• September 4, 2015

Workplace Mediators Seek a Role in Taming Faculty Bullies

Workplace Mediators Seek a Role in Taming Faculty Bullies 1

Lamont Stallworth says the use of mediation in bullying cases could mitigate psychological harm and keep victims from leaving their jobs.

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Lamont Stallworth says the use of mediation in bullying cases could mitigate psychological harm and keep victims from leaving their jobs.

College faculty members who are bullied or abused by coworkers often feel they must either suffer through it or quit. Soon, however, colleges may be pressed to give them a third option: requesting the intervention of a mediator or arbitrator to try to turn their workplace situation around.

What is unclear is whether such interventions will make life more tolerable for bullies' victims or leave them feeling more beat up than they were before.

Colleges already frequently use various forms of third-party intervention, broadly known as alternative dispute resolution, to try to keep complaints of unlawful discrimination from turning into costly legal battles. Noting that such disputes often involve allegations of bullying or other forms for workplace abuse, two prominent organizations that provide alternative dispute resolution plan in the coming months to undertake a national campaign to urge colleges to use that same approach in handling complaints of mistreatment that do not necessarily violate any civil-rights laws.

The effort is being led by the American Arbitration Association, a nonprofit provider of alternative dispute resolution based in New York, and by the ADR Consortium, which consists of companies and individuals that offer such services. Also involved is the Institute of Human Resources and Industrial Relations at Loyola University Chicago, which plans to do research on the effectiveness of the approach.

In a paper scheduled for presentation Wednesday at the annual conference of the American Association of University Professors, Lamont E. Stallworth, a professor of human resources and employment relations at the Loyola institute and a founder of the ADR Consortium, and Myrna C. Adams, an organizational consultant who formerly served as Duke University's vice president for institutional equity, argue that alternative dispute resolution offers an "ethical, professional, and cost-effective" way to deal with bullying and other forms of workplace incivility.

By handling bullying complaints confidentially in such a manner, the paper by Mr. Stallworth and Ms. Adams says, colleges can help keep the victims of bullies from developing psychological or health problems as a result of their stress, and can avoid the costs associated with having to replace faculty members who otherwise might quit their jobs in response to the bullying they have experienced or witnessed.

Mr. Stallworth and Ms. Adams acknowledge, however, that they cannot point to any research showing alternative dispute resolution to be an effective means of dealing with bullying. And many experts on bullying argue that what research actually shows is that mediation by some third party is an ineffective means of dealing with bullying, and may even leave the victims worse off.

"There is great consensus about the futility of [alternative dispute resolution] to work with bullying," Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, said in an e-mail message.

In a September 2009 article in Consulting Psychology Journal, Mr. Namie and Ruth Namie, his wife and partner in running the Workplace Bullying Institute, wrote, "Traditional conflict mediation ignores the targeted worker's need for justice and acknowledgment of the harm" and "focuses only on current and future circumstances, ignoring the past."

"If there is a power imbalance between target and bully, as there often is, mediation can harm the target," they said.

Bully for You

Workplace bullying is a big concern in academe and a source of much misery for some faculty members.

Kenneth Westhues, a professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, has devoted much of his career to studying "mobbing"—the type of bullying that occurs when a bunch of people gang up on someone—and has found academe to be rife with such behavior. Mobbing, he says, occurs most in workplaces where workers have high job security, where there are few objective measures of performance, and where there is frequent tension between loyalty to the institution and loyalty to some higher purpose. Colleges fit that bill.

The AAUP's annual conference this week has three sessions devoted specifically to faculty bullying. In their paper, Mr. Stallworth and Ms. Adams describe how bullying in academe can take forms other than mobbing, including "regulation bullying," where the victim is forced to comply with unnecessary rules; "legal bullying," which involves using legal action to control or punish a person; "pressure bullying," which involves making unreasonable time demands; and "corporate bullying," in which an employer abuses a worker who cannot easily find another job.

They blame three common features of academic environments—big egos, an individualistic ethic, and tolerance for behaviors not accepted elsewhere—for the prevalence of bullying behavior in such settings.

Bullies and Victims

In a paper scheduled to be presented on Thursday, three researchers from Wilkes University, in Pennsylvania, will discuss the results of a survey that asked faculty members in economics and business about bullying behavior. They found that among such academics, men are more likely to be bullies than women, both genders are about equally likely to be victims, and older faculty members are more likely to be bullies and younger ones to be victims.

