December 18, 2011

76% white and male? That's today's UK professoriate

Figures showing that 76 per cent of UK professors are white men should prompt the sector to address its "inequalities", according to the head of higher education's equality body.

This year's Equality in Higher Education: Statistical Report 2011, from the Equality Challenge Unit, was the first to look at professors in terms of the "interplay of multiple identities", including both race and gender.

The report finds that in 2009-10, only 0.9 per cent of UK staff in professorial roles were black or minority ethnic (BME) women. But 3.4 per cent of staff in non-professorial roles were BME women. And 76.1 per cent of UK national staff in professorial roles were white males. The ECU said it did not have figures on the proportion of white males among all higher education staff.

The mean average salary of female staff was £31,116 compared with £39,021 for male staff, an overall pay gap of 20.3 per cent, the report notes.

David Ruebain, chief executive of the ECU, said: "The statistics do highlight a stark gap in representation at professorial level. We hope they will alert the sector to the need to act to address these inequalities."

He added that the "success of the Athena Swan programme", which aims to improve the careers of women working in science, engineering and technology departments, "has shown that change is needed at the systemic level to tackle these imbalances".

The ECU is currently running pilot programmes on race and gender with a number of universities, seeking to address cultural problems "such as barriers to professorial status and management positions", Mr Ruebain said.

Overall, 53.8 per cent of higher education staff were women. Yet at professorial level, just 19.1 per cent of staff were women.

An ECU spokeswoman explained that a provision in the Equality Act requiring employers to publish figures on their pay gaps has not been enacted by the government and noted that it "wouldn't apply" to institutions of higher education even if it were put in place. Proposals have been formed in Scotland.

The strongest equality duties are in Wales, the spokeswoman said, where universities must collect data on pay differences for all "protected characteristics" including race and gender and must "have due regard" to the need for equality objectives.

The ECU findings came as the National Union of Students published a separate report on disability hate incidents among higher and further education students across the UK. The report found that 8 per cent of disabled respondents "said that they had experienced at least one hate incident while studying at their current institution, which they believed was motivated by prejudice against their disability".

No Place for Hate recommends that universities "should consider setting a specific objective on tackling hate crime as part of their public sector equality duty"; "raise awareness of what constitutes a hate incident and the negative impact of this behaviour on the victim and others"; and establish strong support networks for disabled students.


December 06, 2011

University of Iowa settles few bullying cases

Even though workplace bullying has been identified as a major concern in recent years, University of Iowa officials responsible for informally resolving those disputes are successful in only one in every eight cases, according to data that sheds light on a campus office often shrouded in secrecy.

The Office of the Ombudsperson resolved 8 of 63 bullying complaints brought to its attention by students, faculty and staff between January 2010 and Oct. 5, 2011 and improved the situation in two others, according to data released to an Iowa City lawyer and shared with The Associated Press. The office failed to resolve 13 complaints, and the outcome was listed as "unknown," "unclear" or blank in most of the rest, according to the data, which the university released only after being threatened with a lawsuit.

The data highlights an office whose operations have largely been done in secret since its creation in 1985 and appears to undercut its claims that most employees are satisfied with the service they receive. The office is supposed to serve as "a confidential, neutral and independent dispute resolution service" for the school's 15,000 faculty and staff, according to the university operations manual, but has no authority to order changes if voluntary agreements can't be reached.

Bullying among students has become a major issue in schools following several tragedies involving gay teens, but the issue also is prevalent among adults in the workplace. More than one-third of U.S. workers say they have experienced bullying, the repeated mistreatment by bosses and co-workers that includes verbal abuse, threatening conduct and intimidation, according to a 2010 survey commissioned by the Workplace Bullying Institute, a group dedicated to combating the issue.

Staff Ombudsperson Cynthia Joyce declined comment on the data and referred questions to university spokesman Tom Moore. In response to written questions, he called bullying "one of the most intractable problems the office handles."

"There are many reasons why a case may not be resolved at the time of the office's last contact with a visitor with concerns about this problem," Moore wrote. "In particular, in the majority of workplace bullying cases, the visitor does not want any action taken by the office."

Critics say the data shows the office favors the university administration and does not do enough to help workers who are mistreated.

"The ombuds office at UI has a long and successful history of resolving conflicts. However, the current atmosphere there is toxic to bullying victims," said attorney Andrew Hosmanek, who has studied bullying in the workplace and shared the data with AP in hopes of changing what he considers an ineffective office. "Bullying victims should be aware that, according to this data, bringing a case directly to the ombuds office is very unlikely to end in a positive result."

Under the current set-up, he said employees may need to pursue a formal complaint, file a lawsuit or consult with a counselor or psychologist to change what he called a "bully culture that has arisen in parts of the UI."

In addition to the low rate of resolution, the data shows:

-- The office made a "low" effort in more than two-thirds of the cases. Moore said that may be because the office simply listened to concerns and helped workers decide on a course of action or that visitors decided to resolve their concerns independently by quitting or transferring jobs, for instance. In complex cases, the office may expend low effort if it is only one of several university offices working the problem, he added.

-- The office made a "high" effort in a single case, which ended by arranging a meeting with a department executive officer.

-- At least five of the complaints later went through a formal legal process, including a lawsuit, an appeal or a grievance.

-- The office redacted the details of each complaint except one: "Significant other of UI grad student is being mobbed at work." That complaint received a low effort by the office and the outcome was unknown.

Hosmanek filed a public records request seeking details on the office's handling of bullying complaints in October after the office's annual report claimed that 81 percent of its visitors left satisfied with the service they received. The report based that claim on a voluntary survey returned by 41 percent of the roughly 500 visitors to the office last year.

The report said complaints of disrespectful behavior, including bullying, have sharply increased in recent years and now involve one-quarter of the office's cases. Against that backdrop, Hosmanek said he wanted to see the data to gauge the office's effectiveness.

Moore claimed many visitors leave satisfied even if the office doesn't resolve their complaints.

University records custodian Steve Parrott at first rejected Hosmanek's data request, arguing the office's promise of confidentiality to those who complain was crucial to its operations. "The office performs no government function, maintains no official documents, and provides mediation services. Its records are confidential and privileged and therefore not subject to open records requests," Parrott wrote.

Hosmanek protested the response, arguing the office was subject to the public records law, served a public function, and did maintain records. Parrott acknowledged the office had records, but claimed they were exempt from disclosure because they were "confidential personnel records" under Iowa law.

After Hosmanek said he did not want names of employees or victims, only data, and threatened to seek legal remedies for an open records violation, Parrott told him there were 63 bullying complaints for that time period. The school eventually released heavily-redacted records from the office's database showing the effort expended in each case, the outcome and whether the dispute later went to a formal grievance or legal process.

"Although the University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson position remains that their records are confidential and not subject to disclosure," he wrote, "the Office was willing to share the enclosed documents to bring this matter to a close."


December 05, 2011

Is a whiter-than-white academy blind to the racial inequality in its midst?

Universities are "oblivious" to racial inequalities and are failing to act on problems because they "see themselves as liberal and believe existing policies ensure fairness", it has been argued.

Andrew Pilkington, professor of sociology at the University of Northampton, stated in a lecture, "Institutional Racism in the Academy", that the "sheer whiteness" of universities often means that "they ignore adverse outcomes and don't see combating racial/ethnic inequalities as a priority".

When the Macpherson report on the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry was published in 1999, it famously spoke of a police investigation marred by "institutional racism". Jack Straw, the home secretary at the time, broadened the issue, suggesting that "any long-established, white-dominated organisation is liable to have procedures, practices and a culture that tend to...disadvantage non-white people".

In an attempt to remedy these problems, the government introduced colour-blind widening-participation strategies for students and equal-opportunity policies for university staff. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 identified a number of specific duties.

Professor Pilkington drew on research he had carried out for his recent book, Institutional Racism in the Academy: A Case Study, to assess how far universities have risen to the challenge.

The research compares an anonymous "Midshire" police force and a post-1992 university based in the same county. Although there was less racism in the university's "occupational culture", as reported by its black and minority ethnic (BME) employees, it shared with the police force "a taken-for-granted white norm" and was dominated by a white senior management.

The university's employment practices, lack of positive action and the low priority given to race equality also scored badly.

Although universities had undoubtedly addressed equality issues, if only in response to external pressures, Professor Pilkington suggested that "action was particularly evident in the period 2002-03", and had probably achieved more in relation to gender than ethnicity. Subsequent government agendas on themes such as "community cohesion" might also have shifted the spotlight from race.

There remained a great deal to be done and far fewer incentives for universities to devote time and energy to the area, he argued. In widening-participation programmes, "funding letters never mention race or ethnicity but invariably refer to social class or a proxy measure of it", he said, while "performance indicators are wholly class-based".

Pre-entry and access initiatives are given priority over equally vital "interventions once students have entered higher education", he added. And the specific needs of BME learners could drop off the agenda when incorporated into generic widening-participation policies.

Professor Pilkington concluded that "BME academic staff continue to experience significant disadvantage...10 years after the publication of the Macpherson report", while BME students continue to be less likely to be awarded good degrees.

