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.