The most common type of bullying behavior faculty members engage in, the Wilkes researchers found, is discounting another person's accomplishments, followed by turning other people against their victim, or subjecting their victim to public criticism or constant scrutiny.

The researchers—Jennifer Edmonds, associate professor of statistics and operations management; Dean Frear, assistant professor of organizational behavior; and Ellen Raineri, assistant professor of business—caution that their survey had a low response rate. Just 60, or 2.7 percent, of the 2,200 faculty members they contacted via e-mail responded to their questions, they said, and thus their findings may be skewed by sampling bias.

But a 2007 online survey of more than 7,700 adults conducted by Zogby International for the Workplace Bullying Institute similarly found that, among workplaces in general, men and bosses are disproportionately represented among bullies, and women and people in nonsupervisory roles account for a disproportionate share of victims.

Other survey research by the institute has found that only a small fraction of workers who complain about bullying to their employers feel that a fair investigation was conducted, that they were protected from further bullying, and that their bully suffered consequences. The far more common outcome was for the employer to do nothing and for the victims to be retaliated against and eventually lose their jobs.

The institute's 2007 survey found that workplace bullying was four times as prevalent as discriminatory harassment that is prohibited by law. The organization has been urging states to adopt what it calls the Healthy Workplace Bill, a measure that gives workers who have been subjected to an abusive work environment the right to sue their employers. Since 2003, 17 states have considered such legislation, but none has yet passed it into law. The New York Senate passed such a measure last month, but the State Assembly has yet to vote on it. The bill's opponents include many business leaders and the mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg.

Among the other nations that have passed laws intended to curb workplace bullying are Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Quebec adopted such a law, called the Quebec Psychological Harassment Act, in 2004.

Different Perspectives

A key element of the campaign planned by the American Arbitration Association and the ADR Consortium is persuading colleges to adopt anti-bullying policies and codes of civility. That way, although alternative dispute resolution would not be used unless both sides agreed to it, the alleged perpetrator would have an incentive to enter into the resolution process, to avoid facing disciplinary action.

Christine L. Newhall, senior vice president of the American Arbitration Association, said in an interview on Tuesday that many types of dispute resolution could be used in such situations, including fact-finding, binding or nonbinding arbitration, or mediation in which a facilitator tries to bring together both sides. She is confident that well-trained providers of such services can resolve many bullying-related conflicts in academe, just as they settle many other workplace disputes.

"Sometimes the bully does not even know they are a bully," Ms. Newhall said.

Mr. Stallworth is playing a central role in the effort as both a faculty member at the Loyola institute and program director of the ADR Consortium, which he established in 1995. A veteran user of alternative dispute resolution to settle complaints of illegal discrimination, he says he became interested in research on workplace bullying several years ago and has been considering how to apply the expertise of those like him to such conflicts.

If mediation can be used to resolve disputes over equal-employment opportunity, Mr. Stallworth said in an interview this month, "then there is no reason why we cannot structure mediation protocols—or, for that matter, arbitration protocols—to deal with any issues of power imbalance in workplace bullying disputes."

Martin F. Scheinman, a prominent professional arbitrator and mediator who helped set up the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution at Cornell University, said in an interview Tuesday that he similarly sees the potential of alternative dispute resolution to defuse such workplace conflicts in academe, especially in situations where one side may not even be entertaining the perspective of the other.

"When people don't get what they want, they don't say, 'Maybe it has something to do with me,'" Mr. Scheinman said.

Mr. Stallworth said that he and other leaders of the effort plan to invite higher-education associations to join it, and to offer local and regional training to colleges in dealing with bullying and incivility. When problems crop up on campuses, the American Arbitration Association and the ADR Consortium will provide referrals to people affiliated with or trained by them who can provide conflict-resolution services.

The groups involved with the effort plan next year to host a national summit on alternative dispute resolution in Washington. They intend to devote much of the conference to discussions of bullying and incivility at colleges, and plan to invite various higher-education associations to participate.

