peter had not acquired sufficient goodwill to establish the name as a trademark, and that Dr Fredrics had not commercially exploited it.


October 15, 2009

Study confirms role of perpetrator incompetence in workplace bullying

Individuals bullied at work have intuitively felt that they pose a threat to bullies -- the integrity of independence, possessing more technical skill, being well liked, and acting ethically and honestly. When personally threatened, people tend to get defensive. This seems true in bullying situations at the bully to target, interpersonal, level.

Bullies present themselves as omnipotent and powerful to dissuade confrontation and to keep from being revealed as something different. Targets intuitively sense that bullying is compensatory behavior, attempts to cover wrongdoing with bluster and bravado. It's like the Wizard of Oz in the palace who is exposed by Toto, the dog, when he pulled back the curtain showing the small man pretending to be bigger than he was. It's nearly impossible to call a bully insecure or cursed with a sense of self-inadequacy because of the power they often enjoy in the workplace. However, the intuition of bullied targets and witnessing co-workers is spot on. Bullies can be small people.

Now there is some science to back the common-sense notion.

In a 4-study research paper to be published in the November issue of the journal Psychological Science, by Nathaniel Fast (University of Southern California) and Serena Chen (University of California, Berkeley) linked aggression at work to perceived inadequacy of people in power (bosses). [Fast, N.J. & Chen, S. (2009) When the boss feels inadequate: Power, incompetence and aggression. Psychological Science, Nov. 2009] Three of the studies tested working adults and are most relevant to the workplace.

In the first study, 90 working people completed assessments of their formal authority and power at work, the degree to which they feared being negatively evaluated by others (the inadequacy measure), and their level of aggressiveness as traditionally measured (willingness to hit others, ease with which arguments are entered). The aggression survey is a reliable predictor of physical violence, verbal abuse and the tendency to get into fights. For people with organizational power, believing themselves to be incompetent led them to be more aggressive than competent people. This was not true for people without power.

In the second study with working adults, some people were guided to think about their power or competence beforehand. Aggression translated into how loud (decibel levels from 0 to 130) they would be willing to blast a horn at another person who made mistakes over 10 trials. For people who already had organizational power, being primed to think even more about that power made them more aggressive if they also felt incompetent.

The third study of adults asked participants to rate their organizational power and their aggressiveness as in the first study. People were then sorted into low- and high-power groups based the demand their jobs required. Low power tasks typically involved doing simple work, completing tasks, High power tasks involved influencing others -- supervising, closing sales. Then, the experimenters manipulated the perceived level of competence for people within each power group. Those subjected to their own incompetence were instructed to write about an experience where they failed to meet a task demand. Competence was primed by having those people recall a time when they successfully completed work projects.

This study also added another manipulated factor. Half of the people in each group were asked to select the most important value to them from a list (social life, relationships, business, etc.). They then wrote a paragraph justifying the value's personal importance. This was done to bolster a sense of self-worth, a self-affirmation. People in the no affirmation group selected their least favorite value and wrote about how the value could be important to others.

In all three studies, incompetence increased aggression for high-power, but not for powerless, working adults. Aggression decreased when powerful people were reminded of their competence. When incompetence was primed (the person was reminded of failures) for low-power people, aggression decreased. The affirmation factor created some ego defensiveness and it seems to be the explanatory factor for why power and incompetence mix the way they do to lead to more aggression.

Thus, the results point to the dangerous combination of incompetence in the hands of people with power. The authors, Fast and Chen, highlight that their work demonstrates that power holders have an increased vulnerability to perceiving potential psychological threats. Rather than feeling safe in their positions of power with the ability to disproportionately affect the outcomes of other people on a routine basis, the feelings of incompetence escalate the perception of threat in the eyes of people with actual power and authority. In turn, this leads to ego defensiveness (a self-protective mental device) that leads to aggression.

There was some limited exposure of participants to flattery, but the manipulations were weak and artificial compared to real-world kissing-up, ingratiation, that bullies receive at work. So, research on flattery's effect on aggression by a boss is yet to be advanced.

It would be an innovative to extrapolate link between perceived threat and aggression to the organizational level. Executive sponsors feel threatened when their bullying toadies are accused of wrongdoing. They react defensively. With guidance from legal counsel and HR, the entire organization responds defensively attacking the bullied accuser who dared to reveal internal weaknesses. But that is a study for another day. As they say, in the academe, further study is warranted.


October 10, 2009

Providing Leadership for Higher Education in the 21st Century

This site tells a story through documentary evidence, images, music and video. It paints a picture for the reader/viewer to judge for him/herself, rather than putting forth a particular point of view about relevant events, by asking difficult and important questions to consider about what it means to work and study at Kingston University.

A brief summary of background facts follows:

Dr Howard Fredrics began his employment as Senior Lecturer and Route Leader of Creative Music Technologies in September 2002. He moved with his wife, Lori from the United States, leaving a full-time permanent position to relocate his life to the UK.

In early 2003, he was approached by a colleague, Mike Searby, to sign a letter of grievance against his manager. Dr Fredrics decided that he did not want to become involved in such matters, as he was new in in post, still on probation, and simply did not wish to join in a mob action to address concerns about his manager. Rather, it was Dr Fredrics view that such matters are best handled on an individual basis through direct discussion with management to resolve individual concerns as they arise.

