September 29, 2018

Hundreds of academics at top UK universities accused of bullying

"...A Guardian investigation found nearly 300 academics, including senior professors and laboratory directors, were accused of bullying students and colleagues. Dozens of current and former academics spoke of aggressive behaviour, extreme pressure to deliver results, career sabotage and HR managers appearing more concerned about avoiding negative publicity than protecting staff.
In response, Prof Venki Ramakrishnan, the president of the Royal Society, called for an overhaul of workplace practices, saying bullying had become ingrained in the culture of too many academic institutions. “In science, like in many creative professions such as the film industry, there are huge power differentials,” he said, adding that intense competition and lack of oversight risked allowing bullying to go unchecked.

Other leading academics called for an end to the culture of secrecy around the issue. Prof Athene Donald, a distinguished physicist and the master of Churchill College, Cambridge, said: “I know of two instances where it is hard to think a cover-up is not going on. “They’re at different universities, different situations. I’m really quite bothered about universities desperately trying to damp things down.”

The Guardian sent freedom of information requests to 135 universities. Responses revealed a total of 294 complaints against academics at 55 institutions. A further 30 universities reported 337 complaints against all staff – academic and non-academic. Across 105 universities, at least 184 staff have been disciplined and 32 dismissed for bullying since 2013.

Fourteen universities said they had used non-disclosure agreements to resolve bullying cases, with at least 27 staff signing confidentiality clauses in exchange for financial payouts. Separately, more than 200 academics contacted the Guardian to share their experiences. Dozens were interviewed, with many giving accounts of behaviours that went well beyond robust academic discourse, professional rivalries or personality clashes.

One compared the management style of his boss, one of the country’s most eminent scientists, to that of Henry VIII. Staff were said to be subjected to “classic tyrannical” behaviour, with everyone’s motives treated with suspicion and everyone viewed as “someone else to be crushed”. At another internationally renowned laboratory, the pressure was reportedly so extreme people were driven to falsify data rather than incur the wrath of the director..."


July 25, 2018

Have you experienced bullying in academia? Share your stories - The Guardian

 Concern has been growing about bullying in the world of academia. We want to hear from academic staff about their experiences A top cancer genetics professor quit her job at the Institute of Cancer Research after facing multiple allegations of bullying dating back 12 years.

Prof Nazneen Rahman, who was head of genetics and epidemiology at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), was given leave of absence last November after a letter signed by 45 current and former employees accused her of “recurrent bullying and harassment”. The complainants claimed the ICR had failed to take appropriate action for years despite “multitudes of oral and written complaints” against Rahman at both the institute and the Marsden.

This is not an isolated case and concern has been growing about bullying in the world of academia. Earlier this month, the scientific journal Nature reported that the Max Planck Society, a prestigious research body in Germany, was investigating fresh allegations of bullying and sexual harassment. PhD students are thought to be particularly vulnerable because they depend on their supervisors for publications and references.

This can create a dangerous power imbalance. Share your experiences We want to hear from academic staff about the problem of bullying. Have you faced it? How good was your institution at responding to it? Do universities need to do more to tackle the problem?

Share your comments, experiences and thoughts – anonymously or otherwise – with us. You can get in touch by filling in the encrypted form below – anonymously, if you wish. Your responses will only be seen by the Guardian and we will feature some of them in our reporting.

January 07, 2018

Harassment at Annual Meetings American Political Science Association

A "sizable" minority of women and a smaller but still notable share of men have experienced harassment or other inappropriate behavior at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, according to a survey of members that the association has just released.

A solid majority (63 percent) of the 2,424 members who responded to the survey indicated that they had never been harassed or treated inappropriately at the meeting. But the figures were different for men (74 percent) and women (51 percent).

Among the findings:
  • Forty-two percent of women and 22 percent of men said that they had been "put down" or "experienced condescension" at the meeting.
  • Thirty percent of women and 10 percent of men said that they had experienced "inappropriate language or looks, such as experiencing offensive sexist remarks; getting stared at, leered or ogled in a way that made them uncomfortable; or being exposed to sexist or suggestive materials which they found offensive."
  • Eleven percent of women and 3 percent of men reported having experienced "inappropriate sexual advances or touching, such as unwanted attempts to establish a sexual relationship despite efforts to discourage it, being touched by someone in a way that was uncomfortable, or experiencing bribes or threats associated with sexual advances."
The survey looked at specifics within that last item and found that the numbers of people reporting certain kinds of inappropriate behavior were low. But the report published by the association said the data should still be of concern.

"That 29 of our members felt they had experienced threats of professional retaliation for not being sexually cooperative, and 44 felt they were being bribed with special professional rewards is, respectively, 29 and 44 people too many," said the report, published in PS, an association journal. The report found no statistically significant differences in the results by race or ethnicity.

But the study found that nontenured faculty members experience more harassment or inappropriate behavior than do tenured faculty members, graduate students or postdocs...

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