June 26, 2009

Is your academic manager a sociopath?

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm
  • Manipulative and Conning
    They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

  • Grandiose Sense of Self
    Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."

  • Pathological Lying
    Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
    A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

  • Shallow Emotions
    When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.

  • Incapacity for Love

  • Need for Stimulation
    Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others' feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.

From: Profile of the Sociopath

According to Martha Stout, 1 in 25 ordinary Americans secretly has no conscience and can do anything at all without feeling guilty. One wonders about the percentage of sociopath academic managers... Worth remembering that most serial bullies are sociopaths.

June 21, 2009

Pinker leads international attack on UCL's 'unjust' treatment of scholar

An international group of scholars has launched a scathing attack on an elite UK university, accusing it of "extraordinary and unjust" treatment of an academic.

The 25 eminent researchers from four continents, led by Steven Pinker of Harvard University, have written to University College London voicing "strong concern" over what they say is the "summary suspension and enforced silence" of Heather van der Lely, director of UCL's Centre for Developmental Language Disorders and Cognitive Neuroscience.

Internationally acclaimed Professor van der Lely, 53, was suspended on charges of insubordination by UCL last November after she refused to move to a smaller laboratory space, which she felt was inadequate for her research.

Claiming she has been victimised, Professor van der Lely is pursuing a case against the university at an employment tribunal.

The letter, sent by the group to Sir Stephen Wall, chair of UCL's council, says: "Professor van der Lely has been barred from entering her laboratory, accessing her data, managing her grants, using her email and communicating with her students and colleagues at UCL.

"This is an extraordinary and unjust punishment. The career of a scientist depends on continuous interaction with students, collaborators, funding agencies and research subjects."

The letter goes on to criticise UCL for what it says is "disrespect" for free speech. "For a university to bar its own faculty and students from communicating with a colleague on research matters ... is an affront to the liberal values that are the basis of a modern university."

It concludes by demanding her reinstatement: "We call on the administration to reinstate her, and to treat her according to principles of fairness and due process."

Professor Pinker, a renowned experimental psychologist and author of several hugely successful books on science, including The Blank Slate and The Stuff of Thought, was collaborating on a project with Professor van der Lely at the time of her suspension.

He has previously written to UCL's provost, Malcolm Grant, about the case and said the intention of the latest letter, seen exclusively by Times Higher Education, was to make clear that the scientific community was "surprised" at the treatment of his erstwhile colleague and to indicate the esteem in which she is held.

"The scientific community is watching," he warned. "There are standards for fair treatment, and this is something that other people care about."

Professor van der Lely was unaware of the letter when contacted by Times Higher Education. She referred the matter to her lawyer.

She said only that she was "extraordinarily touched" by the support of her fellow academics and that she had been barred from talking about the case.

Her solicitor, Shah Qureshi, a partner at the law firm Bindmans, confirmed that she had issued proceedings at the central London employment tribunal.

"She believes she has been victimised and subjected to disproportionate disciplinary action by UCL after raising public interest disclosures, including inadequate facilities likely to have an impact on the health and safety of children, and potential breach of patient confidentiality," he said in a statement. "She believes her actions have led to her demotion and suspension since November 2008."

Mr Qureshi said that despite the professor's being an internationally recognised expert in developmental language disorders, she felt that her scientific standing was "questioned in a way that male colleagues', including those junior to her, was not".

He added that Professor van der Lely suffered from lymphoedema - a disability causing swelling in the legs and difficulties in mobility - and felt that senior management were "reluctant to acknowledge this and failed to provide adequate working space and safe working temperatures".

A spokesman for the university said: "UCL is not in a position to comment on this case, other than to say that this a complex matter concerning disciplinary allegations and grievances that are in the process of being examined under provisions contained within UCL's charter and statutes. Sir Stephen Wall has written direct to the authors of the letter to address their concerns."

Signatories to the letter include academics from UCL and Harvard, as well as scientists from other UK and US institutions and from France, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Romania, Israel and Poland.

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

1. This particular academic is well-known and well-networked. By default, this case attracts national and international attention. Sadly, not all academics manage to attract such support.
2. This case is not an isolated case. We know of similar cases within the Russell Group in the UK, where prominent academics are going through a ritual of elimination.

June 18, 2009

The bastards in charge of 'Human Resources'

...I was totally naive over the role of human resources. I really thought they were supposed to be “in the middle” and not taking sides. What happened was a complete surprise in terms of their bias and attempts to subvert me. Constant letters, emails – taking care NOT to make actual contact. It was a shocking revelation which left me in a void. The union was my only lifeline, a mixture of my local contact treading water in quicksand with me hopeful of a cavalry charge from regional office, which never came.

Looking back, there was one critical theme to the way the whole organisation worked – this was to isolate me. The university acted illegally with the directive that I could not talk or socialise with anyone there. This was in my view an act that required the severest of reprimands – no vice-chancellor should be able to hold office with such a culture of totalitarian malice and disregard for the legal process. There cannot be more than a handful of grievances within a university at any one time and vice-chancellors should see it as their duty to ask questions and clarify how matters are progressing.