But Mr Searby did not take no for an answer. He continued to pressurize Dr Fredrics and even approached Dr Fredrics' wife, Lori to try to prevail upon her to convince Dr Fredrics to sign the letter of grievance. He also told Dr Fredrics that ALL other staff had signed the letter (a false statement) and that it would not be in his (Dr Fredrics) "best interests" to not sign the letter -- a clear threat, which Dr Fredrics understood as such. Shortly thereafter, Mr Searby and another colleague, Dr Frank Millward approached Mrs Fredrics to try to pressurize her further into getting Dr Fredrics to sign the grievance. They told Mrs Fredrics that Dr Fredrics was already becoming "marginalized" and that he would "find himself being sent back to the US" if he ended up on the "wrong side" of the battle against his manager.

What follows below are a series of links to pages containing documents, which show what happened to Dr Fredrics and his wife, Lori after Dr Fredrics made it clear that he would not engage in mobbing of his manager. Indeed, all Dr Fredrics wanted to do was to do his job, to concentrate on his teaching and research, to improve the quality of Kingston, to be helpful to his colleagues, and to live a normal and happy life. Alas, this was not to be...

To whet the reader's appetite to read/listen on, the following recording of a conversation amongst UCU union rep., Chris Wills, Personnel Director, Liz Lanchbery and Dr Fredrics documents Mr Wills request to Mrs Lanchbery that the University's appointed "independent" investigator look into allegations that Dr Fredrics was threatened by his colleagues with the loss of his job if he did not sign onto the letter of grievance against his manager. You'll note that Mrs Lanchbery agrees to formally instruct the investigator to perform such an investigation upon receipt of a written request from Mr Wills, who did precisely that. (n.b. the recording contains brief silences where the name of Dr Fredrics' manager is mentioned, in order to respect the privacy of that individual).

Mrs Lanchbery did NOT, however, include such instructions to the University's investigator, and he did NOT, therefore, investigate whether or not Dr Fredrics was threatened or otherwise pressurized by his colleagues, and whether or not this may have ultimately led to the targeting for elimination of Dr Fredrics by some of his colleagues through a collective grievance, one that was issued in much the same manner as had been done in order to eliminate Dr Fredrics' manager.

Does it seem to you that Dr Fredrics may have been bullied by his colleagues and later, by Mrs Lanchberry?

Do you think that the failure to conduct a FULL investigation, not only of allegations against Dr Fredrics, but also of charges of bullying by Dr Fredrics' colleagues means that the investigation was, from the outset, fatally flawed?


When workplace bullying enters academe in a good way

Experiencing workplace bullying in academe is a bad thing, but the entry of workplace bullying into academic dialogue is a big step in the right direction. I had an opportunity to witness the latter twice during the past two weeks.

Two weeks ago, I participated in a conference at the Western Institute for Social Research in Berkeley, California, a tiny storefront college devoted to social change and community activism. I’ve been pursuing graduate studies at WISR via distance learning, and this conference was an opportunity to present some of the work I’ve been doing on workplace bullying and intellectual activism. Overall the conference was terrific, and my presentation was greeted with an array of thoughtful, insightful comments and questions. Many of the participants shared stories about workplace bullying drawn from their own employment experiences.

At the end of last week, I visited the main center of Empire State College — the adult learner-centered college of the State University of New York system — in Saratoga Springs, New York, for a series of meetings and events built around the 25th anniversary of the school’s graduate programs. (I earned a master’s degree in labor and policy studies from ESC in 1999.) From the many discussions I had with faculty and administrators, I could tell that workplace bullying registered with them as a topic worthy of attention. My former thesis adviser told me how pleased he was to see one of his current students citing my work on workplace bullying, and I was interviewed at length on the topic for the alumni magazine.

It is noteworthy that within academic circles, the attention given to workplace bullying is bubbling up mainly from the grassroots. Many of the leading researchers are from state colleges and regional universities, not from elite private schools. Their research often embraces, rather than avoids, practical applications. Among the graduate students who are researching and writing about workplace bullying, many have returned to academe after some time in the real world. It makes eminent sense that many are enrolled in distance learning and flexible degree programs that accommodate their busy schedules, support independent study, and encourage them to draw inspiration and insight from their own work experiences.

By David Yamada, from:

October 02, 2009

The truth needs to come out! - Part 1

[Parts of the two posts below, were posted by viewers/readers on the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) online, where we originally got them from. However, within the last 24 hours THES removed the posts. Today, we had a number of visits from the QAA, including one that lasted about 27 minutes. We consider what happened to Prof. MS El-Sayed as a clear cut case of workplace bullying/mobbing in academia.]

Submission from Professor MS El-Sayed



I would like to submit written evidence on "plagiarism" at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). I have been fighting for years to expose the truth about plagiarism at the University but to no avail. I have recently written to the Rt. Hon Mr John Denham MP, Secretary of State for DIUS and Professor Paul Ramsden, Chief Executive for HEA regarding this issue. I have also formally written to HEFCE (evidence enclosed:[346] electronic correspondence with Professor David Eastwood) and QAA (evidence enclosed[347] letter from Mr Peter Williams to the Chairman of Select Committee on IUSS) asking for the issue to be thoroughly investigated.

It was made clear to HEFCE and QAA that I am unwilling to disclose the substantive, compelling and indisputable evidence of plagiarism at the University without protection against future litigation (please see Mr Peter Williams letter to the House of Common on 30 October 2008).[348] The position of these organisations is that they cannot investigate my revelations without disclosing my identity to the University, nor can they offer me protection against future litigation.

I understand the only available pathway to divulge the truth to the public about plagiarism at the University is through the "Parliament Protection Privilege". To this end, enclosed please find a very small sample of the plagiarised students' course work reports[349] as evidence.