Although adept at finding fault elsewhere, universities "remain oblivious of inequalities in our midst and the need to ensure that our own policies and procedures are evidence-based", he said.


November 29, 2011

A bullying culture at Sydney Uni?

A bullying culture at Sydney Uni? An understandably anonymous tipster claims bullying of staff and students at the University of Sydney is now so rampant that staff openly seek to garner the support of students in their fight against an "utterly stubborn" management.

They write: "Further, students have been driven to the point of suicide or even attempted suicide at the hands of bullying university staff and the stock university response is to engage its hired legal guns (the Office of General Counsel) to shut the complainants down. Further still, the university's perpetual cash cow, the Business School, is awash with bullying of Chinese students, first through the over-representation of such students in academic dishonesty matters, and again the discriminatory manner in which those students are dealt with when they make special consideration applications due to illness or misadventure. Chinese students are often publicly yelled at by lecturers in the Business School: 'You are in Australia now, do as we do!'"

Are things really that bad? We'd love to hear from more staff and faculty on life on campus. Drop us a line or comment anonymously.

By Anonymous

Will Stirling University ever learn...

Stirling University doesn't like bad publicity. However that hasn't stopped them from using their corrupt practices to destroy people's lives. Instead, they try to hide their devious ways from the public gaze. Their lawyer obsessively raises the matter of my blog with judges because it is causing the university and several of its employees considerable embarrassment.

Since 2009, Wikipedia has displayed the story of David Donaldson, who in 2007 was a senior researcher at Stirling University. He removed a colleague's name from her research grant application, and replaced it with his own, attempting to make it look like it was his work. His act of piracy, which required swapping names eleven times, was discovered and he eventually wrote a letter of apology to his colleague, Dr. Rhodes. However, he later unfairly forced her out of her job at the university. She won her unfair dismissal claim at Glasgow Employment Tribunal in February 2009. Stirling University awarded Donaldson a Professorship shortly after he admitted to stealing Dr. Rhodes' work.

A number of attempts have been made to remove the article from Wikipedia. It is bound to be a source of embarrassment to the University. In the talk section for Wikipedia's Stirling University page, a discussion refers to a legal representative for the university asking for the Donaldson article to be removed. The request was rejected.

Times Higher Education carries a more detailed account of what happened.

Of course you must be wondering how an academic gets pushed out of a University by another academic. Dr. Rhodes was subjected to the same sham grievance procedure as I was. HR Director, Martin McCrindle conducted an investigation into her grievance and concluded there was no case to answer. He was backed by Principal, Christine Hallett. When Dr Rhodes told Martin McCrindle that she would prove what happened in court, McCrindle replied saying that she had 'no basis' to make a claim to the tribunal. As soon as she submitted her complaints to the tribunal, which she did as she had no other way of addressing what happened, they declared they wouldn't contest her claims! She won the case before it even got to court!

Their lawyer agreed with the judge when he said that not resisting her claims amounted to agreeing with them. Her claims included the fact that Donaldson's theft of her research had led to her dismissal (the theft for which she had a letter of apology) and a sham grievance procedure to investigate what happened when she found herself forced out. The university changed their reason for dismissing Dr. Rhodes three times. Each time she informed them that the reason was not valid in her case, so they just invented another false reason each time.

Similarly, in my own case, at my appeal hearing against dismissal I advised Martin McCrindle that my dismissal would prove embarrassing to the university and to several of its employees. He replied saying that that was only my opinion. Well, of course it was only my opinion, but I think it was a correct opinion. If my blog isn't causing anyone any embarrassment, then why is the university paying their lawyer to keep going on about it like a broken record? And if they weren't embarrassed by their sham grievance procedure, why would they risk a jail sentence by committing fraud in an attempt to cover it up, Martin?

Will Stirling University ever learn that they can't treat people like this?


November 17, 2011

'Prima donna' professors lambasted for failure to mentor

A lack of leadership and the failure to support and mentor junior colleagues have been highlighted in a major study of the professoriate.

Of the 1,200 academic staff from lower grades who responded to a survey commissioned by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, more than half (53 per cent) said they did not receive sufficient help or advice from professorial staff.

Only about one in seven (14 per cent) said they did receive enough support.

Asked if they had received excellent leadership or mentoring from professors in their university, 26 per cent said "never" and 36 per cent "occasionally". This compares with 9 and 19 per cent who responded "very often" and "quite often", respectively.

The study was led by Linda Evans, a reader in education at the University of Leeds, who revealed the provisional findings to Times Higher Education.

Working with colleagues at Oxford Brookes University, she collated hundreds of comments about professors from the point of view of "the led", with respondents from across 94 institutions complaining that many professors were remote, unhelpful, haughty, self-aggrandising and poor communicators.

One disgruntled staff member described professors as "prima donnas, bullies and not team players", while another said the "notion of 'professorial leadership' struck a slightly odd note" because he viewed them as "only looking after their own interests".

Another characterised them as "personal glory seekers", while yet another inveighed against "backstabbing assholes who take the credit for other people's work".

Asked about the accessibility of professors to more junior academics seeking advice, one respondent said: "Are you kidding?" Another said they were generally "too 'busy' with 'important stuff' to bother with mentoring".

Dr Evans, whose study is titled "Leading professors: examining the perspectives of 'the led' in relation to professorial leadership", said she was struck by the volume of criticism. "The comments were predominantly negative," she said.

"There were also positive comments, however, so it's certainly not a case of 'professor bashing'. But some academic leaders and management would be quite surprised at how negatively they are viewed."

A lack of clarity over the professorial role helped to create much dissatisfaction, added Dr Evans, with some professors asked to fulfil too many roles.

"It was remarked that many professors are appointed solely on the basis of research and some are almost autistic," she said.

"So why should we expect them to have leadership skills? That was not the criterion on which they were appointed.

"There must be some system of bringing on the next generation of academics, but whether it is done through professors or the wider university is an important question.

"If we are not careful we will be pulling professors in too many directions. They are not Superman - we can't push them into roles they do not want or cannot do."

Defining a professor's remit was also difficult when the university sector contained so many different institutions, she added.

About 87 per cent of respondents said a professor should maintain a publication record above non-professorial staff, while 82 per cent said excellence in teaching should be a requirement.

About 77 per cent said professors should generate a steady stream of research funding, while 52 per cent believed they should have a lighter teaching load than other staff.

However, the comments received in the survey highlight many common gripes.

"I have no idea what professors in my department/college are supposed to be doing," said one academic, adding that "from the looks of things, neither do they".

Another said: "Many of our professors were 'bought' in for the last [research assessment exercise] and have done nothing to contribute to an improved research culture. Some think teaching is beneath them."

Professors were also described as "pointless - they have little or no role outside their own direct concerns" and are "only interested in getting the star on other people's papers and raising research funds with other people's ideas".

"'Professorial' and 'leadership' are two words that in general do not fit together in universities from my experience," concluded another.

"Once promoted to that position, the majority are slowly heading to retirement. Many of them are unknown to colleagues even in their own corridor."

The year-long study will now seek to gain views from professors themselves, with the findings discussed in seminars hosted by the Society for Research into Higher Education.


November 07, 2011

The academic as truth-teller

The logic of the bureacratisation of academia, forcing academics to 'publish or perish' and cut corners when it comes to teaching, has more to do with the marketisation of universities than learning and scholarship.

Sadly, just as the principle of free higher education is under assault as never before, so too is the idea of the academic as a free-thinking intellectual, particularly in the UK. In the first place, rather than being allowed to pursue ideas for their own sake, increasingly British academics are pressured into meeting university and departmental demands for the five- or six-yearly Research Assessment Exercise (lately renamed the Research Excellence Framework). Introduced in 1985/6 as a means of evaluating the ‘quality’ of academic research across the various disciplines, the RAE requires university departments to submit four publications for each full-time member of staff selected for inclusion. Departments are then ranked according to their research outputs, research environment and indicators of esteem by a panel of subject specialists (there were 67 panels for the 2008 RAE). And it is these rankings that determine the allocation of quality weighted research funding each university receives from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), a non-departmental public body currently overseen by the Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. But the pressure to perform well in the RAE has resulted in academics being subject to ever-increasing layers of micromanagement and performance indicators whose logic are more corporate than they are academic. In actual fact, the roots for this bureaucratisation of scholarship can be traced back to the elite US Ivy League business schools and management consultancy firms such as Bain & Company, the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey.

The upshot of this academic drift is that the ‘publish or perish’ imperative is now endemic within academe. And not just any old publication will do. The sheer volume of submissions to the RAE (over 200,000 outputs were submitted as part of the 2008 RAE) makes it virtually impossible for panel members to read through each and every article, which invariably means that common assumptions are made about the ‘quality’ of articles published in top peer-reviewed journals vis-à-vis those published elsewhere. But what this supposition overlooks is all the very good quality research published by those academics who refuse to play the RAE ‘game’. Indeed, it has been argued that only publishing in the ‘top’ journals forces academics to fashion their research around what those journals want, which can result in an unwillingness to push beyond the narrow confines of specialist fields of study and, ultimately, intellectual inertia[11].