Dangers Ahead

"I go for anything that works," Mr. Westhues, the mobbing expert at the University of Waterloo, said this month. He cautioned, however, that even the best-intentioned approaches to bullying can backfire. For example, many colleges have been adopting "respectful workplace" or "dignity at work" policies calling for people to be civil to their fellow employees, but he has watched bullies bring frivolous complaints under such policies as just one more means of tormenting their victims.

"From my research, the bottom line that I come to is that there is no substitute in the workplace for adroit, fair management or administration," Mr. Westhues said. If a college embraces alternative dispute resolution but "you have an administration that is basically incompetent or lacks imagination in working out ways for people to live with each other, what you are going to have is an endless series of disputes going to some formal dispute-resolution mechanism."

In an article published in August 2004 in the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, Patricia Ferris, then a doctoral student in industrial organizational psychology at the University of Calgary, studied organizations' responses to bullying and found that "mediation was frequently unsuccessful due to power differentials between the employee and the bully, inexperience on the part of the person conducting the mediation, and lack of understanding of the differences between bullying and interpersonal conflict." In fact, she said, mediation "was the most damaging response to employees" because they often felt betrayed by organizations that did not provide the help they sought, and ended up seeking more psychological counseling, on average, than people who worked for organizations that either did nothing about bullying behavior or had policies against bullying which they rigidly enforced.

Mr. Stallworth argues, however, that there are many types of bullying behavior and many approaches to alternative dispute resolution, and some forms of mediation do not require the two sides to even have any contact with each other. He said he is confident that the approaches he advocates will be effective in a variety of situations involving bullying in academe, and that they are preferable to the choices the victims of faculty bullies now face.

"So many people have dealt with the consequences of being bullied," Mr. Stallworth said. "We all know how terrible it is to be treated in that fashion."


1. acad301 - June 09, 2010 at 07:01 am

There must be something more proactive we can do. By the time it gets to the point of needing a third party, the damage has already been done, and the fact the bullying occurred for so long means that getting the victim to report/ask for a third party will also be the problem. I know this personally, and I know so many other assistant professors and staff members who suffer for months and sometimes years from being bullied. Chairs are also not equipped with the management and leadership skills to deal with this problem, either. They need to step in (of course, given that they are not the bullier themselves) and do something about it, confronting the bullier head on. But many chairs don't have this ability. They need to be trained to have it, and trained regularly and early on. Finally, if the bullier is tenured, it doesn't matter; what should happen is that they are fired. But, of course, this is impossible.

2. pilotguy - June 09, 2010 at 07:06 am

I am a vicitm of bullying -- that is to say my situation includes 1)discounting my accomplishments, 2) public criticism 3) constant scrutiny.

These circumstances include a denial of tenure (second attempt was successful), resistance to promotion to full professor evidenced by terse, one paragraph review letters (the mob comprises 1/2 of the T&P committee), no recognition for 6 figure federal grants, no recognition for excellent teaching, close scrutiny of each of the 3 scholarly publications I write each year etc etc.

One important thing to note -- fighting a situation such as mine is POINTLESS. In my experience administration will not committ to anything (stopping the bullying). The evidence has to be exxtraordinariy clear -- physical in nature -- before anything will be done. Even then, complaining is very likely to add fuel to a fire and make a situation WORSE. I have tenure and will avoid doing anything stupid to get myself fired -- at the same time I would not wish my place employment on a dog.

The point is that IMHO -- focusing on an individual instance of bullying is a good idea. At the same time -- in my experience -- universities are a human resource management train-wreck. Departments are generally led by former professors with no industry-management-leadership training (or abilities)-- in other words individuals who underqualified to perform HRM adequately. In my place of employment most are completely clueless on how to manage disputes constructively. Bullying could be reduced dramatically if you have middle managers who have the wherewithall to maginalize such behavior. That has to be fixed first.

3. shiggins2 - June 09, 2010 at 07:15 am

It is so important that 'colleageship' be a category in the annual review process. Any individual who creates a hostile work environment needs to be called to task. A strong and principled Chairperson and Faculty Personnel Committee is central to the effectiveness of this process. And Departments need to be encouraged to have open and honest discussions about professionalism and nurturing a sense of community and mutual respect. I have seen so many cases of bullying (often a cover for poor academic and/or teaching performance), and the only way to deal with it is to confront it directly. Offer the bully the opportunity to change their behavior and then hold them accountable for that change.

