• October 20, 2014

What Killed Kevin Morrissey?

How the death of an editor threatens the future of the University of Virginia's prestigious literary review

What Killed Kevin Morrissey? 1

Left: Ted Genoways; Right: Kevin Morrissey.

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Left: Ted Genoways; Right: Kevin Morrissey.

When Kevin Morrissey walked to the old coaling tower near the University of Virginia campus late last month and shot himself in the head, he not only ended his own life, he exposed turmoil within the small staff of The Virginia Quarterly Review that now threatens the future of the high-profile journal.

Family members and people close to the review say Mr. Morrissey, the review's managing editor, had been complaining to the university about workplace bullying by his boss, Ted Genoways. But, they contend, the institution did virtually nothing to help. "Kevin had been to the university as recently as the Monday before the Friday he died," says a person who worked for the review. "The university had tools to step in and mediate, and they didn't." Some close to the situation say that in the days before the death, they even warned the university that Mr. Morrissey, who suffered from serious depression, might commit suicide.

Mr. Genoways, the journal's editor, is highly regarded in publishing circles. He is credited with taking VQR, as the review is known, from a sleepy publication to one of the nation's preeminent literary journals. He denies the allegation of bullying and says it was Mr. Morrissey's depressed state, not their rocky relationship, that caused Mr. Morrissey's suicide. "His long history of depression caused him trouble throughout his career," Mr. Genoways wrote in a statement to The Chronicle, "leading often to conflicts with his bosses."

In the wake of Mr. Morrissey's death, VQR's own stability has been challenged. Mr. Genoways's office has been cleaned out, and police officers have been stationed at the doors of the award-winning journal. The Chronicle got such details, as well as further charges of turmoil, from a half-dozen people close to the situation. None would allow their names to be used because, they said, the university has instructed them not to talk to reporters and they fear for their jobs. (A member of VQR's staff, Sheila McMillen, is the sister of a Chronicle editor. None of the information used in this article is from Ms. McMillen.)

Mr. Genoways told The Chronicle that the university had already "reviewed all the allegations being made against me and found them to be without grounds." The university wouldn't comment on that or answer most of The Chronicle's questions about the situation, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters. A statement on the journal's home page says that UVa "remains strongly committed to VQR."

Still, others are questioning whether too much damage has already been done. Elliott D. Woods, a VQR contributor and an ardent supporter of Mr. Genoways, wrote in an e-mail message to The Chronicle that he feared that accusations about what caused Mr. Morrissey's death could "ruin the greatest little magazine I know."

Gregory M. Britton, publisher of Getty Publications, agrees. "These are tough enough times for small literary magazines," he said. "A crisis like this can be a death blow, even to the strongest scholarly publication."

Former Friends

It was at the Minnesota Historical Society Press, where Mr. Britton was director during the early 2000s, that Mr. Genoways and Mr. Morrissey first came to work together. They got along well enough that a year after Mr. Genoways took over at VQR in 2003, he asked Mr. Morrissey to come to Charlottesville as his right-hand man. It was the kind of job that Mr. Morrissey had done before, those close to him say, and that he did well. People who worked with Mr. Morrissey, including Mr. Britton, say he paid close attention to details and could be counted on to take on more than his fair share of work. They also say Mr. Morrissey, who was 52 and had never been married, could be grumpy and prickly, and that he suffered from what at times seemed to be a deep depression. Some of those who spoke to The Chronicle say he had talked about seeing a psychotherapist and taking medication. "He managed his disease, and he managed to be really high functioning," said someone who worked with him.

When Mr. Genoways took over at VQR at the age of 31, it was with hopes that he would breathe new life into a stodgy-looking black-and-white publication whose editor's office didn't even have Internet access. The departing editor, Staige Blackford, had been at the journal for nearly 30 years and was in his 70s when he decided to retire.

Mr. Genoways gradually began putting the publication on the map, hiring well-known authors and photographers and taking on timely nonfiction projects in addition to the usual poetry and fiction. He paid journalists to write about high-stakes international conflicts like the war in Afghanistan and the violence of the Mexican drug cartel. The change quickly garnered both Mr. Genoways and VQR notice from those at the literary world's highest levels, winning the publication four National Magazine Awards and 14 more nominations, all of which it accomplished on a half-million-dollar budget.

During their first few years at the magazine, as it grew in stature, Mr. Genoways and Mr. Morrissey remained the closest of friends. In a letter Mr. Genoways sent to contributors this month that was obtained by The Chronicle, he said Mr. Morrissey was a fixture in his Virginia home and at holiday dinners with Mr. Genoways's wife and young son. Mr. Morrissey also traveled with Mr. Genoways to New York to accept the National Magazine Award that VQR won for general excellence in 2006. "We were the toast of the publishing world that night," Mr. Genoways wrote in the letter to contributors.

In the last few years, however, as Mr. Genoways took on more and more ambitious projects, and as he also became worried about the magazine's financial future, the relationship between the two men and the atmosphere within VQR's offices began to sour. Some of those close to the magazine say Mr. Morrissey questioned Mr. Genoways about what Mr. Morrissey felt were excessive advance payments to contributors and about bills for parties Mr. Genoways hosted that reached into the thousands.

They say Mr. Genoways, in turn, began cutting Mr. Morrissey out of key decisions and distancing himself from the office, refusing to answer staff members' e-mail messages, shirking many of his day-to-day duties, and dumping most of the work on his small staff. "The whole staff felt Ted took all the credit and did none of the work," said the person who worked for the review, adding that Mr. Genoways spent most of his time at VQR "scrambling to be a star." Mr. Genoways has been away from the office on a Guggenheim fellowship in recent months, but he still has been responsible for making sure the journal's issues are finished on time.

When Mr. Genoways was in the office, some recall, he could occasionally be overheard screaming at Mr. Morrissey behind his office door.

In his statement to The Chronicle, Mr. Genoways acknowledged there "had been tensions between staff members in the VQR offices." But people close to him, including the contributor Mr. Woods, say Mr. Genoways was hardly AWOL from his VQR duties. Nor was he depending on Mr. Morrissey and others to run the place. In fact, the exact opposite was true, says Mr. Woods. Mr. Genoways ran the magazine almost single-handedly, he says: The editor conceived of the ideas that inspired the covers, and cultivated contributors and held their hands through their reporting and writing, while at the same time he reached out to the larger world to gain renown for the journal and insure its continued vitality.

"Ted is the creative genius responsible for the magazine's success," says Mr. Woods, who worked as an intern at the magazine in 2008. "Ted is the fulcrum of the discussions about the future of VQR and, honestly, the future of journalism.... Ted is the star at the center of VQR's constellation of writers, poets, and photographers."

Worsening Relations

While there may be disagreement over who was responsible for the breakdown in relationships at VQR, everyone who talked to The Chronicle seems to agree that the situation grew much worse late last year after Mr. Genoways hired a young UVa graduate, Alana Levinson-LaBrosse, to help raise money for the journal. Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse is the daughter of Frank H. Levinson, a wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has made generous donations to the university. Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse herself has already given $1.5-million to the Young Writers Workshop at the university's Curry School of Education, from which she earned a master's degree in 2008.

Mr. Genoways, say those close to the publication, had been worried that despite its success, VQR might eventually be the victim of budget cuts, like so many other university literary journals.

And perhaps he had reason to be concerned. The journal has been financed, people close to it say, through a discretionary line in the budget of the university's president. John T. Casteen III, the university's longtime president, had announced he would step down in 2010. And Mr. Genoways, who reported directly to the president's office and who was good friends with his son, John T. Casteen IV, couldn't possibly expect to have the same kind of relationship, at least right away, with the university's new president, Teresa A. Sullivan, who took over this month. It was unclear whether Ms. Sullivan would protect VQR's budget and where within the university, and under whose control, the journal might wind up.

So Mr. Genoways and Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse began looking for another home within the university and more money from outside. Other staff members at the review, though, were not part of that work and didn't share Mr. Genoways's fears about the future. Nor did they take well to seeing Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse, 24, elevated to what some say appeared to be second-in-command under Mr. Genoways. Her desk was in his office. Some of those who worked at VQR clearly resented her and repeatedly made rude comments and ignored her during office meetings, says a university employee.

Seeking University Help

It was in this atmosphere, with the VQR staff growing more and more fractious, that Mr. Morrissey, together with three other journal staff members, went earlier this year to the president's office to complain. Mr. Morrissey had already registered his own complaints about Mr. Genoways with the university ombudsman and the human-resources office, according to his older sister, Maria Morrissey.

But university officials, those close to the publication say, brushed off the group's complaints, saying that creative people like Mr. Genoways could be difficult to work with and were often bad managers.

Meanwhile, people who knew Mr. Morrissey say he grew more and more despondent over the last couple of months of his life. He didn't think his problems with Mr. Genoways would ever be resolved. And he also felt trapped because while he may have been a talented editor, he lacked a college degree. Mr. Morrissey had a $76,000-a-year salary at Virginia and owned a condominium in Charlottesville, both of which he feared he might never replace if he had to leave UVa.

It was two final actions in the weeks before Mr. Morrissey's death that his family and friends believe pushed him over the edge. First, Mr. Genoways sent an e-mail message to Mr. Morrissey in mid-July, 10 days before his death (a copy of which The Chronicle has obtained), telling Mr. Morrissey that he had "engaged in unacceptable workplace behavior." In the e-mail, Mr. Genoways did not specify what that behavior was, but he ordered Mr. Morrissey to work from home for a week and warned him not to talk to other VQR staff members. People close to the magazine say Mr. Genoways was furious after learning that Mr. Morrissey and another staff member had clashed with Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse during a meeting.

It was around that time that Nancy A. Rivers, Mr. Casteen's chief of staff, reportedly got involved and, in what appears to be the only official action from the university, apologized to VQR staff members. Some were buoyed by her involvement, but not Mr. Morrissey. According to his sister, his cell-phone records show that during the last two weeks of his life, Mr. Morrissey made 17 calls to the university's human-resources department, the president's office, and university officials responsible for employee assistance and faculty-staff relations.

On the morning of Mr. Morrissey's death, Friday, July 30th, Mr. Genoways sent Mr. Morrissey another e-mail message, says Mr. Morrissey's sister, accusing Mr. Morrissey of ignoring a plea for help from a man who had worked under dangerous conditions to help VQR with a recent story. Ms. Morrissey says Mr. Genoways wrote that in ignoring the man, Mr. Morrissey had put the man's life at risk.

It's not clear that Mr. Morrissey read that e-mail. What is known is that at about 11:30 a.m. that morning he called the Charlottesville police and reported a shooting at the former C&O coaling tower, a landmark near the campus that has attracted criminal activity in the past. Within minutes police arrived to find that Mr. Morrissey had shot himself in the head. With him were his will with instructions about what should be done with his body, along with a typed suicide note that, according to those who have seen it, said: "I'm sorry. I know she won't understand this, but I just couldn't bear it anymore." Maria Morrissey says the "she" in the note referred to a longtime female friend of her brother's from Minnesota.

Charges of Bullying

Ms. Morrissey hadn't spoken to her brother in years. He had cut her and their three brothers out of his life. When she first heard about his death, in a phone call that Friday, she thought his depression had gotten the better of him. But as she talked to Mr. Morrissey's coworkers about the events of the last year, Ms. Morrissey grew more and more angry. "What I heard was that Ted Genoways had been a workplace bully to Kevin for three years," says Ms. Morrissey. "He was a bully to everyone in the office, but he picked out Kevin as his particular target." Ms. Morrissey has made similar accusations in comments on an item about Mr. Morrissey's death posted on cvillenews.com by his former colleague, Waldo Jaquith, who is VQR's Web editor. (People close to the magazine say Mr. Jaquith submitted his resignation from the VQR staff shortly before Mr. Morrissey's death.) Ms. Morrissey says her family is talking to lawyers about filing a lawsuit against the university.

In an e-mail response to questions from The Chronicle about Mr. Morrissey's complaints and the university's response, a UVa spokeswoman said she was "unable to respond to many of them as they are part of individuals' confidential personnel records."

Ann H. Franke, an expert on the law and higher education, said university officials should respond to all complaints of workplace bullying whether or not they determine a formal investigation is necessary. "Prompt handling of workplace complaints makes a better environment altogether," she said in an interview.

The University of Virginia paid for Mr. Morrissey's memorial service on the campus this month, says his sister, and bought plane tickets for his father and siblings to travel to Charlottesville. After the service, family members and people who worked with Mr. Morrissey went back to his home where they ate some of his favorite foods, including red beet salad and chocolate-chip cookies.

Around his apartment, says Ms. Morrissey, her brother had left signs that he was looking for a new job and considering selling his apartment. And on the bureau in his bedroom, he had a book that Ms. Morrissey believes might give some insight into how her brother viewed Mr. Genoways. It's called: Working With the Self-Absorbed: How to Handle Narcissistic Personalities on the Job.

Comments

1. gringo_gus - August 13, 2010 at 06:05 am

This is a shameful piece of reporting. Bullying is serious, but to use the suicide of an individual to level claims at a colleague in any circumstance is wrong. To do so when the person who has killed themself is a known depressive, has "cut" close family members "out of his life", and then to cite one of these family members accusing this colleague is absolutely and utterly despicable. Given the so called evidence here, I doubt Ted Genoways was being a bully, but I can't be sure. What is certain is that the Chronicle is guilty of something that is worse than bullying - indeed, of using its bully pulpit - to imply one person is complicit in another's death. It is absolutely repellent. Shame on you, CHE.

I write from outside the US, and have no personal knowledge of the individuals or the case in any way.

2. lsearle - August 13, 2010 at 06:59 am

I entirely agree with gringo-gus. This isn't reporting, it is malicious gossip, worse than repellent.

3. martin_2121 - August 13, 2010 at 07:04 am

@gringo_gus. I don't see what's so shameful about the Chronicle's reporting. The VQR staff seem to be saying that Ted Genoways was a bully, that he was unsupervised by the university, that his bullying made Kevin Morrissey's depression worse, and that when Kevin was sent home for reasons unknown, the university failed to effectively intervene.

That Morrissey was "a known depressive," as you put it (with all the grace and compassion of a McCarthyite), does not bear on whether Genoways was a bully, or on whether it is appropriate for others to stand up to him; rather, it is relevant to the horrible consequences of that bullying. While it doesn't seem as if anyone is accusing Genoways of being responsible for Morrissey's death, it does seem clear that if the allegations are true, he and the university bear some responsibility.

As for the "so-called evidence," let me ask you this: If, as Genoways claims, the university has "reviewed all the allegations being made against me and found them to be without grounds." then why has his office been cleaned out and police stationed at the door? Why are the staff, and not Genoways, finishing the fall issue? There's nothing shameful about a reporter pursuing these rather obvious contradictions.

It does seem to me that Genoways's defenders are content to erect strawmen -- you are accusing Genoways of killing Morrissey; you are going to "ruin the greatest little magazine I know" -- rather than address what's actually being said.

4. gringo_gus - August 13, 2010 at 07:20 am

Well, accusations of McCarthyism. More bullying. It is the CHE which uses the "known depressive" term; and I might be using it with the grace and compassion of someone who has been in that state themselves, and knows how it has impacted on my own capacity for reason, and led me to see slights in everyday give and take. People aren't perfect, and there are bullies. But not all imperfections are bullying.

In your response to your "let me ask you this", it is shameful for you, and, the CHE to imply that Genoways "bears responsibility." No smoke without fire, is that what you are saying ? Presumed guilty ? The bureaucrats were wrong in their dealing with this matter before the suicide, but now they are right ?

There are ways and means of investigating these matters, but absolutely not through the medium of online news-items and discussion boards. It stinks.

What helped me out of my problem was the realisation of how, in the scheme of things, absolutely trivial, academic concerns about journals and publication are; and that I have responsibility for my own wellbeing. There are a lot of things a person can do to protest against a situation, however wrong, besides killing oneself. Complain. Get a new job in academia. Leave academia. The Chronicle discussion boards are full of worse situations than the one alleged. But no-one threatens or recommends suicide.

Enrolling someone's tragic death in some internal argument about the fate of a journal, and the personalites around it - I mean, that's almost an everyday occurrence in my field - is pathetic, and it is repellent, and it is part of the problem.

5. gringo_gus - August 13, 2010 at 07:39 am

not the death is an every day occurence, just the "some internal argument about the fate of a journal, and the personalites around it - ". Sorry if I was unclear, and/or if I caused offence.

6. martin_2121 - August 13, 2010 at 07:55 am

@gringo_gus. Here is the strawman again: "Enrolling someone's tragic death in some internal argument about the fate of a journal ...."

This is not an internal argument about the fate of a journal. The fate of VQR seems to be the least consequential issue here. Also, the Chronicle did not use the phrase "known depressive."

7. boydzenner - August 13, 2010 at 08:19 am

No, it's not an internal argument about the fate of the journal. It's about multiple instances of workplace bullying for which the staff repeatedly--both individually and in the aggregate--sought assistance from the university and, until the very end, received none. That's the real story. Kevin Morrissey's suicide was in part a byproduct of that hostile and punitive atmosphere, but Genoways did not "cause" Morrissey's suicide. He just caused an untenable working situation.