Moreover, with sails trimmed tight, increasingly academics are forced to cut corners if they are to meet the next publishing deadline, particularly newly qualified academics who are expected to combine research with heavy teaching loads and endless administrative duties (a problem whose sheer scale and mind-numbingly tedious and pointless nature appears to be exclusively British). ‘What ever you do, don’t over-prepare’: ‘You only need to be one step ahead’: ‘Just cover the basics, ignore the rest’. These are just some of the suggested coping strategies one encounters when starting a new lecturing post. So much for the idea that the university is a place where teaching is carried out in an atmosphere of research, and vice versa. And this says nothing of the way in which the instrumentalisation of research has undermined collegiality by atomising any sense of a collective academic community[12]. It is no wonder that many junior academics, though grateful to finally have got their feet under the desk, find the early years of their careers strangely alienating and dispiriting, not quite knowing where to begin, what to prioritise or who to turn to[13].

Other ‘McKinseyian’ performance indicators include the unyielding pressures academics now face to secure external sources of funding (otherwise known as ‘grant-capture’), which often involves the preparation of long and tedious application forms for ever decreasing amounts of money and worsening odds of success. To compound matters, most academic funding bodies have rolled out award schemes that encourage collaborative research with a non-academic partner, which necessarily means a further narrowing of research aims and objectives. That many present-day universities so prize ‘cultural partnerships’, ‘corporate sponsorship’ or ‘third-stream funding’ in an effort to offset the shortfall in government funding muddies the waters yet further insofar as one sees increasing numbers of academics posturing as ‘consultants’ in the belief that research which has an economic or technocratic function is the surest way to gain promotion. And should the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework go ahead with the proposed 25 per cent weighting for so-called ‘impact’ (the premise being that academics and university departments will need to demonstrate how their research has impacted on and benefited the wider economy and society) the situation will almost certainly become even worse. In terms of the humanities specifically, the effect would be, as recently noted by Stefan Collini, ‘potentially disastrous’, not least because the implication is that academics will ‘be judged and rewarded as salesmen’ and thus forced into ‘hustling’ and ‘hawking’ their intellectual wares[14].

Which brings us to the crux of the matter: as market-driven research and corporate partnerships are accorded even more importance in higher education due to ever decreasing amounts of public funding, it is increasingly likely that we will see yet more universities adopting a subordinate relationship with possibly corrupt and manipulative power elites. This is all the more reason for academics to adopt the position of truth-teller and to question anything and everything that facilitates the growing marketisation of higher education or undermines academic freedom. However, defending the university requires much more than academics representing truth through democratic criticism and moral indignation. Also needed is a much broader social movement comprising all UK university workers, students, other public sector employees and the trade unions. Only then might politicians start to rethink their present assault on higher education, indeed, on the welfare state at large.

In the meantime, it would seem that the onerous responsibility of speaking truth to power has fallen on the student movement. It is they who have taken the upper hand and who are asking difficult questions. And, who knows, if student occupations spread up and down the country, perhaps we will see the uncovering, just as Warwick’s students did, of yet more evidence of ethical wrongdoing. If such a situation were to occur, however, universities will of course accuse students of irresponsible behaviour and do everything in their power to bring them to heel. In fact, there are already disturbing signs that the state itself may yet ‘police’ matters (in and through its many ideological apparatuses) should student dissent intensify. There is no question that those students singled out for ‘public misconduct’ in the months ahead risk all kinds of draconian sanctions, indeed, they run the risk of jeopardising their future careers. And all because they have the conviction to defend the idea of the university as a vital social and public institution. One only hopes that academics will express equal commitment and courage, not just in their writings, but in their actions too.


[11] See Simon Head, ‘The grim threat to British universities’, New York Review of Books, 13 January 2011.
[12] See Ronald Barnett, Beyond All Reason: living ideology in the university (Buckingham: Open University Press, in association with the Society for Research into Higher Education, 2003), pp. 108-10.
[13] For a full analysis of the changing academic experience in the UK higher education sector (based on survey evidence), see Malcolm Tight, The Development of Higher Education in the United Kingdom since 1945 (Berkshire: Open University Press, 2009), pp. 271-97.
[14] Stefan Collini, ‘Impact on humanities’, Times Literary Supplement, 13 November 2009, pp. 18-19.


October 26, 2011

The YouTube video they do not want you to watch...

The management of the University of Newcastle in Australia somehow managed to ban this YouTube video clip. According to, this clip can't be accessed in Australia! In addition, the Federal Police has been invited to investigate.

There are all kinds of questions to ask, some relatively obvious: What happened to freedom of speech? What scares the management of the University of Newcastle in Australia?

Have a look at the video clip at:

Also read: Newcastle uni bully claims: Academic says harassment led to illness,

and: Uni staff complain about bullying

October 24, 2011

Organisations contribute to workplace bullying

Poor management and avoiding responsibility may contribute to workplace bullying, leaving employees feeling sadness, shame and pain.

According to research by University of Waikato PhD student Alison Thirlwall, who graduates this week, bullying is usually the by-product of an already troubled workplace and by avoiding responsibility, workplaces contribute to the problem.

Her interest in workplace bullying was sparked when she worked at a south island polytechnic and she found a gap in literature while researching an abusive situation amongst the workforce.

To conduct her research, Thirlwall collected survey data and interviewed workers from 10 New Zealand polytechnics and institutes of technology.

“My enquiry into workplace bullying aims to show how bullying starts, how it’s experienced and managed by targets and the way it ends.”

She found that “Bullying is a process that exhibits a common pattern and is much more than simply negative or inappropriate behaviour. In its most extreme form, targets can be subjected to ostracism and campaigns of verbal and behavioural abuse.”

“Common types of negative behaviour reported in the interviews included shouting, rudeness, and unfairness but the impact of these behaviours was magnified by the overall process, sometimes leading to targets raising grievances, or in extreme cases, wanting to assault their abusers.”

Thirlwall says being in a low-power position does not necessarily make someone more likely to be bullied and men and women reported similar levels of bullying.

“Targets of bullying construct their experience as a complex process that typically starts and ends with a change in an already troubled workplace. The most frequent emotions to emerge are linked to sadness, shame and pain.”

Bullying was described metaphorically in terms of fights, madness, and isolation and perpetrators were described as duplicitous, dangerous animals, and explosive.

“Consequently, targets perceived their job satisfaction as negatively affected. Interestingly, their job performance was unaffected. Enjoyment of, or a commitment to, the job itself appeared to mitigate the effects of bullying on performance but the problems remained.”

One thing that stood out in Thirlwall’s research was how emphatic targets of bullying were about the difficulties they encountered while seeking support from management.

“Organisations, including unions, typically sequestered, or set aside, their responsibility for managing bullying; consequently they contributed to its continuation,” says Thirlwall.

Earlier this year Thirlwall received an outstanding doctoral student award and is one of 500 University of Waikato students who graduate this week at ceremonies held on October 19-20.


October 15, 2011

The madness of kings

In the course of a career lasting 30 years, I have worked for, or observed closely, the activities of six vice-chancellors. All began sensibly, but, with one exception, the longer they remained in power, the odder they grew - and some became positively dangerous.

First the exception. One admirable vice-chancellor in a Russell Group university was so determined not to lose touch with the life of the university that he insisted, uniquely in my experience, on taking responsibility for a first-year module. It happened that this module was delivered in the department that I led. Although it was never a secret, the students were unaware that the nice professor who taught them was, in fact, the vice-chancellor (I don't think many students know who their vice-chancellor is). He took on a full teaching load, set and marked exams, and attended assessment and award boards. This allowed him to speak with authority about how the university systems worked, which made life interesting for several central departments. He was certainly the best vice-chancellor I have met.

I later moved to a second Russell Group institution, arriving just as its vice-chancellor had been reappointed for a second term. I was told that he been quite sensible in his first five years, but in my time the eccentricity index rose sharply. Shortly after his reappointment, a university car (with flag on the bonnet) was procured, along with a chauffeur who drove the vice-chancellor to and from his house and then remained on standby all day "in case he was needed".

Then there arrived an all-staff email saying that the practice of using the vice-chancellor's name was to cease - henceforth we were to address him at all times as "vice-chancellor". The view among the senior team was that the sensation of almost unrestricted power had gone to the vice-chancellor's head. Eventually the council did persuade him to retire, but it was not easy, and the damage he did to that university took years to undo.

The vice-chancellor for whom I have worked most recently confirms my thesis. Although a churchgoer, he lacked compassion. He saw nothing wrong with denying a colleague whose wife was undergoing chemotherapy leave to drive her to hospital.

Once again, the eccentric behaviour became more pronounced with years spent in the post. This time, it took the form of an intolerance of dissent. The vice-chancellor believed that he was always right. Anyone who held a different opinion, let alone argued, had to be wrong and had no place in his university. Some went voluntarily, some did not. In my time, we lost colleagues ranging from deans to secretaries as a consequence of the vice-chancellor's tantrums.