1. Background information

I am Professor of Applied Physiology and worked at the University till I was summarily dismissed on 3 January 2007. I have contributed significantly to the British Education over the last 30 years in the teaching and research domains (please see enclosed statements by colleagues).[350] This encompassed academic and administrative commitments including the supervision of several Ph.D. and MSc students to successful completion. I have published more than 200 refereed articles, scientific correspondence items, and meeting abstracts. My capability as a teacher and researcher furnish the grounds for my personal written evidence to IUSS on plagiarism at the University.

2. Competing interest declaration

I declare that I do not have any competing financial interest or otherwise. I aim to expose the truth to the public and clear my name by disclosing the truth about plagiarism at the University. I only enclose very few samples of plagiarised (as defined by LJMU Academic Misconduct 2004-05, document enclosed)[351] course work reports by the students. Additional substantial evidence will be submitted on request to prove beyond any reasonable doubts that plagiarism has taken place, widespread and chronic academic impropriety at the University.

3. Plagiarism: the case

As it was advised by [committee staff], I sent to the Committee a very few course work of the students' plagirised reports. I would be happy to send substantially more plagiarised reports if this is required at this stage. These reports clearly and unambiguously exhibit the following:

— The verbatim copying of another's work within reports without clear identification and acknowledgements. This is defined as plagiarism according to the University's definition.

— That some or all of the students appear to have copied review articles and text books carelessly. Unidentified and unacknowledged quotations from another work are the main feature of the students' course work reports. This is plagiarism according to the University's definition.

— That some or all the references at the back of the report are not referred to within the text. This is plagiarism according to the University's definition.

3.1 The majority of students are tempted to lift sections of words from published papers or from textbooks. This is a very serious problem in the University. The students were clearly informed at the beginning of each academic semester and prior to the submission of the course work that this lifting is known as plagiarism and it is a very serious academic offence (please sees evidence attached).[352] Students were also informed when they were handed back their course work reports to reinforce the point.

3.2 The first lecture of each new semester was allocated for an overview of the module syllabuses and the subject of the course work assignment. An over head projector was used to advise the students how to write their assignments and avoid plagiarism in line with the University's Modular Framework Assessment Regulations. A single printed sheet of A4 under the title "Assignment general and specific comments" was handed to the students at the commencement of the semester. This sheet contained a number of comments defining plagiarism and stating why it was unacceptable (please sees evidence attached).[353] Students were advised to develop their own ideas and arguments and learn how to express themselves. They were informed about the seriousness of plagiarism and how to avoid it. The enclosed "Assignment general and specific comments" sheet[354] was clearly explained to the students and at the commencement of each new semester, during the semester, and prior to the submission of the course work.

3.3 Students were also referred to the University's Modular Framework Assessment Regulations (Section D Appendix C) regarding academic impropriety and that their course work should conform to those regulations. Students were advised to show that they have learnt about and can use other people work. They were taught how to quote and reference to show where they got the material from. Students were clearly informed that, in their assignment, when discussing other people ideas, they should acknowledge where the ideas came from with supporting references.

3.4 Students were advised that they must avoid direct copying from published papers or textbooks as this practice may suggest that they are incapable of using ideas for themselves. Students were also informed not to rely heavily on copying out segments from printed literatures as copying the literatures obscure whether the students understand the topic of the course work. Students, when submitted their course work reports, were required to sign a declaration that all sources consulted have been appropriately acknowledged (evidence submitted as attached to some of the plagiarised course work reports already sent to the Committee).

4. Although plagiarism is a very serious academic impropriety as clearly stated in the University's Modular Framework Assessment Regulations (Section D Appendix C), the University management has not taken this issue seriously.

4.1 The University strategies to identify plagiarism were inadequate and the procedures available to combat plagiarism were ineffective. I repeatedly tried to have my concerns about excessive toleration of plagiarism considered by the University. However, I was constantly put off by the University Management. All my complaints were ignored despite a litany of requests for action and no penalties were sanctioned when plagiarism was suspected and detected.

4.2 I had numerous grounds of grievances in relation to plagiarism over the years against colleagues and Management at the University. Most notably in May and December 2003 I have attempted to have my grievances about excessive toleration of plagiarism dealt with and investigated under the University's grievance procedures. This never happened.

4.3 When I suspected and identified plagiarism, the University should have taken my concerns seriously and a thorough investigation should have been conducted promptly in line with the University's regulations. This never happened.

4.4 I was only allowed to down mark the plagiarised assignment by 10% (see attached evidence entitled "Disciplinary Case").[355] I was not allowed to sanction more severe penalty or to fail any plagiarised course work during the consultation and moderation processes. Following my suspension, two Managers at the School alleged that they have remarked the assignments and came to the conclusion that no plagiarism had taken place (evidence would be provided on request). The external examiner confirmed the Managers conclusion (evidence would be provided on request)! I viewed this as an unacceptable practice. I believe that the managers at the University in collaboration with the external examiner were trying to cover up plagiarism.

4.5 I raised my concern about plagiarism through the University's procedures but it was then converted into a disciplinary against me with allegations that I had not followed University procedures, which is not true (see attached evidence entitled "Disciplinary Case").[356] There has been not the merest hint of actually dealing with the issue of plagiarism and I was stopped from providing the evidence I had gathered (abundant compelling evidence is available on request). This demonstrates, I believe, disregard for professional standards to an extent that should be intolerable in a British University.