4. 12114440 - June 09, 2010 at 07:22 am

Mediation is only as good as the parties involved, and only if both sides have the motivation and assets to make it work. I've seen it work extremely well in bullying situations -- especially between groups of students, where the goal is getting both sides to look through the eyes of the other and increase acceptance and tolerance. I've also seen it backfire when the mediator shared materials that were expected to be kept private. And, once the mediation agreement resulted in both sides uniting to present demands to the college employer, for example, we can make this work, only if the college gives us each a new office in a separate building and each our own department to manage and never have to deal with each other. So, the lesson is that you need to have the ground rules very clearly spelled out about confidentiality and about creating motivation to come to an agreement with each other without unreasonable making demands of the College, and also that both sides are expected to compromise. And of course, it may not work at all if the faculty victim has nothing to give to induce the bully to change his or her ways.

5. goxewu - June 09, 2010 at 07:40 am

1. The AAUP, especially if it's the faculty CBA representative, is a gutless organization regarding faculty bullying. It's only interested in helping a faculty member with a complaint against the administration, not another faculty member. It will essentially paper over the complaint, try to mollify the complainant with "You don't really want to make waves, do you?" and side with the bully if the bully is the senior faculty member.

2. The uselessness of this article, the paper upon which it reports, and the whole "mediation" scam is evidenced in the fact that the word TENURE does not appear until the comments. Most of the bullying and the most severe faculty bullying is perpetrated by tenured--that is, protected, immune, "made men" faculty--against vulnerable, job-insecure untenured faculty.

I speak from personal experience, as a former faculty member who was tenured and who, for a few years, chaired a department. (No, I didn't bully anyone, and no incidents of bullying came to light in my department[s]. What I saw, more than once from fairly close range, were in neighboring departments.)

6. 11119344 - June 09, 2010 at 07:40 am

As someone who has been researching and writing about the legal and policy implications of workplace bullying for years, I heartily concur with those who doubt the efficacy and humanity of applying mediation to genuine bullying situations, as opposed to conflicts involving incivility or personality clashes. After all, one does not attempt to "mediate" abuse. For more: http://newworkplace.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/can-workplace-bullying-situations-be-mediated/

David Yamada
Professor of Law and Director, New Workplace Institute
Suffolk University Law School, Boston
Host of Minding the Workplace blog at:

7. 11119344 - June 09, 2010 at 08:02 am

With apologies for not including this in my previous comment (no. 6), readers also may be interested in reading "Workplace bullying and mobbing in academe: The hell of heaven?" at http://newworkplace.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/workplace-bullying-and-mobbing-in-academe-the-hell-of-heaven/, by far the most read entry among the hundreds I've written for my blog. This is, sadly, a real problem.

David Yamada

8. d_and_der - June 09, 2010 at 08:18 am

1. Bullies can not be rehabilitated
2. Victims who complain will get zero response/protection
3. Few if any people in academe have the courage to take proactive action on anything except protecting their own jobs.
4. I thought bullying was added to Title VII. If yes, why not fire the bully tenured or not.
5. Why are academics such uncivilized savages? I thought we were the cream of the crop. Apparently NOT!!!
6. Mediation will only make things worse

9. phdgram - June 09, 2010 at 08:26 am

Workplace bullying is real in higher education. Although I eventually left one institution, I stood up to male bullies who wanted to push me around in my college. Unfortunately,my dean eventually became a party to the bullying too. In my last position in higher education, I was bullied by women who claim to be feminists. They behaved just as the men did, only in pantsuits. Are there any real solutions with regard to mediation? As long as tenure remains the prize for which all academics aspire, bullying will occur. The system is flawed.

10. ethan56 - June 09, 2010 at 08:37 am

The problems recounted here by the commentators are very serious ones.

On the other side, accusations of "lack of collgiality" can and have been employed as weapons against independent thinkers who expressed unpopular opinions. It's happened in my own Department (not to me). So I am very dubious about making this vague term a central part of promotion, because it can be a cover for imposing conformity.

11. uidaho1 - June 09, 2010 at 08:40 am

Lack of accountability, made worse by tenure, is a big cause. ALL the places I have worked have accountability cracks the size of that big canyon on Mars where bullied, abused faculty are thrown...