The role of a university council is, we are told, to act as a critical friend to the university - but that requires the members of council to be capable of independent thought. When I was appointed, the council contained members who pre-dated the vice-chancellor's arrival. They provided some moderation. However, this vice-chancellor has now been in the post so long that he has had a hand in appointing every member of council, including the chair. I learned how controlling an influence this was from an acquaintance who had applied to join the university. Apparently, the initial application produces an invitation to meet the vice-chancellor "for an informal chat", after which the applicant is told whether or not "the university would welcome a full application". Through this mechanism, the council has been populated with individuals unlikely to criticise the regime.

The vice-chancellor's dislike of dissent has led to successive reductions in the size of the senior team. First deans were excluded, then senior support staff - and finally pro vice-chancellors. The university is now run by an executive consisting of two people. There are no checks, no debates and no cabinet discussions. There is, however, widespread disquiet.

The result - Edicts are issued without consultation, and the atmosphere in Senate House has become positively feudal. Machiavelli's "Prince" has come to life.

The conclusion to be drawn from all this is that nobody should be allowed to be a vice-chancellor for too long. In the commercial world, chief executive officers are kept in check by shareholders and customers. Such restraints are absent in a university. The constant deference, insulation from the real world and almost unchecked power weakens most people's grasp on reality, and after a time dangerously autocratic traits may appear.

Perhaps the most important function of a council is to be alert for this and indicate when it is time for the CEO to leave.

Postscript: The author is a senior academic who is leaving the sector for a job in the commercial world.



We note that the above does not only occur with VCs. It is also widespread with other 'lesser' senior managers such as deans. Prof. Hassan are you reading? ' took the form of an intolerance of dissent. The vice-chancellor believed that he was always right. Anyone who held a different opinion, let alone argued, had to be wrong and had no place in his university. Some went voluntarily, some did not...' and '...Although a churchgoer, he lacked compassion...' Yes, in the first line of prayer!

October 13, 2011

Academic alleges bullying in $1m suit against film and TV school

The head of the Australian Film, TV and Radio School, Sandra Levy, has been accused of bullying, undermining and micromanaging staff by a former executive who is suing for more than $1 million.

Professor Katherine Blashki has launched legal action against the school and Ms Levy, its chief executive, claiming she was forced to work outside normal hours when she was supposed to care for her intellectually disabled daughter.

The school and Ms Levy deny all the claims and will be defending the case.

In a statement of claim filed in the Federal Court, Professor Blashki said Ms Levy would say words to the effect of ''you are stupid'' and ''I don't know why I have you here'', to her at least once a day.

She alleges that in June 2010 Ms Levy leaked to the media the email advising of her resignation, wrongly sent her on ''gardening leave'' and wiped her computer files.

Professor Blashki, a leading academic in interactive digital media, said she agreed to resign from her tenure at Deakin University and move her daughter Phillipa, 24, from Melbourne to Sydney to take up the position of director of education and research at the school.

She says the school knew about her daughter's disability and agreed to provide a flexible working environment in which she could drop off and pick up Phillipa from day programs and other appointments and care for her at other times.

Professor Blashki said Ms Levy knew she could not get to the school's Moore Park headquarters until 9.30am yet she scheduled executive meetings at 9am and would often make decisions regarding her area of responsibility in the first half-hour.

She also claims despite promises made to her before she took up the role in early 2008 she was denied time and resources for academic research, was not allowed to travel overseas for conferences and had no control over her division's budget.

She says Ms Levy bullied her by calling her a liar and denying she had requested or approved work and micromanaged her by standing in the car park and noting the time she left work.

Ms Levy is a long-time film and television producer and former executive at the ABC and Nine Network. Appointed in 2007, she was responsible for overhauling the school's curriculum. Professor Blashki was hired to develop ''new media'' programs such as gaming.

The school is a federal government statutory body with alumni including leading directors such as Phillip Noyce, Gillian Armstrong, Jane Campion and Cate Shortland, as well as Oscar-winning cinematographers Andrew Lesnie and Dion Beebe.

Professor Blashki is seeking damages for discrimination, misleading and deceptive conduct and breach of contract.

The school and Ms Levy are yet to file a defence. In a statement, the governing council said it had ''total confidence … for the staff and management of the school in this matter''.

The matter returns to court on February 7 next year.


October 11, 2011

University of Iowa Ombudsperson worried about disrespectful behavior on campus

Disrespectful behavior on campus and lack of experience with conflict management are among the continued, long-term concerns of the University of Iowa Office of the Ombudsperson, which hears from hundreds of faculty, staff and students annually.

And while total visits to the UI Office of the Ombudsperson declined in 2010-11, the first decline in five years, Ombudsperson Cynthia Joyce said she is more concerned about the types of complaints the office sees and how those are changing or continuing over the years.

“We do not see higher numbers as bad news,” she said. “What we worry about are the reasons people come to see us, and are we seeing big changes there.”

Those specific patterns tell officials more about what’s happening on campus, Joyce said in presenting the 2010-11 Ombudsperson annual report to the UI Faculty Council Tuesday.

The office saw 501 total visits or contacts during 2010-11, a decrease of 3 percent from the year prior. Of those visitors, 45 percent were staff, 32 percent were students and 18 percent were faculty members. When comparing the number of visitors to the numbers in the campus population in each group shows that 4 percent of UI faculty, 1.7 percent of staff and less than 1 percent of students visited or consulted with the Office of the Ombudsperson last year.

“Faculty really are the heavier users of our office,” Joyce said. “Undergraduates are by far the hardest group to reach.”

Officials continue to have concerns about reports of disrespectful behavior on campus, avoidance of conflict and lack of experience in conflict management, problems with accurate performance evaluations, concern about mental health issues on campus and concern about vulnerable populations, Joyce said.

Of the 501 visits last year, 25 percent were concerns about disrespectful behavior, which includes bullying and workplace bullying. That’s an increase from 22 percent the prior year and 17 percent in 2008-09.

The largest area of concern and complaint for all visitor groups to the office stems from a supervisory relationship, such as with a boss or dean — or a faculty member, in the case of students.

The UI Office of the Ombudsperson is a resource for all UI faculty, staff and students with problems or concerns. The office staff provides informal conflict resolution services and advocate for fair treatment and processes.


October 08, 2011

Repeatedly bullied...

I was repeatedly bullied by the Vice-President of Hisuping Institute of Technology when I was employed there. After the semester started in September 2002, I soon found that massive fraud was taking place in the form of excessive grade inflation for so-called students with whom there was an open tacit understanding that paying one’s tuition and merely attending classes, or at least sufficiently being present for the roll call, would mean eventually getting a degree.

Personally, I refused to undertake teaching work without honesty and integrity, and therefore failed students according to an accurate appraisal of their performances while they consistently refused to cooperate. The president at that time informed the English department faculty members that regardless of our frustration with the students unwillingness to do what they were supposed to do – study and show at least some nominal respect for classroom etiquette – we must not fail more than 15% of any class.

The Vice-President went further, demanding of me personally on several occasions that I do not fail more than 5% of a class, and impose grades on a bell curve, which he claimed was done at reputable universities, while not mentioning that would constitute fraud. When I said I would not be a party to such fraud, I was told that I would do as I’m told if I wanted “to keep working there.”

I refused to compromise my integrity after being repeatedly called to go to his office where the same demand was repeated and was continuously criticized for allegedly being unable to teach. I was accused of being at fault for the very high failure rates and was even threatened with my work permit being cancelled, which would mean that I would be fired and have to leave the country at short notice, if I didn’t agree to artificially inflate grades to such a high extent that they would be rendered totally meaningless while the so-called students did nothing to earn even passing grades. I was also repeatedly told to resign and publicly ridiculed in department meetings.

After I refused to comply after being repeatedly threatened and forced to listen to baseless false accusations, I was removed from all of the evening classes at short notice and told my contract would not be renewed for the following year, i.e. forced to resign.

“First they abuse you, and then they ridicule you, and then you win.” Mahatma Ghandi


There had been a series of harassing measures taken against me by the present department chair of the AE department at Overseas Chinese University in Taichung, Taiwan.

In April 2010, I was told I must write a self-deprecating letter about how I “plan to improve myself" regardless of my other achievements, including publishing three books and receiving the national research grant for four years. Apparently, turning in teacher training documentation for the school year before he became department chair was more important, and for some reason he made it his business to harass me about this matter, and publicise it among colleagues.

On 19 April 2010, I was mobbed in the teacher training evaluation committee where I was told to speak in my defense before the colleagues there about how I need to “improve myself,” as if this were a campus prosecutor’s court, before being told to leave the room after making my statement. I was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to having to write another letter of self-criticism, and became a journal editor, and find this opportunity on my own, regardless of the fact that no one on this committee but me is a journal editor, and the only member of this committee who has published original research.

On 10 June 2010, the same department chair threatened me with my contract not being renewed if I did not turn in the teacher training documentation for that school year.