4.6 Instead of investigating and determining my concerns of May and December 2003 in respect of plagiarism, managers at the University chose to suspend me on 10 December 2003. I was suspended for an unimaginable long time while the most dilatory "investigation" imaginable was conducted. This is viewed as the worst kind of sharp practice. Then I was accused of gross professional misconduct. The University managers made up false allegations against me to justify "Gross Professional Misconduct". I was eventually dismissed in January 2007 following an investigation and grievance and disciplinary hearing in October 2006. In April 2007 I appealed to the University's Board of Governors against the dismissal, but my appeal was not upheld and the final dismissal decision was conveyed to me in May 2007. The investigation was flawed in design and substance. The grievance and disciplinary and the appeal hearings were discriminatory and I was unfairly dismissed.

5. Through the University College Union (UCU) Legal Services Department, three claims (one in 2005 and two in 2007) were lodged with the Employment Tribunal and 20 days have been allocated for hearing the case commencing 14 January 2008. These complaints were based, among other issues, on protected disclosures in relation to plagiarism and overseas students' bench fees and unfair dismissal.

5.1 The Employment Tribunal hearings to a full trial never took place as I was virtually forced to enter into a compromise agreement with confidentiality clauses attached. The compromise agreement was signed on my behalf by the UCU's Director of the Legal Department as I was in a hysterical state and heavily sedated with medications and utterly refused to sign the compromise agreement.

6. My health disintegrated further as can be established by reference to several medical reports including one by the University's own occupational health doctor.

6.1 My academic career is now completely ruined, my health is ruined and the normal social fabric of my family is in a state of turmoil. The damage to my reputation and to my name and career is immense.

7. Conclusion and Recommendation:

I do believe that the unfortunate story of plagiarism at Liverpool John Moores University is in the public interest and it is therefore my responsibility to bring the above facts to the IUS Select Committee Attention. The corrupted practices by the University are a threat to the public interest and to the reputation of British Education standard nationally and internationally.

I believe that the allegations about plagiarism presented in this written evidence are very serious and warrants further considerations and investigation by IUSS Select Committee. It is hoped that IUSS Select Committee will consider the following recommendations:

— To investigate plagiarism at Liverpool John Moores University.

— To introduce and enforce rules to protect public interest and the reputation of the British Education against plagiarism.

— To introduce rules on personal and collective responsibilities and penalties for those helping to conceal plagiarism at the British Universities.

— To introduce rules to protect individuals from victimisation when exposing to the public academic improprieties.

Documents already submitted to the Committee:[357]

1. Letter from Mr. Peter Williams; Chief Executive of QAA to IUSS Select Committee regarding my allegations about plagiarism at Liverpool John Moores University.

2. Correspondences exchanged with Professor David Eastwood, Chief Executive of HEFCE about plagiarism at Liverpool John Moores University.

3. Liverpool John Moores University's widely distributed and publicised literature regarding academic misconduct and definition of plagiarism and cheating.

4. Very small sample (eight) of plagirised students' course work reports (2002 and 2003). This was the advice of [committee staff].

New documents enclosed:[358]

1. Statements by colleagues

2. Assignment general and specific comments.

3. Two pages report entitled "Disciplinary Case".

PS. Additional substantial and compelling evidence to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that plagiarism at the University had occurred, widespread and chronic will be provided on request. Likewise, additional substantial and compelling evidence to prove that the University has not taken the issue of plagiarism seriously and endeavoured to cover it up will be provided on request. The involvement of the external examiner in this issue is relevant and, I believe, warrants special consideration and investigation.

February 2009


The truth needs to come out! - Part 2

The Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee's report on "Students and Universities" accused the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) of failing in its duties. QAA declined to judge academic standards. The Committee also recommended that QAA should be abolished or transformed and given new responsibilities.

When QAA was asked, to use "cause-for-concern" processes to investigate allegations of plagiarism and research data falsifications at Liverpool John Moores University, the request was declined. When the same requst was made to HEFCE under Public Interest Disclosure, the request was also declined.

The IUSS Select Committee, Chaired by Mr Phil Willis, also recommended protection for academic whistleblowers like Professor El-Sayed who made true and honest revelations about the appaling quality and standard at liverpool John University. Professor El-Sayed had no protection whatsoever from either QAA or HEFCE. In fact he was continuously punished and victimised for over 2 years by QAA and HEFCE. The quangos endeavoured vigorously to cover up the revelations about plagiarism at Liverpool John Moores University and brush the case under the carpet.

Dr John Selby (HEFCE) and Mr Peter Williams (QAA) desperately endeavoured to cover up the case claiming that the revelations are not protected by the whistle blowing act. This is not true. The IUSS Select Committee brought the case into light and publicised, in its report and House of Common website, the corruption and deception taking place at Liverpool John Moores University regarding the quality and standard of the product the University offers. The Committee's report also warned: "The pressures within the system to protect the reputation of the institution are so strong that they risk not only sweeping problems under the mat, but also isolating and ostracising unjustly those raising legitimate concerns."

Following his revelations about plagiarism, Professor El-Sayed was suspended for nearly three years, then was dismissed. He lost his employment, he lost his career, he lost his health and he lost his family because of his honesty and integrity. Now professor El-Sayed is completely destroyed.

Mr Phil Willis questioned Professor Michael Brown; VC LJMU (Committee's session held at Liverpool Hope University March 2009); the VC was sloppy in his response and did not tell the truth about the way the university manage the deterioration of standard and quality and the way whistle blowers, such as Professor El-Sayed, have been treated. This is well documented in the uncorrected and corrected evidence published the Committee. In its report, the Select Committee called for legal protection for those who expose failings within universities, recommending that existing legislation should be strengthened.