8. oscarhazel - August 13, 2010 at 08:24 am

"known depressive" is an irresponsible term no matter how it is used. Clinical depression is a protected disability, which is an acceptable reason for a person to contact the university's human resources department, as mentioned above. It is poorly understood, therefore people with depression sometimes fear for their jobs, with good reason.

9. honore - August 13, 2010 at 08:25 am

Aside from the "facts" which have yet to be identified in any of this TRAGIC sordid, back-stabbing drama, if in "fact", Morrissey made repeated attempts to resolve the blatantly cruel workplace issues he was experiencing and went unheard, THAT "fact" will be have a much more lasting effect on the reputation of the precious journal but will have MORE of an effect on UVA's culture of implied indifference. Very sad, that ANYONE in any workplace would resort to this final act while KEY players in the university administrative community continued to IM each other and make it to their next tennis match on time. Very sad on so many levels.

10. patricia_walters - August 13, 2010 at 08:38 am

I also agree that this article is terrible journalism - malicious gossip, quoting from sources who admittedly are violating university policy by talking with you, citing one email that could easily be taken out of context.

How have you determined that this is "workplace" bullying rather than appropriate management and that the university had not taken steps to make that determination?

You have convicted both Mr. Genoways and the university without a fair trial.

11. 22228715 - August 13, 2010 at 08:51 am

I agree that the article/reporting seems fishy. The title presumes that there is some mystery about the cause of his death, but the body of the article makes it very clear that all signs indicate that he killed himself. Speculating on his motives of his act is, of course, the prerogative of the survivors, but with something like suicide there is danger in imposing logic on what was in the mind of the actor. Indeed, his suicide note was mentioned briefly, but it sounds like it mentioned personal relationships, not workplace dynamics, yes?

12. 11137138 - August 13, 2010 at 08:58 am

This is sad for all parties. I grieve for Kevin's family, for Ted and his family, and for UVA. And while it can seem trivial next to a life, I grieve for the journal which both men -- and many others -- dedicated a good chunk of their lives to.

13. david_price - August 13, 2010 at 08:59 am

Terrible journalism? Hardly, by today's or historical definitions. Reporting that you disagree with, perhaps, but not terrible journalism.

As for the personality side of this story, the fact that Ted Genoways felt it necessary to write, "His long history of depression caused him trouble throughout his career, leading often to conflicts with his bosses" is deplorable.

The only humane comment to a reporter at this point should be something like, "Surely you should understand that it would be innapproriate for me to make any comment at this time. This community mourns the passing of our colleague."

His actual comment adds credence to the accusations.

14. gringo_gus - August 13, 2010 at 09:07 am

""known depressive" is an irresponsible term no matter how it is used. Clinical depression is a protected disability, which is an acceptable reason for a person to contact the university's human resources department, as mentioned above. It is poorly understood, therefore people with depression sometimes fear for their jobs, with good reason."

I agree, I was wrong to attribute this term to the CHE article. And, believe me, I know people with depression can fear for their jobs with reason. But it is also insulting to such people to enrol their tragic actions in this speculative way. But this is what the article actually says:


"Some close to the situation say that in the days before the death, they even warned the university that Mr. Morrissey, who suffered from serious depression, might commit suicide."

I read that as saying his depression was known. If wrong, I apologize.

15. cyberpoet - August 13, 2010 at 09:11 am

Surely a journal with VQR's longevity and reputation has an archive of documentation pertaining to meetings, memos, contracts, conversations, and phone messages, in addition to emails, to indicate something about its emotional environment. This is not simply a matter of convicting an individual or an institution for inappropriate behavior, or casting aspersions upon emotionally fragile or aggressive personalities involved with creative endeavors. The separate issues come together with the responsibility of a university to investigate, recognize, and stop, where demonstrated, serious and potentially harmful conflicts among staff and correspondents for any of its departments. VQR has enjoyed prestige, a considerable budget, and cache from its contributors. But this is a reminder that even the most notable enterprise is the sum of its staff and workplace dynamic.

16. ptandy - August 13, 2010 at 09:18 am

If anything, this article points to what psychologists already know about bullying, whether it's workplace or playground. Bullies single out people who are alone.

Pamela Tandy

17. honore - August 13, 2010 at 09:23 am

Pamela...thank you

18. quidditas - August 13, 2010 at 09:42 am

"When Mr. Genoways *was* in the office, some recall, he could occasionally be overheard screaming at Mr. Morrissey behind his office door."

So? All of academia is like that.

19. admindc - August 13, 2010 at 09:44 am

honore says "while KEY players in the university administrative community continued to IM each other and make it to their next tennis match on time."

What? This kind of comment reflects a disgruntled person with no actual facts about said "key players" so s/he instead employs a tired, cliched rhetoric about adminstrators playing on work time. Anyone who is a "key player" in an adminstration of an institution as big and complex as that University likely has zero leisure time, making these comments patently absurd and irrelevant to the tragic death to which s/he irresponsibly connects them.

20. annon1234 - August 13, 2010 at 09:47 am

This also points out another very serious problem in higher education - the lack of accountability. Whether it is because of "academic freedom", "tenure", "the belief creative types/academic stars will be a**holes and that being a star, creative, etc. excuses bad behavior", "lack of will on the part of the people in power", etc. high education is notoriously unwilling to intervene in situations that would get the perpetrator fired outside of academia. The cracks in the system are at least the size of the Grand Canyon. The one on Mars.

Again and again the Chronicle publishes stories about bullying, institutionalized discrimination, etc. and sad outcomes associated with these kinds of behavior - be it suicide, murder, ruined careers and lives... and the academic world blames the victim or just shrugs because this is normal nearly everywhere in higher education.

21. beadam - August 13, 2010 at 09:49 am

Once again, I am astounded at some of these "comments" and wonder about the readership of the CHE. I echo the sentiments of 15 above but more than anything find this a tragic story and a reminder of the importance of attending to workplace dynamics.

22. 11119344 - August 13, 2010 at 09:52 am

Obviously it is premature to make final judgments on what happened here, but as someone who has been researching and writing about workplace bullying for some 10 years, I can assure readers that the basic scenario raised by the piece -- workplace bullying, in an academic setting, targeting of a vulnerable individual, with suicide as a consequence -- is not over the top.

Here is a link to the most popular post on my blog, Minding the Workplace, about bullying in academe: http://newworkplace.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/workplace-bullying-and-mobbing-in-academe-the-hell-of-heaven/. Take special note of the work of University of Waterloo sociologist Ken Westhues, whose case studies of bullying/mobbing behaviors in academe are remarkable and frightening.

And lest anyone think that workplace bullying cannot push an adult to harm himself or herself, please look at the story of a young health care worker in Wisconsin who committed suicide: http://newworkplace.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/the-workplace-bullying-suicide-of-jodie-zebell-age-31/

As I said, we should not rush to judgment based on one news article. But we definitely should weigh the emerging facts in a context of understanding what workplace bullying is all about.

David Yamada
Professor of Law and Director, New Workplace Institute
Suffolk University Law School, Boston

23. quidditas - August 13, 2010 at 09:59 am

"And on the bureau in his bedroom, he had a book that Ms. Morrissey believes might give some insight into how her brother viewed Mr. Genoways. It's called: Working With the Self-Absorbed: How to Handle Narcissistic Personalities on the Job."

Yup. You got it.

And by this mechanism, they contrive to absent themselves while staff pick up their slack--better than working *with* them.

Sociopaths.

24. lkeashly - August 13, 2010 at 10:08 am

quidditas (19)

"So? All of academia is like that."

How sad that this is your experience. It is not that way in my department nor should it ever be anywhere else.

25. quidditas - August 13, 2010 at 10:15 am

"As for the personality side of this story, the fact that Ted Genoways felt it necessary to write, "His long history of depression caused him trouble throughout his career, leading often to conflicts with his bosses" is deplorable.

The only humane comment to a reporter at this point should be something like, "Surely you should understand that it would be innapproriate for me to make any comment at this time. This community mourns the passing of our colleague."

His actual comment adds credence to the accusations."

Exactly right, #14. Unprofessional and defensive, bordering on sociopathic.

26. quidditas - August 13, 2010 at 10:16 am

"How sad that this is your experience. It is not that way in my department nor should it ever be anywhere else."

Yes, and I have *a lot* of experience.

27. honore - August 13, 2010 at 10:18 am

admindic,
Okay, I get it now...let's all be quiet, NOT raise any questions, NOT voice any suspicions but RATHER, let's wait for the predictable "internal" investigation that at best will be slightly skewed AWAY from the truth and then we'll all go on our merry way to the next campus dish-to-pass where some campus drone will ask us all to observe 10 seconds of silence for Morrissey.

PC campus apologists just can't help themselves. Now go stick your head BACK in the sand, but please don't EVER wonder why bullying and mobbing exist on EVERY campus and often have VERY tragic consequences.

There is no doubt, Morrissey was suffering there and it is a fool who already denies that the workplace played NO role in this tragedy. We do KNOW however, that UVA certainly played NO role in supporting him in his repeated attempts for remedy!

The truth will come out and few of us will be surprised at its scope or ugliness...Madison, WI

28. admindc - August 13, 2010 at 10:27 am

Um...Honore...learn to read more closely. Your rant has nothing to do with what I actually said (I said NOTHING about bullying whatsoever). Have a drink and sit down before you implode.

29. am_2009 - August 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

I agree with #15. That Genoways actually wrote about a colleague (and seemingly one-time friend) as someone with a history of depression who'd had conflicts with bosses before is deplorable and lends credence to the rest of the story. It's also bizarre (and inherently shaming and humiliating) to write someone an e-mail saying they had "engaged in inappropriate workplace behavior" without saying what it was, and order him to work from home for a week. All that does is make everyone else in the office aware that the person's been "in trouble" and force everyone else to act like there's nothing wrong with this scenario and proceed as usual (which is a power thing over them as well). If there really was a legitimate problem, have a one-on-one meeting about it and deal with the issue professionally. It's like he was twisting the knife in this guy and dominating him just to do it. This is so, so sad. UVA needs to do some serious soul-searching about what it WOULD have taken to get the university to intervene.

30. honore - August 13, 2010 at 10:45 am

am_2009...thank you
Causes me to think, "with a friend like Genoways, Morrissey didn't need an enemy". Genoways' abundant public remarks about his "friend" are irrefutably indicative of a brutal, shameless, abusive bully who used his personal relationship to impose further humiliation on an already vulnerable man and then takes every opportunity to paint himself as a victim in his prissy little journal world, while standing over his "friend's: grave. Such a tragic story and the emergent institutional hypocrisy is already rank.

31. roanoketimes - August 13, 2010 at 10:47 am

[Removed at commenter's request. - moderator]

32. oneperspective - August 13, 2010 at 10:53 am

I am in not position to judge the case here of bullying versus (or "and") a person with a very serious illness that makes one vulnerable to suicide. Two points I am sure of: The VQR had a prior distinguished period under editor Charlotte Kohler; the journal is bigger than any one set of editors and it will survive. Second, UVa has,perhaps more than most universities, a very cozy set of inbred administrators who are very well focused on mission One-protect the University's image. Such protection is true of every organisation but ive been in higher ed admin for 20 years at various places and Uva was the most obvious case I've encountered.

33. abbidion - August 13, 2010 at 10:56 am

Condolences to friends and family of Mr. Morrisson. And condolences to Mr. Genoways and his family. As a family member of a suicide victim, let's consider that there are presumably more details (facts) involved than we see on the page. It is tempting to rush to judgment and say Mr. Genoways is principally responsible and should be publicly humiliated; however, it is simply irresponsible to take that position after reading a 2500 word article in the Chronicle. Without knowing anything intimately about this case, but knowing a great deal about depression, its treatment/management, as well as the philosophies regarding suicide as an ir/rational act -- it's important to recognize (or at least consider) the factors that lead to suicide are much more complex than an egomaniacal boss.

In terms of the reporting, it is clearly biased, and that detracts from its content. Granted, every single article written by an author has a point of view, but this story -- and its attending topics -- would be more affecting (as it deserves to be) if it was properly edited.

A question for all of us: what will you do the next time you see someone struggling?

34. 33kdr - August 13, 2010 at 11:03 am

This is not about academia or about depression. This is about how our society puts "successful" people ahead of everything else. Any time a report, let alone multiple complaints from several people in the same office, is ignored or brushed aside because the subject of the complaints is successful in the eyes of the employer, we all have a problem.

Thank you for publishing anything about this story so the discussion above can be made, argued and brought into the open. Only when we discuss things can they be looked at and improved. Silence out of fear of reprisal is always a problem, whether it is silence about a bully or silence in journalism for fear of lawsuits. If a report is "bad" or untrue, then it will be exposed, but the subject will also be exposed.

It appears that many are not aware of how prevalent bullying really is. It is not something we "grow out of", some live their lives bullying and whether they are successful or not, bullies need to be accountable for their actions and the direct and indirect effects if that bullying.

35. interface - August 13, 2010 at 11:12 am

Many academic institutions turn a blind eye to potentially dangerous situations or volatile, difficult people out of economic interest ("Yes, s/he's a 'challenge' but the journal/program/department's success is good for us, so just let well enough alone"). If I believed that such a deliberately-ignored situation contributed to the death of someone I cared about, I doubt I'd just let it pass.

36. 11182967 - August 13, 2010 at 11:12 am

Reading this article I soon came the the point of putting my hands over my ears and saying, "Stop--too much information." A good fiction writer could used the material, perhaps, but it made me think of incidents in my career in academe where I found myself having to write for the record long detailed descriptions of, say, events surrounding turmoil in a particular department over which I had temporary responsibility as an acting dean. To the parties involved, every word was debatable and every nuance had to be pursued. No one else cared, and anyone else who got dragged into this tempest in a teapot just got really peeved at having to listen to the same story twice-, thrice-, (what comes next?) told. The suicide is the only thing that makes this story any different--and the reasons for the suicide are forever beyond our knowing. The only gracious response to the participants by strangers such as ourselves is sympathy to all involved--we've been through such turmoil--and then silence. I wish all involved who are still among us respite from the turmoil and may Mr. Morrisey have found the respite he appears to have desired.

37. resource - August 13, 2010 at 11:18 am

Suicide is an act of aggression. Morrissey was responsible for this act, and no one else. Others may have acted badly or irresponsibly, but they are not responsible for his choice of suicide.

38. martin_2121 - August 13, 2010 at 11:24 am

@resource: As far as I can tell, no one on the VQR staff is making that argument.

39. ellenhunt - August 13, 2010 at 11:41 am

I am quite suspicious of Mr. Morrisey in this and I believe that he was the primary one spreading bad blood based on reading the article. Having been in analogous positions, Mr. Genoways appears to have been working his fool head off. He had immature children for staff, who thought that if Genoways wasn't in his office he wasn't working. And that includes Mr. Morrisey. Genoways was depending on Mr. Morrisey to do his job and keep the ship running. But Mr. Morrisey appears to have been a guy who can't function without a lot of strokes and daily contact. When he stopped getting that from Mr. Genoways he attacked Genoways. It was all about Mr. Morrisey and Mr. Morrisey's needs. It wasn't about the magazine, it was all about Mr. Morrisey. It is extremely difficult to go out and fundraise, get good writers to finish their articles and then edit their work.

Based on this article, the error Mr. Genoways made was to not fire and replace Mr. Morrisey with someone who could function well on their own. Mr. Genoways error was not recognizing early enough exactly how much Mr. Morrisey was busying himself sawing Mr. Genoways legs off whenever he wasn't around. I am quite sure there are other candidates who could have done the job very well out there.

Before people jump all over me for being insensitive to the needs of a depressed man, what matters in the workplace is doing your job and not steering the ship onto rocks. Mr. Morrisey was going against his boss and undermining him, that is clear. Mr. Morrisey was part of the business of shunning the new blood that Genoways was depending on to pay EVERYONE'S salary after the transition. Genoways was doing his job, and doing it well. While Mr. Genoways was gone, Mr. Morrisey busied himself joining in palace intrigue.

That behavior of Mr. Morrisey is a firing offense, period. In his position, that is what it means. Mr. Morrisey had reached his level of incompetence and couldn't go further.

I will also remind everyone that suicide is one of the most selfish, vicious things a person can do. Sometimes people just get driven into it. But Mr. Morrisey was not one of those. I completely support Genoways when he said that Mr. Morrisey had been depressed for many years. Based on the description, this is a classic situation. A strong personality like Genoways is good at supporting others and getting great things out of them. Such people often become the support system for borderline personalities of various kinds. At some point, either the supporting person gets tired, worn out and can't do it anymore, or else they just have to grow, move on, move up, and they can't spend all their time focused on Mr. or Ms. NEEDY. When that happens, Mr. or Ms. NEEDY starts flailing, acting out, and sometimes things like this happens.

I don't feel sorry for Mr. Morrisey. I feel angry. He lashed out with an extreme punishment at the man who had helped him and kept him going for years. He did it to hurt, and it will haunt Genoways for the rest of his life. Mr. Morrisey was a selfish, self-centered man. Don't kid yourself about what suicide represents. It's pretty rare that it's not "all about me!"

40. oneperspective - August 13, 2010 at 11:44 am

Please. Let's not be simplistic about the complexities of suicide.But I'd have thought suicide was more about desperation than anythiing else.Ok,in a technical sense its certainly "self-agression" but talk to the surviors of suicide attempts (as I have)-mostly its about "relief".

