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, www.sirpeterscott.com, 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.

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

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.

From: http://www.examiner.com

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?

From: http://www.sirpeterscott.com

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: http://newworkplace.wordpress.com

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

From: http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk

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!

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