QAA in collaboration with HEFCE, failed Professor El-Sayed and failed the public and further contributed to the failing standard and quality of higher education in England. Melanie Newman at THE has written a number of article about this case. An investigation should be authorised by Mr Anthony McLaran (QAA) into the allegations made against LJMU about plagiarism and research data fasification restore some confidence in the quality and standard of higher education in England.

The revelations made by Professor El_sayed are protected by the whistle blowing act and are in the public interest and the public has the right to know. The truth needs to come out!


September 28, 2009

Intimidation at work

When Ravi Raj accepted a position at the Harvard-MIT Data Center, he was thrilled to have the opportunity to work for a university that he believed would be a progressive and prestigious employer. Yet, to his surprise, Raj received warnings early on from his managers to never take part in union activity at his new job—although he was a member of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers. He was even more disturbed when a new supervisor began to subject him to racial slurs, mocking his Indian accent in front of other staff. The incidents that followed are not just an embarrassing, and as yet unresolved, incident for the Harvard community; they demonstrate a troubling lack of accountability in protecting union rights on campus.

Raj immigrated to the United States from India in 1986. Receiving a master’s degree in Management Information Systems, he worked at Hewlett-Packard, Anderson Consulting and Tufts University before accepting his job here at Harvard. When Raj stood up for his rights and complained to administrators about his poor treatment, he faced the consequences of a flawed system: Raj’s boss took away his office, criticized his work, and gave him a mediocre evaluation while Raj waited for assistance that never came.

Though Harvard provides official avenues for employees to voice complaints of discrimination, Raj has hit several roadblocks and in the meantime has faced threats and intimidation. Last April, on the day of Raj’s scheduled meeting between his union representative, his supervisor at HMDC, and Human Resources, a stranger approached Raj inside a building where he was working and threatened him by name. According to Raj, the man said, “Ravi Raj, you have chosen the wrong path and the wrong union. You should watch out.” Such an action is despicable for its cowardly and bullying nature.

Harvard University cannot tolerate discrimination and the intimidation of its workers. As appalling as the racial slurs against Raj may be, more disturbing is his experience when he decided to speak up. While Raj has filed complaints with the Harvard University Police Department and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Raj currently must work under the same supervisor and has received threats of being fired—even though clients often write compliments about his efficient work. The mechanisms in place at Harvard to deal with discrimination and intimidation in the workplace have failed Ravi Raj.

Raj has pursued conflict resolution with management at HMDC, HR, and even the office of the University Ombudsman without success. When contacted, HR and the office of the Ombudsman declined to comment, citing employee confidentiality. While this may be simply their policy, someone needs to step in and speak up on Raj’s behalf. One of the mechanisms in place must be broken—if not the whole system—as it appears Raj’s case has been lost without resolution. Even if there is a reason that Raj’s superiors, HR and the office of the Ombudsman have not pursued his complaints, their official silence has not allowed for resolution of Raj’s unfortunate situation. Regardless of whether the people able to bring about a positive change for Raj believe his story, they still should recognize that an employee feels seriously threatened in his workplace. It is inexcusable that no one has moved to resolve this situation for Raj on humane grounds alone.

In this challenging economic time it is even more important that we remain vigilant about cases of discrimination and intimidation in the workplace. With jobs more scarce, such cases are more likely to go unreported as people are afraid of being laid off. For his part, Raj works in fear that he will be fired because of the animosity that exists between him and his supervisor, and he believes that his co-workers are too afraid to stick up for him because of fears for their own jobs. Do we have a good enough system in place to ensure that Harvard employees are safe to defend their rights, whether on their own or as a member of any union? It would be difficult to look Raj in the eye and say, “Yes.”

Ideally the avenues in place to deal with complaints of discrimination would have worked, and Raj would have been placed elsewhere immediately, the supervisor punished, and the situation resolved. For Raj, still working in an environment that feels unsafe, a fair solution would be for management to place him in a different office with a new supervisor. Union members, students and concerned community members have held several demonstrations on Raj’s behalf. These should continue. More broadly, though, the University must look closely at the mechanisms that are currently failing to protect workers.


September 25, 2009

Kenneth Westhues: Correction of Mobbing Episodes in Higher Education

The insight in Schneider’s analysis of the “ineducability of administrators,” their common reluctance to rescue mobbing targets or even to grasp the concept, derives from his use of Max Weber’s favoured method of social research, verstehen, his stepping into administrators’ shoes and looking at things from their point of view. Schneider’s similar insight into the peril faculty associations put themselves in if they support the target has the same origin: understanding from the inside the political constraints on the association leadership.

Schneider is right that mobbing is a “loaded characterization” and mobber a “stigmatizing term.” By definition, the mere application of the term mobbing to a sequence of events in a university (or any other organization) is going to be contested by the instigators and the main participants, since it implies that reason and evidence do not support what they are doing, that in mobilizing for a colleague’s humiliation and eventual elimination, they have been “carried away” by collective passion into wreaking unwarranted harm on their scapegoat (another loaded term), as well as on the values underlying academic life.

This problem in the scientific study of mobbing is so fundamental one is tempted to switch to some other specialty. Why make trouble for yourself? All the social scientist has to say is, “By standard measures, it looks to me that so-and-so has been mobbed.” The beleaguered target may say thanks, but the great majority of those involved will do all in their power to keep this diagnosis off the table, and if they feel obliged to respond, they may well ratchet up their attack on the target, or even broaden it to include the scholar who has called it mobbing.

