October 26, 2011
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: http://youtu.be/GFtmRmtvhAQ
Also read: Newcastle uni bully claims: Academic says harassment led to illness,
and: Uni staff complain about bullying
October 24, 2011
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
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? '...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...' and '...Although a churchgoer, he lacked compassion...' Yes, in the first line of prayer!
October 13, 2011
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
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
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.
October 01, 2011
The topics on the conference are:
Health effects and rehabilitation
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: http://bullying2012.com/