Beware of a department chair harassing you for an alleged shortcoming on your annual evaluation, and intending to humiliate you in public because of it and sharing this with your colleagues, and then using the same pretext to threatening you with dismissal solely on the grounds of an alleged minor shortcoming.

Andrew Szanajda

October 01, 2011

8th International Conference on Workplace Bullying and Harassment

'Workplace Bullying and Harassment: Towards future Challenges'

The topics on the conference are:

Health effects and rehabilitation
Risk factors
The phenomenon of bullying
Identifying and measuring bullying
Bullying and the law
Coping with bullying
Costs of bullying: Organizational and societal

The conference will be held on June 13 - 15, 2012, at the University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Social Sciences, in Denmark.

More information:

September 22, 2011

Dr. Claudius D’Silva

As you know, we (UCU) protested in July against Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) management’s decision to dismiss our branch colleague Dr. Claudius D’Silva for taking a race discrimination case to the employment tribunal. We recognised the dismissal as a serious blow to justice and fair treatment in our workplace. Dr D’Silva, who has a significant and extensive academic profile, was a Senior Lecturer in Chemistry and Environmental Science at MMU from 1993 onward.

We called on the Board of Governors to demonstrate MMU’s commitment to fair employment practices and to reinstate Dr D’Silva to his previous position without loss of standing or earnings.

We also urged the Board of Governors in July to ensure that the university’s disciplinary procedure was not used to undermine the provisions of the Race Relations Act. We urged them to move to restore the good name of MMU in the field of race equality. We also urged the Board to investigate bullying and the use of ‘gross misconduct’ charges against employees at MMU.

We are deeply saddened to report that a panel of the Board of Governors confirmed the dismissal, stating that all was in order.

The university’s final decision poses a threat to all employees at MMU who exercise their employment rights and in particular those who choose to complain about race discrimination.

Judicial Review

We can report that Dr D’Silva is seeking a judicial review of MMU’s actions and that legal papers have now been served on the university. A judicial review provides a legal avenue to challenge violation of one’s rights by a public body.

The Administrative Courts have issued Dr D’Silva’s claim and the university is required to file acknowledgement of service of the notice and provide their summary grounds of defence with the Court by the end of the month. We hope and trust that the Court will grant Dr D’Silva permission to bring judicial proceedings.


Thank you to all those supporters who sent emails of concern and protest to the Board in July. It appears that those emails did not actually reach members of the Board (and this is a concern for the branch in terms of communication with the Board). Thank you to those supporters who protested outside the Board of Governors’ meeting. Thank you to those people who signed the online petition at calling for fair treatment and reinstatement of Dr D’Silva.

One moving statement on that online petition came from one of Dr D’Silva’s colleagues, Dr Gordon Nicholas, who also stood in protest outside the Board meeting on his final day at MMU before retirement. Dr Nicholas said: Claudius has been a valued Chemistry colleague of mine for many years. The decision to air-brush Claudius out of the RAE several years ago was vindictive, astonishing and short-sighted given his ability and reputation as a researcher. I understand that about one million pounds has been spent by the University in their legal battle with Claudius. I consider this to be a shocking misuse of precious financial resources – the result of gross incompetence by a management more interested in the closing of ranks than supporting an aggrieved member of staff. Effective handling of this affair could not only have saved a lot of money but also avoided the devastating impact that this case has had on the life of my colleague.

Professor Phil Scraton, criminologist of Queen’s University Belfast, wrote: It is a fundamental principle that those who believe that they have grounds to bring a case against an institution can do so without fear of reprisal. The Tribunal should be the place of decision and both sides, in agreeing to the process, should abide by its decision. If, as it appears, the institution punishes the complainant for taking the complaint it amounts to a gross infringement on their right to take a case. It also sends a severe message to others who might have a discrimination case. All efforts should be made to resolve this case and the institution should take the initiative and reinstate Dr D'Silva and allow external due process to decide on the case.

We continue to support Claudius – his career, health and livelihood should never have been so meanly attacked. We honour his determination and fortitude and we hope that he wins justice soon.

You can send a message of support to Claudius at

Walter Cairns, UCU Branch Chair, Manchester Metropolitan University

September 17, 2011

Nothing has changed at Canberra Institute of Technology

Juliana Knight couldn't sleep, she cried constantly and was afraid to leave the house. For her, life was anxious and frightening, the simple task of driving a car too onerous to consider. But then one day the terrified creature started to fight back and demanded justice.

Knight and her former Canberra Institute of Technology colleague Patrick Reubinson have decided to speak out on behalf of a group of former and current CIT staff who say there is a culture of bullying and harassment at the institute.

They have finally gone public following successful Comcare claims for psychological damage and because they say they have nothing left to fear. (The pair were two of four successful Comcare claims for psychological damage.) Meanwhile, WorkSafe ACT is still investigating seven complaints against CIT after the watchdog issued improvement notices on three separate work areas at the institute earlier this year.

The complaints, legal bills and pay-outs may be stacking up, but the CIT's chief executive, Adrian Marron, says ''he was not, and is not'' aware of any culture of bullying and harassment at the institute - although he was made aware of the allegations which are being investigated by WorkSafe.

''Nobody has made a formal complaint to us and we don't have any formal complaints on record,'' Marron says. ''It's inevitable from time to time that there will be incidents and personal issues and they may seem to some people to be one thing and to someone else another. I don't see bullying and harassment as the fabric of CIT.''

But bullying and harassment in the workplace comes at a high cost - a 2010 Productivity Commission report found that 2.5million Australians experienced some aspect of bullying during their working lives. The report found that bullying and harassment in the workplace costs the economy about $15 billion a year, and the issues are not properly addressed in occupational health and safety laws.

The multi-billion dollar bullying black hole did not include the hidden costs, such as hiring and training employees to replace those who left because of workplace stress. The report also found that workplace stress claims tended to be more costly than claims for less serious physical injuries and resulted in more time taken off work. And time is running out for government departments to stamp out bullying, harassment and workplace stress.

From next year successful claims such as Reubinson's or Knight's could open government to multi-million dollar lawsuits and this has prompted the head of WorkSafe ACT, Mark McCabe, to put all government departments on notice.

Under current Health and Safety regulations ACT Government departments and Commonwealth public service departments cannot be prosecuted for breaches of occupational health and safety legislation.

''That's about to change at the end of the year [because] harmonisation protection for the public service will disappear and they will become prosecutable just like any private company,'' McCabe says. ''It should send a warning bell to other departments; what I've been trying to say to departments is you will become prosecutable from the end of this year - you need to make sure your house is in order.''

Patrick Reubinson speaks with a thick Gloucestershire burr, but his voice breaks and tears well in his eyes when he talks quietly about his love of teaching and imparting skills. He gesticulates and his hands are well-used. Not as rough as his father's, he quickly explains. It was Reubinson's blue-collar upbringing that made it hard for him to accept he was suffering psychologically in the workplace. It wasn't like a broken arm or leg - it was much more insidious.

Reubinson devoted his career to teaching. But the litigation took its toll on his health and family. For almost three years he lived away from his wife. The retired chef says the CIT is keeping its eyes firmly shut to the problem until the WorkSafe decision is handed down. He says four Comcare court cases which found staff had suffered serious psychological harm as a result of employment at CIT should be ringing alarm bells.

While the Commonwealth Comcare scheme operates under ''no-fault'' legislation, Reubinson says there is a clear link or pattern to the claims. Reubinson was unsuccessful in his first claim with Comcare, but a hearing in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal subsequently upheld his complaint.

''Either the AAT decided with the complainants, or Comcare conceded, and the only reason Comcare conceded is because they know they are going to lose and that these things did happen,'' he says.

No-fault means that an injured employee does not have to prove negligence on the part of their employer for their claim to be successful, but it must be clear on the balance of probabilities that the injury occurred or disease arose in the course of employment. For a claim for a disease to be successful, the employee must show that the employment contributed to a material degree to the contraction or aggravation of that disease.

The former cooking teacher says he decided to speak out about his experience because he was afraid it would be swept under the carpet. He welcomes the WorkSafe investigation but wants its scope extended.

''I think there has to be an investigation conducted at the highest level outside of CIT.''

The Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal ordered CIT to compensate the 55-year-old after his treatment during a 2008 complaints investigation process left him with adjustment disorder and depression, and he was unable to work.

''My blood pressure went through the roof, I had to go on medication - these things are not good.''

The tribunal found that the CIT's actions after two students accused Patrick Reubinson of inappropriate language were unreasonable, untoward, misleading and without procedural fairness, and he was paid $152,000.

Juliana Knight, 61, says mismanagement, bullying and harassment by her employer, the CIT, almost killed her. The former occupational health and safety teacher succeeded in a claim for compensation and rehabilitation for a psychological disorder, after an incident at CIT left her unable to work. Knight worked for the educational provider for more than 20 years. Her last day at work was February 23, 2009. She has been medically retired and is in the pursuing action which will see she is paid 75 per cent of her annual wage until she turns 65. Her doctors say she will never recover and won't be able to return to useful employment.