12. vernaye - June 09, 2010 at 08:48 am

When the bully you're dealing with - someone who, in past jobs, has a) not had his contract renewed for fear of physical violence and b) been fired from a tenured position due to assault charges - is drinking buddies with the college's VP then, well, you're screwed. The only thing I could do was get a different job, and thankfully, I now have one that is much better. Had I complained about the physical and verbal threats, though, I would only have been able to appeal to a committee put together - you guessed it - by the college's VP.

13. lowenger - June 09, 2010 at 08:50 am

Interesting article. But there is no mention of the bullying of graduate students. One book I've seen mentions that 50% of graduate students leave their program before completion, and this has nothing to do with academic ability. Are we culling bright young minds that do not want to work in a violent setting? Are we selecting for those that will be willing to work in an atmosphere of bullying at the masters and doctoral levels?

Not to mention that bullying advisors have the power to ruin the career of up and coming students.

14. wagamama - June 09, 2010 at 08:53 am

The Internet age has facilitated a new bullying tactic: writing abusive or accusatory e-mails and sending multiple copies to administrators or superiors. I see this one all the time.

15. jeremyjake - June 09, 2010 at 09:01 am

After being in academe for 20 years I found myself the target of a bully, experienced mobbing, went to mediation, was stonewalled by administration who couldn't face making a hard decision. I left the institution, the faculty mediator quit the position, and the bully continues. What emerged during the process was a history of this same person bullying grad students, faculty and staff, but that didn't matter. While bullying occurs in every profession, academe harbors those whose behavior would not be tolerated in the same way elsewhere. Our continual image of ourselves as a learned, genetleman's group, whose privilege as thinkers trumps civility has to change before anything else can. We live in our heads with images of ourselves that our actions belie.

If we are so smart, why not create a model system for other professions, including ours, that balances security of employment and necessary creative freedom with accountability?

16. farmerm - June 09, 2010 at 09:02 am

I'd like to second d_and_der and uidah01. The worst part is that, as one would expect, the bullies finally tend to take formal action against their anxious, if not terrified, victims as soon as they finally respond.

Regradless, I'm disappointed that even this small, ineffectual step would do nothing to protect bullied, totally helpless grad students. In my department the people bullied (or people with martyr complexes who feel bullied) by other faculty members turn around on students and do things like breaking the law openly then pointing out -- as one always can with a grad student -- that if we complain or respond we'll never be employed. Report sexual harrassment, open acknowledged sabatoge, drunken attacks, theft of one's work -- and your career dies. Tenure breeds abuse. I'm not convinced it makes anything else. It certainlly doesn't make anything so powerful.

17. honore - June 09, 2010 at 09:09 am

Bullying is not exclusively a sick scenario for faculty quarters, but also administrative ranks.

And ONE point is unequivocally clear in any H/E bullying scenario and that is that the institution typically will ignore, poo-poo and blatantly deny that any of it ever happened. The cover-ups begin immediately and the victim is marginalized shortly thereafter --- not included in departmental/divisional meetings, not promoted or advanced DESPITE the merit of her/his work (even at NATIONAL levels before her/his peers), denied funding for academic/research projects, not funded in innumerable areas and the list could go on and on, EVEN including physical, emotional and professional threats.

"Ombudsman", HR, EEO, AA and "Equity & Diversity" or any other office charged with addressing these complaints are (in my very EXTENSIVE experience) NOT WORTH the time it takes to visit them or the 100% recycled paper on which they tout their "mission" to protect faculty and staff against any abuse. These offices are typically staffed with passive/aggressive paper shufflers who make cameo appearances at departments when called in to be part of some "professional development" charade about how “progressive” the institution is in these matters. They know exactly how to dodge the issues that the victim suffers under and they WILL NOT take your side on anything, no matter who many times they tell you..."uh-huh, I hear you", "oh, that must have been awful", "oh, what a monster your dean/director is". After that the silence will be deafening.

Unfortunately, but also understandably, most often these sordid tales are kept quiet by the victim because s/he fears retribution and retaliation that will DEFINITELY follow the announcement (however, "confidential") that these offices "assure". The victim typically has bills to pay, mouths to feed and professional responsibilities to comply with which further undermine her/his ability to fight back. And taking legal action costs A LOT of money and only serves to make the mess even more contentious, but often is the only road left.