To whom, then, can one look for acknowledgement that a mobbing has indeed occurred, and for action toward turning back the mob and rescuing its target? Who will take the risk of disagreeing with an angry crowd?

There is no formulaic answer. A mob is sometimes stopped by a single person – a dean, a professor, maybe a secretary – with strength of character enough to stand up and say, “Cut it out. Lay off. There will be no ganging up in this workplace.” Far more mobbings than ever make the news are nipped in the bud by one man or woman who has guts. A famous example occurred long ago in the Middle East. A brave, charismatic rescuer shamed mobbers into slinking away by saying, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” That rescuer, of course, was himself mobbed sometime later, fatally.

To the question of how to correct a mobbing, a further answer is that if the mobbing has reached an advanced stage, the odds of full correction are close to nil. Leymann could not cite a single case from all his years of research, in which the mobbing target was given an apology and fully reintegrated into the workgroup. Once you’ve been collectively expelled, you can never quite go home again. The most one can hope for is mitigation of the target’s losses, in terms of reputation, respect, position, income, health, friendships, family. The realistic question is how to achieve as much mitigation as possible – the difference, for instance, between departing with a large buyout or with nothing but life and the chance to start over somewhere else.

Regardless of how much correction is won, the correcting agent is generally from outside the organization in which the conflict has occurred. Mobbing comes into clearest focus at a certain distance. Outsiders’ vision is less clouded by mobbers’ passion. Once informed of the evidence, outsiders can more easily see what has gone on and label it accurately. Further, outsiders are less vulnerable to the mobbers’ wrath. They face fewer penalties than insiders do for framing the events (to use Schneider’s term) in a way that transfers some blame from the target to the righteous enforcers of virtue...


September 23, 2009

Achtung Kingston University Staff Members

By order of the management of Kingston University, staff are not permitted to access this site from University computers. But what are they afraid of? Could it be that independent thought has become dangerous to the interests of the University?


The world of the sociopath...

...People with this disorder appear to be charming at times, and make relationships, but to them, these are relationships in name only. They are ended whenever necessary or when it suits them, and the relationships are without depth or meaning, including marriages. They seem to have an innate ability to find the weakness in people, and are ready to use these weaknesses to their own ends through deceit, manipulation, or intimidation, and gain pleasure from doing so.

They appear to be incapable of any true emotions, from love to shame to guilt. They are quick to anger, but just as quick to let it go, without holding grudges. No matter what emotion they state they have, it has no bearing on their future actions or attitudes...

...Despite this emotional deficiency, most psychopaths learn to mimic the appearance of normal emotion well enough to fit into ordinary society, not unlike the way that the hearing impaired or illiterate learn to use other cues to compensate for their disabilities. As Hare describes it, psychopaths “know the words but not the music.” One might imagine that such a false and superficial front would be easily penetrated, but such is rarely the case, probably because of the assumption we all tend to make that others think and feel essentially the same way as ourselves. Differences in culture, gender, personality, and social status all create empathy gaps that can seem almost unfathomable, but none of these is as fundamental a divide as the one that exists between an individual with a conscience and one without. The psychopath’s psychology is so profoundly alien to most people that we are unable to comprehend their motives, or recognize one when we see one. Naturally, the industrious psychopath will find this to his advantage...

The serial bully:
  • is emotionally retarded with an arrested level of emotional development; whilst language and intellect may appear to be that of an adult, the bully displays the emotional age of a five-year-old
  • is emotionally immature and emotionally untrustworthy
  • exhibits unusual and inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters, sexual behaviour and bodily functions; underneath the charming exterior there are often suspicions or hints of sex discrimination and sexual harassment, perhaps also sexual dysfunction, sexual inadequacy, sexual perversion, sexual violence or sexual abuse
  • in a relationship, is incapable of initiating or sustaining intimacy
  • holds deep prejudices (eg against the opposite gender, people of a different sexual orientation, other cultures and religious beliefs, foreigners, etc - prejudiced people are unvaryingly unimaginative) but goes to great lengths to keep this prejudicial aspect of their personality secret...

September 21, 2009

Up to tenth of workers victims of bullying - study (New Zealand)

Up to 200,000 employees - one in 10 - are victims of workplace bullying, new research suggests.

The two-year research project undertaken by academics at three universities surveyed 1600 employees from 20 organisations in the hospitality, health and education sectors.

Preliminary results showed one in 10 workers had been bullied by a colleague in the past six months, the Sunday Star Times reported. Figures extrapolated to the full working population suggested as many as 200,000 people were being bullied at work.

Waikato University organisational psychologist Michael O'Driscoll said workers were asked if they had been intimidated or abused at work, if their efforts had been sabotaged and what, if anything, was done about it.

The researchers defined bullying as a situation in which a person felt they had been repeatedly subjected to the negative actions of co-workers.

The research aimed to show how workplace bullying affected workers' health, wellbeing and job performance. "There are definite negative effects for individuals and for organisations," Mr O'Driscoll said. "People being bullied are experiencing high levels of work-based stress which you would then expect to flow on into physical symptoms."

Final results will not be available until the end of the year.




September 20, 2009

Unresolved complaint against Keele University

This unresolved complaint against Keele University regarding inadequate supervision and numerous instances of disability discrimination, has been going on for over ten years, during which time I have been thrust into the deepest emotional and psychological distress and turmoil. What started out as an academic dispute rapidly turned into a whistle blowing situation as the University spent more and more resources on covering up their initial, and then further inept decisions. My consultant psychiatrist sister told me once that I was the most stable person she had ever met – I’d certainly never before suffered from any illnesses that would have come within her sphere of expertise. But during this desperately long and painful process I have been prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication for years.

