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. 



Anonymous said...

Join the club. There is a phenomenon called "artificial competition" where the public sector quasi-emulates real competition (where businesses compete to provide a better quality product or service at a better price). Artificial competition is supposed to spur improvements, but because it is artificial (there is no competitor for the public service, public schools or universities)"performance indicators" are invented (like teaching evaluations, publications etc). Instead of improving research and teaching these performance indicators incentivise academic fraud, research fraud and bullying. If you can get a job in another sector, do so. Universities are crucibles of bullying because of artificial competition and will only get worse.

Anonymous said...

I used to teach at a well-known technical college in Canada. For years, I was subjected to bullying, harassment, threats of severe disciplinary action, slander, and even physical violence. From what I gathered, these practices were institutionalized, coming from at least the dean's level. However, they were selective and only certain people were targeted for such abuses. Everyone else was simply left alone.

Regulations were frequently disregarded, making it possible for false allegations to appear in one's personnel file without prior knowledge, thereby denying one the opportunity to offer a rebuttal. Unfortunately, such actions were considered perfectly legal in Canadian law and the onus was on the accused to demonstrate that the information was both untrue and damaging to one's reputation. Even if it was removed, it had a tendency to mysteriously find its way back into one's file.

I eventually resigned when I saw the writing on the wall. Even though I was in the right, I knew that it was one fight I was never going to win. There were too many bad guys who had a personal interest in having me sacked and disgraced.

My only solution was to quit under terms that I dictated, though not necessarily to my liking. I also cut all ties to the institution, reducing the possibility that it could do me any future harm. Doing that, however, made it difficult to obtain references and it didn't prevent any prospective employers from making inquiries about me with the personnel office. (And guess what it would have to say about me, eh?)

I left 13 years ago. It took me 2 years to get the tensions built up during my time there out of my system. The anger and revulsion, however, still remains, as my writing this clearly shows.

To the original contributor, my advice is to quit but to do so when one has enough personal resources to make it possible to be independent, such as money, property, or business interests. One never knows what's being said and what effect it would have on one's reputation. Make a clean break and walk away from it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it can be an absolute nightmare. I have a post in the yahoo group related to this blog dated August 25th (only one dated August 25th). If you sign up / log in, and say hi to that, I'll list some ideas there (would prefer not to in the open).

Anonymous said...

Ironically when confronted with this kind of harassment many academics will first self-examine and ponder their own failings- but the research on harassment law proceedings suggests that individuals are not targeted only for objective reasons of personality traits, or perceived threat or collegiate dis-satisfaction- but often the motive can be irrational, petty jealousy, or just plain maliciousness. One local lecturer, literally "the boy next door" found himself harassed by a group of expatriate colleagues from the day of his arrival simply because they thought he'd had it "too easy" in grabbing a job on his door-step.

Anonymous said...

It's definitely a problem of the institutional environment, as some of the comments have said. I liked the one about artificial competition, so true. Al I can say is your life, health and well-being comes before your job, even if you have to walk out. Once on the outside, if that's what you choose, you will find that things aren't as desperate as you thought for you.