With her husband at her side for support the softly spoken woman has made the decision to speak about her experience. ''I do not want this to happen to anyone else, and at some stage someone has to stand up and stop it - it's got to stop,'' she says.

She is determined that things should change and says if policy and procedures at CIT were followed she would still be able to work and contribute.

''I was intimidated and appalled by their behaviour. There have been several occasions where I've been made to feel like I'm a criminal where I'm the guilty party - mentally they crushed me. Before all this happened I was extremely confident I would take on challenges, I was totally independent.''

Marron says things have changed since Reubinson and Knight worked at CIT. He says procedure for handling of complaints have been strengthened and streamlined, but denies there was a systemic problem at any time. Earlier this year all ACT Government departments, including the CIT, implemented the ''RED framework'' for Respect, Equity and Diversity.

''It's a whole new response within the public sector for dealing with harassment and bullying,'' Marron says.

He stresses the Comcare cases, including Reubinson's and Knight's, were not about bullying and harassment. ''It's about a procedural issues which is not about bullying and harassment ... That whole process in the early part in 2010, did raise to me that we needed to have a look at what was happening, and that drove some of the intervention that we subsequently made. I did that because I'm a manager but I did that without making a judgment because I didn't have any evidence. I had a lot of people saying this and a lot of people saying that - but I didn't have any evidence [of bullying].''

And he says an independent 2010 staff survey showed ''that in the main things are pretty healthy''.

It is no longer acceptable to hurl abuse at workers in public or reduce staff to tears with destructive criticism, but Reubinson questions how workers can have faith in the new policies and procedures when they were clearly not followed in the past and there has been no acknowledgment that there was a problem.

''They could not follow the procedure they had in place previously so the new procedures are just token word of mouth,'' Reubinson says. ''Staff are still intimidated and the culture is still very very intimidating.''

Marron says proving bullying is difficult because it boils down to he said, she said. He says the CIT also has a duty of care to protect employees against allegations until they are proven. ''The thing is bullying and harassment is a very serious claim with serious consequences and that's why it needs to be a proven case.'' But other staff who remain employed by the CIT, and spoke on the condition of anonymity, say nothing has changed.

The special counsel for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Geoff Wilson, represented four CIT employees in their Comcare claims. He says the cases prove there were, and perhaps still are, systemic health and safety issues at the CIT as all the workers he represented suffered a psychological injury.

Wilson says, ''Maurice Blackburn represented four people who became psychologically unwell because of what happened at CIT and the way it was handled ...''

He is unable to go into detail as some of the cases are still ongoing. But in one case a staff member suffered a ''major depressive disorder ... with secondary panic and agoraphobic symptoms, that was significantly contributed to by her employment with Canberra Institute of Technology''.

In that case Comcare paid the CIT staffer compensation and legal costs.

''Comcare claims were lodged and all of these claims were successful,'' Wilson says. ''This is an indication that there are systemic health and safety issues in that workplace.''

Knight and Reubinson say the union is aware of the situation and has tried to help forwarding their complaints to Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

The acting secretary of the ACT Australian Education union, Glenn Fowler, confirmed a number of members had made allegations of harassment and bullying against the CIT to the union.

''The AEU is aware of issues facing members at the CIT, we have been supporting these member for some time now and we continue to work with them to ensure that they receive due process,'' Fowler said.

When asked if the union was satisfied that the CIT was a safe work environment for its members, Fowler said ''I don't want to answer that, sorry.''

The complaints have emerged as the ACT Government considers its response to the Bradley Report on the University of Canberra and CIT, which recommended merging the institutions.

Meanwhile, the WorkSafe investigation is expected to be completed by the end of the year. But Knight and Reubinson fear more lives will be destroyed and taxpayer dollars will continue to be wasted paying staff who are unable to work because of injuries which should and could have been avoided.


September 13, 2011

They don't stop until they destroy...

I was a full-time professor of sociology at Harrisburg Area Community College in Lancaster Pennsylvania. And I had kick butt evaluations at Penn st. University. I was mobbed, or multiply harassed dozens of times in the academia at Harrisburg area community college in Lancaster pa.

The people I worked around were sick and mean dude. I classify them now as having sociopathic tendencies. I taught all the advanced sociology courses at HACC, and I was the best sociology instructor there, hands down. In one of my first semesters I taught at HACC, I taught: race and culture, aging, soc problems, and soci 101. The second semester I was at HACC Lancster, I taught four different courses in one semester. can you believe that?

This happened just after I was out of graduate school. The leadership stunk at HACC. There were two other law suits going on at the time. They sat back and watched the harassment go on and on with me. It grew and grew like a snowball. Nobody did anything, but encouraged it to continue. The staff turned students, administration, and colleagues against me.

I finally filed a 60 point complaint of harassment with the PaHRC, and the EEOC. I kept thinking it was gang rape??? The case no are as followed PaHRC case no.200800802, and EEOC No. 17F200960329. In reality the complaint could have had hundreds of individual cases of harassment against me. When I filed the complaint I was fired, and it spread to organized cause stalking in the community of Lancaster Pa. They were spreading all kinds of rumors about me: unstable, aggressive, on drugs, a time-bomb... nothing could have ever been further from the truth. It did happen!

It was documented that one student would harass me 3 to 7 times a day. He did this for six weeks while the administration, and security sat back and watched. Nobody could understand what it was because it was so sick and so unbelievable. Even the doctors and counselors were confused because they haven't dealt with any cases where people had been victimized by mobbing or work place harassment. Only when a Forensic psychologist examined me did people understand what had happened to me. A person is so out of that they really don't even know what has really happened to them. You just get depressed, angry, hurt, and PTSD. Flash back of the torment, and helplessness of being cornered and attacked over and over again. And you just have to keep smiling. It's sick! Sometimes people don't even realize it is going on, but it is. And it has tragic psychological consequences on a person.

My complaint was filed. It is set stone, it did happen, and there is no denying it... my professor warned me this would happen in Lancaster, and it did. I am just glad I documented the entire thing. It happened just like a story prof. Joan Friedenberg wrote about, and posted on a site except it was much worse at Harrisburg Area Community College in Lancaster Pa. Forget the birds dude, they were like wolves and hornets stinging me over and over again... And they don't stop until they destroy, or run off...


September 10, 2011

e-petition: Criminal Penalties for Workplace Bullies

Responsible department: Ministry of Justice

In 2010, Unison reported that more than one third of workers had been bullied in the previous 6 months, double the number a decade ago. Complaints of bullying are now more prevalent in claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination. However, the current law does not provide adequate protection for the targets of bullying. This petition urges the Government to introduce individual criminal offences and corporate criminal liability for bullying in the workplace, similar to the provisions of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Penalties should include imprisonment, unlimited fines and compensation orders. Bullying and harassment in the workplace was recently criminalised in Australia following the suicide of 19 year old Brodie Panlock, a waitress who was bullied at work. Tragic events should not be necessary to catalyse legislative change. This petition urges the Government to criminalise workplace bullying and harassment.

Sign at:

September 07, 2011

Just because bosses can read about their staff's private lives, it doesn't mean they should

This week, a new social media guide for the workplace has finally urged bosses to be transparent and reasonable when "snooping" on their staff via social networks. And it cannot have come soon enough.

ACAS, a body which helps organisations improve relationships with their workers, published the guide in response to the "growing problem" posed by the use of social networks by employees in the workplace.

Refreshingly, the tips are incredibly progressive, urging employers not to be "heavy-handed" by penalising staff for unprofessional comments on websites such as Facebook. Online behaviour should be judged within specific contexts, as offline behaviour is. If managers check on employees' use of social media, they must make it known what they scrutinise and why.

Nearly six out of 10 staff now access social networks at work, either via their computer or smartphone, every day - and while most companies do not have any social media policy to speak of - a factor Acas is trying to change by publishing this guide - the internet still seems to many people a private place for them and their friends.

John Taylor, ACAS's chief executive, has advised bosses to be cautious about reprimanding employees for comments they make on social networking websites and having knee-jerk reactions.

He said: "If an employer is too tough, they need to consider the potential impact of any negative publicity. Heavy-handed monitoring can cause bad feeling and be time consuming.

"A manager wouldn't follow an employee down the pub to check on what he or she said to friends about their day at work. Just because they can do something like this online, doesn't mean they should."

However, it does work both ways, and if an employee does publicly insult their employer online, without applying any privacy settings, then it is the equivalent of shouting out abuse in the town square - and they can be judged for it. A balance definitely needs to be struck between what information is made public and what is put behind strong privacy settings online. But, until now, most guides have laid the onus at the feet of the person publishing information.

The ACAS guide does state that employees should assume that everything they say on the internet could be made public and that they should think about whether they want their colleagues or boss to read it. However, what this guide does which stands out from the rest is address the fact that there are contexts online, just as there are in real life. Just because bosses can read about their staff's private lives, it doesn't mean they should or even that they can use that information against them.

Indeed, the ACAS guide clearly cautions employers about the risks of "Googling" potential employees and using any personal information gleaned from the internet, such as a person's religious beliefs, in the recruitment process.