My tale is convoluted and at first sight seems inextricably complicated. But like many such stories, upon examination it tends to have the same few common strands, coalescing into a relatively simple narrative about some of the basest of human interactions – vanity, greed, power. It also encompasses the mindless knee-jerk self preservation of a large and wealthy organization at the expense of individuals.

September 19, 2009

Some readings...

Len Sperry, WORKPLACE MOBBING AND BULLYING: A CONSULTING PSYCHOLOGY PERSPECTIVE AND OVERVIEW. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 2009 American Psychological Association, Vol. 61, No. 3, 165–168


Mobbing and bullying are forms of abusiveness that are of increasing concerns in the workplace. This special issue overviews various issues and interventions relevant for the practice of consulting psychology. The articles describe theoretical issues including prevalence, definitional clarity, and the influence of individual, work group, and organizational dynamics; they also describe various organizational interventions, including alternative dispute resolution, antimobbing training, and antibullying policy development. These articles and commentaries are intended to inform, provide strategies, and foster discussion of how consulting psychologists can best serve clients and client organizations that are experiencing mobbing and bullying.


Patricia A. Ferris, THE ROLE OF THE CONSULTING PSYCHOLOGIST IN THE PREVENTION, DETECTION, AND CORRECTION OF BULLYING AND MOBBING IN THE WORKPLACE. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 2009 American Psychological Association 2009, Vol. 61, No. 3, 165–168


It is clear that psychological aggression is both common in workplaces and harmful to individuals and organizations. An emerging line of research examines organizational responses to allegations of bullying and mobbing. As a result, some researchers now identify processes for detecting, correcting, and preventing bullying and mobbing. Strategies to improve the quality of working life such as surveillance, policy development, training, coaching, and the development of selection, performance management, and reward systems that set standards for collaborative and supportive behavior at work are all necessary to move organizations toward eliminating tolerance of bullying and mobbing. Consulting psychologists have the expertise to provide such interventions because of their in-depth understanding of personality, testing, and assessment, and the application of these concepts to selection, coaching, and performance management. The consulting psychologist brings an attention to human factors that humanize the workplace. The author reviews research on bullying and mobbing, adds practitioner insights based on 13 years of practice in this area, and discusses interventions applied in practice settings.


Maureen Duffy, PREVENTING WORKPLACE MOBBING AND BULLYING WITH EFFECTIVE ORGANIZATIONAL CONSULTATION, POLICIES, AND LEGISLATION. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 2009 American Psychological Association 2009, Vol. 61, No. 3, 242–262


Workplace mobbing or workplace bullying has only recently entered the lexicon of the American workplace. Although its impact is devastating to the health and well-being of individuals, organizations also experience its effects in terms of loss of productivity, absenteeism, turnover, legal costs, and negative publicity. Legislation and policy development are 2 key initiatives that, used wisely, can help prevent such mobbing and bullying. Although the United States currently
has no legislation addressing workplace abuse, it is anticipated that bullying and mobbing will be the next legislative front for the protection of workers and the improvement of workplace culture. Today, many organizations are working with consultants to develop policies to prevent bulling/mobbing and to foster high-care work environments. A template for developing effective antimobbing/ antibullying organizational policies is provided.

September 12, 2009

Ottawa's Dismissal of Denis Rancourt

Commentary by Kenneth Westhues, University of Waterloo, August 2009

A good five years of conflict between administrators at the University of Ottawa and senior tenured physics professor Denis Rancourt came to a head on December 10, 2008. Dean of Science André Lalonde formally recommended to the Board of Governors that Rancourt be dismissed from the faculty. That same day, Provost Robert Major suspended Rancourt, closed his lab, and forbade him to set foot on campus.

The Ottawa administration's decision to fire Rancourt, imposing on him the "capital punishment" of labor relations, was even more vigorously opposed than were the lesser punishments dealt to him in preceding years. In a factual, reasoned letter to the Board of Governors dated 5 January 2009, Rancourt defended himself. Well over a hundred professors and students from Ottawa and elsewhere sent individual letters protesting Rancourt's elimination. Even before the axe fell, the Canadian Association of University Teachers had appointed a three-person Committee of Inquiry to investigate the long series of run-ins, dating back at least to the fall of 2005, between the Ottawa administration and Rancourt.

Is this a case of workplace mobbing in academe? Yes — and more precisely, administrative mobbing. (Click here for the standard checklist of indicators, here for the mainpage of the relevant website, and here for a short, basic article.)

What allows so unqualified a diagnosis is that Rancourt has made comprehensive documentation on the conflict (letters, emails, press reports, videos) publicly available on his blog and at For want of adequate information pro and con about a professor's dismissal or humiliation, it is often impossible to make more than a tentative assessment of whether it is a case of mobbing or merely a hard but measured and warranted response to some betrayal of academic purpose. In this case, Rancourt has laid bare to the public the actions that got him into trouble, the sanctions imposed, and what is most important, documentary evidence of both his own and his adversaries' views. Thereby he has bolstered his own credibility. Let other aggrieved academics take a lesson: only in so far as full information is publicly available, the cards all on the table, can outside observers make confident judgments and say things worth listening to.

