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


August 12, 2011

Stirling university ‘broke law’, employment tribunal rules

An employment tribunal in Glasgow has ruled that Stirling University broke employment law when it ended the fixed-term contracts of 100 of its employees without consulting the unions.

The staff in question were earning between £20,000 and £30,000 per year and could be awarded up to 90 days compensation by the employment tribunal. This would amount to a compensation payout of £500,000.

Under employment law, employers have a duty to consult with employees when making redundancies. The consultation process is designed to involve employees in the redundancy discussions and ensure that redundancies are as fair as possible.

When there is a collective redundancy situation, which occurs when over 20 employees are made redundant in a 90 day period, the employer is obligated to consult with an employee representative. If the employees are represented by a union, the representative will be the trade union representative.

The University and College Union (UCU) took Stirling University to the employment tribunal because the university failed to consult with the UCU representative on the collective redundancies.

Stirling University argued that because the employees were on a fixed-term contract, the termination of their contracts did not count as redundancies and therefore there was no obligation to consult.

Redundancy rights under employment law only apply to those with the employment status of ‘employee’ and not ‘worker’. The difference between the two terms can be difficult to make out.

In determining employment status, an employment tribunal looks at a number of factors. They will consider, amongst many other things, whether the person has worked exclusively for one company or organisation, whether tax and national insurance contributions were deducted by the employer, and whether the manager or supervisor was responsible for directing the work completed.

The Glasgow employment tribunal held that Stirling University did have a duty to conduct a collective consultation with the UCU representative and that they broke the law by failing to do so.

Stirling University claimed that it had held a number of meetings with the unions about the redundancies; however UCU said the meetings were not meaningful.

UCU Scottish official, Mary Senior, said the employment tribunal ruling is an “important victory” for the former staff, and for the thousands of university staff employed on fixed-term contracts around the UK.


August 09, 2011

Silence is not the solution...

I am becoming increasingly concerned about some of the actions being taken. What kind of pressure is being put on Times Higher Education (THE) and by whom? I contributed a lot to Carl Baybut's thread and that too was blocked. That is a thread about an academic who committed suicide partly because of his treatment by his university. Silencing stories which are in the public domain - Kingston and Southampton Solent is surely unacceptable. THE's silence on this matter should be a matter of legitimate public interest. Guardian journalists where are you?

Anonymous post

August 03, 2011

Bullied at the University of Newcastle (Australia)

11 Jul 2011 7:30:24pm

I believe I was bullied out of the University of Newcastle for being a whistle blower. The University of course denies it. When I was taken by ambulance to a hospital after a failed suicide attempt in my office I was told 15-20 other people from the University had been brought in the same condition for the same reasons by two different psychiatrists. All I could think was - will it take a successful suicide for something to be done. Probably.


11 Jul 2011 3:49:20pm

I am another academic from the University of Newcastle (NSW) whose career was abruptly ended as the University decided I needed to be punished for attempting to expose bullying. So I feel overjoyed at the media attention to this malicious and obnoxious workplace behaviour.

However, it is a cop-out to state that 'Bullying is tricky territory' or that victims should seek alternative employment. There is a plethora of research that clearly identifies what bullying behaviour consistitutes. And more significantly the consequences of ignoring it. Legislation like Brodie's law needs to go National, before more working lives (and lives) are prematurely ended. All workers should have a right to be treated with respect and dignity within their workplace (and elsewhere) and should not be eliminated from their workplace if they allege bullying tactics.

The above posts are from: Background briefing - Bullying at work