In no uncertain terms, managers have been warned that they risk being sued for discrimination if they use websites such as Facebook to look into the private lives of prospective workers and then use this information when deciding whether to hire them or not.

In a week that has seen Jodie Jones, one of Britain's youngest councillors, criticised by her colleagues for drunken photos on Facebook, taken before she assumed her post, this part of the guide needs to be taken on board by employers everywhere.

We are entering an era where everyone will have grown up with a social network profile. They may well have published embarrassing photos, the type that used to lie forgotten in dusty albums in the attic and now exist in the full glare of the internet.

Yes, privacy settings should be applied, but sometimes things slip through the net, and so context must be applied when employers come across this type of personal online information. Further, managers should tell prospective employees and current staff whether they have looked at any material and why they have done so. All "snooping" activity needs to be relevant, transparent and appropriate.

The ACAS guide also encourages employers to promote the use of social networking websites in the workplace as a "key part of business and marketing".

The recommendation comes despite a study by myjobgroup, a jobs website, which calculated that social media activity in the workplace cost the UK economy £14bn in lost productivity last year.

Some companies have taken the rash step of banning access on work computers to social networking sites such as Facebook, but doing so is incredibly short-sighted as people can easily access social networks on their smartphones. Moreover, what's the difference between frittering away hours online and old fashioned time-wasters such as making a cup of tea or having a cigarette break? ACAS has advised bosses to draft their own social media policy in order to avoid staff confusion about what is and isn't allowed online.

But rather than these policies prescribing draconian measures which limit freedom of speech, they should preach common sense and apply principles used in the real world.

Every employer does need to make it clear to their staff what the company policy is on the use of social media and employees have a duty to ensure that any information they publish online is either not publicly available, or benign enough for any reasonable manager to stomach.

But, equally, bosses must not abuse information that may be available to them through the internet if it isn't relevant.

If there is more honesty and compassion all round, the modern workplace can evolve and flourish. Ultimately, businesses will reap the rewards in kind through happy workers and clever digital communication.

Emma Barnett is the Digital Media Editor at The Telegraph.

Twitter: @emmabarnett

September 4, 2011


Looking for YOUR Stories!

We are currently seeking individuals who are willing to be interviewed about their personal stories dealing with bullying in the workplace as a victim, bystander, upstander (intervener) or as a bully.

We are particularly interested in how the issue was dealt with and resolved, if was resolved at all.

All types of personal stories

We are looking for all types of stories from the perspective of a victim but also stories that inspire about individuals or organizations who have intervened.

Interviews are for a documentary film

The interviews are to be used as research for a film entitled Workplace on the Edge (working title) a documentary project focused on the current psychological health of the workplace. It profiles people directly impacted by it and corporate structures that unwittingly support patterns of abuse unacceptable in other environments.

If you are willing to share your story please fill out the form and a general outline of your personal story.

We will then contact you by email for further information or an interview.

Information is confidential

All information you provide is strictly confidential and will not be used on this website or documentary without your explicit permission.

If we would like to use the information, we will ask you explicitly for permission to use it in the documentary project which includes the website and documentary film.

More info at:

August 31, 2011

University of Ottawa's bad faith dismissal of tenured physics professor Denis Rancourt

On 10 December 2008, Denis Rancourt, a tenured physics professor with 22 years experience, was provided with two letters by University of Ottawa administration officials. The first letter explained that he was being placed under administrative suspension and banned from campus, while the second explained that the Dean of the Faculty of Science had recommended to the Board of Governors that Rancourt be fired.

The stated reason for the University of Ottawa's actions is Rancourt's assigning of A+ grades to all students in a fourth-year physics course (PHY 4385 - cross-listed with PHY 5100) in the Winter 2008 term. Rancourt gave out the grades, which were officially approved by the university, because he believes that rank-ordering students is at odds with effective pedagogy. Thus, to achieve a similar effect as the pass/fail system, which is not approved at U of O, Rancourt handed students the highest possible grade so that they could not try to do any "better" and thus, in his view, focus their attention on learning. Rancourt has asserted that: "Socrates did not give grades...[m]y job is to educate. Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that what we've been doing with the grading system doesn't work. We are creating obedient employees, but not people who think."

At a 31 March 2009 Executive of the Board of Governors meeting, the University of Ottawa dismissed Professor Rancourt.

In July 2008, an arbitration decision declared that Rancourt's approach to grading was protected under the purview of academic freedom.

In November 2008, the Canadian Association of University Professors announced that it would launch an Independent Committee of Inquiry into Rancourt's case

In the interest of full transparency, Professor Rancourt has chosen to make all documents pertaining to his case available to the public on Please click here and explore the many menus on the site.

August 30, 2011

Aussie uni bullying stories...

The University of Newcastle: It is very, very difficult to 'move on' from workplace bullying.

Many of us have been bullied out of work /study at the University of Newcastle.

It is not at all possible for us to 'move on'. We cannot move on because we have nowhere to go!

My job ended but so did my career - the bully used her contacts to alert her friends and colleagues in all the universities in Australia.

I am not even considered for new positions, I am refused entry to meetings and workshops, purposely avoided by previous colleagues, etc.

So, where do I move on to? Out of Australia with no references?

Leave my work helping people that I am passionate about and forget my hard-earned qualifications and experience (25 years in a specialist field) and "just" start again?

I am not sure it is humanly possible not to feel bitter and excessively angry when you have worked hard, done the right thing, tried to maintain standards, etc and the bullies, with their dodgy ethics, continue to be rewarded and to rise and rise in the University.

More stories and info at:

August 29, 2011

Parlez-vous fran├žais?

Recently, one of the regular visitors to this blog is based in France. Sadly, we do not speak French and as such we are not able to provide our French colleague with the support he may need. However, we ask our French-speaking colleague to send us an email anyway, and we will make an effort to find a trustworthy French-speaking colleague that can contact him.

Our email address is:

August 28, 2011

This is a true story

I was a professor of sociology at Harrisburg Area Community College in Lancaster Pennsylvania. I am a victim of academic mobbing. After working a year and a half in a hostile environment I filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, and the EEOC. The complaints are PHRC Case No.200800802 and EEOC No. 17F200960329.

I didn't realize what it was called until a forensic psychologist spoke to me, and evaluated me in Delaware. A doctor in Lancaster for some strange reason wouldn't acknowledge it happened. However during the harassment I knew something was going on. The faculty were saying things like: I was a time-bomb, on drugs, aggressive, and unstable. Nothing could have been further from the truth, but the playing off the fact I was ex-military with three honorable discharges. There were two female faculty members, that were even turning students against me, and the dean, who was a relative of one of those faculty members, even allowed the students to harass me.

When I filed the complaint I just knew I was being harassed. And only now after two years have I put it all together and realized the harassment was academic mobbing. When I filed a 60 counts/charges complaint I was then terminated after three full-time years at the college. Actually my complaint should have numbered 100 to 200 counts/charges of harassment against me.

I was teaching all the advanced sociology courses, and getting good evaluations, students seemed to like me, but once I filed the complaint of harassment I was released. When the finding came back from the complaints to the PAHRC and EEOC they were filled with lies from people I didn't even know. Once I was released from Harrisburg area community college in Lancaster, the harassment spread into the community of Lancaster, and became organized cause stalking. It ended up with me being set up and thrown in jail. At 5x the normal bail.

When the police showed up they were saying I was dangerous, and telling my neighbors, people I associated with, and so called friends I was a dangerous suspect. And without even having a trial I was posted all over the internet and blacklisted by one man in Lancaster. This one man placed me on the internet 12x. He had ties to the school I taught at in Lancaster. This is a true story.

I was arrested a month prior to the finding being released by the state, And when I got the police reports back the finding and police reports looked strikingly similar. I feel I have one of the most documented cases of academic mobbing in the history of the United states. For some reason, through it all, I kept methodical diaries on all the times and the people involved, and everything they said. I kept all the paper work too.

As Goffman explained life is like a theatre, and it almost seemed as though I was in my own movie when all this crazyness was happening. It was amazing, and the doctors and counselors all ruled me normal, smart, but depressed. True story! They do it for pleasure and sport. They don't stop until they have eliminated you by sending you to a mental institution, commit suicide, incarcerate you, or kill you... This is the God truth...

August 23, 2011

Leeds Metropolitan University saves £75,000 a year by tackling workplace stress

Leeds Metropolitan University has saved £75,000 a year by implementing a scheme to tackle workplace stress.

John Hamilton, head of safety, health and wellbeing at the university, put the scheme in place over two years ago in reaction to bullying and harassment issues that had surfaced.

The scheme is based around a self-help website for staff, and attracted 6,000 hits in its first three months.

When it was first created, the website tackled over 75 topics including stress, fitness, and coping with money worries or grief. Now, it covers more than 200 areas of advice, support and guidance.

The university also held a staff development event in 2009 which supported the scheme, with over 60 events including exercise classes, health assessments, stress management techniques, and self-help sessions.

An occupational health referral scheme was also set up for staff, with treatments for a number of health problems.

