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A federal judge has allowed his lawsuit against the University of Illinois to proceed, and the chancellor who rescinded his appointment last year has resigned amid an ethics investigation.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

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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.