It is plain from the material online that over time, administrators at Ottawa coalesced in the view that Rancourt, despite his stellar research record and the respect given him by very many students, is an utterly unworthy and abhorrent man, fit only for expulsion from respectable academic company. While administrators appear front and centre in this mobbing case, they are joined by dozens, even hundreds of students and faculty who are after Rancourt's neck. According to Karen Pinchin's trenchant article in Maclean's, "nearly one-third of Rancourt’s colleagues at the school have signed a petition of complaint against him." (Click here to read the petition, unambiguous evidence of ganging up.) Even distant pundits like Stanley Fish and Margaret Soltan piled on.

An email from Chemistry Chair Alain St-Amant is telling. Shortly after Rancourt's suspension, with his dismissal pending, St-Amant apparently agreed to debate him on a TV talk show, but then cancelled out. Rancourt sent him an email asking why, and suggesting that administrative or peer pressure was the reason. St-Amant emailed back, "I refuse to enter a battle of wits with an unarmed man. ... This will be the last you will hear from me on this matter. Enjoy the paycheques while they last." The contempt in these sentences is total. With a clever turn of phrase, St-Amant gives Rancourt the ultimate academic insult, that he has no wits, that is to say no intelligence. Then he cuts off communication and gloats that Rancourt will soon be off the payroll. St-Amant would not likely have felt free to send such a message had he not felt himself part of a campus crowd united by scorn for Rancourt.

From the available documents, Rancourt appears to exemplify a type of professor I described in my first book on academic mobbing, a professor I called "Dr. PITA" — acronym for pain-in-the-ass, or in politer terms, a thorn in administrators' sides, the one who makes them see red. Being a team player is not Dr. PITA's priority. Administrative demands that most professors comply with uncomplainingly are occasions for Dr. PITA to raise questions — and more questions.

Real-life professors can become Dr. PITA for any number of reasons. Administrators usually chalk it up to a personality defect. The documentary record suggests that the reason in Rancourt's case, as in many mobbing cases I have studied, is that he has thought deeply enough about education and the search for truth, to realize how much these noble purposes are subverted by the academic structures established to serve them. During his first dozen years of university teaching, he seems to have not only lengthened his vita but actually developed his mind, gaining awareness that institutionalizing the process of learning (that means creating a formal organization with a policy manual, chain of command, course credits, degree programs, human resources office, and so on), even though it facilitates learning in some ways (not least by providing teachers with a stable livelihood), cheapens and diminishes learning in many other ways. A student's working life easily becomes a matter of memorizing things and jumping the hoops of standardized tests, without personal engagement or independent thought. Indeed, one of the things students learn is not to learn about power, nor to question the structure of power in place, since the organization depends on this structure for funding and public legitimacy. Awareness of this downside of institutionalization is a common theme of the varied authors Rancourt cites in support of his own brand of anarchism — Paolo Freire, Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, Herbert Marcuse, Ward Churchill, among others.

It was apparently Rancourt's deepening understanding of and commitment to what learning actually involves, that led him to refuse to rank and grade his students in the established, expected way. Since grading is central to the institutionalization of learning, he felt obliged to renounce it. This was the sticking point, the offense that became the main official reason for his termination. As Rancourt plaintively wrote in his letter to the Board, "Socrates did not give grades to his students."

Rancourt's revulsion at assigning marks is not common among professors, but neither is it rare. Over the past four decades, I have known dozens of professors who, in the course of their intellectual maturation, became exceedingly uncomfortable with assigning grades. A few of them met the same fate as Rancourt. One of the offenses that led to the dismissal of theologian Herbert Richardson from the University of Toronto in 1994 (a case of administrative mobbing to which I have devoted a substantial book), was that he and his students in a graduate seminar agreed that all of them should receive the same final grade.

More often, however, administrators and colleagues find ways to accommodate, sometimes even to honor and reward, the brilliant, unusually effective researcher and teacher whose process of growth has led to reluctance to give grades. Three professors of this kind have written letters of support for Rancourt: John McMurtry, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, John Southin, retired Professor of Biology at McGill University, and David Noble, Professor of Social and Political Thought at York University. These respected academics report that their universities managed to put up with them for decades, albeit sometimes grudgingly, despite their own dissent from conventional systems of student grading. McMurtry wrote that he "almost got fired for challenging the grading system at my university 35 years ago. The V-P Academic, the Dean and the Chair all went on the record as deciding to dismiss me, but many faculty and students successfully defended me." Noble told Maclean's that "he hasn’t given grades for more than 35 years."

It is worth remembering, moreover, that Ivan Illich, dean of educational iconoclasts and author of the 1971 classic, Deschooling Society, was recruited to the faculties of Pennsylvania State University and the University of Bremen in the last decades of his life. Those universities were apparently pleased to have Illich around for students and colleagues to learn from, despite his congenital lack of docility and institutional loyalty.

Why do some university administrations mobilize collective resources to eliminate professors of the Dr. PITA type, professors like Rancourt or McMurtry or Illich, while others somehow make room for them? One key difference is whether the administrators, despite all the bureaucratic pressures upon them, continue to have a feel for what searching for truth actually means. If they still hear that search as a personal call, they cannot bring themselves to demonize, harass, and try to get rid of one who embodies truth-seeking in a pristine way, despite the administrative challenges such a professor poses. They are able to recognize in Dr. PITA not just bothersomeness and impracticality but successful engagement with inquiry and learning, the fundamental goals of a university. Their own commitment to education obliges them to show respect for the dissenter, in much the same way as commitment to the basics of Christianity obliged Joseph Ratzinger, an organization man if ever there was one, to invite the dissident theologian Hans Küng to dine with him at the Vatican, a few months after Ratzinger was elected pope.

The complete commentary: