December 16, 2015

University of Ulster Victims Association

An association of former and current staff of Ulster University who have been subjected to systematic victimization and illegal treatment on Facebook:

December 12, 2015

Bad PhD supervisors can ruin research. So why aren't they accountable?

PhD students’ relationships with their supervisors are pivotal; not only in terms of producing a good thesis, but ensuring academic and professional development. But while PhD candidates’ work is regularly checked by supervisors, it is far less common, to have formal checks made on the supervisors, with students assessing their performance.

The imbalance of power in these relationships needs to be acknowledged. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but only if supervisors use their position and privilege to empower students. When they say and do things that impede learning and advancement, it is an abuse of their authority.
One of the main duties of the role, for example, is to provide feedback on a student’s work. In my experience, this can range from general comments to close editing of sentence constructions and grammar. It can take the form of constructive feedback for improvement, or demoralising sarcasm. I have experienced the full range, and it has had a direct impact on my research. The most negatively couched feedback not only hampered my progress, but left me wondering if I should be doing a PhD at all.

Another vital aspect of supervision responsibility is to be, well, responsible. Unanswered emails only increase the anxiety of a student waiting for feedback on a discussion chapter. Unannounced departures for conferences, holidays and research projects are frustrating, particularly when they could have been discussed in advance.

A friend of mine had to deal with the sudden retirement of his supervisor, whose replacement then left after just six months in the role - he now has one who is on research leave with intermittent access to the internet (or is perhaps just intermittent with his responses).

The tensions and discomfort are more keenly felt by students, I suspect. We can’t simply turn away from an errant supervisor and go to another, but we can’t talk freely about how we feel – this is akin to bad-mouthing your boss.

I previously had to psych myself up for supervision meetings; the barrage of criticism I faced often left me feeling stupid. But this kind of thinking trapped me into becoming even more dependent on my supervisor for words of affirmation that came too little and too late. I constantly questioned whether I was good enough. After months of anxiety and stress, and with advice from others who suffered at the hands of the same supervisor, I made a decision to end the relationship.
Luckily I now have new supervisors who behave in more professional and responsible ways. I don’t believe that there is a perfect supervisor, but the ones I have are giving me the support that I need – being responsive, pre-empting future tasks, and most importantly, making me, a novice researcher, feel that I have a valuable contribution to make.

When students have horrible experiences with their supervisors, they tend to share them in private conversations with friends or in social media rants because there is often no formal channel to address them. My university seems shy about putting in place performance measures of PhD supervision, but is proactive about undergraduate students’ evaluations of papers and lecturers. Is there an assumption that PhD students and supervisors are mature enough to work out mutually satisfactory supervision arrangements?

As it stands, students are often left to manage tense relationships, find informal alternatives to make up for bad or non-existent supervision. Unless things become so strained that it is necessary to change supervisors (as it was in my case), students tend to put up with bad behaviour.

Maybe it’s because they think that’s the way a PhD is, or because they can’t see any face-saving way to remedy the situation. But it’s also because supervisors don’t appear to be accountable to anyone. When I have raised this with the academic staff who support doctoral students, I often get an evasive response – “It’s a tricky situation, isn’t it?” – or just an empathetic nod of the head.

There’s huge pressure on universities to produce research in order to prove their worth. If research is so important, then what about making a little more effort to nurture researchers-to-be?
Universities should not only implement performance evaluations of supervisors, but also cultivate safe spaces for doctoral students to share their issues, and have access to support staff who will be able to provide constructive advice and guide them towards workable strategies and solutions.

We need to get rid of the false notion of low-maintenance supervision relationships between consenting adults. These pairings are in fact high maintenance, and fragile. Ignoring the issues will not defuse a bomb that’s waiting to explode – one that could destroy promising careers.


Witch hunt...

It is sad this is true in our academic institutions. I have been the focus of a "witch hunt" by a narcissistic bully Professor, Section Head. However, the professor worked with the Department Head and they both harassed, bullied, intimidated, coerced and threaten me as a student (Returning student after college then homeschooling 2 children and returning to school for the sake of learning). They have done these thing to me and forcibly made me withdraw. I have gone to the Dean, Provost and even the Senior VP of Academic Affairs. The whole academic side has ganged up and served me up to the disciplinary committee because the narcissistic bully and her "witch hunt" has me under the microscope. How do you fight the system? Where to go from here? Sad that freedom of opinion in the educational process is really not free.


What to do?

I'm at college in Glasgow just now and I'm being bullied by one of my lecturer but they're is nothing I can do about it because the lecturer is lovely to everyone else.


October 23, 2015

Bullying of staff in regional universities is a serious problem that needs addressing - Australia

A study of more than 22,000 university staff shows that academics in regional universities were more likely to experience bullying compared to those at other types of universities.

The survey, which looked at working life in 19 different universities across Australia, was set up to test whether the anecdotal complaints of colleagues at regional universities was anything more than the traditional complaints of academics about freedom, autonomy and managerialism.
What did the study show?

This was the first study of its kind to look at bullying across a range of Australian universities. Overall, 28 per cent of academics reported being bullied, with 12 per cent saying the bullying they experienced was serious enough to consider taking a formal case.

However, people were reluctant to take action as they felt pursing the matter would only make things worse.

The rate of bullying varied a lot across different types of universities. One third (36 per cent) of academic staff at the four regional universities reporting being bullied, 1.5 times more than in the five Group of Eight — the most prestigious — universities.

Disturbingly, 42 per cent of staff at one regional university said they had been bullied. Academics reported being publicly humiliated, excluded, intimidated and discriminated against.

Given the well-documented impact of bullying on physical and emotional well-being, these figures are shocking.

The institutional effects are also worrying. Workplace bullying damages productivity and reputation and can be seriously costly to universities.

Work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying has a direct cost of around $18,000 per claim, according to Safe Work Australia — and this is without considering the indirect costs to productivity and staff turnover.

Given the recent changes in legislation, which requires employers to demonstrate they have been proactive in addressing workplace health and safety issues, it's critical to understand what might be contributing to these toxic work places.

Toxic work environments

The research showed that Aboriginal Australians, people from ethnic minority groups, women, and those with family commitments were more likely to be bullied.

Evidence of nepotism was also evident, with individuals who were appointed by a competitive process reporting more harassment than those who weren't. And this was more common in regional universities.

Health and safety regulations require senior management to act to reduce workplace health hazards. But it's likely that at least some senior managers of these institutions are modelling and enabling the bullying and harassment reported in this survey, without senior level support, a culture of bullying would not thrive.

How to change this culture of bullying

Changing a culture that propagates bullying and harassment, even with a determined cross-organisation effort, is a long-term endeavour.

Using guidance from Safe Work Australia on how to prevent and manage bullying in the workplace, going forward, universities need to:
  • Set the standard for appropriate behaviour — Senior management need to set and enforce clear standards of behaviour through a code of conduct or a workplace policy that outlines what is and is not appropriate behaviour. They also need to state what action will be taken to deal with unacceptable behaviour. Unfortunately, many university policies currently require the victim to make a complaint to the probable bully as a first step.
  • Develop positive workplace relationships — Universities need to promote positive leadership styles by providing training for managers and supervisors on communicating effectively in difficult situations, including how to engage workers in decision-making "(which the survey showed has decreased over recent years in regional universities), and providing constructive feedback.
  • Implement proper reporting procedures — A victim needs to know there is a reporting process that protects them and will be acted on. Unfortunately, fear of victimisation is the most common reason given for not reporting bullying in the study.
  • Make sure reporting systems are confidential — Using systems to provide confidential anonymous information on workplace behaviour, such as university surveys, like this one in the US called The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education program, are easy to implement and safe for victims.

October 01, 2015

UCU at Ulster declare a dispute with employer

Press release

The University and Colleges Union at Ulster University have this morning declared a dispute with the employer because of a failure to properly consult over collective redundancies.
In a redundancy situation, employers are required to consult meaningfully with the recognised trade unions with a view to reaching agreement on a set of proposals that are fair and equitable. The trade unions must be consulted on avoiding dismissals, reducing the number of dismissals and mitigating the consequences of dismissals.