41. ellenhunt - August 13, 2010 at 11:49 am

@oneperspective Please. Let's try reading an entire short essay instead of just the last sentence. If you had, you would not respond with such a simplisic response.

Suicide is usually selfish because it is all about the fundamental posture that ME and MY FEELINGS are the center of the flippin' universe. If you have had the misfortune to be glommed onto by a severe depressive who can't function without YOU in his life ALL THE TIME you know EXACTLY what I am talking about.

42. martin_2121 - August 13, 2010 at 11:56 am

@ellenhunt -- You make a lot of assertions about the behavior, character, and competence of Kevin Morrissey that, to me anyway, don't seem supported by the Chronicle's article.

For instance, you write: "But Mr. Morrisey appears to have been a guy who can't function without a lot of strokes and daily contact." What's your evidence that this is true? And if the accusation against Genoways is that he was/is a bully, then must the opposite be someone who provides "strokes"?

You write: "Mr. Morrisey was going against his boss and undermining him, that is clear." Why is that clear?

You write: "Mr. Morrisey had reached his level of incompetence and couldn't go further." You say this based on what?

Finally: "He lashed out with an extreme punishment at the man who had helped him and kept him going for years." What evidence do you have that Morrissey killed himself in order to "lash out" at Genoways?

43. wtp2010 - August 13, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Please forgive me if I say the obvious: The economic survival has always been the top priority of any organization, whether it is a corporation or a university. Those individuals who serve this goal will be promoted and forgiven for any unethical (whatever you think it is) and even criminal (however the "law people" define it) behavior as long as the cost of this behavior to the organization remains lower than the benefits they bring. University's officials whose job is the survival of the University will have no choice but to try and protect Genoways and blame Morrissey. For the outsiders like you and me, choosing to blame Morrissey or the University or anyone at all will say more about our worldviews and personal experiences than about things that we only know from this article. As far as my opinion goes, I believe that any suicide is a result of both the person and the surroundings and that the most vulnerable people become the first victims of sometimes brutal atmosphere in competitive organizations.

44. rodentmind - August 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm

"Yes, and I have *a lot* of experience."

Quidditas, no offense, but you need to go some experience outside whatever ivory towers you've been hanging out in. Workplace b.s. (yelling and everything else) occurs in examples of every type of workplace, from restaurant kitchens to boardrooms. That doesn't make it right, of course, but egotism and incivility is not specially located in academia.

45. 11159995 - August 13, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I read this story quite differently from Ellen Hunt. For me, the key to everything hinges on this admission by the university: "But university officials, those close to the publication say, brushed off the group's complaints, saying that creative people like Mr. Genoways could be difficult to work with and were often bad managers." My 40+ years of experience working in academe and in publishing led me to encounter numerous examples of creative people who were "bad managers," and besides editors of serial publications, these included chairs of departments. The talents that got those people to where they ended up in positions of administrative responsibility were quite different from the talents needed to be a good administrator, and there are signs throughout this story that Mr. Genoways did not have the latter kind of talent. But then the question becomes: if this fact was recognized by the university, wasn't it the university's responsibility to do something about it, such as hiring a person to be a manager and confining Genoways simply to his creative editorial role? Genoways may be to blame in some immediate sense, but ultimately the real culprit in this sad story is the university administration that, recognizing a problem, failed to take action to correct it.---Sandy Thatcher

46. resource - August 13, 2010 at 12:43 pm

martin_2121 -- the staff at the mag may not be saying that, I dont know. However, the tone of the article seems to be that Morrissey was driven to suicide by the behavior of others and the inaction of the University. Again, his suicide was his own doing, and no one else's.

47. oioioi - August 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

This article is shameful in the extreme because it's overreaching into interpretation and selective context whereas it should be reporting facts. I'm sorry, but the writer and the Chronicle need to have a little less ambition in the investigative journalism department. These are real people with real problems - dealing with a real tragedy that must have had many antecedents - that don't need the Chronicle to swoop in and put the puzzle pieces together just because it's a dramatic and compelling sequence of events on a university campus.

I've never heard of the journal or any of the people involved, for what it's worth.

48. martin_2121 - August 13, 2010 at 12:58 pm

@resource -- I take your point. Nevertheless, no one at VQR has, to my knowledge, accused Ted Genoways of causing Kevin Morrissey's death. If the frame of the Chronicle's story implies differently, then it's worth saying again: no one at VQR has, to my knowledge, accused Ted Genoways of causing Kevin Morrissey's death. No matter how many times people accurately assert that suicide is complicated, and no one can know for sure why Morrissey did it, and in the end it was his choice -- my response is the same: no one at VQR has, to my knowledge, accused Ted Genoways of causing Kevin Morrissey's death.

49. cwinton - August 13, 2010 at 01:02 pm

Like others I'm a bit surprised at the vehemence of many of these posts. Several things strike me as evident. The author of this piece was stonewalled by institutional circling of the wagons, which led to a more speculative piece than might have been the case otherwise - particularly note the comments of #32 in this regard. It is also clear that Mr. Genoways and Mr. Morrissey, after a period of pulling together, had for some time been increasingly at loggerheads. Mr. Genoways sounds like a person of great ambition, who may well have been blinded by it. Mr. Morrissey, on the other hand, regardless of whatever depressive tendencies he may or may not have had, appears to have become increasingly uncomfortable with the directions Mr. Genoways was taking with VQR, and may well have interpreted them as a threat to his being able to stay at VQR. Whatever the pressures these two men were coping with, it was a combination of circumstances that led to the tragedy, not an isolated instance. Mr. Morrissey undoubtedly felt his world was unraveling to the extent he could not longer see his way clear except to end it all - he definitely seemed to lack the kind of support group others fall back on in similar circumstances. Perhaps the University should have provided more of that kind of element for him or perhaps not. That is yet to be decided. As for Mr. Genoways, he evidently was having trouble communicating to his staff regarding the reasons for the kinds of actions he was taking, and as he became increasingly isolated from his staff it sounds like he fell into the trap of lashing out where his judgment was being questioned. The article doesn't really address his side and the extent to which things were occurring behind his back. It sounds like his ambition was to take VQR to higher and higher levels, something the staff had perhaps not bought into if they perceived it meant higher and higher sacrifice on their part to boost his standing rather than their own. Since it appears this is now heading to the courts, I suspect we will never see much beyond what has been reported here, so all we can do is speculate. That being said, we all need to take a deep breath and remind ourselves that every story has at least 2 sides and we haven't heard all sides regarding this one.

50. milner - August 13, 2010 at 01:25 pm

My view of suicide, having had clinical depression, is that is the most serious outcome of hopelessness.

51. emily_hicks - August 13, 2010 at 01:29 pm

I hope that some readers will consider comments 14, 23 and 26. NAMI can help academics and the general public to gain a better understanding of mental health issues and all academics need to take workplace bullying (including the bullying of graduate students) seriously.

As scholars, we can engage in further research about mental health and workplace bullying (using a variety of disciplines and methodologies), and whether as colleagues, faculty or administrators, it would behoove us to become more aware of legal complications for institutions of higher education when bullying is not addressed effectively. There are many areas of law brought up by this case, and institutions unwilling to consider their liability are short-sighted and putting their institutions at legal risk. At the very least, it can be agreed that no college or university wants to be associated with a case such as this one if it can be avoided. Administrators hoping to raise money from some specific sources while ignoring problem areas are making decisions that may cause irreparable damage to the reputations of their instutions. Reputations are based on intangibles that go beyond any addition to any amount of money from any single donor. I am envisioning a Carnegie building on beautiful grounds as I write this, and of course, on longer time scales, individual suicides may be forgetten while large buildings survive on campuses, but culture is as important architecture in its nonlinear effects, and the future is hard to predict. Why take risks that can be avoided?

I would ask readers to consider some political and ethical issues that deserve attention in academe today and that came to mind as I read about this case. Is workplace bullying increasing as budgets are decreasing? Has the turn towards corporate culture (a focus on the "bottom line"), in the absence of an analysis of workplace bullying in academe (in many institutions of higher education), created a situation in which workplace conditions are, in some aspects and cases, worse than in the corporate world? One lesson to be learned, perhaps, is that larger public institutions might want to look at the care with which some SLACs deal with mental health issues, bullying and fundraising, and in a variety of overlapping contexts. Some SLACs may have more experience, with all due resect to the history of the institution in this case, than some public universities in dealing effectively with wealthy donors, jealousy, pet projects, generational differences, egos and maintaining their own reputations, and legacies, with "legacy" students and with students with wealthy parents. As public institutions, no matter how highly ranked and prestigious, continue to face financial woes, faculty conflicts may continue to be negatively impacted and exacerbated. I base my views on my experience as someone with a disability, who has been bullied at my academic workplace, who works in a public institution (and who attended both private and public insitutions), and whose son is graduating from a SLAC.

My department is about to be reviewed. If I did not have support (from an editor who writes for a publication similar to The Chronicle and does research on bullying and from outside of the university), a similar story might have been written about me. Fortunately, I get along with my colleagues on the university editorial board on which I serve, but I have been bullied in one of the academic departments in which I teach/have taught (I am using this imprecise language in case my case ever goes to court). I am sure that some others reading this have been bullied as well. I would encourage all of you who are currenty being bullied and especially those with mental health concerns to continue to tell your stories, often and everywhere that you might possiby find support, and to seek support inside and outside of your workplace environment (including but not limited to the academic union that may represent you but that may not have the resources to effectively defend and support you). It is important to get advice from colleagues in departments such as political science and from faculty members who teach in law schools (perhaps as a first step, before seeking legal advice). They can help you to articulate to yourselves what you rights are in academe, a place in which our rights as faculty are routinely and illegally ignored.

To administators, I would say that the most effective administrators are those who care about individuals and suicide, even on weekends and even past midnight. An associate dean at my university, very concerned about an undergraduate student who was being bullied by a colleague of mine, e-mailed me at 1:00 AM on a Saturday night. We were able to help the student, who is now now safely installed in her dorm room at a different university in a Ph.D. program, with a full scholarship. This story could have ended differently, but we stopped what we were doing and intervened. And, we remain in contact with the student.

52. performance_expert2 - August 13, 2010 at 01:36 pm

Of a few of my friends who had killed themselves, I wish they had received this type of write-up exploring the causes that drove them to take their life.

No insult to the girl, but bringing in the daughter of a donor, and who continued this practice herself, and then putting her as boss over the literary jounral worker, and then networking with her and upping the stress level with some mad demand for society patronage and hob-nobbing combined with the a sterile university environment and changing of the guard, the administration, indicating what legitimate supports being knocked from under them, I can certainly see how this lifer, this dedicated individual could reach the point of the vacuum-hole of how terrible human beings are combined with the general sense of corporate malfeasance and rich people toying with institutions and individuals.

Just read another piece about Johnson & Johnson funding a Harvard building, though of course there is no conflict of interesting re: advancing the pharma drugs that Johnson and Johnson sells. You should see this video including interview with some guy getting paid pharmaco money on the side and telling how great he thinks it is. This Harvard professor makes me want to kill myself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TwdsYVHjGA#t=21m46s

Seriously.

53. getwell - August 13, 2010 at 01:41 pm

What pathetic excuses for role models - both men. Shame on both of them!

Looks like they both could have benefited from sensitivity counseling.

How sad that humanity continues to go down such a dark path:(

54. navydad - August 13, 2010 at 01:54 pm

I have nothing to say about Mr. Morrissey's death or the factors that led to it because I don't know nearly enough to form an informed opinion (and neither do most of you). My comments are about the responses to the death.

Many of the comments in here attack Mr.Genoways for mentioning Mr. Morrissey's mental illness, an illness that many people around Mr. Morrissey seem to have known about and to have disclosed publicly. Some attack Mr. Morrissey for his suicide. As far as I can tell from what I've read, Mr. Genoways was being blamed for Mr. Morrissey's suicide based on alleged workplace bullying when he disclosed Mr. Morrissey's depression. So what was Mr. Genoways supposed to do? Just accept the blame without pointing out that Mr. Morrissey's mental illness was a likely factor in his workplace problems and subsequent suicide? Not knowing what was in Mr. Morrissey's head when he decided to kill himself, how do you conclude that it was a selfish act of aggression? Most people who seriously consider suicide will tell you that their main motivation is to relieve intolerable emotional or physical pain.

At this point, to blame either Mr. Genoways or Mr. Morrissey for Mr. Morrissey's suicide seems both premature and simplistic. The vast majority of depressed people never commit suicide, nor do the vast majority of people with bullying bosses (this is not meant to imply that Mr. Genoways was a bullying boss). So what was it about this particular sequence of events and these particular people that led to Mr. Morrissey's death? I'm not sure that question will be answered, but I predict that if it is, the answer will be complex and there will be blame enough for those who need to affix blame.

55. performance_expert2 - August 13, 2010 at 02:00 pm

Donors or their family members should not receive operational posts in the places they fund.

56. martin_2121 - August 13, 2010 at 02:08 pm

@navydad -- You write: "As far as I can tell from what I've read, Mr. Genoways was being blamed for Mr. Morrissey's suicide based on alleged workplace bullying when he disclosed Mr. Morrissey's depression." Taking a step away from the Chronicle article for a moment and from the responses of people who are not connected to VQR, let me emphasize (again): no one at VQR has, to my knowledge, accused Ted Genoways of causing Kevin Morrissey's death. It's simply a strawman. The accusation is that Genoways created a toxic work environment and the university did not intervene, or did not intervene in time. Asking that Genoways and the university take some responsibility for this is not the same as blaming them for Morrissey's death.

57. admindc - August 13, 2010 at 02:15 pm

Citing sources close to the journal (which presumably means staffers) CHE reports that "The university had tools to step in and mediate, and they didn't." Some close to the situation say that in the days before the death, they even warned the university that Mr. Morrissey, who suffered from serious depression, might commit suicide."

With these anonymous sources being so quick to blame others for inaction, one wonders if perhaps they feel some personal guilt for not taking Mr. Morrissey to a hospital or crisis center if they actually feared he might harm himself. This sounds a lot like guilty consciences pointing the finger elsewhere for blame. No one is to blame for this - not even these sources who did not act--but I bet they wonder and feel the need to deflect.

58. navydad - August 13, 2010 at 02:26 pm

"He denies the allegation of bullying and says it was Mr. Morrissey's depressed state, not their rocky relationship, that caused Mr. Morrissey's suicide. "His long history of depression caused him trouble throughout his career," Mr. Genoways wrote in a statement to The Chronicle, "leading often to conflicts with his bosses.""

Thank you, martin. Your point is an important one. I based my comment on the above quotation from the article, which seems to indicate that Mr. Genoways' comment about Mr. Morrissey's depression came in response to allegations that their "rocky relationship" was a cause of the suicide.

59. martin_2121 - August 13, 2010 at 02:34 pm

@admindc -- It seems like you're the one who's deflecting. Let's say I work in an office and I see my supervisor being intimidated, manipulated, and bullied by the person who runs the office. Perhaps my supervisor is a friend, and perhaps I know that he suffers from depression and I suspect that the workplace environment is exacerbating that. Perhaps I worry that he might commit suicide.

My responsibility as a friend is to do whatever I can to help him. I agree. Whether I live up to that responsibility is personal; it's not part of any story the Chronicle might write, nor should it be.

However, the office boss's responsibility, and the responsibility of his bosses, is not personal. It's professional. And if the office is part of a state university, then it's by right a question for public debate.

I should be able to argue that the boss and his boss did not live up to their professional responsibilities -- I should be able to demand that they do live up to their responsibilities -- without being accused of having a guilty conscience or deflecting.

After all, the supervisor was my friend.

Hypothetically, of course.

60. 11119344 - August 13, 2010 at 02:35 pm

It's sad to read some of the judgmental and unforgiving comments about someone who took his own life. One does not have to agree with the allegations of bullying to see the tragedy in all this.

As educators, the least we can attempt to do is learn something from this unfolding situation, and recognize the need to take mental health issues more seriously in academic workplaces.

For those that would like to understand workplace bullying in its broader context, an article I wrote, "Workplace bullying and ethical leadership," may be helpful. It can be downloaded without charge (hit One Click Download button):
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1301554

David Yamada
Suffolk University Law School

61. dkenarov - August 13, 2010 at 02:50 pm

I am a contributing editor at VQR. I have known Ted Genoways for seven years now and have been working with him for the last four. I am disgusted by the allegations in this poorly written, poorly researched article - has The Chronicle of Higher Education turned into The Chronicle of the Lowest Gossip?
My working relationship with Ted Genoways has been nothing short of excellent. He has edited all of my articles with great care and precision, often turning what was a bunch of scattered field notes into a highly polished piece of writing. Hie editorial corrections have always been respectful of my work and we have never been involved in any conflicts. During my four year with the magazine, I have come to know Genoways as a caring and generous person, a visionary editor with a good heart. He has always stood behind his writers, helping them in any way possible, personally and professionally. A few weeks ago he campaigned for the release of a journalist from an Iranian prison and wrote eloquently and powerfully in his defense. Most recently, he was involved in helping another journalist in Mexico escape retribution from drug cartels. There is not doubt in my mind that Genoways is one of the most principled and compassionate people I've ever met.
The accusation by some anonymous "one-year employee" that "Ted took all the credit and did none of the work" and that he spent most of his time "scrambling to be a star" is a malicious and revolting lie. Let there be no doubt: Ted Genoways made the magazine what it is today. (I completely agree with the statements given here by Elliott Woods, a contributor currently reporting for VQR from Afghanistan.) Genoways is the person who turned a previously small and obscure literary quarterly into one of the leading and most respected US journals, a winner of the biggest national awards and a true model for innovative journalism. He sent out the best reporters to the farthest corners of the world, the places nobody else was writing about, to document poverty and injustice, the ravages of war and environmental pollution. He made the magazine socially and artistically relevant.He made the magazine matter.
We all have our faults and I'm sure that Genoways has his, but I can testify that rudeness and bullying are certainly not part of his personality. It is true that office environments could often breed tension and anxiety - journalism, after all, is about deadlines - but to create an award-winning magazine requires great dedication and discipline. It is to the credit of Ted Genoways' amazing personality and communication skills that he has managed to assemble such an impressive team of internationally recognized writers and journalists, whop come back to work for the magazine again and again. It is Ted Genoways who created a sense of community at VQR, of which I'm proudly a part.
The recent suicide of managing editor of Kevin Morrissey has been a shock for all of us working for VQR. I, like everybody else, was deeply saddened to learn of his untimely death. VQR has been sort of a family for me and losing Kevin was difficult. I met him only once in my life, but corresponded with him on numerous occasions about magazine-related issues. Kevin was good at his job, I think, and tried to fulfill his obligations as best as he could. However, he always remained distant and reclusive, never exchanging a single word beyond what was necessary to take care of business. The last time I spoke to him on the phone in June he sounded almost hostile without any apparent reason. At the time I didn't think much of it because I thought it was all part of Kevin's personality - one did not have to be a psychologist to understand that Kevin was a deeply unhappy person and, perhaps, clinically depressed. I think that all people who worked with Kevin, and Ted Genoways most of all, tried to accommodate his mood swings and oddities as best as they could. Sometimes, however, even the closest of friends can't help a person who has lost all purpose. I can't speculate on why Kevin decided to take his life, but I'm certain the reasons were complex and had to do with a whole life battling psychological pain and unhappiness.
And that brings me to the point. I don't really understand what this article is trying to achieve, apart from waging a smear campaign based on gossip provided by three disgruntled staff employees, who obviously never appreciated or understood the hard work that Genoways did. (And, please, don't tell me there isn't a conflict of interest, when the sister of Sheila McMillen, one of the disgruntled staff members, is an editor at this very publication.) The lurid title "What Killed Kevin Morrissey?" thinly disguising the question "Who Killed Kevin Morrissey? seems better fit for the pages of The National Enquirer than The Chronicle of Higher Education. As a fellow journalist, I am appalled by this sloppy article, full of libel and damaging insinuation.
This is a shame!

Dimiter Kenarov
University of California, Berkeley



62. dank48 - August 13, 2010 at 02:56 pm

Matt. 7:1.

63. cascas - August 13, 2010 at 03:10 pm

It's always surprising to see PhD candidates and journalists describe things as "libel" that could in no way be considered libel in this country.

64. gloriawalker - August 13, 2010 at 03:38 pm

Until one experiences personnally you can't know or understand. The experience is horrible. Other employees join the attackers and other pretend nothing is going on. You are alone and you know because you request help and none is given. People that wanted or claimed to be friends now seem angry with you for no reason. You start looking for another job while the horror increases. PEOPLE THIS IS AS BAD AS LIFE CAN GET. THAT IS WHY PEOPLE HURT OTHERS OR THEMSELVES. Your peers and so call experts sit doing nothing to help. IT IS WAR, HELL,EVIL...

65. fergbutt - August 13, 2010 at 03:52 pm

Mental illness killed him. Maybe the other guy triggered the suicide but any number of triggers could have had the same result. I'd blame those who didn't push hard enough to get him help, not necessarily the guy who shouted at him.

66. oneperspective - August 13, 2010 at 03:53 pm

Good ole UVa will probably do the its (and the usual universal institutional) thing: pay every major unhappy possible legal claimant to shut up.
There are some very good UVa payout stories that some of the locals can quietly tell you; the farcical aspect of this tragedy.

67. fleursdumal - August 13, 2010 at 03:54 pm

I think this is solid, public service journalism. If the university allowed a bad workplace environment to continue, and ignored requests for help, that needs to be brought to light.

It may be that Ted Genoways is blameless. But it's not right to defend him by attacking the deceased as some of the commenters on here appear to be doing.

68. profperf - August 13, 2010 at 04:01 pm

This is a sad story all around. The only thing I would like to add is the assertion made by a poster that clinical depression is a "protected disability." It is, but only if the individual so affected has been formally diagnosed and then registers as a person with a disability with his/her Human Relations Office. Same as with students--we are not legally allowed to provide accommodations for students who simply tell us they have a disability (even if quite visible)--they must be formally registered. The tragedy, of course, with both students and faculty (and staff) is that psychiatric disabilities are the ones individuals are themselves least likely to acknowledge--and, hence, have registered in a way that could bring them protection--and often that resistance is itself part of the illness: the Catch-22 of the situation.

I also think the "bullying" word has now become a kind of catch-phrase for any kind of disagreement or disputation that happens. I can't begin to comment on this case--it would be presumptuous of me--but it sounds like one in which everyone lost.

69. profperf - August 13, 2010 at 04:03 pm

I hasten to add that I don't mean by my last comment to suggest that "bullying" does not exist and that it cannot have traumatic results. Just that we have become a society in which any kind of negative comment or criticism can now be smeared as "bullying." Bullying surely does exist--ironically (and not germane to this case), I have sometimes observed the person who most uninvolved observers might call the bully to be the ones who claim they have been bullied--when what was actually happened is that they have been called on their own bad behavior.

70. djmorris93 - August 13, 2010 at 04:05 pm

I want to second the sentiments of Mr. Kenarov. I started working with Ted Genoways in 2006 as a correspondent in Iraq. He is the best editor I've worked with and was nothing if not professional, compassionate and thoughtful. Kevin's death is tragic but it's frustrating seeing a good man being tried in the press and this article isn't helping matters. Kevin is gone, nothing can change that but a man's reputation is at stake. What is being done here is indecent.

71. lelandjordan - August 13, 2010 at 04:16 pm

The comments are interesting, but it is clear that UVA, either the HR Department or the President's Office or both, did not properly discharge their responsibilities. Had those responsibilities been properly discharged, a professional counselor would have been consulted and would have advised whether an intervention was needed.

Leland

72. studycommittee - August 13, 2010 at 04:33 pm

Let's imagine that, god forbid, sometime during the next week, another individual related to this story were to commit a similar act because of being bullied by, lets face it, many of you. Sorry someone had to say it.

73. alleyoxenfree - August 13, 2010 at 04:37 pm

Genoways certainly seems to be rallying the troops here.

Bottom line, if you can't manage your staff with screaming your head off in the office, and if multiple members of the staff are going to the university about you, you are a bully.

And UVA should have done something about it, if only transferring a capable editor to another university position, and giving Mr. Genoways the warning that his behavior would not be tolerated in any circumstances and that he should begin to look for another job. The sad fact is that professors are denied tenure for "lack of collegiality" but bad staffers who convince others with smoke and mirrors that they are "stars" can be forever. What a pity that someone lost their life over something as trivial as a journal.

74. ellenhunt - August 13, 2010 at 04:47 pm

Perhaps, a person who yells at someone is not a bully. Perhaps, the staff who work for them are lacking in sense and can't see the forest for the knothole they are polishing.

75. writer2 - August 13, 2010 at 04:51 pm

"Genoways certainly seems to be rallying the troops here."

I can't help but jump in here. Let me get this straight: Mr. Genoways is not allowed to have defenders? Every time someone stands up for him they get accused of being his spokesperson or of being Mr. Genoways himself.

These writers clearly know him well and feel strongly that this is a baseless character assassination. They don't have the right to defend him as much as others have the right to accuse him?
Some democracy...

76. greeneyeshade - August 13, 2010 at 05:17 pm

Pause:

Whoa, dank48. Isn't hurling Matt. 7:1 ("Judge not...") *itself* a judgment about others? Sheath your sword, man.

Reminds me of the O. Nash limerick:

Little fleas have littler fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And littler fleas have still littler fleas,
And so, ad infinitum.

Carry on.

77. interface - August 13, 2010 at 06:15 pm

I wonder if Mr. Genoways' defenders here realize that they've painted a far more damning portrait of him than did the article? And no, unlike many who've posted here, I never heard of this story, or those involved, until now.

78. 11159995 - August 13, 2010 at 06:17 pm

The responses from Mr. Kenarov and others that Mr. Genoways was a superb editor miss the point. I don't see anyone questioning his abilities as an editor. The point remains that the university did have reasons to question his abilities as a manager--and refused to do anything about it. Mr. Kenarov evidently never spent any significant amount of time working in the VQR office, so he is in no position to pass judgment on Mr. Genoway's managerial skills. --- Sandy Thatcher

79. tonkinson - August 13, 2010 at 06:37 pm

To the author of comment 36: if you truly believe that silence is the "only gracious response" to the incidents described in this article, then please take your hands off the keyboard and put them back over your ears. There are many who are willing to ask the hard questions that must be addressed if we are ever understand which, if any, ethical, professional, legal, and moral violations occurred in this case. Your attempt to chide others into silence by representing your own callousness and cowardice as graciousness is appalling. Complicity is not civility, a fact that thankfully seems to be recognized by most of the people who have posted comments here, no matter what their opinions may be.
And to the author of comment 71: there is much, much more at stake in this case than the reputations of two men--not just Mr. Genoways's reputation but also Mr. Morrissey's. Please do not attempt to discourage public discussion of issues that are and should be of the most serious concern to every member of the academic community.

80. hclinker - August 13, 2010 at 06:50 pm

What I find interesting is that while there has been much talk of Mr. Morrisey's past with depression, no one has brought up that Mr.Genoways had a previous staff member file a harassment complaint. That staff member ended up taking retirement. His cofounder at Meridian also found Mr. Genoways challenging to say the least. Mr. Genoways now takes sole credit for the magazine's founding but people still remember that it started out as a partnership. Perhaps a pattern?

81. janyregina - August 13, 2010 at 07:01 pm

If we learn how devastating depression is and educate ourselves about suicide, perhaps some good will come of this. If I recall correctly, somewhere in the article is is mentioned that Morrissey was a high achieving person or depressive. I would like a definition of that.
Criticism and relapse in fully recovered "depressives" is linked. Lack of social support and social skills deficits are implicated. "Many more studies have since supported the idea that peole who are lonely, socially isolated, or lacking social support are more vulnerable in becoming depressed, and that depressed individuals have smaller and less supportive social networks, which tends to precede the onset of depression" (e.g.,Cacioppo et al., 2006:Gotlieb & Hammen1992; Peetit & Joinet, 2006).

82. fm202 - August 13, 2010 at 07:18 pm

A Definition of Workplace Bullying (from a variety of sources):

1. persistent aggressive or unreasonable behavior against a co-worker or subordinate
2. can take the form of public humiliation, social ostracism, sabotage of work accomplished by the target, taking credit for work accomplished by others, character assassination, malicious rumors, and verbal abuse.
3. Bullying is characterized by repetition, duration, escalation, and power disparity (the target lacks the power to successfully defend themself).
4. Workplace bullying is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.

Facts about Workplace Bullying:
1. The negative effects of bullying are so severe that PTSD and even suicide are not uncommon.
2. Co-workers who witness workplace bullying can also have negative effects, such as fear, stress, and emotional exhaustion.

Finally, not calling bullying "bullying," in order to avoid offending the sensibilities of those who made the bullying possible, is a disservice to bullied individuals whose jobs, careers, and health have been threatened as the result.

Scholarly research about workplace bullying can be found here:
http://workplacebullying.org/research/featured-research.html

83. uncgrad - August 13, 2010 at 07:21 pm

"Re: If the university allowed a bad workplace environment to continue, and ignored requests for help, that needs to be brought to light": sadly the more I read about this, the more it seems clear that this is what universities do. They're huge conservative organizations that will do almost anything to stay the course. Tenure makes it worse. The near impossibility of moving makes it worse. Chairs' lack of administrative qualifications (and lack of power against those with tenure) make it worse. And I doubt anyone has a story where the administration of a larger public university stepped in and did anything to help someone with less power against a group of people with more power. If you're lucky someone will listen, tell you it's bullshit, and give stacks of empty promises that help you hold on to a small bit of hope that someday the bullies might get stopped.

84. tyche - August 13, 2010 at 07:44 pm

1

85. tyche - August 13, 2010 at 07:47 pm


Once again, bullyism is psychological torture. Bullies are psychological torturers, and they are violating the human rights of their victims. Bullyism is a crime.

Since many universities are not doing their work of offering a decent work place environment, then a federal or a state office should exist specially to address this kind of complaints. Otherwise, some universities will continue pampering bullies and disguising bullyism as “appropriate management,” or as “disciplining.”

I imagine bullies will not like to think that the consequences of their acts could lead to financial, professional, psychological, or physical death. They are so unaccountable, so much in denial, that they would find all kinds of arguments to blame the other and to justify themselves. That denial in itself is an ultimate act of lack of accountability.

86. amelie - August 13, 2010 at 07:56 pm

The funny thing about bullying is that it is undetectable to all but the bullied
and those with the rare ability to perceive it. Chalk it up to fear and the fact
that much of what goes on happens 'under the radar' and cumulatively.
I often wonder where the playbook is, because university administrators
(those least able to perceive bullying behavior) and the narcissistic "bad managers"
work together off the same page.

The fraught environment, demeaning emails for unexplained infractions, and,
as in the final message sent to Mr. Morrissey, the literal and last life-and-death
deadline. I'm not talking about journalism. It's about expecting perfection
of those around you while having a completely different standard for yourself.
Excellence is worth working toward and aspiring to...perfection is unattainable and
demoralizing. But, have that conversation with a narcissist...who is your boss!

What do you do when the work is great but the boss still doesn't think so.
Statistics look good, continued praise from other institutions and vendors.
You bring energy and enthusiasm to your job, but the boss is a always 'in a mood.'
Like Mr. Morrissey, you have a lot of experience and creativity, but no degree.
Nobody operates in a vacuum, you work as a team; gradually 'people' don't cooperate.
The uncooperative person, the director's secretary is your boss's best friend.
Your boss then screams at you in front of patrons and co-workers.

You are a two-person department. You hear about your departmental decisions at library-wide
meetings. You are never called to serve on committees. Before this job, you held similar positions, in other cities, serving on committees, planning author readings, Centennial celebration events; assuming more responsibility over time.

How can you tell if someone is a bully? They erase people. I had my previous work history
challenged. The bully takes things a little too personally when they target someone.
They take pains to make sure you never get credit, and never work again after they get rid of you. Why? The bully is the one who seriously needs to get a life. To live and let live.
They can't stand for anyone to rain on their parade.

I did not suffer from major depression before I went to work at the University of Louisville. Almost nine years.
It changed my life in every way imaginable. My family did not believe me. I chose to end my
relationship with them as a result: two cousins.

There needs to be legislation to protect people so they can simply go to work and do their job.

You should not get post-traumatic stress disorder from working in a library.

I am not passing judgment on Mr. Genoways but I think it's clear that UVA administration failed to do their job.
And it's opened up this important discussion again. I worked with an EAP counselor for a year and a half
prior to my forced resignation (placed on a disciplinary program after never having been "written up").
I was guided through the process of meetings to ask for and worked with the Head of Personnel.
Ultimately, I wasn't given credit for an entire year's work and resigned. The university betrayed me.
No investigation was ever done and when I asked for mediation on my final review? They set one up
with the very two people who had been bullying me. Their cavalier, risky behavior flew in the face of obvious
changes occurring in my personality. "I can't remember the last time I saw you smile," someone said.

F.Y.I. Bullying is not a disagreement or a dispute. It's not a personality conflict. The brain of a bully is different.
And after you work for one, your brain and your life will not be the same.








87. tyche - August 13, 2010 at 08:25 pm

Thanks for publishing this article.

The heart of the matter is: Universities do not investigate complaints of bullyism. When they receive them, they simply dismiss them gradually. That might have happen in this case. That is negligence. The complaining process in most universities is bureaucratically slow and tedious, which tires complaining professors. In most of the cases, universities successfully diffuse the issue and everything is forgotten. Victims of bullyism are left thinking that is better not to say anything, as universities will not act against the bully and complaints will be either dismissed or tepidly addressed. This process isolates the victim. I imagine injustice, lack of accountability, and impunity have psychological effects on victims. Was Mr. Morrissey's depression prompted by the climate at his workplace?

Once again, bullyism is psychological torture. Bullies are psychological torturers and they are violating the human rights of their victims. Bullyism is a crime.

Since many universities are not doing their work of offering a decent work place environment, then a federal or state office should exist specially to address this kind of complaints. Otherwise, some universities will continue pampering bullies and disguising bullyism as "appropriate management." or as "disciplining."

I imagine bullies will not like to think that the consequences of their acts could lead to financial, professional, psychological, or physical death. They are so unaccountable, so much in denial, that they would find all kinds of arguments to blame the other and to justify themselves. That denial in itself is an ultimate act of lack of accountability.

88. lapgr8ful - August 13, 2010 at 08:27 pm

I've been stewing over this article and the many posts a lot since this morning.

The first thing that needs to be said in a situation such as this is: this suicide is a tragedy. That the CHE doesn't have the decency to include some acknowledgement of the tragedy behind the story is reprehensible.

The second thing: I agree with those who'e posted before me that this article is based on gossip, unsubstantiated allegations, and whispered insinuations. It's not balanced in the least. I don't look to CHE for "investigative" reporting; I get plenty of that, too much really, in the daily news. I look to CHE for reasoned analysis and reporting. This article doesn't even come close (don't get me started on this issue, but unnamed sources, potential conflicts of interest...don't belong in a CHE article).

The third thing: I've worked in higher education for two decades now on both sides of the fence. I've even worked at "dear ole UVA" (but I preceded Genoways and Morrisey). You aren't hearing what "the administration" has done to date on this case because commenting on personnel situation is not appropriate or allowed by law (in most cases). You're not going to get a statement to the effect that folks met X times to discuss the situation, resulting in Y actions involving A, B, and C. And C responded thusly; and B did that, etc. Everyone is so quick to hurl blame and insults in the direction of professionals who most likely were and are trying to handle a difficult situation in a manner that protects all involved while also complying with state and federal regulations, many of which prohibit them from saying and doing things that many claim would have helped. Anyone who has been through a delicate personnel situation--and I have been through them--knows that no one comes away from them unscathed. You want them to come to neat, clean ends, but the facts, such as they are, are never 100% certain, people interpret things in different ways, the law prohibits things that one might want to do to explain oneself (like tell reporters what is going on), in hindsight one wishes one had done X sooner or never, and compromise is often necessary. These are often gut-wrenching situations. Let's not fill the vacuum created by non-response with our worst assumptions and fears, especially when you don't know the situation or people involved and are only basing your assumptions and fears on your personal experience.

In the paragraph above, I am not defending good ole UVA, Genoways, Morrisey, or anyone else mentioned. Frankly, I am --we are--not in a position to cast blame on any party (well, except for CHE for its deplorable behavior). My purpose was to advocate for a modicum of respect for those--on all sides--who are and have been dealing with this situation. Those who live in glass houses shouldn;t throw stones.

89. t_paine - August 13, 2010 at 10:31 pm

It was Mr. Morrisey's bad luck, that, though there was probably a safety chain there for him, his boss was the first and most important (and weakest) link. He should have been spearheading the effort to get his friend help. Genoways dosen't know any of this even now. He should be demanding blame, not covering his ass.

It's the boss's job to look after the people who report to him. His duty, even.

It is always the boss's fault. Always. And if a man hasen't the courage to own that he should not be in charge of anyone.

90. tolerantly - August 13, 2010 at 10:57 pm

A boss is not a mommy, and a high-profile arts institution anywhere is not a good place for an emotionally fragile person. My guess is that Mr. Morrissey also had access to a very nice long-term disability package, and might even have been encouraged to use it.

This reporting seems to me sensational at best, and possibly libelous.

91. newsreader22 - August 13, 2010 at 11:55 pm

the

92. luder - August 14, 2010 at 12:03 am

I have no idea where to assign blame here, but, to S. Thatcher @ #79, let me say *I* question Genoways's editing ability. Look, for example, at a revealing article of his in a fairly recent issue of *Mother Jones*. How could anyone who writes so badly himself possibly do a good job editing other people's work? Also interesting are some of the readers' comments and Genoways's responses to them.

Genoways (together with his colleagues) certainly increased the visibility of VQR; it is now more colorful, more topical, but the quality of the writing is no better than it was during the long tenure of the previous editor (the fiction, in fact, is often mediocre).

Not long ago, the VQR blog posted a series of mocking responses to writers who had contributed to the so-called slush pile. I don't remember who was responsible for the mockery (an apology, perhaps by Genoways, is, I believe, still posted on the blog), but it wasn't even funny and it caused a minor scandal. It was an early warning of something not quite right at VQR.

What you think of Genoways as an editor probably depends on what you think a magazine editor's job is. I don't see how he could be much good as a line editor; he is not bad, I suppose, at commissioning topical non-fiction; but his greatest talent is for getting VQR talked about (for better or for worse).

93. newsreader22 - August 14, 2010 at 12:27 am

This story is tragic indeed. My condolences to Morrissey's family, friends, and the VQR staff. Both Morrissey and Genoways seem to have put a great deal of work into making VQR a top journal, and I hope it remains that way. I also hope that the matter is fully investigated both within and outside of the university.

As a VQR reader, I've been following this story with great interest. However, I am disappointed with the editorial bias I percieve in this article. The photos chosen to run with the story, and the way they are arranged, seem to indict Genoways from the start (he on the left with a gruff look on his face, seemingly raising a fist to a smiling Morrissey who is being embraced by a friend). Also, including the line from the suicide note "...I just couldn't bear it anymore" is taken entirely out of context, implying that "it" is the alleged bullying. The final paragraph in this story also seems incredibly editorialized, implying that Genoways is a narcissist (is there any other evidence of this besides a book that his sister claims was left on a table? Surely more hard-boiled evidence could be provided here beyond reports of "ambition"). The very title of this article, "What Killed Kevin Morrissey?" is itself misleading and lurid, as another reader has noted.

I have come to expect balanced reporting from the CHE. This article does not deliver it. Morrissey's grieving and estranged sister has stated in other online forums that Morrissey's suicide was a final "message" in the "hope that someone else can win the game" and who admits that workplace bullying is her "new pet cause" which she won't stop pursuing until legislation is passed. Her resolve against bullying is admirable, but the article fails to register Ms. Morrisey's zeal or that she is a biased resource. Similarly, the article cites several e-mails and the campus police's presence, but fails to report that the univeristy claims a computer was stolen from VQR offices (according to C-ville.com). Morrissey's family seems convinced that they know the tenor of what happened in the VQR offices. We, however, do not, and without the proper proof no one should be casting stones against Genoways, VQR, or UVa for that matter.

I feel sorry for all involved here, for there are jobs, reputations, and, in Morrissey's case, lives at stake. I hope CHE will continue to follow this story and give a more balanced and fact-based narrative rather than rely on allegations, as this article seems to do.

94. performance_expert2 - August 14, 2010 at 12:29 am

It is true a person would never understand bullying unless it happens to them. It is like being a car crash. You don't get it until someone runs a red light and broadsides you, totalling your car and wrecking your life for a couple of years. The insurance payout covers a few things but does not make up for your life getting turned upside down.

Me and friend both got bullied in the workplace. It is the type of story I am hesitant to tell anyone. I know of a third person, too. Both me and my friend were having intestinal problems from it, I had to recommend my doctor to him. I still have a sort of PTSD from this, with the economy being so hard and this harassment artist coming after us. I had to get representation before it would go away and even then I did not know what to do. A friend of mine, uninvolved, saw what was happening and told me who to visit and what to do. The third person, is married to a powerful and smart business type. They got a lawyer and dealt with it very directly. This freaked out the bully.

I tell you, you would not know this experience without going through it or witnessing it. I certainly didn't. And for some reason in education, some people are allowed to get "powerful" and then go around like a crazy person and mess people over. Some reason is concocted. Damnedest thing I've ever seen.

Thought: this has something to do with passive upper management, and there are wiley persons go first get connected with upper management and then go do aggressive things and they are not ever type governed, until finally someone sues them or puts a federal investigation on them. (heard of that, too, as one remedy - anything - it is that bad).

95. 22228715 - August 14, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Folks, this is one of those topics where you should do your best to suspend your conclusions because you just can't know. UVa might or might not have addressed the personnel issue (of the supervisor, or of the supervisee; of a threat of violence; of workplace angst) but you cannot know because those actions are confidential by law (at least for now), and the sources that are best able to answer that question are not at liberty to speak to the reporter or post on this board (if they do... then their info is suspect.) If the supervisee spent a week at home for non-performance... whether or not it was inappropriate depends upon a whole set of circumstances. If it was the end product of a progressive formal process, documented and supported by HR with the participation of the employee, it was legit. If it was a rogue off-the-cuff punishment by an irate supervisor, that's a different issue. And there are many scenarios in-between. This article does not (and probably cannot) provide that context.

The same is true of several other issues in the posts.

With that, I think all of us who are not personally involved should turn our attention away. I hope that the individuals who are closest to it all, from all perspectives, find the wisdom to ameliorate what harm was done and learn as much as they can to move on.

96. fm202 - August 14, 2010 at 01:33 pm

In response to post 97:
"I think all of us who are not personally involved should turn our attention away."

You miss the larger issue that this story raises--the issue of workplace bullying and the fact that this country has no laws in place to protect targets of workplace bullying, like it does to protect certain groups from sexist, racist, etc. harassment in the workplace. Why diminish it to a story that should only interest those who are "personally involved"? Let's contextualize this story within its proper setting--a public institution and its policies towards employees who are clearly asking for help.

97. hrinhighered - August 14, 2010 at 02:59 pm

Take away the tragic suicide; take away the gifted editor. This story happens every week at HR at UVA and other institutions: it is no isolated incident.

Non-faculty employees receive little help when they experience harrassment and conflict with faculty managers. In this case it appears that not only did Mr. Morrissey himself report problems, but other staff memebers did as well. Contrary to the comment made earlier -- the fact that faculty yell at subordinates in university settings does make it all right. Yelling is never an appropriate management style. When employees yell, they can be "written up" with no questions asked.

In fact, what typically occurs is that faculty - especially facult who bring in fortune and/or fame - are given permission to behave very badly. HR and other administration offices take a low key approach and suggest that the employee "move on" to another position elsewhere, but no assistance is provided to do so.
A very ugly side of HR and administration is to decide that the employee must be made to be the bad guy. So action is take to apply additional stress until the employee "cracks" and leaves, or commits an act worth of dismission.

The email that was sent to Mr. Morrissey directing him to work from home for a week for unspecified misbehavior -- and then warning his to not speak to his colleagues -- is a clear example of an HR drafted memo designed to increase stress and induce isolation.

Good performance management would outline the problem, the consequences and the punishment. Further it is totally illogical to expect someone to work without access to colleagues. It is mind-boggling that any HR organization would allow such a communication to take place.

17 phone calls is a cry for help. To know that Human Resources professionals were the recipients of many of those calls and yet were unable to reach out as humans to provide humane assistance is unconscionable. Until Universities individually and as a body decide that faculty do not always win and are not always perfect - individuals will continue to literally and metaphorically die.


98. 11182967 - August 14, 2010 at 03:41 pm

To #80. The workplace issues which this case (may) illustrate are well worth our discussion, and if this case has prompted that discussion then serious reflection and interchange on these issues may be the one good thing to come from this event. However . . . this interchange is rife with very specific and personal commentary from persons who know little or nothing about the specific details--any more than they would have specific information about the events which occur where in the places where the rest of us work. Would it not better for these persons to address the general issues about which the may have useful observations, analysis, and, perhaps, (disguised)examples of their own than to vigorously attack--or defend--strangers?

As to the persons writing here who are more knowledgable (to greater and, it appears, often lesser degree) about the specifics--do they need to pursue their personal battles in an arena of professional interchange? Should their comments not find smaller and more appropriately less public venues? I am sorry for both gentleman and for any others involved in this unhappy situation. Is the CHE merely a snooty tabloid? Are its readers primarily gossips? One day this event is may become (again, a suitably disguised) case study. In the meantime, can't we leave those involved to find what peace they can?

99. fm202 - August 14, 2010 at 04:00 pm

To 99:
To clarify, as noted in the article, the email sent to Mr. Morrissey instructing him to stay home and not contact other staff members because of unspecified "unacceptable workplace behavior" was sent by Mr. Genoways, not by HR. It seems highly unlikely that Mr. Genoways had the authority to exile a manager from an office without explanation or forbid that manager from speaking with his staff. In fact, it fits the definition of workplace bullying characterized by public humiliation, social ostracism, and unreasonable behavior by a supervisor to a subordinate by the very vagueness of the charge.

100. journalismo - August 14, 2010 at 04:19 pm

Everyone here seems to be talking about Genoways bullying Morrissey, but it sounds like staff members (perhaps Morrisey himself?) were allegedly doing the same to Levinson-LaBrosse:
"Some of those who worked at VQR clearly resented her and repeatedly made rude comments and ignored her during office meetings, says a university employee."

Also, where do we draw the line between being an effective editor-in-chief and being a bully? In publishing, employees getting yelled at behind closed doors is a pretty common occurence (insert image of The Daily Planet editor here), especially on deadline. Is it Genoways's responsibility to refrain from being stern with an admittedly combative staff just because they are his underlings or may have emotional problems, especially considering that they may disagree with his vision for the journal and are shunning another staff member? The issue is incredibly complex.

101. fm202 - August 14, 2010 at 04:55 pm

@journalismo re #102:

1. Levinson-LaBrosse did not complain to HR about being bullied. In fact, it's entirely possible she was the "university employee" that made the statement for the journalist. Since this statement was not attributed to the staff at VQR, it is uncorraborated.
2. "Where do we draw the line between being an effective editor and being a bully?" I believe I answered that question sufficiently in my post above, #83.

Here is another expert's definition of where to draw the line:
Workplace bullying is defined by experts as "persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting behaviour; abuse of power; or unfair penal sanctions. These make the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated, or vulnerable, undermine their self confidence and may cause them to suffer stress." (British Medical Journal) Whereas "stern" is defined as having strict standards or being severe and unremitting in making demands. "Stern" does not encompass verbal abuse, social ostracism, public humiliation in a workplace--except perhaps in the military--and unfair penal sanctions meted out without explanation.

In any case, an editor-in-chief who loses two of four staff members by resignation and one by suicide in the same week can hardly be described as "effective." And where do you get "admittedly combative staff"? There was no mention of that in the article, only that there were tensions and that the staff, including Mr. Morrissey, had made complaints to the university. Is that what you consider combative?

102. performance_expert2 - August 14, 2010 at 05:08 pm

fm202, I have every empathy for the young lady, truly I do, including what you report, however I also believe that it is a grosse error for a financial donor or family member to take a post in an institution that they fund. This seems a huge oversight and maybe there is no established ethos on the matter, but if someone donates big money to an institution and then comes on board in a supervisory capacity, where does this leave the regular workers, and more so if they be dedicated and talented and got to their meager post through traditional means? For a donor to work in an institution suggests skipping caste and mixing it up. It is a great error. Maybe donors do not know any better and if I have to be the first one to say it, so be it.

With wellness-wishes for those getting through this tragedy,
p_e2

103. performance_expert2 - August 14, 2010 at 05:21 pm

"Mr. Genoways hired a young UVa graduate.. to help raise money for the journal. (the UVA graduate) is the son/daughter of ... (an) entrepreneur who has made generous donations to the university. (the UVA graduate) has already given $1.5-million to the Young Writers Workshop at the university"

non non non non no

104. hrinhighered - August 14, 2010 at 06:18 pm

to 101.
Point well taken. My comments said drafted not sent. Often HR works with a manager to draft the email the manager then sends to the employee.

Disciplining an employee with forced time off is a serious action. If Mr. Genoway disciplined an employee with a week of forced time off, for an unspecified action, including warning him not to speak with other employees, and then delivered the punishment via email -- and did so with HR approval -- the institution certainly acted inappropriately.

If Mr. Genoway did so without University approval - and the employee then sought assistance from HR, including the ombudsman and the EAP - and no assistance was provided - the institution certainly acted inappropriately.

105. journalismo - August 14, 2010 at 06:29 pm

Thanks for the response, fm202. Here's how I came to "combative":

"In his statement to The Chronicle, Mr. Genoways acknowledged there 'had been tensions between staff members in the VQR offices.'"

"Other staff members at the review, though, were not part of that work and didn't share Mr. Genoways's fears about the future. Nor did they take well to seeing Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse, 24, elevated to what some say appeared to be second-in-command under Mr. Genoways. Her desk was in his office. Some of those who worked at VQR clearly resented her and repeatedly made rude comments and ignored her during office meetings, says a university employee."

"People close to the magazine say Mr. Genoways was furious after learning that Mr. Morrissey and another staff member had clashed with Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse during a meeting."

Sounds pretty combative to me on all accounts, like both editor and staff took their tensions out on each other. Maybe I'm wrong, but it's hard to tell with unattributed sources and certain parties not talking at all.

I do not consider reporting combative--in fact it's appropriate! But the staff's treatment of Levinson-Labrosse (if it is truly as the story describes) sounds very much like bullying as some have defined it here, reported or not. I'm not trying to diminish anyone's treatment here, only pointing out that the give-and-take of behavior as reported here seems incredibly complex, and that this is not a black-and-white issue.

I neglected to mention my condolences to Mr. Morrissey's family and friends in my last post. This is a tragedy.

106. chrisboese - August 14, 2010 at 07:04 pm

All the HR-speak about bullying (a legitimate topic for discussion) and the mental health community-speak about the very real consequences of long-term depression (another legitimate topic for discussion) serve to mask the real issue that I think foregrounds this entire sad episode:

Universities are institutions that practice excruciating mental gynmnastics and analysis, examine causality, proofs, support, and intellectual originality. But they are seemingly unable to deal with class divides in any significant way that doesn't make the institutions appear to be intellectual hypocrites.

Consider the absolute SOURCE of the friction that triggered the extremis situation: A university president was supporting a prestigious literary and non-fiction journal from the very top with a line-item whim that had a (relatively) serious budget attached to it.

Universities and money, universities and class. Universities and donors, foundations, development offices, the entire CLASS of people employed by universities whose responsibility is nothing more than wining and dining fat cats to get them to open their checkbooks and write big checks.

Universities as prostitutes that subscribe to intellectual ideals while subverting those very ideals while making the deals that keep them finanically afloat in the manner to which they've become accustomed.

Point 1: President puts VQR patronage on a line-item whim and installs a supposedly "star" editor to put it on the map. That job involves equal parts courting "star" content and wining and dining big bucks potential donors. President as short-timer and a potential loss of patronage. Everyone gets into bed with the university development office.

Point 2: Universities that are accustomed to prostrating themselves at the feet of wealthy donors generally spawn wealthy donors accustomed to walking around at those same universities as if they own the place, throwing their weight around, making demands, being capricious, basically acting as if their feces doesn't stink. Because, in the world of those universities, it doesn't. I suspect some college football programs even let wealthy donors call up coaches and demand to call plays in the middle of games.

Point 3: Bullies can only exist when they have a system that protects them, in this case a massive class divide between the world of university presidents, athletic directors, vice chancellors for development, big "star" recruits in various departments and divisions with outsize "star" salaries, and everyone else.

So the university world is divided into people whose feces doesn't stink, and those whose does. A world where a 24-year-old daughter of someone with a big checkbook was put in a position of power over people with significantly more experience and expertise essentially because her job was "bought" by her big daddy (or mommy, as the case may be).

Rich people have in the last 10 years become accustomed to "buying" their children "jobs" that leapfrog over those lowly entry-level things that the hoi poloi have to accept to work their way up and prove their competence. Children of rich people can't possibly be expected to do that low-level kind of work, when a "job" can be purchased just like any other commodity.

Many of us have taught those children of the super-rich in our classes and have experienced their sense of entitlement first-hand.

The class divide between the systems of evaluation for the "regular folks" (even regular folks with tenure) and the super-rich and the rare air that they breathe has infected academia like a virus, making fools of those who practice analysis and intellectual rigor, because their intellectual standards are undone by pure feudalism, where the "Lord" rules, sort of like a reverse "Enlightenment."

Those under the protection of some "Lord" have the luxury of developing into full-blown, "I'm entitled to be treated as a special class" bullies.

Those on the wrong side of the class divide may aspire to emulate kinds of bullies they see their social "betters" becoming, but they don't get as far. They just absorb the values of the new feudal reality, our post-rational feudal age. All of the bad behavior of our new polarized class norms, with none the wealth.

107. duppy_conqueror - August 14, 2010 at 07:39 pm

No matter the toxicity of the work environment, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

There are a million gazillion ways less drastic to deal with life's challenges. It should never be considered as an option. Need help? Get it. Can't cope? Get a new job.

108. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 08:58 am

Chris, "absorb the values of the new feudal reality, our post-rational feudal age. All of the bad behavior of our new polarized class norms, with none the wealth."

You've just described half the humanities departments with these forceful new-agey harsh professors, routing students and colleagues like cattle, directing and rejecting, playing emperor, except they have no wealth and significantly do not seem to understand or even care about how to build wealth, including intellectual wealth. It is just a "me first" dominance and submission ritual. What they really seek to do is break down people and make them broke and broken. The emperor of crumbs shall win. The best part is, after all of this, the dissertation is no longer printed and kept on a shelf even, it is digitally submitted.

109. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 09:00 am

And the answer is.... Kevin Morrissey killed Kevin Morrissey. The remaining legacy question may be who killed the VQR.

110. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 09:18 am

<Comment removed by moderator>

111. honore - August 15, 2010 at 10:19 am

<Comment removed by moderator>

112. luder - August 15, 2010 at 11:56 am

Wow, 116, I never knew posting comments on CHE articles was so popular in Crete!

113. 22089159 - August 15, 2010 at 01:49 pm


Props to honore.

One comment that hasn't been made is that the narcissistic bully behaves very differently to those he regards as high status, like rich 24-year-olds and "name" scholars who deign to raise the status of his journal. He flatters and appreciates them so much the reflected light makes him all the more glorious in the mirror.

My guess is gleaned solely from this page in CHE. I have no personal knowledge of any of the actors here. That said: it looks as though G reeled in M on that same line. For a person without a degree -- however talented and deserving -- to be making $76K in an academic environment, M was OWNED by G. "The Death of Fiction?" in Mother Jones is very revealing. G had a hero complex, and M's confusion that they were colleagues working on a collaborative project was shattered when G turned the warm golden glow of his mirror to higher, brighter stars. Because of the depression, M was particularly vulnerable to the blandishments of reflected glory early in their relationship and defenseless when he "failed" in his mission to keep G's light twinkling.

The abuser (whether G or Mel Gibson) says to the victim: "You're nothing without me!"

Still pure speculation here: when G accused M of endangering the very LIFE of a contributor by IGNORING him, M flipped through the million gazilion options available to him, and the poetic "justice" of suicide offered itself most clearly.

And without a moment's self-reflection or self-awareness, G writes M's epitaph: he was hard to work with, nobody wanted to work with him, only my own great human compassion led me to give him a chance, but the poor fellow was too damaged to take full advantage of all the twice-reflected glory I offered him. My hands are clean. (As someone said above: "two resignations and a suicide in one week"?

M called in his own suicide. "Can you hear me now?"





114. fm202 - August 15, 2010 at 02:43 pm

Props to 22089159.

Very eloquently put, especially the last line. I believe you hit the nail on the head with that insight.

And thanks for bringing up G's apparent (based on his own statements) lack of self-reflection or self-awareness and his subsequent attacks on a man who is no longer alive to defend himself. The fact that G would even make such statements speaks tellingly of his character and why M had a copy of "Working With the Self-Absorbed: How to Handle Narcissistic Personalities on the Job" on his nightstand. When the entirely of G's letter to his supporters two days after M's death is revealed, which I have read, you will have a pretty complete picture of G's true nature--quite a different picture than that painted by his paid sycophants.

115. duppy_conqueror - August 15, 2010 at 04:34 pm

@Honore - funny name, not so suited to you it seems to me.

I have no idea what occurs to 108 other people, but it doesn't appear that simple ugly old reality is always first that occurs to them. To answer the simple question posed in the headline: "What Killed Kevin Morrissey?" A bullet, fired by a gun, held by Kevin Morrissey. Nobody forced him to.

I can think of a half dozen people who would figuratively kill to have a job like that, with a salary like that, even with a boss like that. You never know when the guy's heart will explode, or he pisses off the new prez to the point of getting fired, or gets a good look at himself in the mirror and turns over a new leaf. Maybe the new president just axes it and it goes away, bully and all. Who knows? Life is just full of fun surprises like that.

I am sorry that reality has you so rattled, Honore. Please do get a grip.

116. 22089159 - August 15, 2010 at 06:08 pm


Don't feed the trolls.

Don't feed the trolls.

Don't feed the trolls.

Don't feed the trolls.

Please, just one good clean swipe at the guy who self-identifies as a puppy.duppy.guppy.conqueror?

DO NOT feed the trolls.

Okay, Okay. Anyone still lingering on this page might be amused/enlightened to look at a short story by Paul Theroux, titled "Minor Watt" (dim bulb??) in the penultimate issue of _Virginia Quarterly Review_. It's about this rich guy who begins deliberately destroying his expensive art collection. At first I thought he was just riffing on Henry James's _Golden Bowl_, but it's worth skimming to the last scene even if you can't stomach all the intermittent "reality." As H. G. Wells said of HJ, he couldn't deal with reality in its raw form. Thus is fiction to be saved from its imminent demise?

117. amelie - August 15, 2010 at 06:11 pm

To #100

The larger story, as many here have pointed out, is the very serious nature and consequences
of workplace bullying. Aside from the personal human tragedies unfolding is a chance to
open a much needed discussion, and perhaps, avert more tragedies.

To dismiss a post as "pursuing personal battles in an arena of professional interchange," and
suggest finding "smaller and more appropriately less public venues," #100 unwittingly provides
the perfect illustration, in my view, to poster #108's argument.

What good is research, or any intellectual pursuit, if the wherewithal to apply it is missing? A university needs to be more than shiny surfaces and PR slogans, with an air of authenticity at its
core. Any institution riddled with scandal, in time, looks a little silly. But I am talking about the
University of Louisville again (you are right!), not UVA!

I shared my story because I believe there are common elements to be found whenever people are bullied. It's also my hope that the more this issue comes to light, the greater the chance that steps
will be taken to pass Healthy Workplace legislation in the U.S.

People need to be able to simply go to work and do their jobs, free from harassment of any kind.
With the current economic situation, protective measures are more important than ever.

Oversight and accountability. How hard can it be?





i




118. herbie - August 15, 2010 at 08:40 pm

I worked at the University of Virginia and I know from the inside that its culture is a bullying culture. The people who get to the very top are, by and large, bullies. I hope the new president can change that. Its treatment of staff -- I don't know about faculty -- is brutal. It has a large pool to choose from because the University is one of the few places in Charlottesville with jobs that aren't retail or restaurant. There are faculty spouses and people from throughout central Virginia who seek employment there, and instead of being a model of employment, UVA has gone in the opposite direction. The talented people in the departments where I worked have all left, either to other jobs in Charlottesville -- which aren't easy to find -- or they have left Charlottesville. Before leaving, most appealed to the University or Health system's HR departments for help and all were rebuffed. Authority and power are protected at UVA. A leader who has made a mistake in hiring someone who's a bully or learns that this very talented person they hired is not a good administrator simply ignores it rather than replacing the person or getting them the help and guidance they need to improve their supervisory capabilities. Bullying is rampant at the University of Virginia and it begins at the top.

119. tolerantly - August 15, 2010 at 09:01 pm

herbie, you know, there are towns other than Charlottesville. I understand that times are currently tough all over. On the whole, though, if you don't want to play with mean kids, it's often smartest to stop hanging around hoping they'll like you.

I've had a bullying university boss; actually a batshit-crazy boss whose behavior bordered on the hilarious. What'd I do? I left. Yes, eventually the wheels ground and she was dumped. Her craziness was no secret, no one liked it, but the protections y'all like so much also protected her, and there were procedures to follow. I had the support of her superiors, but didn't figure it made any sense to hang around getting treated like that for that long. Astonishingly, I lived, and found work elsewhere.

Kevin had an expensive condo and no college degree? Hey, I sympathize, but who left him so vulnerable? Look, this is a guy who maneuvered himself into an untenable position, and who did not, apparently, take care of his mental illness or let others help him do it; he'd cut his family off and lived alone. Which by itself is tragic and not uncommon, but universities do not exist to provide jobs, mental healthcare, and mental health protection for seriously mentally ill employees. They do usually provide very good insurance, which only helps if it's used.

I'm not surprised UVA's run by class-A jerks, by the way. One, it's a university; two, it's a well-regarded university. Given that you can find bullying jerks at the top of almost any institution, you can at least take solace in the idea that this place might be worth the trouble.

120. gadget - August 15, 2010 at 09:31 pm

The correlates of suicide are depression, impulsiveness, a traumatic event that feels like the end of the world, and an inability to see any way out other than suicide.

That the worried employees did not know who to contact is not unusual. So listen up.

In a like situation, you can call the national suicide hotline or the local mental health authority. After running through a suicide checklist (which it appears Mr. Morrissey would have aced) they will tell you that when the signs of suicide are that clear and immediate, you must call the police. Police departments deal with potential suicides all the time and there are systems for linking potential suicides with appropriate psychiatric intervention. This is a very routine call for any police force.

OK, if you are too middle class squishy and fearful of stepping into unfamiliar territory (can't be rude!), an alternative is to escort the individual to a hospital emergency room and stay with him until he receives an appropriate response; in this case, hospitalization and evaluation by a medical professional. An individual who is clearly a threat to himself or others can be involuntarily committed for an evaluation and stabilization.

You will be helping this person more than you can imagine, because the impulse to take one's own life will usually resolve itself within three days and he (or she) will reach begin to feel hope and and perceive an alternate way out of their situation.

Remember, suicide is an impulsive act. Interrupt the impulse until it passes. Will this always prevent an eventual suicide? No, the lifetime death risk for endogenous depression is about 10 percent. But the odds are in your favor.

Will the individual hate you afterward? Maybe, but that should be the least of your worries. Once its all over, let your local elected officials know that you support adequate funding for mental health services and be pleased with yourself for doing the most effective thing to save someone's life.

121. gadget - August 15, 2010 at 09:33 pm

I forget: The problem with the article is that is wasn't well edited into a shorter news story. Does The Chronicle have editors on its stories?

122. mindartpower - August 15, 2010 at 09:55 pm

It is clear on a daily basis, that the academic workplace is at least as messed up as any other workplace- if not more.

Whenever an employee raises questions of hostile behavior , it needs to be investigated- period, end of story.

123. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 11:06 pm

#124. tolerantly (strong irony?), "universities do not exist to provide jobs, mental healthcare, and mental health protection for seriously mentally ill employees"

There is plenty of mental illness among the best and the brightest. I see no problem with university being a supportive environment with capable management when this type of support is needed.

By the way, I think your comment goes against every federal anti-descrimination workplace mandate existent.

Allow me to extend comment, I find the bigotry astounding, sort of an ... Abercrombie & Fitch mindset. Lots of shellac. Anyone who knows anything about the humanities know it takes more than a bunch of invulnerable gorillas to make a relevant contribution.

PS don't pull a muscle patting yourself on the back at the mutual-appreciation society networking conference.

124. digger_gal68 - August 15, 2010 at 11:07 pm

There is a decided culture of bullying within academia, rooted in the desperate need to external validation through tenure, promotion, grants, etc. Professors bully teaching assistants, post-docs, and work-study students; Department Chairs bully faculty members and support staff; Deans bully faculty and chairs; and students bully professors into giving out undeserved grades. I know people who have had experiments sabotaged, have stolen theories and theses--I was even the subject of a "secret meeting" between my fellow graduate students to discuss one of my dissertation chapters, because they were angry that I won a fellowship they had also applied for.

The academic culture that competition creates is about as far from the idealized--and fictional--ivory tower we have all been seduced into believing in. It's a shame, because the essence of knowledge is human cooperation. If a few piddling accolades or funding dollars are enough to drive people to such behavior, then we as academics have much soul-searching and reform to conduct. And we'd better do it soon, because higher education is already under attack. We don't need to sabotage ourselves as well.

125. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Rosalyn Carter has worked as an advocate for the mentally ill, with emphasis on the stigmata aspect, that it should be viewed no differently than any other disease, diabetes, etc.

126. performance_expert2 - August 15, 2010 at 11:23 pm

PTSD video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsFg8wZuI-4&

127. duppy_conqueror - August 15, 2010 at 11:26 pm

@22089159 - will have to leave the name-calling to you and "honore". odd to see that on a thread about bullying and suicide. run along now and have a great day!

122-129, absolutely right. I currently work for a bully, have worked for worse, but she's still a bully. the advice from a shrink during the worst times at other schools was: "Your choices are these: 1) COPE as best you can and be happy you have a job, or 2) GET OUT. I got out. I won't say I never looked back, but now I do with a smile on my face. Sooner or later they all get their come-uppnaces, and the current bully will too. Mr Morrisey sadly has deprived himself of the supreme satisfaction of seeing a bully boss fired, in addition to ALL of life's numerous joys, large and small.

I found this article to be useful a couple months ago because it realistically approached just this problem, and honestly noted that following grievance procedures against a bully can actually make things worse:

http://chronicle.com/article/Workplace-Mediators-Seek-a-/65815/

June 8, 2010
Workplace Mediators Seek a Role in Taming Faculty Bullies

128. tolerantly - August 15, 2010 at 11:57 pm

the ironically-monikered performance_expert2 writes:

"There is plenty of mental illness among the best and the brightest. I see no problem with university being a supportive environment with capable management when this type of support is needed."

The university is a business. The university is already working miracles by getting suckers to shell out mortgage-sized payments for the promise of employability and all kinds of other intangible wonders that 97% of the kids don't care about anyway. Those payments go to pay you guys to hold the kids' hands while they read, and then issue a piece of paper saying they're housebroken, and lots of you are even guaranteed jobs for life. It's got to be one of the most amazing rackets of all time. Quit while you're ahead.

"By the way, I think your comment goes against every federal anti-descrimination workplace mandate existent."

No, it doesn't. (Discrimination, not descrimination.) Nor did UVA, unless they stonewalled Kevin on account of he was mentally ill, but treated others better. Apparently plenty of people were complaining, so it doesn't look like that's the case.

129. tolerantly - August 16, 2010 at 12:05 am

#132, duppy: Actually, no, not all of them will get comeuppance. In fact I expect most don't. Nor, unless you really like revenge against sad cases, is there a lot of pleasure in seeing these people get canned.

There are mean and crazy people, and academia's chockablock with them. That's not going to change. I have no doubt that if the loudest injustice-cryers here were put in charge, they'd quickly show themselves to be just as crazy and tyrannical as the last bunch, and also, in the end, as prestige-obsessed.

Much gentler work environments exist. It's amazing how much drama drains away when all people are working for is a living.

130. johndoe3 - August 16, 2010 at 01:11 am

I think the administration knew what was going on at VQR and what Genoways was trying to do: pressure Morrisey to quit and replace him with Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse. They were just looking the other way, hoping for the best, that Morrissey leave on his own, but they probably didn't expect he would end his life for this. Genoways checked with them and so he could tell The Chronicle that the university had already "reviewed all the allegations being made against me and found them to be without grounds.”I won't be surprised that Genoways returns to work with Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse.

131. nacrandell - August 16, 2010 at 08:07 am

So does this mean that the UVA is not capable of teaching business management?

132. dank48 - August 16, 2010 at 09:13 am

No, Greeneyeshade, #77, I don't think quoting Matt. 7:1 is a particularly judgmental thing to do. It's possible to point out something amiss without judging the people concerned.

For example--and my apologies to everyone who thinks there are more important matters under discussion here--it seems to me that I can observe that "sheath" is a noun and that the verb is "sheathe," regardless of whether quoting constitutes drawing a sword.

I could also nonjudgmentally but in the spirit of correction mention that the verse you misquoted correctly reads:

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bit 'em;
And so proceed _ad infinitum._
Thus every poet, in his kind,
Is bit by him that comes behind.

Further, I could point out that neither the correct nor the garbled version is a limerick, which has pretty well defined characteristics, and that the verse is by Jonathan Swift, not Ogden Nash.

Finally, I could ask what relevance your comment had in the first place.

Look, Matt. 7:1 applies to me too, obviously. But I do have to admit that at times it's difficult. At the heart of the matter is distinguishing between judging someone's work and sitting in judgment on the person.

133. johndoe3 - August 16, 2010 at 09:27 am

No, the UVA is probably damn good at teaching business management. It's a business. They want more money from people like Ms. Levinson-LaBrose. If she wanted Morrissey's position for VQR, let her have it. This kind of incident happens all the time in America although it rarely makes news. I have seen many Genoways get away with this kind of behavior. He was just working "the system." He wanted to be part of the system.

134. writer2 - August 16, 2010 at 10:00 am

I have never met Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse, nor do I know anything about her work/skills - but there is nothing in this article to indicate that she did anything inappropriate or that she wanted Mr. Morrissey's job. It sounds as if she was brought in to raise private funds to support the magazine. Where is the crime there? If the facts in the article are true--it sounds as though SHE was a victim of workplace bullying by everyone but Mr. Genoways. Isn't it possible she was good at her job and that others were jealous of her success at a young age?? It seems as though folks are quick to vilify her simply because she was briefly referenced in the article.

135. martin_2121 - August 16, 2010 at 10:22 am

@writer2 -- I agree. People have been quick to vilify Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse when the facts of the article don't justify it. But the facts of the article aren't really sufficient to understand what was going on. It might help to know what experience -- aside from being a big donor -- Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse brought to the office. Or how the university decided to hire her in the first place. Did they post the position and interview people with a lot of development and/or editing experience and, in the end, just happen to choose a young, wealthy donor who, perhaps, had little of either? And what sort of pressure does it put on a staff to work with someone whose money seems to be so important? Are you allowed to speak your mind around such a person? It seems at least plausible that Ms. Levinson-Labrosse was being used for her money and placed, along with the rest of the staff, in an incredibly awkward position. If there was tension as a result, you could chalk that up to "jealousy" and "bullying," or you could call it really bad management.

Based on numerous previous comments, it's also worth saying once again: the staff at VQR, as far as I can tell, has not accused Ted Genoways of causing the death of Kevin Morrissey. Instead, they seem to be claiming that Genoways bullied, manipulated, and intimidated Morrissey and the university failed to adequately intervene. In spite of how the Chronicle article was framed, arguments about Morrissey's mental health and whether he should have quit his job are strawmen. No one should be forced to choose between an abusive boss and quitting his job.

136. johndoe3 - August 16, 2010 at 10:23 am

"Nor did they take well to seeing Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse, 24, elevated to what some say appeared to be second-in-command under Mr. Genoways." I don't know whether she wanted Morrissey's position, whether she was good at her job or not, etc. That's not the point. It's obvious Genoways wanted her on his staff because it'd save the magazine from the chopping block where it had once been before. Her presence would make it less likely for the university to kill VQR.

137. johndoe3 - August 16, 2010 at 10:50 am

Nobody knows and reads VQR outside the MFA world, but the UVa probably liked what Genoways was doing, drawing attention to itself in the MFA world. All this was happening right under their nose, but they didn't do anything to ease the situation. Why? The UVa probably wanted to see whether Genoways and Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse could raise some money for VQR and the Uva.

138. johndoe3 - August 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I can't imagine how humiliating it would have been that a 53 yr old man who had worked all his life in the publishing world was put into a situation where he was pressured to resign to make room for a young up-and-coming 24 yr old editor, millionaire Levinson-LaBrosse. How depressing and unbearable it would have been for a 53 yr old man with no family of his own to turn to for emotional support to have gone through something like this alone. Very sad, but believe or not, this happens a lot. So many workplace/school shootings. We should thank him that he didn't take anybody with him.

139. owen_glendower - August 16, 2010 at 12:21 pm

From comment #4 above:

"What helped me out of my problem was the realisation of how, in the scheme of things, absolutely trivial, academic concerns about journals and publication are; and that I have responsibility for my own wellbeing. There are a lot of things a person can do to protest against a situation, however wrong, besides killing oneself. Complain. Get a new job in academia. Leave academia."

Situations which go bad can indeed be easily escaped when one can firmly maintain a belief in the triviality of his work.

It's much safer than working 20 years developing your skills--because you believe in the importance of what you're doing--and then, finally, finding a position in which you can not just exercise those skills, but also have the sense of being fully extended, in Russell's term, with your long-developed capabilities perfectly matching the demands of the work.

How incredibly vulnerable you make yourself when you do that. I know whereof I speak. In what I did, in the obscure place where I did it, I was the best there ever was. My sympathies are with Morrissey.

140. writer2 - August 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm

@johndoe3

As I stated before, there is nothing in this article that effectively makes clear that the young woman was being groomed to replace Mr. Morrissey - just the rumblings of disgruntled colleagues who, according to the article, ostracized her. It clearly states she was there to raise money - not to edit. The presence of a young person in an office does not mean that the more seasoned folks are getting ready to be replaced. You are making huge assumptions based on zero evidence--or perhaps based on your own inadequacy in your own job.

141. johndoe3 - August 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm

@writer2

"Nor did they take well to seeing Ms. Levinson-LaBrosse, 24, elevated to what some say appeared to be second-in-command under Mr. Genoways."

I don't think this is just "the rumblings of disgruntled colleagues."

And why the personal attack? Do I know you?

142. performance_expert2 - August 16, 2010 at 12:57 pm

tolerantly,
Oh yes, you've eaten the cheese, the rubber brie, jammed a spike into your vein, the golden ghetto of "university is a business."

p_e2

143. writer2 - August 16, 2010 at 02:11 pm

@johndoe3

I referenced you, not knowing who in the world you are, simply because you seemed quite bitter about the idea of a young person coming into an office, even though she was not alleged to have committed any wrongdoing. Having been a skilled young person coming into an office with older colleagues myself roughly 25 years ago, I can imagine the hostility it sounds as though she endured, and I feel sorry for her being dragged into something so horrific in the press, when it seems as though she was an unwitting bystander.

My only reason for entering this fray at all is that I am overwhelmed by the number of people on this blog who like me, only have access to what the article says, yet they seem so ready to crucify Mr. Genoways and Ms. LaBrosse without any corroboration. Meanwhile, those who DO clearly have some kind of direct knowledge and have stood up for him are attacked. I don't pretend to know what really happened here, but I have read enough to know a one-sided story when I see one. I'll reserve my judgment until I see the other side too.

144. performance_expert2 - August 16, 2010 at 02:40 pm

"My wife, a retired corporate attorney who sometimes dealt with personnel and sexual harassment issues, says that having a 24-year-old camped out in the private office of a manager would be dealt with just about instantly at any private company: both, she suggests, would be put on leave while the matter was investigated. At the very minimum, as soon as the matter came to light, the 24-year-old would be transferred and put under someone else's supervision."

http://mthollywood.blogspot.com/

145. duppy_conqueror - August 16, 2010 at 02:58 pm

Speaking of the article's one-sidedness, interesting choice of photos there. gee, I wonder what they were trying to say with that.

Left: Ted Genoways (dark, brooding, isolated, looks like a cross between Anton LaVey / Dr. Evil);
Right: Kevin Morrissey (approachable, sunny, sociable, warm as a teddy bear).

Enlarge Image

146. performance_expert2 - August 16, 2010 at 03:00 pm

writer2, a 24 year old who is on a board of directors and has single-handedly saved a UVA writer's workshop from extinction?

http://teach.virginia.edu/curry-foundation-mainmenu-153/2316-benefactor-stories-alana-levinson

___________________________

Conclusion: UVA seems to have a conspicuous problem with literary cultural programs that both have entrenched directors and are expendable.

Recommendation: Young lady needs to lose the current crowd, stop being treated as a mark, a fundraising object, and gain some type of mission based on direct work, being an artist as opposed to promoting the artistic, being used to promote the artistic.

PS You can come over to my house and read and discuss and I won't ask you for any money, then now or ever. There are plenty of opportunities for charity. I make my contribution to Doctors without Borders, also known as Medicine sans Frontiers. I've never met anyone from their organization though one time a long time ago they paid for me to get a chest xray.

147. performance_expert2 - August 16, 2010 at 03:07 pm

150. conqueror_of_duppies, photo on left, I was thinking snarling cyberpunk. Allow to dial up a lyrical illustration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFVho9MalI8

148. jcisneros - August 16, 2010 at 08:40 pm

It is clear that regardless of anything else, Ted Genoways demonstrated a spectacular lack of judgment by installing a 24 year old female into his private office.

It is also clear that sending an employee home for a week and demanding he not speak with other magazine staff is patently illegal and most unwise. Especially without consulting with HR about the legality of such an action. On a personal note, this indicates to me that Genoways was a martinet and certainly indicates that he could be a bully boss.

Whether Genoways is demonstrably a bully is debatable and until otherwise proven by facts, the allegations against him are precisely that, allegations. I don't like coming to that conclusion, I am inclined to believe that Genoways is a bully...but I simply do not have enough facts to make that unqualified judgment.

The record seems clear that Kevin Morrisey felt bullied and was allegedly ignored by UVa administrators. It is tragic that he ended his life, having lost a number of childhood friends to suicide I know just how painful burying a dear friend is...especially to something as sad as suicide. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

This article at the very least has been thought-provoking.

~JC

149. 11116760 - August 17, 2010 at 09:32 am

I agree with JCisneros. Workplace bullying in higher education and throughout our workplaces is serious. Yet, often adminstrators ignore and/or deal with in secret, so the 'bullied' does not feel protected. Robert Sutton management professor at Stanford writes a regular blog on workplace bullying. I too have experienced death of friend to suicide and Kevin Morrisey's family has deepest sympathy. Perhaps UVA will set up a writing scholarship in his name and/or a workplace prevention bullying center.

150. cassadia - August 17, 2010 at 01:21 pm


Thanks to the page for vocabulary boost. "Duppy" is apparently "a malevolent spirit."

@performance-expert reads the moniker of a fellow displaying contempt for a depressed individual as "conqueror of duppies"; I read the same moniker as "conqueror who is himself a duppy."

Only a person who knows what real depression really feels like could respond to duppy the conqueror with such rage as that expressed by honore @116 above. "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem" is second only to "you are choosing to be depressed" for accessing the rage at inept and dismissive “helpers” who fleece the mentally ill, adding injury to the lived insult, doubling the burden of that black dog who stalks us night and day.

So much ad hominem. So little understanding. Find someone to blame. Find someone to hate. Find some malevolent spirit to conquer, Mr. malevolent spirit.

There are not just two sides to every story: there are multiples upon multiples. Mr. Gen and Ms. LaBr are not the same story. Gen has been judged harshly, I agree; LaBr, not so much. Every responder comes to the story bearing a point of view, a lived story that gets injected into an arch-typical narrative frame. We each go immediately to our chalk marks on the stage. We know our roles. We play our parts.


This page demonstrates some of the best and some of the worst of academic back biting. That urgent desire to conquer, to be number one, to take down the opposition. Pitiful.






151. dank48 - August 17, 2010 at 01:56 pm

And all this sturm und drang, leading to a suicide and endless recriminations, over what? Virginia Quarterly Review.

Excuse me, for all I know VQR is the best of what it is, but it's still what it is and nothing more.

"But for Wales?"

152. cassadia - August 17, 2010 at 02:07 pm

Apologies. honore at 115.

153. duppy_conqueror - August 17, 2010 at 03:28 pm

Cassadia - no rage here, just disappointment in the extreme at suicide agressor / victims and those who would blame others for the suicide. People don't choose depression, but they do choose suicide. I have faced it myself, seen it in family members and neighbors. It's just the starkest reality. Again, sorry if that upsets you.

A more common alternative these days, the one that all too often makes it to the network news, might have been for him to kill everyone in the office, then turn the gun on himself. Fortunately, Kevin Morrissey was thinking clearly enough to at least get the order right.

Re: your & others' non-clever fascination with my handle, I can only refer you to the source, the late great Bob Marley. I truly believe that if more people would discover the healing power of music, this would be a happier, possibly more populated world.

I will agree Cassadia that these blogs are yet another reflection of the everyday bullying that occurs in our profession, and I'll place you right at the top of that list from which you so handily auto-exculpate.

To the "malevolent spirit" who asked, "What Killed Kevin Morrissey?" in the first place, let me assure you again, Kevin Morrissey killed Kevin Morrissey, for his own reasons. Nobody else.

154. ciceronow - August 17, 2010 at 03:31 pm

Tragic but typical UVA story. Typical story of a public university being corporatized. UVA suffers from a plantation mentality and people at the bottom are subject to the arbitrary and capricious actions of administrators and supervisors who are protected by the institutions large legal and PR staff. The workers (non administrators) are treated as chattel. Bullying occurs all the time and in very different circumstances. Recall the Deana Bowers story where the university fired a staff member for writing an email critical of the University. Or check out the Wendy Marshall story, an Anthropology Asst. Prof who protested in the Presidents office about Living Wage, was arrested, exonerated by a local judge, and now is not receiving tenure. There are untold stories of job discrimination at the university hospital. I see bullying going on all the time with full professors bullying untenured faculty, faculty bullying staff, dean bullying faculty they don't like. The bullying looks like "my friends get plum committee assignments and raises, everyone else gets nothing", experts on bullying who themselves bully people.

Writers above state, that people can do many things short of committing suicide but they ignore the effects of organizational cultures on peoples behavior and states of mind. They ignore the moral component of institutional life. With no democracy in higher educational organization, community and individual health and well being suffer.

Corporations are full of bullies and now so are public universities like UVA. The administrators at UVA may well blow this off as just a case of an employee with mental health problems rather than as a rotten administrative culture. This will be an interesting test case: Will new President Sullivan maximize on making the institution fiscally efficient at any cost or are such instances of bullying too high of a coast to pay for pure efficiency. Will she reinforce UVA's traditional plantation culture or will she fix it? Ph.D. heal thyself.

155. duppy_conqueror - August 17, 2010 at 03:53 pm

and this just in:

Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens in Attack on Iraqi Army Recruits
By STEPHEN FARRELL 9:58 AM ET
http://www.nytimes.com/pages/world/index.html

I looked, but I do not see a related article asking, "What Killed The Suicide Bomber Who Killed Dozens in Attack on Iraqi Army Recruits?" or similar questions about the hundreds of tragic suicides which happen annually.

Again, it could have turned out much worse. Don't forget VA Tech.

156. humandignity - August 17, 2010 at 04:56 pm

Actually it is probably much easier to forget the crazy professor who killed himself than to explore the possibility that education may not actually be leading us toward a new utopia where people become better simply because education makes them better people.

Because if we actually engaged in the conversation about whether or not we can continue to morally justify the impacts of the imposition of our education systems and our workplaces on peoples lives we might find ourselves challenging our own paychecks.

As a person who has worked in the priviate sector for over a decade and as staff within the Ivory Tower I have seen radical abuses in both settings. Sr. Vice Presidents and Vice Provosts alike who bully support staff, directors and others all in the name of what? Greater productivity I am not sure they actually achieve that.

Lets see I have seen people suffering from severe medical issues (Cancer) hiding their condition because of fear of loss of job or negative impacts. I have seen professionals work 24 hour days trying to keep up with the subtle yet very real pressures on them and I have seen colleagues collapse and be hospitalized or others commit suicide.

When do we start actually discussing the way we treat each other and when do we start trying to live up to our discourse and become the ideal citizens of this world we live in?

157. tyche - August 17, 2010 at 06:24 pm

The toxicity of the workplace does matter. Bullyism is a serious matter.

Insensitivity and cynicism in the face of this tragedy are not answers, especially when those who exhibit those attitudes might have never been in the shoes of a victim of bullyism. Insensitivity and cynicism dismiss and disrespect the plight of victims.

If there is such a wide participation about this topic is because bullyism is a widespread problem in academia, so much, that we could say that nowadays bullyism is an inherent characteristic of academia. Some have already argued that to keep silence about bullyism makes us accomplices. Many decide to become accomplices as the losses of privilege for speaking out could be significant: tenure, promotion, retention, funding for travel, access to release time, a lower teaching load, and “peace” with the bully, even though that peace might not exactly be a peace of mind. I thank the CHE, those working on bullyism, and those who participate in this conversation for making visible this perverse human regression at all levels in academia- from students, staff, and faculty to administrators and the “culture” (or lack of) of the institutions where bullies and victims work or study.

158. cassadia - August 17, 2010 at 08:01 pm


@duppy_conqueror ... so I Googled Bob Marley and came away from the song with a very different taste in my mouth for the persona projected/injected into/ejaculated onto the death of a man who went to the end of his tether then snapped, screaming all the way down for someone to hear him.

I wonder if you can hear the dismissiveness in your insistence that "he killed himself." Of course, he did. No one argues the literal truth of that statement, but that moment of release he achieved in pulling the trigger is not the issue. It trivializes the whole affair to keep insisting that he was responsible for his own death -- as if the moment after his heart stopped beating was somehow more significant than the prolonged agony that preceded his death. True enough: he shot himself. honore grants you that in his/her outburst.

The suicide-attacker, who takes out the whole office full of people on his way down, is a very different character than the depressive who silences the noise in his head by committing a solitary act of self-effacement. Begin with that simple observation. Observe the demeanor, the elation of the glory-rapture-seeking suicide bomber. He may not be at all depressed. And still, we need an entirely third character to play the role of the depressed man who feels put upon, wronged, hurt, demeaned, the fellow who shoots up the office full of wrong doers. The venegance-seeker, like the rapture-seeking suicide, also ends by killing himself.

But to lump these three different characters into one category defined solely by the outcome of suicide seems/feels like a dismissal-as-irrelevant of three very different life narratives.

As academics, our obligation begins with reason ... I think. We have an obligation to think clearly and argue fairly. This comment is too quick, too brief a space to grapple for comprehensiveness, but let me direct your attention to Sam Harris on “The Mosque”? He claims: "Tolerance of religious stupidity has a way of making liars and cowards of people who should have nothing to fear from the roots of honest reasoning. ...”
See: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-08-13/ground-zero-mosque/

But are we as a faculty capable of recognizing honest reasoning when we see it? Harris says something very important. Something we all/as academics/as public intellectuals need to understand. What he says goes beyond the question of whether the country will honor its commitment to religious freedom. Something not understood by Keith Olbermann or Barack Obama. Something maybe too intellectually difficult to inject/project/ejaculate into the discussion of What killed Kevin Morrissey.

Honest reasoning is hard to do. It requires that you strive for understanding instead of conquest of those malevolent others you would vanquish in a rapture of verbal putdowns.









159. 11119344 - August 17, 2010 at 09:23 pm

I have been saddened to read comments from people who are facing bullying situations. For those who are seeking advice, here is a page from my blog, Minding the Workplace, that collects several resources for bullying targets:

http://newworkplace.wordpress.com/need-help/

David Yamada
Suffolk University Law School

160. 513131g - August 18, 2010 at 02:42 am

Bullying in Higher Ed. is real and serious. And, it's true that the bullies go for the person who seems alone. In a small, incestuous environment, where "outsiders" are viewed with hostility and suspicion, faculty or staff who are hired from "outside" suffer in silence and fear -- often for years on end, sacrificing personal lives and sanity, trying to get tenured, constantly made to feel insecure, socially excluded, never knowing what will come from out of the blue to sabotage one's work. The terrible economy has made the situation almost unbearable, especially for people of Kevin Morrissey's age and profile. To speak out or confront the abuse is terrifying, for though retaliation is technically illegal, one must take on the burden of proving it -- a costly, lengthy, and deeply depressing process, as the "group" will seek to isolate, destroy reputation, and undermine the credibility of the victim in any underhanded way it can. My heart goes out to Mr. Morrissey. No one who has not suffered in isolation and fear for extended periods of time in what is perceived by the rest of the world as a "normal" work environment can understand. Even the toughest, most mentally self-reliant person can come to feel tortured under some conditions: conditions which are becoming more and more prevalent. To be suffering from clinical depression alone, in conjunction with the fearful workplace atmosphere, must have been terrible for him.

161. beaming - August 18, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Couldn't make it through all the responses, but wonder if anyone is looking at the medication Kevin Morrissey was taking. Many antidepressants have depression as a side effect and they are quite dangerous. The rush to take drugs rather than work on issues "organically," via the longer and more arduous route, therapy (which usually isn't covered to any useful extent under insurance plans), is putting people like Kevin Morrissey at tremendous risk. I say, sue the drug company, but also address workplace conflicts in a caring and careful way and make bullying behavior unacceptable. In my experience, co-workers don't make that accusation without some provocation.

162. 11119344 - August 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm

The Hook, a weekly newspaper in Charlottesville, just ran this investigative piece on the UVA tragedy, authored by Dave McNair:
http://www.readthehook.com/blog/index.php/2010/08/18/cover-tale-of-woe-the-death-of-the-vqrs-kevin-morrissey/

David Yamada
Suffolk University Law School

163. matthewsm - August 19, 2010 at 10:29 am

I agree wholeheartedly with comment 164. Systematic social ostracism, shunning, and bullying in the academic workplace in more common than many care to admit. If you've ever been a "ghost" (i.e. on a terminal contract or facing a hostile and moot tenure review) than you know what 164 means when s/he says "even the toughest most mentally self-reliant person" can experience life as a torture.

Higher education should follow the "No Asshole Rule" rather than recruit so-called super stars that who can create a hostile workplace with total impunity.

164. tolerantly - August 19, 2010 at 11:03 am

This comment thread should be preserved in amber or something for the sheer Flaubertian hypocrisy involved. Here you guys are, academics. Live and die by prestige. Spend decades clawing, clawing, clawing for the better school, the better publication, the better conference, the more prestigious co-author. If your kids went to low-ranked state schools you'd have three heart attacks apiece and be afraid to show your face at faculty meetings.

And yet everything should be kindly and egalitarian and academia should be a room full of thoughtful, moderate, self-doubting Quakers unconcerned with such trappings.

May I suggest you volunteered for the trap? And that if you don't like it, there exists an entire world of commerce in which people don't pretend to do anything more than work for a living, and nobody cares where you went to school? You don't have to abandon scholarship, or education, or excellence, or anything else you hold dear. You can do that all privately, without the academic gold stars and accolades.

Ah, no, this is an outrageous idea! The noive!

The problem is that you guys have committed, voluntarily, to a ridiculously punishing system, with very few jobs, insane working conditions, golden handcuffs (you guys come cheap, though), and few tangible products. You did this to yourselves. It wasn't necessary. The unnecessariness started with the hazing ritual of grad school. But you did it anyway. And now that you're there, not part of the fancy cliques, and afraid to leave, you're crying about the cruelty of it.

You can go anytime, and take your scholarship with you. Artists and writers do this routinely. It's incredible, but we continue to eat, raise our families, and do our work.

165. tyche - August 20, 2010 at 05:33 pm


I do not think that victims of bullyism “experience life as a torture.” (Torture actually happens.) What victims experience are the constant violent actions of the bully as psychological torture. Many participating in this discussion have repeated that among those actions are:
Constant sabotage, censorship, threats, micromanagement, slander, retaliation, isolation, ostracism, fabrication of evidence, destruction of reputation, moral harm, intimidation, insults, blaming of the victim, impunity, lack of respect, humiliation, and dismissiveness.

No human being could claim to be so when they have inflicted such harm.

Bullyism is a form of violation and assault of human dignity.

What might have killed Mr. Morrison could have been the sense that his human dignity had been violated and assaulted and that the institution where he was working disregarded his complaints, because bullyism has now been “normalized.”

Hopefully those participating in this conversation could think about an organized and effective response against bullies and the institutions that protect them.

We also need to question management techniques. Once I mistakenly opened the door of the wrong classroom at my university; they were having a workshop for administrators to teach them techniques of how to deal with (manipulate) different kinds of employees. I wonder if universities promote management techniques that encourage bullyism and then they only find the people who have the “right” personality to “collaborate” with the untold mission of those institutions.

166. tyche - August 20, 2010 at 05:41 pm

Sorry about the typo, it should have read Mr. Morrissey.

167. performance_expert2 - August 20, 2010 at 07:45 pm

Discussion thread: How bad are American labor practices?

http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/d3foe/how_bad_are_american_labor_practices_this_bad/

168. horsefeathers - August 23, 2010 at 07:51 pm

First, there's the co-worker bully. And then, there are the people of the Human Resources Dept or other company management who encourage the bully. It's called "dehiring" and is a well-known term known by all who study business administration.

That way, the company doesn't have to pay for unemployment insurance. Instead of TACTFULLY firing an employee who is no longer useful to the company, the bully with HR/Management blessings can harass this employee until they quit or worse . . .

Human Resource employees are representatives of the company. They can certainly do a great deal of positive work and do help mediate a case of harassment to a mutually beneficial end. But in far too many instances, dehiring and deception are used to harass or emotionally hurt an employee to "encourage" him/her to resign.

In an age where political correctness has gone way beyond common sense or has become a useless media ploy, where are all the people who recognize that company sponsored workplace harassment exists and DO something about it?

You know the expressions and humor about lawyers. Well I think it's time that people realize that Human Resource personnel and their practices are interchangeable with that of the attorney.

Everyone has their job to do, and it will never be perfect. Let's see if we can give it our best shot to fight the good fight in behalf of this newer battle on the civil rights front.

169. honore - August 24, 2010 at 11:06 am

horsefeathers,

ALL of your points are excellent. The saddest part of any bullying/mobbing scenario is that EVERYONE loses.

The target (not victim) lives a hell on earth. They suffer untold financial, physical, emotional, psychological, professional damage, while the perpetrators get to go on with their pathetic, vicious, little lives and NEVER learn what humanity and kindness look like. Theirs is definitely a deep-rooted psychological profile in hurtful behavior and their personal lives typically reflect the same history.

Is it the institution's responsibility to rehabilitate any of the charaters in such a hideous drama? I guess the answer depends on the school's commitment to the safety and health of all community members and their willingness to actually UNDERSTAND the dynamics of the bully culture and not just issue edicts via e-mail "supporting" and "understanding" the victims' "pain".

The UVa at the VERY least failed many of the characters here and all except for Morrissey can even entertain a "better day".

The HR, Ombuds, Equity & Diversity, Human Relations offices on most campuses are typically a collection of losers who spend their days shuffling paper from 1 side of their desk to the other. These units DO NOT see themselves as change agents for the improvement of quality of life factors for ANYONE! And so to expect that they would respond in a positive, pro-active or healthy manner is just an exercise in misplaced trust.

Yes, they will occasionally send out 1 of their drones to a campus forum to recite the party line on any number of pop-issues, like "confidentiality", "resume-writing" "diversity" or "institutional policy on transfers or reclassification" but NOT on any topic that would actually have impact on the PERSONAL aspect of an employees life, on any significant level, especially those experiencing the horrendous duress of a bully situation.

Until these offices that are TYPICALLY the frontline contact for most faculty and staff when experiencing the trauma of a bully or mob, ACTUALLY decide to RESPOND effectively to these hideous episodes, nothing will change but the names and the results will only be repeated again and again. And the lawsuits will continue to arrive at the President/Chancellor's office.

Personally, I can only wish a very personal and up-close experience for them with a bully or 2, to wake them up to the fact that bullying REALLY does happen and the effects of such abuse are VERY real and VERY long-lasting. I personally know several top-notch professionals whose careers and personal lives were DESTROYED as a DIRECT result of the NON-response of instituional lackies whose passive indifference could have been upgraded to (at a minimum) more than pat on the back and a whispered..."hang in there, it will be all right", while our "bully" continued to sharpent her/his spears in their office.

A living witness in...
Madison, WI The CLASSIC study in NON-response to bully scenarios.

170. tyche - August 27, 2010 at 04:28 am

horsefeathers and honore, thank you for your comments.

Virginia, Alabama, Wisconsin, Florida, New York, Oregon, Illinois, California, Michigan, Texas, Kentucky, Arizona, and many more. The problem is that the classic study in non-response to bully scenarios can be found everywhere. How many more people have to unfairly lose their living before effective legislation and action can take place? How many more people have to die physically like Mr. Morrissey? Or financially, professionally, or emotionally like others participating or not in this conversation? Meanwhile the bullies enjoy tonight's dinner with no remorse because they are highly trained in "Management" skills that protect their institutions, but oppress the human beings that work for them.

Could the CHE investigate and present the management skills being taught to de-hire university faculty and staff? Do universities use funding for that? If so, how much?

171. tolerantly - August 27, 2010 at 11:56 am

"How many more people have to die physically like Mr. Morrissey?"

Horsefeathers, boy, it couldn't get more appropriate. The man died, from what we're told, because he was mentally ill and felt he couldn't afford his condo without this particular job. He figured a condo was worth dying over. The non-mentally-ill staffer? Got another job and left, correctly figured that it wasn't worth the stress or the fight.

Depression and disordered thinking, not Ted's behavior, drove Kevin to suicide.

Step back and take a look at what you're saying before you go blaming other people for suicides.


172. chronserve - August 31, 2010 at 04:43 pm

Just because someone is depressed doesn't mean their concerns should be ignored or aren't valid.

173. zangvogel - August 31, 2010 at 04:52 pm

"His long history of depression caused him trouble throughout his career," Mr. Genoways wrote in a statement to The Chronicle, "leading often to conflicts with his bosses."

is a completely inappropriate thing to say when two paragraphs down it says:

"The university wouldn't comment on that or answer most of The Chronicle's questions about the situation, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters."

174. tyche - September 03, 2010 at 04:33 am

1

175. tyche - September 03, 2010 at 04:36 am

Tolerantly:

Do you really believe that Mr. Morrissey committed suicide because, as you wrote, "he felt he couldn't afford his condo"? Are you minimizing the feelings of somebody who was going to lose his livelihood and his home? Are you aware that in the current economic crisis, it would have been very difficult for him to obtain another job in the editorial industry? He was over 50.

176. tyche - September 03, 2010 at 04:49 am

Regardless of people's strength, bullyism has physical and emotional effects. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD are evidence of the perjury that bullies accomplish.

If Mr. Morrissey suffered from depression, they still need to investigate if his workplace environment exacerbated his condition, leading him to commit suicide.

177. parsifals - September 04, 2010 at 02:03 am

I only learned about Kevin Morrissey today when listening to the NYT book section podcast. It was such a surprising piece, I went looking for and found this article and all 177 posts (at last count) most of which I read.

I haven't read the Chronicle since 1992 when I left academic life--because of a bully. It is probably that memory that spurred me into finding out more about what happened at the Review and what prompted Mr. Morrissey's irrevocable decision to end his life.

Many of the responses here resonated. I have little to add to this body of Chronicle readers except to say that academic life is filled with challenges that could be met with better institutional policies, experienced and well trained HR and support staff, and both sensitivity and understanding when inappropriate behavior is exhibited by senior or junior facility members, support staff and administrators.

Although many argue the inappropriateness of the article, claim bias, among other accusations, it is also imperative that we speak out, and find answers that may ameliorate any future tragedies of this magnitude.

Otherwise, our silence is consent to the status quo.

178. mubbs - September 08, 2010 at 10:50 am

I ussualy don't give a crap about objective journalism---but this piece is really bad reporting. I mean you are basically reporting rumours and calling Ted Genoways a killer. I don't know Ted Genoways, but whatever he is--bad boss, egomanic--I'm sure he deserves a little more respect than being blamed by a national magazine for the death of his employee.

The Chronicle should aplogize for this article. You are destroying Ted Genoways' reputation. Your magazine is like the FOX of academic news.

179. seasonalprosperina - September 11, 2010 at 02:40 pm

As someone who's kind of been exactly in the midst of the type of dilemma that the VQR, Mr. Morrissey, and The institution, itself, I can honestly say that the more you talk about something, the more dulled down the blade of the truth or moral responsibility becomes for all parties fighting over something that can no longer be changed, and is no longer recognizable. That guy had a lot of weight on his shoulders. That guy was distraught. He, just like all others involved in the real arguments that took place, fell victim to being blind to their own advice: show. don't tell." People kept talking about helping him, and they didn't do it, because they were too busy determining who should be held accountable for the success or failure of a man's actual heartbeat. This man, though highly honorable in life, chose a shortcut to the afterlife. He chose that, by himself, and if he was actively managing his medications and own emotions with mental health professionals, then him overriding all of his personal work and progress, and ending it, is an issue within that circle.

Everyone is to blame for how he felt - including himself, but unless a petition was signed by all of the people in his life, instructing him to end his own life, because they did not care to put him out of his misery, and he decided it was a "rational" thing to do all by himself, then it's all between him and the higher power he answers to.

There's no way to prove anything true or false, and it really isn't anyone's fault. I am a personal expert in this matter.

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