I cannot see how matters will change in universities until there is a willingness from good people with power to act. We must presume there are good people willing to do something. They need to explore reform, which includes an equitable hearing for staff who feel they are treated in ways that exemplify shoddy management and duplicity…

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

June 16, 2009

Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University Accused of Misappropriating Public Funds

According to a public interest disclosure filed with the Higher Education Funding Council of England, Kingston University's Vice-Chancellor allegedly used public funds reserved for education and research to pay for his personal legal action against a former staff member. The disclosure alleges that Sir George Scott, aka Sir Peter Scott, utilized his position as Vice-Chancellor to get the University to pay for his failed complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organisation against former Senior Lecturer, Dr Howard Fredrics.

In March 2009, Professor Sir George Scott filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) against former Senior Lecturer, Dr Howard Fredrics. The complaint sought to seize control of Dr Fredrics' previously registered domain name, sirpeterscott.com under the guise that the domain breached trademark rights. The initial complaint was lodged by Kingston University's solicitors, Charles Russell Solictiors, who indicated that they were acting for the University. In their May 2009 ruling, WIPO found, however, that the complaint had, indeed, been filed on behalf of Professor Scott, the University's Vice-Chancellor. WIPO also dismissed the complaint in its entirety on the grounds that Prof Scott was not entitled to claim trademark rights in the domain name in question.

Shortly thereafter, a public interest disclosure was filed by an unnamed individual(s) with the Higher Education Funding Council of England, alleging that Prof Scott and the University had improperly used public funds, earmarked for spending on the provision of education and for research activities, on Prof Scott's misconceived personal legal complaint to WIPO. According to the disclosure, at least $1500.00 was spent on filing fees alone, with the likelihood that substantial additional sums were spent on legal fees to launch the complaint.

The outcome to an investigation by HEFCE into the allegations is currently pending.

From: http://publish.indymedia.org.uk

June 13, 2009

'Mobbing' Can Damage More Than Careers, Professors Are Told at Conference

It probably wouldn’t be that hard for faculty members to imagine that academic mobbing — a form of bullying in which members of a department gang up to isolate or humiliate a colleague — could derail their careers. But a discussion of the phenomenon today at the American Association of University Professors’ international conference on globalization, shared governance, and academic freedom illustrated that the consequences can be much worse.

The session, based on a paper titled “Mobbing as a Factor in Faculty Work Life,” began with a gripping story about how colleagues and administrators had ganged up on a highly productive tenured professor — think of being subjected to a stream of trumped-up complaints, ousted from an office, shut out of departmental meetings and committees, accused of an affair with a graduate student, and more. The professor was eventually fired and almost immediately afterward died of a stroke brought on by the stress of it all.

The story, actually a composite of the real-life experiences of several professors who were victims of mobbing, was written by Joan E. Friedenberg, a professor of bilingual education at Florida Atlantic University who herself has experienced academic mobbing. Collapsing many stories into one, she said, allows her to better communicate “the feelings of bewilderment and dread that victims of mobbing feel.”

Ms. Friedenberg and the paper’s co-authors, Mark Schneider, an associate professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and Kenneth Westhues, a professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo, presented their research at today’s session. Mr. Westhues, who discussed his studies of academic mobbing with The Chronicle in 2006, also offered a handout that included a list of 16 indicators of mobbing. Among them: If rumors are circulating about the target’s supposed misdeeds, if the target is excluded from meetings or not named to committees, or if people are saying the target needs to be punished formally “to be taught a lesson,” it’s likely that mobbing is under way.

But victims should not assume that notifying an administrator will help. Evidence suggests that administrators may find it easier to become part of a mob than to try to stop one, Mr. Schneider said. That’s because administrators are likely to think it’s better to have one person upset with them than a group. And faculty associations, he said, can’t really “confront and expose mobbing unless they are very strong.”

Ms. Friedenberg added that administrators should be forewarned that mobbing can have a boomerang effect on them: Some victims are “driven by detail and an intense need for justice,” she said, and may launch a “significant counterattack.”

From: http://chronicle.com/

June 11, 2009

'Humiliation' had role in suicide, inquest hears

An inquest into the suicide of a senior fashion lecturer at Southampton Solent University heard that his death may in part have been related to his work. Carl Baybut hanged himself in February, a few days after attending a staff meeting to discuss changes to lecturers' responsibilities.

The University and College Union told Southampton Coroner's Court that the 49-year-old's work problems had "contributed in a significant way" to the stress he had endured before killing himself.

The union's representative, Mark Farwell, said Mr Baybut had been absent from work for about six months. He had just returned when the staff meeting took place. Mr Farwell said the lecturer may have been worried that his teaching duties were set to be withdrawn "without discussion or negotiation".

He said: "From where I sit, that looks like ritualised humiliation because it was done in the public domain among peers. I think Carl felt crestfallen when he left the meeting and (that) contributed in a significant way to the stresses he had in his mind in the days to follow."

Coroner Keith Wiseman concluded that Mr Baybut had taken his own life. Summing up, he said that although there were no significant warnings about what Mr Baybut was to do, there were difficulties relating to his workplace.

A Southampton Solent spokeswoman said the lecturer had experienced periods of ill health, during which he was supported by the university's occupational health service. "During his time as a senior lecturer at the university, there were never any indications that he was contemplating ending his own life," she said.

"It is very important to the university that its working environment is positive and productive. To this end, we will continue to look at any issues that require further examination and action, and we will be taking into account the comments made by the coroner."

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

Also: 'Humiliation' at Southampton Solent University led Carl Baybut to commit suicide

And: 'Humiliation' at Southampton Solent University led Carl Baybut to commit suicide - quote: '...a survey of members had revealed a “culture of bullying” in some areas of the university...'


The name of this higher education institution is: Southampton Solent University. Their slogan is: Become part of the Solent success story. No thanks...

June 06, 2009

Confidential references - Petition

Job references for research or academic posts are confidential and usually taken up in the selection process prior to interview. Candidates are normally unaware if their references contain personal information or an accurate portrayal of their skills. When researchers submit publications/proposals they may nominate reviewers to assess their work. They later receive anonymous copies of the reports and are often permitted to defend any misconceptions before final submission. The majority of researchers and academics have over 7 years training and skill acquisition; a major investment in resources that can be obliterated by a single vindictive or discriminating reference.

We ask that legislation be introduced to prevent Universities and Research Institutes from selecting candidates for job vacancies through confidential references. We feel that working conditions of researchers and academics would improve with more transparency in the selection process. We request that if references are necessary to select a candidate for a research/academic position then he/she should be given the right to see the reference in order to rectify any misleading statements.

Please sign a petition at:


Posted by S.

June 01, 2009

Harassment Among University Professors and Academic Staff

Harassment is behavior that manifests itself in the form of conduct, actions, and verbal comments, often insidious, aimed at destabilizing an individual. This behavior breaks down the individual’s psychological resistance, often for the purpose of submission. Harassment can lead to the victim’s exit from an organization. Harassment can take the form of injurious comments, unjustified criticism, or openly proffered insults, but it can also include seemingly harmless insinuations and other forms of abuse. A simple act of aggressiveness becomes harassment and has deleterious effects when it continues over a period of time, and when the targeted group or individual is, or is perceived to be, in a situation where it is difficult to mount a defense.

Heinz Leymann (1996a, 1996b) described this phenomenon as a form of psychological terrorism. The acts he terms harassment have the effect of taking away people’s freedom of expression, isolating them, destabilizing them, discrediting them personally and professionally, and restricting their access to resources to which they are normally entitled if they are to perform their work. Harassment can jeopardize the victims’ health and make them feel insecure. Considered separately, the actions constituting harassment may appear harmless, but their constant repetition has pernicious effects.

Several indicators of harassment have been observed in universities. To understand this phenomenon, an ad hoc committee of the Québec Federation of University Professors (FQPPU) conducted a qualitative study of union representatives and faculty members. The study, rich with personal testimony, found that the university culture and context breed harassment and an abusive exercise of power, the effects of which harm the victims, and the university as a whole.

Contrary to what many of us prefer to believe, harassment is rarely the work of perverse individuals who take pleasure in targeting others having the typical victim profile. Instead, we found that harassment ensues from political and organizational choices that impose extra workloads, competition, and an emphasis on individualism as methods of managing and organizing labor.

Québec universities are not immune from the problems faced by other organizations. The underfunding of higher education combined with the growing commodification of university activities and the movement toward the quantification of performance evaluation criteria is the breeding ground for harassment. Some professors, facing too much work and competition for limited resources, take extreme measures to remain successful in the system. Because of the of the discourse that urges professors “to keep their noses to the grindstone,” to embrace the virtues of pride, excellence, and economic realism, we have observed practices that surreptitiously corrupt the work ethic by subjecting professors to excessive competition and accounting management strategies that are foreign to the idea of quality research and training. We have also observed practices that make it seem normal to consider people as instruments and resources to be manipulated and burned out.

“What I learned from my experience is that, in the university hierarchy, you have to be prepared to fight like a tiger. And if you don’t have the stomach for that, you just have to lie low. I never would have said that three or four years ago.”—a comment by a professor in an FQPPU focus group In the university milieu, harassment generally occurs at key points in a professor’s career—during hiring, performance evaluation, and the time leading to the granting of permanent status or tenure. It can also come into play in the major decisions governing university activities, especially during the allocation of teaching duties and budgets or when setting development

Legitimate formal and informal powers are exploited not only by people in administrative positions, but by colleagues prepared to take advantage of others. Harassment is often associated with the manipulation of committee work, rules of debate, consensus-making, and the criteria for allocating duties and resources. Certain strategies are regrettably popular in order to get to a professor...

From: http://sohp.psy.uconn.edu/SOHPNewsletterV6May2009.pdf