Ulster University Management has presented its proposals, which include course closures and the loss of significant proportions of staff in targeted areas, as a fait accompli. Immediately after the proposals were announced, rather than enter a period of statutory consultation, courses were removed from the UCAS application system. An unagreed ‘voluntary’ severance scheme was opened to some but not all staff in targeted areas and was done so before the University published its business case to the trade union. UCU does not believe this constitutes meaningful consultation.

The closing date for applications to the voluntary severance scheme time is 30th October 2015. It has been offered to selected staff simultaneous to public announcements of course and departmental closures. Individuals have been placed in an invidious position of either applying for an enhanced package ahead of and parallel to consultation, or risk a compulsory redundancy on materially worse terms. The UCU believes the employer is bullying our members and is doing so with deliberate intention of undermining a meaningful consultation process.

Anthea Irwin, president of the local association of UCU at Ulster, said, ‘UCU are deeply saddened to have been forced into declaring a dispute with the University but we cannot stand by and allow our management to steamroller through a set of proposals that lack rationale, unfairly target colleagues in particular areas, and threaten the breadth of education we offer to our young people.

‘This should be a time of vibrancy and excitement at Ulster, as our students embark upon their new year of studies with talented and dedicated staff who inspire them, support them, and prepare them to make an impact on our society. But all of this is overshadowed by the fact that our management have demonstrated that they do not respect and value us, in the way our students and their future employers do. If they did, they would have worked with us to find a better way to deal with the Stormont budget cuts.

‘UCU have repeatedly asked management to consult meaningfully with us, they have not done so, and we have been forced to declare a dispute as a last resort. It is ironic that at the time the Minister for Employment and Learning is launching his ‘big conversation’ about higher education, Ulster University management refuse to have any meaningful conversation with their employees about how to best protect and nurture that education through difficult times.

‘UCU are ready and waiting to have that conversation, but we can only do so if our management halt their unacceptable process and start again in meaningful consultation with the trade unions.’

Contact: Anthea Irwin 07742889802

University of Ulster Victims Association:

September 13, 2015

Higher Education's Silent Killer

Sometimes the antagonist isn’t wielding a gun. In this kind of attack, there is no person or event that can be met head-on with a protest or a strike. There is no explosion, no great conflict, no epic battle. Such is the case with higher education’s silent killer: the slow, incremental creep of “audit culture.” Insidious “new public management” technologies first used by the Thatcher regime to weaken the public sector are restructuring post-secondary education today.

This enemy has no public face but instead makes its appearance in the banal metrics of a standardized bookkeeping program. The corporate transformation of universities has by now been well-documented in books like The Corporate Campus (2000), Universities for Sale (1999), and, more recently, Free Knowledge: Confronting the Commodification of Human Discovery (2015) and A Penny for Your Thoughts: How corporatization devalues teaching, research, and public service in Canada’s universities (2015). The capsule summary of such assessments is this: as a direct result of successive governments’ chronic underfunding of post-secondary education, the traditional university is being transformed away from an accessible institution dedicated to fostering critical, creative, and engaged citizens while generating public-interest research, to an entrepreneurial training centre churning out atomized workers and corporate-directed “R&D.”

...Audit culture is one of the more subtle aspects of the corporatization of universities. It contributes measurement and a new rise in managerialism to market in order to complete the “3M” trifecta of a fully neo liberalized academy. These forces operate in a variety of overlapping ways to affect what types of research are permissible; they determine which scholarship is legitimized and which is delegitimized. Such pressures on research have traditionally been exerted externally via corporations, foundations, and granting agencies, but the 3M trifecta has now moved with stealth to retool the everyday operations, policies, and practices of universities from the inside.The audit culture distorts scholars’ work by tabulating academic worth through the simplest algorithm: one that consid-ers, for the most part, only peer-reviewed publication, journal impact rankings, and the size of research grants. Whole realms of endeavour are devalued or left out of the equation altogether, including activities such as “slow” research, alternative forms of scholarship and dissemination, devotion to teaching, or actually acting on one’s research findings – all vital aspects of the academic enterprise...

Take participatory action research (PAR), a research methodology rooted in community engagement, collective inquiry, and on-the-ground experimentation. Under the strict publish-or-perish injunction of audit culture, I would be channelled away from projects like producing and distributing a city survival guide and map for the homeless – which I did in response to a community call as part of a PAR project – and I would be pushed instead to write a peer-reviewed paper on homelessness (to be read by few) rather than fulfilling a need that the community itself had identified. Research becomes a question of whose needs? To whose benefit? In this case, despite being in a position through my scholarship to contribute to the community in a tangible way, I’d be channelled away from community needs toward my own career demands and the requirements of an audit culture that rewards redundant scholarship...


August 27, 2015

Large Scottish public university rife with bullying, harassment, discrimination, and victimization

One of the largest public universities in Scotland turned out to be a nightmarish place to work. As a junior colleague I have been shouted at, threatened, made feel worthless, denied my rights, excluded as a co-author and pushed to violate grant conditions. Not only the Professor that I worked for is allowed to continue his abuse, but the Department Head sides with him. The formal investigation by HR found my ex-supervisor guilty of bullying and harassment, however the temporary arrangements are reneged upon and I am thrown into a lion’s den once again.

We are encouraged to use internal processes to resolve the matter, but with only 3 months to submit a legal complaint, they simply sit on the process and act compliant until enough time has passed and then they turn back to the same bullying tactics.

Does anyone have advice on repeated bullying, harassment, discrimination, and victimization? It is absolutely terrifying how even if the law is on my side, the only way is for me to lose my health, my career, my emotional wellbeing, damage my family relationships, lose productivity, all while the university and my supervisor feel invincible and just wait until they can demolish me completely. I can definitely tell you more about the details of my story, but I thought I would start with a short story first just to have my voice out there, to show how common abuse in academia is and how hard it is to get through, and how horrible the effect is. 


August 16, 2015

 Steven Salaita, Professor Fired for ‘Uncivil’ Tweets, Vindicated in Federal Court

A federal judge has allowed his lawsuit against the University of Illinois to proceed, and the chancellor who rescinded his appointment last year has resigned amid an ethics investigation.

There is not a little poetic justice in the fact that it was precisely at the time that a federal judge ruled that Steven Salaita’s lawsuit against the University of Illinois could go forward, against the objections of the university, that the chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus who fired Salaita in the first place announced her resignation and the local newspaper reported that she is under an ethics investigation.

Certain administrative officials at the University of Illinois used personal email to conduct university business and failed to turn over those documents during Freedom of Information Act requests, a violation of university policy, a UI probe has found. The news comes one day after Chancellor Phyllis Wise announced her resignation as chancellor. The personal emails released by the university included many from Wise, but a university spokesman declined to say whether the ethics investigation led to her departure.

Almost exactly a year ago, that paper, the Champaign News-Gazette, broke the story of Salaita’s tweets, which brought issues of academic freedom and freedom of speech to the fore, not to mention the question of whether or not speech regarding sharp and angry criticism of Israel in particular warranted a suspension of those rights and freedoms.

 As I wrote in The Nation back then, once the story of Salaita’s tweets came out, the university made a public statement supporting his right to free speech. Yet shortly after, alumni, students, and perhaps most importantly, wealthy donors began writing angry emails demanding his firing. Here is how the court ruling describes these events and Wise’s actions:

Despite the initial show of support, however, the University soon changed its tune. Letters and emails obtained via Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act revealed that students, alumni, and donors wrote to the University’s Chancellor, Phyllis Wise (“Wise”), to voice their concerns over Dr. Salaita joining the University. One writer in particular claimed to be a “multiple 6 figure donor” who would be ceasing support of the University because of Dr. Salaita and his tweets.

 Two other specific interactions are critical to Dr. Salaita’s Complaint. The first involves an unknown donor who met with Chancellor Wise and provided her a two-page memo about the situation. Wise ultimately destroyed the memo, but an email Wise sent University officials summarized it as follows: “He [the unknown donor] gave me [Chancellor Wise] a two-pager filled with information on Professor Salaita and said how we handle the situation will be very telling.” The second interaction involves a particularly wealthy donor who asked to meet with Chancellor Wise to “share his thoughts about the University’s hiring of Professor Salaita.”

The university defended its actions on two grounds, both of which the federal court has just thrown out. First, it argued that Salaita was never officially an employee of the university despite the fact that he had been offered a tenured position in a written document, was assigned courses to teach, had been given orientation materials, and had been invited out to look for housing, all customary practices in academic recruiting and hiring. Customary, too, is that one extends to one’s current employer one’s resignation so they can fill one’s position and have one’s teaching covered.

This meant that by refusing to honor its part of the agreement, the University of Illinois was rendering Salaita unemployed (and his wife as well, as she had quit her job to relocate to Urbana-Champaign) and his family without a home...

More at:

August 13, 2015

Deakin University senior staff ‘used students to target indigenous academic’

SENIOR academic staff at Deakin University are alleged to have orchestrated a campaign to remove a prominent indigenous academic that involved enlisting students, including one who was left so traumatised by the experience that she required psychiatric help.

The Australian reports that the fallout from the removal of Wendy Brabham, the head of Deakin’s Institute of Koorie Education, created an atmosphere of infighting and dysfunction, characterised in one university-commissioned report as “hostile” and “unsafe”.

Reports, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, list staff grievances about a “hostile/unsafe working environment”, “intimidatory behaviour” and “bullying” at the institute which provides community-based learning for indigenous students.

A significant portion of indigenous staff have since departed the university.

Professor Brabham had led indigenous education at Deakin since 1991. She was suspended in 2013 and later dismissed.

One student, who was also a member of IKE’s staff, alleged that a senior Deakin academic administrator offered her a “Melbourne shopping weekend” in return for signing statements that assisted the university’s case.


August 03, 2015

Academics from BME backgrounds squeezed out at the top

Despite the fact that 10 per cent of research assistants are from BME backgrounds, only 6 per cent of those in academic leadership positions are from such groups.

The data, published last month by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, show that the proportion of BME academics drops by one percentage point for each step of the career ladder. By contrast, for the most part, the proportion of white academics steadily increases by more than one percentage point with each career step.

In the 2013‑14 academic year, 8 to 9 per cent of lecturers and senior lecturers and 7 per cent of professors were black or minority ethnic, according to the data. This compares with 84 to 87 per cent of lecturers and senior lecturers and 86 per cent of professors who were white.


May 30, 2015

Beating “web trolls” like Prof Mal Blunt

I was recently reminded of the sad case of the infamous internet troll, Prof Mal Blunt, formerly of Bulster University, who gained widespread notoriety by monitoring his staff via the internet. He was known as “Bulster’s grisly googler”. He is to web bullies what the police community might call an “habitual offender”. More about Prof Blunt later. This piece is meant by way of guidance to assist victims who may be encountering an on-line bully at college for the first time. Adults in the workplace are not immune to cyber bullying, which can manifest itself in many different forms. Nobody is immune to cyber bullying, but there are steps you can take and support available if you feel you have become a victim of cyber bullying at Work.

anthony-blunt-spy_1214549cFor academics unlucky enough to encounter a nasty Prof Blunt in their workplace, they should know that such creatures employ a range of different examples of bullying at work using electronic means. These would include offensive email and e-mail threats such as comments on social networking sites. Spreading lies and malicious gossip via messaging/chat. Sending an offensive e-mail to a colleague (even if it’s supposed to be a joke,) the content of which might offend the receiver.

This includes any offensive photographs which are attached to an email, and continuing to send similar messages having been asked to stop. The victim can often feel black-listed. E-mail threats can include cases where the implied meaning behind the message can constitute a form of bullying. An example of this might be where a superior is bombarding you with far more work than you can handle, saying that this is part of your job (i.e. If you don’t complete the work you may lose your job) whilst other members of the team are not being treated in the same way.

alan_sharp_reasons_why_carry_a_gunAbrasive and sharp comments may leave the victim feeling they are in a work-place war-zone. The web-trolling may also involve posting blogs and comments on social networking sites- Often a person may not experience any direct form of cyber bullying, but instead the bullies are leaving nasty or offensive comments about them on blogs and social networking sites which can be viewed by others. The comments may be about the person’s performance at work.

It can often seem that the perpetrator has his or her own secret police. Indeed the web comments do not have to be untrue – for example publishing online that a colleague lost a grant application or was caught speeding could constitute bullying as it is designed, or has the effect of embarrassing the subject. Finally, spreading lies and malicious gossip. Social networking sites and blogs are usually the most common ways in which people become victims of cyber bullying in this form. Cyber bullying can occur via any electronic means including text messages and social media (such as Facebook and Twitter).

There is a psychological explanation for cyber bullying harassment or ‘e-bullying’ as it is often referred to, and it can even occur when the person may not intend to harm you. This type of bullying is particularly concerning, as the bully is unlikely to stop their behaviour on their own, as they do not know that they are doing anything wrong. The two main types of non-intentional cyber-bullying- mis-judging Social Situations (this type of cyber-bullying has even led to cases of stalking outside work and so is particularly important to prevent at an early stage) and invasion of privacy such as sharing someone’s private data online.

How to Deal with Cyber Bullying at Work. There is always something of the socio-path about a bully. Whether it’s e-bullying or face-to-face, there are laws surrounding both harassment and bullying in the UK, and you can take legal action if you feel you have become the victim of a cyber bully. Firstly, you should try to resolve the problem with the person directly if you know their identity. In some cases, it might be true that what you thought was offensive was not perceived as such by the sender and there has been some misunderstanding. If the bullying persists, you should go and speak to a manager (or Union Representative if you have one) to discuss the situation and to obtain support. Often they will be able to speak to the bully about their behavior and tell them to stop.

imagesETMO09STConsider a Non-Molestation Order – Obviously a web-troll can quickly become a source of torture. If the bullying still does not stop at the request of your manager, and the emails/text messages are regularly being sent despite you asking the other person to stop, this may be considered harassment. If so, you might be able to obtain a non-molestation order which makes it an offence for the offending party to contact you. Obviously a court cannot prevent you seeing a colleague at work, but they can order that the offending party does not contact you out of work via email, telephone, text message or social media.

images35LAOG07We might take comfort that there is something inherently stupid about web trolling. Sadly its rarely possible simply to order the web-troller off the web. Other simple ways to prevent a colleague e-mailing or contacting you out of work include blocking their number on your phone or blocking them on your social networking site. Cyber bullying is no less unpleasant than conventional bullying. Always remember that you are protected by the law in just the same way as conventional bullying. As for external cyber bullies who are operating outside your workplace, if they are emailing your work email, your college IT department should be able to stop this activity and can also take steps to identify the perpetrators. Remember – if you are being bullied, do not suffer in silence. Tell someone who will be able to help you stand up to the bullies. Nobody should make you feel uncomfortable at your place of work.

sharp (4)Is there Protection from web bullies?  Finally we should comfort all of us who are victims of obsessive web-trollers such as Prof Blunt that there is hope that their web misery will end. Sometimes the web troll will just stop. They may get concerned by the threat of formal or legal action. Perhaps they will find another victim to subject to their trolling. Unluckily for some, other trolls continue with their subversive activities long after they or their victim have left their place of employment. We mentioned at the top of this piece, Prof Mal Blunt, whose trolling actually got worse after the intervention of a High Court Judge. It was as if Blunt was seeking to prove the Judge wrong and of course as web trolling is so hard to detect, the potential penalties are often remote. Blunt, formerly of Bulster University, has conducted an on-line campaign against a former colleague for almost two decades.

images (2)This is (thankfully) and exceptional case and Prof Blunt has been aided by his old college buddies at Bulster who were also cautioned by the Judge. In fact, this is a case where the trolling became a covert substitute for other more overt types of harassment. In such cases the victims should consider whether their interests are best represented by pursuing their web troll by legal means or disregarding them as pathetic losers who have actually destroyed their own lives with their venom.

Seen from this angle, the Prof Blunt’s of the college world may also need our compassion, and probably also need mental help.  Therefore action against web bullying should consider positive measures which may discourage offensive behavior and to find ways of empowering institutions to support staff with appropriate employment and post-employment fora. Perhaps through more effective communication we can stop bullying in the first place.

ADVISORY: This is a work of humorous parody and any similarities with persons or places real or imagined is purely a matter of coincidence. If you’ve been bullied at your F/HE institution don’t hesitate to confidentially contact the Bullied Academics forum. Victims may complain without penalty under their college procedures or consider making a complaint to their local police. Where the police are contacted bullying usually ceases immediately. The e-mail address is

May 20, 2015

Petition to the Canadian Prime Minister to open an inquiry into the cases of bullying and mobbing in Canada

In recent years Canadians have witnessed how dangerous and devastating the phenomenon of bullying and mobbing can be. For this reason the purpose of this request for a thorough inquiry into the cases of bullying and mobbing in Canada is to ensure that there are mechanisms and procedures in place to confront that evil phenomenon at the very moment its seeds start to appear.

For three reasons an appropriate starting point of this inquiry can be the case of a distressingly successful academic mobbing followed by even more alarming developments as summarized below:
  1. If academic mobbing can succeed even in a case like mine, given my academic background and experience, one can easily imagine how successful this evil phenomenon can be in other cases.

  2. Despite that the evidence presented at the arbitration hearings of my suspension case proved that there was a conspiracy at Concordia University ("There was a serious conspiracy to eliminate him from the University" - see the summary below) and that Concordia's allegations against me were completely groundless (see summary), arbitrators and lawyers acted inexplicably (see summary), which gave rise to the suspicion that organized crime in the very legal system of the Canadian province of Quebec might be involved. This suspicion was further strengthened when my lawyer told me that powerful people are behind this case and I could not win it.
  3. Not only arbitrators and lawyers acted disturbingly inexplicably by ignoring and contradicting the evidence in this case. No less inexplicable was the refusal of the Canadian media to follow the case, particularly the facts behind the suspicion of organized crime, which I think is professionally dishonest (and perhaps even immoral), because the media already covered the beginning of the case by spreading Concordia University's unfounded allegations and had the professional obligation to report on its alarming developments. An inquiry can determine whether this refusal is just another manifestation of how democratic and independent the Canadian media really are, although it clearly cannot be compared, for example, to the much more worrying inaction of the Canadian media - their virtually not informing Canadians about Canada's vote AGAINST the United Nations resolution on Combating glorification of Nazism.
Montrealers would agree that the most urgent reason for dealing particularly with academic mobbing is that not only bullying, but it too could lead to tragedies and innocent victims - academic mobbing might have been behind two tragedies involving researchers in two Montreal Universities:
  • In 1992 the Concordia University engineering professor Valery Fabrikant reached such a crazed state of the mind that he did the unthinkable - took human life.
  • In 1994 the McGill University neurology and neurosurgery professor Justine Sergent and her husband (and colleague) Yves Sergent committed suicide after a series of actions against Justine Sergent, including an anonymous letter accusing her of scientific fraud and after a report on the case by the Montreal Gazette. An inquiry after their death found no evidence of fraud.
An inquiry into the cases of bullying and mobbing in Canada should ensure that there will be no more tragedies caused by this cancerous phenomen in our society. Unfortunately, we are unable to undo the past tragedies. We will probably never learn who "A member of the Montreal academic community" was, who wrote the anonymous letter against Justine Sergent claiming that his or her colleagues "had long suspected (Dr. Sergent) of scientific fraud" and whether there were people at Concordia whose actions might have brought Fabrikant to that crazed state of his mind and might have indirectly contributed to the tragedy.

Before and in 2010 I asked Concordia's administration to investigate seriously the facts (documented actions against me) of academic mobbing, because I feared that similar mobbing practices that might have contributed to the 1992 tragedy had not yet been completely eradicated from Concordia (and this concern was conveyed to the administration exactly as it is written here). Moreover, the author of one of the two reports on the 1992 tragedy - the Arthurs report - Harry Arthurs, lawyer and former president of York University, told an assembly of professors at a conference of the Canadian Association of University Teachers in Ottawa on November 2, 2007 what he found about Fabrikant's allegations: "Many of his allegations were in substance correct."

After a special panel to examine the situation in the philosophy department (where three other colleagues also had problems) ignored both an eyewitness' testimony of the mobbing against me (see summary below) and all the facts I presented (including two copies of the Minutes of the same departmental meeting), I again urged Concordia's administration to deal decisively with the practices of academic mobbing because of all obvious reasons particularly the potential of such practices to lead to tragedies when psychologically sensitive people are targeted as the 1992 and 1994 tragedies, apparently caused by this evil phenomenon, show.

Instead of doing what Concordia's administration was supposed to do (without my urging them) - to confront the facts of academic mobbing - they even refused to meet with the eyewitness and punished the victim by suspending me (but inexplicably did nothing to four philosophy professors who wrote slanderous letters against me, whose untrue content was proved at the arbitration, and one of them referred to me as "pathology" in her letter; as there is no ban the letters can be posted online). Concordia's most serious reason for the suspension was: posing "serious threats to persons at the University" only because Fabrikant's name appeared in several of my letters to them. It is not only I who think that Concordia's allegation is an obvious demonization technique because they called "threats" my very concerns that Concordia's administration ignored the evidence for the existence of academic mobbing at the university and that they were not acting to eliminate this dangerous phenomenon (Concordia's inaction raised the disturbing question of whether Concordia's administration might have acted similarly in 1992, which might have prevented them from avoiding the tragedy). Moreover, the names of Justine and Yves Sergent also appeared together with Fabrikant's name in a very clear and explicitly unthreatening context (as indicated above); for an independent and professional opinion on my mentioning Fabrikant's name see below the letter of September 29, 2010 by Professor Kenneth Westhues, a renowned researcher of academic mobbing (and author of the book The Envy of Excellence: Administrative Mobbing of High-Achieving Professors), which he sent to the Montreal Gazette's Managing Editor and Concordia's President Woodsworth.

NOTE: Even now I do not know what caused the academic mobbing in my case. Before the actions against me became open, I had friendly relations with the colleagues behind those actions - letters and emails from these colleagues, congratulating me for the successfully organized biennial International Conferences on the Nature and Ontology of Spacetime (e.g., "Thanks for the excellent conference"), for the conference grant applications (all were successful and were granted the maximum amounts by SSHRC), for the gaining popularity Montreal Inter-University Seminar on the History and Philosophy of Science and for my research (e.g., "Congratulations on this significant coverage of your work"), were presented at the arbitration (the slanderous letters were written later, behind my back, and Concordia's administration refused to tell me even the names of their authors, which made it impossible for me to file a harassment complaint). After I was susspended, colleagues and friends have been telling me that the reason for the academic mobbing is simple - pure envy: the conferences and my other results had been apparently viewed as too successful by the people behind the actions against me. The fact is that I noticed those actions after the 2004 conference and they escalated as the 2006 and 2008 conferences were increasingly successful (and they sabotaged the 2010 and the following conferences; sabotaged was also the Montreal Inter-University Seminar on the History and Philosophy of Science, which I started in January 2002).


April 26, 2015

Bullying and Sexual Predators @ Academy Union

Last time we exposed long-standing bullying at Academy Union (AU). This time we focus on a specific case of what can happen when an innocent elected Union member falls foul of certain Academy Union staff “enforcers” of the union management. So that our readers can understood how this injustice to a union member occurred, we have to emphasize that the real controllers of the Academy Union are the top management team who make all day-to-day decisions. Union Managers have a privileged salary, numerous job perks and subsidised life-style such as freedom to work from home. Academy Union staff enjoy working conditions which are much better than any equivalent university or college grade in the sector they represent.

Indeed the salaries and conditions of even lower-grade Academy Union officials are only matched by the professoriate salaries of union members in some of the older universities. In an academic sector which is increasingly casualized and a majority of academic staff in the UK are not in permanent jobs, Academy Union employees have some of the best working conditions of employees anywhere in the country. That may explain why only one of the top managers accepted the union’s generous voluntary severance scheme, and he (having allegedly received over £300k) renegotiated a new job leading the Academy Union Dictatorship Section.

When Academy Union faced financial crisis due to hitches in selling  two valuable property assets while buying and refitting a third, members took the hit in poor service. The union then spent over a £1 million to reduce its staff compliment by just ten people! Some of the pay-offs were spectacular- do the maths! Some of those “paid off” even immediately came back!

images5Z4QQQ75The highest beneficiares in the Academy Union’s generous staff trough are its top managers. Pay and perks @ Academy Union are so good for its staff that only the top 3% of its union members earn as much as the management team of their union. In short, only a tiny fraction of professors at elite universities earn as much as the General Secretary and union managers who are lavishly paid to represent them. That is even before we count the Academy Union’s Presidential Apartments, travel perks and even a bicycle purchase subsidy, pension scheme and union employee benefits. It certainly makes up for having to drink all that acidic “FairTrade” coffee which the union provides free for its staff.
The case we want to expose at Academy Union in this posting concerns an innocent union volunteer and an alleged sex predator among its officials. It also reveals the union’s failure to take action despite years of complaints about this union official, the inaction of his line manager, a cover-up disguised as a perfunctionary union investigation and the collusion of a union senior manager. The union volunteer was allegedly sexually assaulted by the Academy Union official at a union function witnessed by a dozen other union members including members of the union’s National Executive Committee.

The volunteer was allegedly assaulted a second time, again during union work, the union official’s drunken behaviour having attracted the concern of premises security. Following the volunteer’s complaint his manager said she would talk to him and another senior union manager became involved as the official warned the volunteer that he would use this senior manager to silence him. Having served as a volunteer for close to a decade this elected member suddenly got a complaint from the senior manager about his expenses claims concerning such matters as his contact, his precise home address and his claim for carer’s allowance while he was on union business.

imagesGJN9853BThe senior manager claimed he did not have proof of the member’s address. The member produced his Council tax registration and a file of utility address confirmations for his home covering several decades. The manager claimed he wanted to know more about the caring relationship- something which is not even covered in union regulations. Nevertheless the volunteer happily provided full NHS certification for the caring arrangement. The manager said he did not believe the authorising doctor was curently practising and disproved the doctor’s reports as not being written with clincial rigor. The manager had actually mistaken the medical consultant for a different practice with a similar name. The British Medical Association then criticized the Academy Union for potentially slanderous allegations against one of its GPs. The manager claimed he previously knew nothing about the volunteer so could not be held to have acted disproportionately against him.

The manager had in fact been named (for the first time at least a full three years previously) in the volunteer’s original sexual assault complaint as the Academy Union official had threatened him if he went ahead with the complaint he would use the senior manager to “bury him”. In addition, the senior manager had been involved in the complaint-review in which another manager had said she would “speak to” the official about his “inappropriate behaviour at a union function”. Moreover the same senior manager had negatively evaluated a case submitted by the volunteer for assistance from the union, some years earlier.

The extent of the union’s investigation of the sexual assault investigation was a two minute phone call to the volunteer made by another union senior manager asking how he would propose to evidence it. The outcome was that the union investigator, a colleague of the complaining senior manager, decided there was no provable case. The volunteer who was on a casual contract found his college’s human resources staff and his branch union officers were encouraged by the complaining senior manager to regard the volunteer as un-employed and stripped him from union membership.

To seal things the complaining senior manager set up a sting which undercut the volunteer when he relied on his branch to continue as a Committee representative. The volunteer had a long-standing branch approval to do committee work but within two minutes of his lodging his application for Committee nomination, the senior manager had undermined his support.

In short, this was a case of an Academy Union senior manager arguing with the human resources director of a college that a member could not have branch membership on the basis of his temporary but renewable contract offer. All this despite the union official policy to defend casual staff. The complaining manager at Academy Union then upped the anty against the volunteer by arguing he was foul of union rules requiring a contract to sit on union committees and thereby also calling into question the eligibility criterion for some of the volunteer’s past expenses. The volunteer made it clear he was blameless, had incurred all expenses in good faith and asked for an independent investigation. Academy Union refused, they ignored fresh evidence on the alleged sexual assault and concluded the volunteer had breached union rules with a view to expelling him.

untitled (179)The entirety of this process was overseen by the senior manager who was named in the volunteer’s complaint, but the union claimed that he could still morally do that while remaining at arms length of his own investigation. The shrewd result of this sanction is that it immediately deprived the member of branch affiliation and scuttled his request for an investigation of the sexual and collusion allegation. The volunteer was still owed more expenses by the union (if they accepted his eligibility) than he had ever claimed. The Union had suspended payment to him of meal, transport, carer’s and other expenses running into many thousands of pounds- a large sum compared with the expenses disputed by the Union.

imagesXBQREXZWThe volunteer would like to use this forum to appeal for Academy Union to appoint a genuinely independent investigator into both the alleged sexual assault and membership issues. Such an investigation may compel Academy Union to produce previous complaints of sexual assault against Academy Union officials and allegations of alleged collusion between that official and the same named senior manager in regard to past compaints by the union’s volunteers. Such a process would also have to consider if Academy Union had permitted a culture of bullying at its London headquarters and that the Academy Union senior manager had also been subject to previous complaints of “union bullying”. The Academy Union has been criticized for allowing poor management practices e.g. an incestuous line management system complicated by marital and extra-marital relationships among its top employees, and a high level of complaints of staff bullying against the senior manager the volunteer has complained of.

The Academy Union employee named in the complaint as an alleged sexual predator has a lengthy history of volunteer complaints. It is disturbing that the Academy Union which prides itself on equality services to members has such lack over-sight of alleged sexual bullying or that his line supervisor would regard it appropriate only to “have a word” with the staff member about his behaviour. This Academy Union senior staffer, again the subject of collusion allegations, has been referred to in previous disciplinary reports as the union’s “enforcer”, and as someone whose forcefulness had allowed his judgement to go unquestioned. We cannot necessarily look to our professional representation as a defense against bullying, and that Academy Union is not the membership-led organisation set out in its principles.

Many members now feel that Academy Union Congress, overtly its supreme body, is controlled by senior managers. However union membership is so weak and the Union Executive so “hands off” that genuine union democracy has long been sacrificed by its well paid Union employees. This web-site has exposed allegations of bullying across the college system, and where it exists, we are equally determined to stamp out bulling at Academy Union so that members can get the genuinely democratic representation their subscriptions deserve.

images1U4Z7VU4ADVISORY….This is a work of humorous parody and any similarities with persons or places real or imagined is purely a matter of coincidence. If you’ve been bullied at your union or in any F/HE institution don’t hesitate in complete confidence to E-MAIL: Victims may complain without penalty under their college procedures or consider making a complaint to their local police. Where the police are contacted bullying usually ceases immediately.

April 15, 2015

Publish and perish at Imperial College London: the death of Stefan Grimm

...I am by far not the only one who is targeted by those formidable guys. These colleagues only keep quiet out of shame about their situation. Which is wrong. As we all know hitting the sweet spot in bioscience is simply a matter of luck, both for grant applications and publications.

Why does a Professor have to be treated like that?

One of my colleagues here at the College whom I told my story looked at me, there was a silence, and then said: “Yes, they treat us like sh*t”.

Best regards,
Stefan Grimm
More details at:

Loss of career...

I was a student nurse at my university in Ormskirk (2009-2012). I spoke out about my personal tutor, I was victimised thereafter, and he had chosen my final elective placement were I was further bullied, and was not allowed to change.

He then compiled lies about me and put me through a fitness to practice. Staff stuck together, no one listened even higher up. The Office of Independent (OIA) has kept my case going for two years, first justified but nothing concluded, and closed case?
Then second case unjustified, but to go to a appeals panel on there decision. I explained that I did not want to go back to that place where I was bullied, and am already aware the direction this will take me, and what I have been through. But the OIA seems to have avoided the issues raised, and further closed my case. I lost my confidence, self esteem, suffered stress, along with loss of earning and loss of career.

April 11, 2015

Bullying @ Academy Union (AU)

Academic staff naturally look to their union representation both at branch and national level to represent them in the grisly task of taking on university management. It is therefore particularly alarming that the Academy Union (AU) management itself is facing mounting criticism for intimidation of its own members. AU currently has around 114,000 members (and dropping) and is the largest further and higher education union, dwarfing the rather rightist-focused Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) but both of course very modesty sized by comparison with the National Union of Teachers (NUT). Unlike ACL and NUT, AU is currently facing a severe internal crisis of confidence in its management structure. Ultimately the buck stops with AU General Secretary, Hally Sunt (pictured above).

More and more members are beginning to feel that the gap between dedicated campus campaigning and full-time union professionalism has become too vast! AU is a vertical union representing casualised researchers and teaching staff as well as “permanent” lecturers and professors. AU was formed by the 2006 merger of the rather lame-duck Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the somewhat more bolshie National Association of Teachers in F/HE (NATFHE). That merger was itself something of a conjuring act and the organisation which emerged from it has not yet come to terms with the political and social rift in its composition.

untitled (174)

The formidable, self-driven Hally Sunt was elected General Secretary of the union in 2007. She has firmly consolidated her grip on power and has so far beaten off all opposition by a combination of shrew political maneuvering and a capacity to exploit the cleavages between the varying shades of “leftism” which render AU largely impotent as a political force. Faced with lukewarm “old” and campaigning “new” Left, what AU have finally ended up with is a grandiose Hally…..The General Secretary, with all her quirks, has shrewdly emasculated her Executive to personally become the union!

AU is politically divided between the somewhat larger “broad left” whose members are mainly part of the old AUT and the harder “left” or “real left”, the more politically radical whose membership trace largely back to NATFE. The result is an operational lock-jaw which prevents the union from making a solid impact in its negotiations with university and college management.

images (286)
There can be no question that the work of the union is vital and that much professional and voluntary work is excellent. Apart from day to day branch case-work, AU is noted for its opposition to privatization of education, stopping academic casualisation, including the use of temporary contracts and campaigning for equality. None of these objectives have achieved much in recent years and the feeling among the rank and file is that the polite middle-class slant of AU crusading is something of a damp squid. Confronting AU demands at campus level is as exciting as being mauled by a toothless sheep.

In all of these areas AU have been attracting increasing dissatisfaction, reflected in a fall in membership and apathy among members. First AU`s track-record for case-work has been denigrated by the failure of so many of the cases it has taken to tribunal. Casual members, who now represent a growing proportion of the total membership, feel disenchanted with the elitist attitude of the union Executive.

The same unhappy sentiments are expressed by retired member’s branches. Effectively the union has abandoned them because with their reduced-rate subscriptions making up such a modest share of the union’s coffers, AU senior managers frankly believe casualized or retired members hardly deserve a voice! Indeed AU have been studiously trying to undermine its own Anti-Casualization Committee, one of the few genuinely critical voices at the heart of the union’s coal-face struggle. This has created an increasing unity between casualized and retired members which cuts across their ideological leanings. Ironically, it is among these poorest unionists, many with no proper job, that the most sterling sacrifices in time and effort have been made.

Other union campaigners have also been shafted. On intra-union equality, the union’s black members have demonstrated against the union’s apparent docility on issues affecting black comrades. It is striking that in recent years AU have yet  to champion a single grievance raised by an ethnic minority despite overt problems in the university and college sectors. Moreover since 2007, AU has been embroiled in controversy for its policy of boycotting Israeli academia. Some Jewish members resigned following claims of underlying institutional anti-Semitism. The union which “self-promotes” preoccupation with equality seems less equal than one might hope!

In July 2011, AU was notified of a Jewish member’s intention to sue under the Equality Act with the Employment Tribunal in September 2011 and was heard in the Summer of 2012. While the complaint was rejected this experience severely damaged AU`s reputation. The union’s own Equality Chief, Helena Cardigan, has frequently been criticized for lack of teeth, apathy with bread and butter equality issues, and being out of touch with the maelstrom of college equality challenges.

When under pressure AU’s stage response is to draft a new booklet- at a time when members desperately want action. Faced with a mounting catastrophe in both the Higher and Further Education sectors, the typical AU solution is to do a new “stress survey” beautifully compiled with a staff of dozens, and all from their five-star, politically correct offices in north central London!

The union has also been criticized for its reliance on e-surveys when determining policy such as in the General Secretary’s proposal to Congress in 2012 that the size of the National Executive Committee be reduced from 70 members to a maximum of 40, to save money. E-surveys were vehemently challenged at Annual AU Congress on the grounds that they ‘encourage people to vote without hearing the debates first’. But of course all Hally has cared about is carrying the vote, and so if e-democracy gets another victory for Hally, then more e-democracy AU shall certainly have! “To h..l” with the pseudo-democracy of Union Congress!

AU’s reputation has also suffered from a sense of being isolated financially and professionally from the majority of its members who are now casualized academic and academic-related staff. With the General Secretary on a salary and benefits package worth a rough but impressive total of £126,982, and the average salary and benefits of AU’s senior management team at about £105,000 (levels now well in excess of even the professoriate of the UK’s most prestigious universities) there is alarm at AU’s salary bill.

Things are a great deal better in the working benefits of AU staff than in the members the union serves. With many HQ staff saving their personal money by largely working from home, there is also increasing dissatisfaction that the range of perks, and the astonishing professional average salary for an AU official (£61,000) is also well in excess of the wages of the vast majority of the members it represents. AU is committed to a policy of merging the former NATFE staff with the higher AUT pay scales so that the only way for the salary bill to go is up. The future trend is a union with a vastly paid and benefit-pampered staff and a membership living on zero-hours contracts and college agency hours!

Recently facing an unprecedented financial crisis when its bank refused to allow any further borrowing without drastic restructuring, AU took action. However there was membership anger at a pay-off which led to a drop in staff compliment of just 5, but cost almost £1 million, and allegedly a single pay-off to a senior manager cost £350,000 and included his immediate re-employment at the same grade. This seems to be an utter moral contradiction of everything a trade union should stand for.

AU had previously been hammered for its decision to acquire new showcase premises in Camden Town when it took over a decade for the union to sell its old NATFE HQ in Britannia Street. When that building was eventually sold, just recently, after costing the union more than a half-million annually in security and up-keep, the sale was at a massive loss. This is professional financial mismanagement on a colossal scale! It is hard to conceive how the Executive could have allowed this mess to continue with only the most paltry and feeble criticisms.


By stark comparison, long-standing branch members are increasingly angry that AU union bosses now lack the financial resources to represent members legally and that the union has fallen into disrepute because of its lax financial protocols. Many feel their subs have gone into fat union pay-packets. To grassroots members it seems that the gulf between the professional union officials and the vast bulk of lecturers and researchers has got so vast, that AU have lost all moral authority. Moreover with Ms Sunt and some of her immediate senior management team facing accusations of bullying, many members are of the view that they have no-where to turn.

images (278)

There can be no question that from the moment of achieving power, Ms Sunt identified key staff as her “enforcers” of policy, but with AU losing out to the employers so consistently time after time in recent years, it seems that many members want to call time on Hally’s tenure. Heavily reliant on the “enforcement skills” of her secretive organizational mandarin, Saul Pottrell, many members have begun to question whether they have a union democracy or a Sunt dictatorship. For many stalwart unionists, Hally has long ago yielded totally and lost the moral high ground! But as a sometime club bouncer General Secretary Sunt is quite able to muscle her way through a decidedly luke-warm academic opposition.

Many ordinary AU members, especially those on the radical left wish to see a more proletarian union grounded in the genuine democracy of members. The elevation of a previous GS to the Lords (Baron Ties-man) is seen by many of the grassroots as symptomatic of a union which has no credibility and which is little more than a political platform for its senior professionals. As AU’s supposed heavyweight, many rank and file feel Hally has yielded totally to the employers, has lost the moral high ground, and the only place where she throws her weight around is with her own staff and the membership!

That approximately 86% of the union’s average budget now goes on salary and physical plant, and a mere ballpark 9% on membership defense and campaigning is viewed as a national disgrace. Finally, renewed accusations of bullying and intimidation of members by the senior management team, and the expulsion of outspoken dissident members, points to a union in crisis, and which ill equips its membership for the long fight against university and college employers.

ADVISORY: This is a work of humorous fiction and any similarities with persons or places real or imagined is purely a matter of coincidence. If you’ve been bullied or are unhappy with your union at any F/HE institution don’t hesitate in confidence to E-MAIL:  Victims may complain without penalty under their college procedures or consider making a complaint to their local police. Where the police are contacted bullying usually ceases immediately.

March 29, 2015

Petition to the Canadian Prime Minister to open an inquiry into the cases of mobbing in Canada

...In recent years Canadians have witnessed how dangerous and devastating the phenomenon of mobbing (and bullying) can be.

An appropriate starting point of an inquiry into the cases of mobbing in Canada can be the case of academic mobbing summarized below for two reasons:

1. If it can succeed even in a case like mine, given my academic background and experience, one can easily imagine how successful this evel phenomenon can be in other cases.

2. It started as a case of academic mobbing and despite that the evidence presented and collected at the hearings proved that there was a conspiracy at Concordia (see the summary below) and that Concordia's allegations were completely groundless, the arbitrators and lawyers involved acted totaly inexplicably (see summary) which gave rise to the suspicion that organized crime in the very legal system in Quebec might have been involved.

...In September 2010 I was suspended for exposing academic mobbing practices at Concordia University and for defending my rights as briefly described at:

In fact, in October 2010 most Canadian media spread Concordia University's totally unfounded allegations used to suspend and effectively demonize a completely innocent Canadian scientist, who contributed significantly to raising the international academic standing of Canada, and also sabotage the increasingly successful biennial International Conferences on the Nature and Ontology of Spacetime locally organized by him in Montreal in 2004 (with representatives from 13 countries), 2006 (19 countries), and 2008 (33 countries).

That Concordia's allegations were totally unfounded was proved at the arbitration hearings (see below), but, contrary to the evidence, the case surrealistically degenerated into a progressively alarming case in which three lawyers (with over 40 years of experience) made abrupt U-turns (after initially doing their job professionally), two arbitrators in their decisions not only ignored the evidence collected at the hearings but contradicted it, and Concordia University and its Union (CUFA) waited for an arbitrator to render his decision for 18 (instead of the allowed 3) months until the arbitrator died (and now I am not allowed to see his decision; I was given only a page with a two-sentence unsigned ruling against me)...

...Even before the hearings Professor Kenneth Westhues, a renowned researcher of academic mobbing, stressed that obvious fact in his letter of September 29, 2010 to the Montreal Gazette's Managing Editor and Concordia's President Woodsworth:

"On the face of it, the very aggressive action the Concordia administration is taking against Professor Petkov deserves close scrutiny by bodies outside the university. I was puzzled to read in President Woodsworth's letter that one of the two stated reasons Professor Petkov is suspended and threatened with dismissal is "continued references to Valery Fabrikant." I have read the references to Fabrikant in Petkov's open letter. The references strike me as thoughtful, reasonable, unthreatening, intelligent. They are not unlike references to Fabrikant made by many other professors, including Harry Arthurs, former president of York University. It is beyond me how making this kind of reference to Fabrikant can be a ground for suspension or dismissal."


March 08, 2015

Academia’s 1 Percent

Will your Ph.D. lead to an academic job? To answer that question, prospective students are often encouraged to see how recent graduates fared -- a task easier said than done. Department placement lists are catalogs of untold stories, a logroll of the disappeared. Those who left academia are erased: According to my own alma mater, for example, I never existed, along with the majority of my colleagues who failed to find academic jobs in the Great Recession. There is no placement list for the displaced.

A more useful indicator of whether your doctoral program is a pathway to employment lies in whom the department hires. Because chances are, you will see the same few institutional names again and again. During my own time in graduate school, my department hired several faculty members, all with different specialties and skills, all with one thing in common: Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard. The evidence is not only anecdotal.

A recent study by Aaron Clauset, Samuel Arbesman, and Daniel B. Larremore shows that “a quarter of all universities account for 71 to 86 percent of all tenure-track faculty in the U.S. and Canada in these three fields. Just 18 elite universities produce half of all computer science professors, 16 schools produce half of all business professors, and eight schools account for half of all history professors.”

This study follows the discovery by political scientist Robert Oprisko that more than half of political-science professorships were filled by applicants from only 11 universities. What that means is something every Ph.D. from a less-prestigious institution knows all too well: No amount of publishing, teaching excellence, or grants can compensate for an affiliation that is less than favorable in the eyes of a search committee. The fate of aspiring professors is sealed not with job applications but with graduate-school applications. Institutional affiliation has come to function like inherited wealth. Those who have it operate in a different market, more immune from the dark trends – unemployment, adjunctification – that dog their less-prestigious peers. The Great Recession is notable not only for its relentlessness – many people, six years later, are still waiting to feel the effects of the “recovery” – but for the way a tiny elite was able to continue their luxurious lifestyle while the livelihood of the majority was turned upside down.

During the first two years of the “recovery,” the mean net worth of households in the upper 7 percent of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28 percent, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93 percent dropped by 4 percent. With wages largely stagnant and cost of living soaring, it made less difference what one did during the recovery than what kind of money one had before the crash. More and more, the American Dream is a foregone conclusion, a tale told in reverse. The same trend holds true in academia: career stagnation based on institutional affiliation. Where you come from remains cruelly indicative of where you will go. What you actually do on the journey is, to the status-obsessed, irrelevant. With institutional bias in hiring now proven by multiple social scientists, why don’t prospective graduate students simply limit their applications to favored elite institutions?

The answer is often financial, and, again, speaks to privilege and discrimination endemic to academic culture. The most prestigious universities – the Ivy League, University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of California system – tend to lie in the most expensive parts of the country. Even with full funding, it is nearly impossible to live in such costly cities without incurring debt, given that stipends tend to be $25,000 or less. Rather than go to an expensive, elite program, a fiscally responsible student might be inclined to select a solid program with good funding in a cheap city. But academia was not designed for the fiscally responsible: It was designed for those for whom money is a non issue.

Academia’s currency is prestige, but prestige is always backed up by money, whether the expenditure for life in a costly city, the expectation of unpaid or underpaid labor, or research trips assumed to be paid out-of-pocket. As university infrastructure grows more elaborate and US News and World Report rankings become increasingly valued, elite colleges often appear less concerned with providing an education than selling a lifestyle. Whereas students have often chosen a college believing that its reputation would enhance their own, colleges now solicit wealthy students believing that the students’ prestige will enhance the college. The same is true of faculty. As Clauset and his Slate co-writer Joel Warner note, “For a university, the easiest way to burnish your reputation is to hire graduates from top schools, thereby importing a bit of what made these institutions elite in the first place.”

Where does this leave the majority of Ph.D.’s who are not affiliated with the small group of approved institutions? Last week, adjuncts across the country staged a walkout to protest poor pay and working conditions. Adjuncting itself is a product of an academe that operates on an almost Calvinist faith in its 1 percent: Adjuncts are viewed as “tainted” by their own job experience, and their low status regarded as “proof” that they never deserved a tenure-track position. Though graduates of elite universities were certainly among the striking adjuncts – the academic job market is bad enough that even the Ivy League is not entirely immune – most adjuncts tend to come from less prestigious institutions, with their contingent positions a seeming punishment for failing to start out right.

No one’s career should end at its beginning. But for thousands of Ph.D. students, that is exactly what is happening. The candor of studies like Clauset’s and Oprisko’s should be applauded. It is only in recognizing institutional bias -- and exploring the issues of class that surround it -- that hiring can be made more equitable. -


March 01, 2015

Dicky’s Advice for Bulster’s New President

imagesDQYZPCPWAs Bulster’s out-going or just plain “ousted and outed” dictator, I thought I should offer you, as the new incumbent, some advice on how we operate at Bulster University. If you have not guessed this already, my senior team, most of whom remain in place- “Bulster’s cabinet of horrors”- do not react well to change. Our evil Director of Human Resources who I fondly call “Mad Bonnie”; our Lycra if not PVC-girl, the ever elegant Madame De De, and quite a few of the other thugs are (frankly) hoping you are not going to be one of those reforming Presidents interested in staff rights or equality or any of that civic society tosh….

imagesKZ3JEU3WIn fact, I’m not quite sure if I should write to congratulate or commiserate with you but as I see that you have been able to negotiate a pretty good wad of pay for yourself, I wonder if you need my advice at all! But as I think you’ll appreciate, every great man wants to protect something of his legacy. And if that were not good enough reason itself for me putting pen to paper to you, the plain fact is that the incumbent management team are blackmailing me to ensure you don’t immediately sack them all for being the group of under-qualified chancers they collectively are!

So first I suppose I should tell you that here at Bulster we have always kept two sets of books for everything we do…one for the squeaky clean public image we fail miserably to project, and the real books that tell the sordid tale of corruption and senior staff scandals. Our Chair of Council, Banko Mallow and Pete Hopeless, our financial chappie, will fill you in on the bare details. Running a uni is like any business- you can’t let the competition, or DEL or the government for that matter know what you are really up to. And if you are really stuck for advice, go to our Chancellor or “Bilbo’s Elf” as I affectionately call him- and you’ll get the nude truth... as you’ll find out he’s well used to baring his own bum in public!!!

Cold_Feet_rose (2)On the governance side, if you have any questions go straight to Secretary Amos Mullitover and you will see why he was so well named by his parents- its from the biblical for “a burden”. Well this particular Secretary hardly knows what day of the week it is but he can cheat like a Wizard… so he’s been good enough for Bulster- and he’s got me personally out of a lot of bother! Only he could have sorted out the fight between Olly in Legal Advice and “Mad Bonnie” without it coming to a matter of pistols at dawn…..or as would be more likely with these two old killer sharks, poison pen letters at mid-night... If you get really stuck just think of Chancellor Jimmy’s bum! That always cheers us all up…
images (337)
Now I should give you a bit of a warning about your own personal conduct when you come to Bulster. And I say this because I see you as a bit of a Mad-Hatton bent scouser! Although we had to get rid of Lady Equality, “old Sour-face” Patience Gunter, as I used to call her, Bulster is still absolutely committed to equality of opportunity and fair-play for all true Bulsterians. We know how to appoint the right one for Bulster, and I only hope Council hasn’t gone and made a mess in appointing you. But we all thought with the long history of governance scandal in your home town of Liverpool (and Slimy Derek’s sacked Scouser Council comes to mind) you’d be our man!

Then I imagine Tasmania has its own share of political scandals and vulgar over-paid Vice Chancellors… and ministers you can bribe over a few nights out in a gay sauna! So we thought indeed with your more recent experience of univerity leadership down-under (Ozzies are certainly well known for red hot  sleaze) you’ll know how to do the right thing… or indeed wrong thing if needed, if you catch my drift.

images5KG211ZEBut you must at all time keep clear of the local Peelers. “Mad Bonnie” has just had a run in with them for deleting phone records, perverting the course of justice, mis-using scientific protocol and this kind of minor thing that we do all the time at Bulster- but the local bobbies dont seem to know their place any more. They seem to have gone mad on what the staff Victim’s Association have been telling them- mostly a load of human rights bullshit. Personally I’d haul them off to a Siberian Gulag! There are a few other cases looming- like destroying police evidence and mis-using her Majesty’s Communications Service which might take more than a ten-pound note stuck inside Buster’s proverbial licence to fix.

images5H30IFIRAnd on that subject I must warn you to keep your university chauffeur on duty even if you go off boozing, or shagging or whatever else power puts into your head when you grab my fiefdom at Bulster. My old pal Gerry Jameson got into so much trouble with drink driving that the peelers are on the road as soon as they hear the Presidential limo leave the pub. So at all costs let the driver take the action, even if you have to bribe him into ignoring your personal off-duty antics. As we VC’s say, “What happens in Bulster stays in Vegas…” or somethng along those lines. I don’t know what sort of fellow you are or if there’s a Mr or a Mrs in tow but of one thing I can forewarn you- don’t get caught with your trousers down in Bulster or the senior management team will blackmail you from here to high noon.

imagesOTDN1YQKI myself had a bit of a mis-understanding a few years back with a young policeman- late one night- something that could happen to anyone in a public place. And, in fact, I must confess the anatomical matter involved (the exhibit for the jury if you like) is so small it could never really have infringed public decency! But the police took a very dim view of it, small as it is, and I was lucky to get off with a caution. Just remember there are undercover eyes everywhere when you are as senior as I am. And if you want me to be frank... that’s also why “Mad Bonnie” is so over-paid... I had to bribe the sleazy ba……rd! to keep his dangerous mouth shut!

Gee I was lucky to get out of the Police Station without a stain on my record never mind my pin-stripe suit! Actually for all the fuss it was not much worse that the time Lord Trevvie, one of my Presidential Predecessors, walked into a hotel kitchen with his flies down and willie out….thinking he was heading into the gents toilets… Another one tried to bribe an evangelical Police Superintendant with a bottle of vodka. Then there was that time Gerry Jameson handed a Japanese Vice Chancellor the business card from the massage parlour he’d visted the nite before. These are all simple mistakes people like us in high office can so easily make…

imagesBZ5SQCEXBut it’s so true that you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. The late VC Der Burley had a problem with breaking wind in public. It got so bad certain senior managers thought it was just his way of terminating staff discussion. As I’ve mentioned, Lord Trevvie had that problem with his flies and falling asleep in public... I guess they call it sleep apnesia nowadays. Personally I think the entire management team have it-  they only wake up when they hear the word bonus!

images (293)Then of course my friend Gerry Jameson got this medical problem which made it look like he was roaring drunk all the time, and with  a bad case of Tourettes syndrome to boot. Gerry also was a bit gassy- he used to blame it on “stinky torfu” until his PA reminded him he wasn’t in Hong Kong any more!. Not a very pleasant business with poor old Gerry  I can tell you, but fixable after a touch or two of “Mad Bonnie’s” taser and a bit of a pension pay-off. Good-bye Gerry, hello Dicky!

And as you know I’ve had my own crosses to bear what with that time I fell off the wagon in Dubai of all places, and thought one of those Arab Vice-Chancellors was coming on to me. It was only later that I learned the poor devil has a glass eye. I thought I was well in for the evening there, especially when he fixed his beady eye on me in the hotel lift and seemed to be adjusting his under-garments! Then as I’ve said I made that mistake with a young plain-clothes police offer- and boy what fine gear those boys wear….we must be still paying them all far too much now that the terrorists have all retired….Now enough regrets, let’s get you down to brass tacks on the nasty crew you have at Bulster.

imagesWVF8CFA7You dont have to worry about equality as I let Patience Gunter go as she was for ever getting her knickers in a twist when I told her to gloss over a spate of staff suicides and reports of Bulster’s gross inequality. If the wretched staff gang up on you, you can always rely on “Mad Bonnie” to get rid of any dead bodies. On PR, Secretary Amos will spread around any dis-information an effective President must dispense from time to time. In communications, Madame De De will smile ex-camera for you but don’t ask her to do anything too intellectually challenging…and she can be a bit blunt at times… I heard she actually asked President Higgins if he was in or out of the closet... Luckily one of his aides intervened and told Mr. Higgins she’s asked if she could use the Presidential water-closet.

On money matters, Pete Hopeless is well named but also well-meaning and really not a bad sort at all for a bent accountant. In Estates, Mr Pantelon will be at your beck and call as long as there’s a few readies in it for him, but keep him well away from loose women. But watch your Jordanstown Provost like a hawk…our Mr Daring is just too sweet to be wholesome, and indeed could be a spy!

untitled (206)And speaking of spies if you ever need a couple of old Smiley’s People to do a bit of dirty work, you can rely on the “gruesome two-some” I’ve always used, old “Hutchie Hutch” and “Mal Blunt”, both up to their necks in dirty tricks and cyber-prowling and can dish the dirt on anyone…If you want some really dirty work doing just hire these two retired spooks…Bonnie will arrange it- he has plenty on them too just in case they start bargaining too hard over their rate. Just remind Bonnie about Hutchie’s “not so evangelical” nights of spirit-sodden revival and Blunt’s fondness for blond babes and the Ulster Vanguard…

imagesC7GC4CUEOn the international side, totally bar Richie Mills from student admissons as he’d accept even the toilet ladies and delivery boys for an MA... that’s carrying even our mission to community education a bit far! And on oversight of academic standards be careful to keep Di Maccy’s trap “firmly shut” as she’s surely to quality control what Fat Molly was to the Atkins diet.

untitled (205)Finally, well I can’t say I wouldnt have wanted to hang around a bit longer but Council just wouldn’t have it. So I bid you a begrudging congrats and good luck in the Bulster Zoo…you might even get a K out of it if you can bribe the DEL Minister or better still, catch him with his over-sized pants down…not a nice sight, believe me……. If you are really stuck you can set Madam De De on him, maybe she might ask him a question or two about closets…

Yours Ever, VC Tricky Dicky

ADVISORY…This is a work of humorous fiction and any similarities with persons or places real or imagined is purely a matter of coincidence. If you’ve been bullied at Bulster University or any F/HE institution don’t hesitate in complete confidence to E-MAIL: Victims may complain without penalty under their college procedures or consider making a complaint to their local police. Where the police are contacted bullying usually ceases immediately.