Results of the scheme include: the university now saves £75,000 a year in wages; stress-related absence is down by 16%; and the accident rate is now at just 64.7 per 100,000 employees, compared to the sector average of 325.

Hamilton said: “The most important thing about the programme is that staff feel that the university cares about them and their wellbeing.

“It is a great atmosphere to work in and, because of that, motivation and productivity have improved and absence levels are down, proving that a happy workforce is a successful one.

"What has been really important has been the buy-in from senior management. They know this initiative is good for our employees. Morally, it is the right thing to do, but it also makes complete business sense.”


August 20, 2011

Exactly who is pulling the strings?

Serial failures barred from further bidding for grants - 19 March, 2009 'From 1 June, the council will ban repeatedly unsuccessful applicants from submitting proposals for a year. Those who do submit will be asked to take part in a mentoring programme.' - reported by Zoe Corbyn

This thread - which was just refreshed by someone adding a post - has been blocked by THE. In the thread academics are critical of EPSRC policies. It would appear that despite what the editor of THE says - pressure is being put on THE not to have threads that are critical of policies in the way that they used to do. If we do live in a democracy - as is claimed - actions such as this ought to be a cause for concern. Exactly who is pulling the strings behind THE and blocking voices that are critical?

By Anonymous

August 18, 2011

Why Cameron Dick’s workplace bullying reference group will fail bullied Queensland teachers - again

Queensland Education and Industrial Relations Minister Cameron Dick has established a workplace bullying reference group “to ensure that Queensland’s framework for dealing with workplace bullying remains valid and effective.”

To understand why the deliberations of Mr Dick’s reference group will have little impact on the bulling in Queensland workplaces, you need to consider whose interests are being represented by the bodies who have been invited to join the reference group - the Queensland Council of Unions, employer representatives and legal and academic experts. Each of these bodies has a significant conflict of interest in dealing with workplace bullying - many of their members either are the workplace bullies, or are in the business of protecting the workplace bullies, or are funded by the workplace bullies. The bodies on the reference group will protect their own interests well, but there will be nobody on the reference group to really represent the interests of bullied workers.

The Honorary President of the Queensland Council of Unions, for example, is John Battams, General Secretary of the Queensland Teachers Union. The QTU is the largest registered industrial organisation in Queensland. It has 43,000 members - classroom teachers, principals and education department administrators, all together in the same union.

When a Queensland classroom teacher is bullied by their school principal, many other administrators may become involved in the situation - supporting and encouraging the bully principal, providing advice to the bully principal, etc. So QTU officers have to balance the need of the individual union member to be protected from workplace abuse against the need of their many bullying members to be protected from the consequences of their bullying, mobbing, incompetence, negligence, malice, defamation, falsification of the official records, etc, etc. And so a bullied classroom teacher may find that, instead of being actively defended from workplace abuse, they are instead advised that there is no hope of justice and that the best thing to do is to “accept the things you cannot change”, because Queensland teachers who “fight it” are mentally and physically destroyed. The union seems to have adopted a ‘learned helplessness’ approach to dealing with workplace bullying.

In June 2002 I met Ann Bligh in Cairns and I told her that bullied Queensland teachers were being advised to ‘accept the things you cannot change’ because there was no hope of justice. I was whistleblowing, although I did not realise it at that time. I just thought that I was telling the Minister of Education something that she really needed to know. I expected Anna Bligh to be shocked by my disclosure, and to react in the manner that Stephen Smith reacted when he was told about the abuse at the ADF Academy. I expected Anna Bligh to jump about, wave her ministerial arms in the air and tell her senior public servants that the situation was completely stupid, and that this would not do - that Queensland teachers must be protected from workplace abuse.

For a while, I believed that this was what had happened. I was given repeated reassurances that the bullying was under control and I retired in July 2002, a happy whistleblower, believing that I had done what I saw as my duty to other Queensland teachers.

Several hundred other Queensland teachers also retired in July 2002, taking the first of the teachers’ $50,000 ‘career change’ packages. I was told that many of these ‘career change’ teachers were escaping from workplace bullying situations.

A workplace bullying reference group was set up, and in 2004 Queensland implemented a code of practice to help Queensland employers prevent workplace bullying and harassment.

But little seemed to have actually changed in Queensland schools. In 2007 Deidre Duncan and Dan Riley of UNE surveyed 800 Australian teachers. They found that 99.6 per cent of the teachers claimed to have experienced bullying in the workplace. Queensland teachers were over-represented in the survey, suggesting that, five years after I had whistleblown to Anna Bligh, and even after many hundreds of teachers had taken workplace bullying escape packages, workplace bullying was still rife in Queensland schools.

You would think that these shocking research findings would ring alarm bells in the Queensland department of education. You would think that the results would prompt a lot of union agitation. But not in Queensland. And so, nine years after I first whistleblew about the workplace bullying in Queensland schools to Anna Bligh, another workplace bullying reference group has been set up with no body to represent the interests of bullied workers. And no submissions to the reference group have been requested from bullied workers.

Cameron Dick must ensure that the voices of bullied Queensland workers are heard by his reference group, and that their experiences are taken into consideration.

What do bullied Queensland teachers need? They need some independent research into the effectiveness of departmental workplace bullying polices. We need to understand why the departmental policies are failing bullied teachers. They need to be respected. They need to have equal rights with their students. And most of all they need the right to engage in professional discussion, without the fear of ‘payback’ allegations. I would suspect that the repression of professional discussion in Queensland schools is a significant factor in the failure of public education in Queensland. There is little point in employing well qualified teachers in Queensland schools if these teachers are going to be driven into ill health and out of work for trying to do their job to the best of their ability.

The department of education promotion system fails Queensland classroom teachers. Any teacher who is interested in becoming a school principal should be required to demonstrate a sound comprehension of departmental polices before they are considered for ‘acting’ or promotion positions. School principals need to demonstrate that they are literate enough to read the workplace bullying policy documents produced by the reference groups, and they need to demonstrate that they are intelligent enough to apply the workplace bullying policies to their own behaviour. The failure to maintain this professional standard in Queensland schools is negligence. When school principals do not read, or cannot properly comprehend, departmental policies, classroom teachers are exposed to workplace abuse.

The education department investigation process also exposes Queensland teachers to the risk of workplace abuse. It is much too easy for a school principal to make ‘payback’ allegations against a classroom teacher. And it is much too easy, if a teacher disproves these allegations, for the principal to change the allegations.

It is much too easy for a principal to make falsified records of meetings, to ‘record’ imaginary meetings, to ‘lose’ all or part of records supportive of a teacher, to refuse to hear or to record evidence supportive of a teacher, etc, etc. It is much too easy for a principal to place these falsified documents secretly on a teacher’s departmental records.

School principals should be required to provide teachers with a written copy of any allegations. The person making these allegations should make the statement in their own words. The allegations should concern specific facts. The teacher should also be provided with a statement of their rights in this situation, and with a copy of the relevant departmental policy document. Teachers should be allowed the time and opportunity to check the facts, to gather evidence, and to respond to the allegations in writing. Teachers should be provided with independent legal advice. The teacher’s response to the allegations should be properly considered by an officer with no conflict of interest in the situation.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission ‘devolution process’ also fails Queensland teachers. When a teacher first makes a disclosure to the CMC, the teacher may not realise the full extent of the corruption. The CMC have a policy of handing over about 98 per cent of disclosures to the department of education for investigation. And the department of education seem to have a policy of allowing principals and senior public servants to investigate themselves, and to find themselves innocent of any allegations. These senior departmental officers then declare the case ‘closed’ and instruct that any further letters from the teacher should be filed and disregarded.

If the teacher has made a Right to Information application, the RTI documents seem to be delayed till a few days after the teacher’s case has been declared ‘closed’. Then the RTI documents are released, the full extent of the corruption is exposed and the teacher’s protests are filed and ignored.

‘Independent’ departmental investigations also seem to be controlled by the senior departmental officer whose behaviour is the subject of the complaint. This officer is able to limit the independent investigation, to limit the documents ‘considered’ by the investigator and to prevent the investigator from asking certain key questions.

Thousands of dollars of taxpayers money seem to be being wasted on education department ‘independent investigations’ which have been set up to fail.

During the nine years since I first made my disclosure to Anna Bligh, she has often returned to Cairns, but Mrs Bligh no longer takes the risk of sitting down and listening to the concerns of bullied classroom teachers. She stands behind a barbecue, laughing at us and handing us sausages. Its the ‘let them eat sausages’ approach to ministerial responsibility.

Bullied Queensland teachers need an education minister who will really listen to their disclosures and they need a union that will fight for their right to work free from the fear of workplace abuse.

Robina Cosser worked as a teacher and advisory teacher in England, New South Wales and Queensland. She now edits the Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles website and is a vice-president of Whistleblowers Australia.

Whistleblowers Australia is working with the National Whistleblowers Centre in Washington to have 30 July recognised as International Whistleblowers Day.

Robina Cosser M.Ed. (SYD)
Editor : The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles!
Editor : Whistleblowing Women
Vice President and Schools Contact : Whistleblowers Australia