And remember the victim may have a lawyer, but the university will have an ENTIRE platoon of these legal lackeys whose only task is to defend the indefensible and to keep the emperor/empress/dean/chair/director at the top of this stinking pile of bureaucratic crap from glancing at her/his naked and oozing embarrassment in any mirror.

My advice...
1. realize that you will NOT be protected and forget about any limp policy of harassment prevention the institution has in place. These "policies" are intended as feel-good window-dressing for prospective faculty and staff to lick on the screen of their laptops and NOT intended to do ANYTHING once a bullying scenario actually comes to light.
2. get your resume/CV out immediately and trust NO ONE with any information on what your plans are. And your plans need to focus on ONE thing only...a trajectory out of this sorry hole of cowardice and mediocrity.
3. keep a very low-profile when in the presence of the abuser.
4. NEVER meet with her/him privately. If you do, be prepared to be taped or to have your words twisted in any future attempt you would make to resolve the matter. Be prepared to hear your abuser say..."I, really did try to work with (you) but s/he was just not cooperative/incompetent/hostile/unmanageable/(fill-in-the-blank)".
5. Network, network, network nationally, locally and internationally if necessary. No effort to get away from this toxic environment will be unnecessary. At this point, the game is about survival and YOU need to remember that every second of everyday, no matter what hollow “assurances” you get from the campus flunkies who will parade themselves before you as “allies”..

I speak from very painful experience and from having watched other colleagues get thrown under the proverbial bus, by university administrators/faculty who were charged with "resolving" such matters. Remember, typically that faculty member will have tenure and could care less about you, your family or your professional future. In the case of administration, these abusers, make sure early on in their "career" to align themselves with passive, incompetent, lackluster cowards (like themselves) who will stand by THEM when you complain about even the most egregious abuse and they may EVEN testify that you were in fact the "problem" all along.
And outside "mediation" is even more worthless. These intermediaries are typically fumbling former bureaucrats that saw a profitable niche and burrowed their gopher hole in it. You will NEVER see them or hear from them again after they collect their FAT check from the school for services rendered, as they offer their condolences..."we gave it our best shot, but I guess you just didn't have a good case, after all".

And remember to live well, achieve greater success and happiness than these worthless Cretans. YOU will go on to a much more rewarding life and they will just have their pile of divorce decrees, negative medical prognoses and silence from their “friends” and alienated families. Ultimately they will be their own punishment and you will be far away from their disgusting, worthless selves.

Lived to tell about it in.......Madison, WI,

18. jack_433 - June 09, 2010 at 09:13 am

The bullies are everywhere, but things are really simple on this one, folks. Get rid of tenure, then administrators can usher the bullies right out the front door, just like they do it in the business world.

19. abcde1234 - June 09, 2010 at 09:15 am

I'll add my voice to those skeptical about the value of mediation for taming bullies. Several years ago I was a member of a department with a serious (tenured, old, marginal scholarship) bully, who was causing particular problems for junior faculty and had been for a decade or so. A well-meanng dean called in a mediator, and everyone got to hold hands and sing Kumbaya and feel better about expressing our pain. No public flogging of the Bully resulted from the exercise, much to everyone's dismay, but the Dean quietly reigned the Bully in a little bit and tried harder to shield the targets (me and a few others) from the worst of the bully's bad behavior. But the knowledge of the Bully's behavior never flitered up past the Dean, and when he (the Dean) stepped down, the Buly's behavior and the mediators report were airbrished from history, and the Bully went on to do more damage to more people that ultimately resulted in people leaving the department (including me) in search of a more sane work place. In fact, if there was any otcome of the mediation, it was that the Bullys rage become more fixed on the targets, because the Bully was then convinved, and if you think about it, had evidence, that the targets were working to undermine her. And since the Dean who had "tried" to "help" was no longer in the picture, the Bully's fixed rage was quite effective.

The commenters here are spot-on regarding the futility of these situations as long as bad behavior is unpunished or even rewarded, and when deans and provosts and such refuse to manage these situations. It is complicated-even bullies have rights, and most bullies are of the type with will threaten to sue the university if someone looks at them cross-eyed, and of course efforts to reign in a bully will be seen by the bully as, well, bullying.

But at the very least, I think the chairs, deans, and provosts who refuse to bitch-slap the bullies have a moral obligation to make sure that they protect the bully's targets.

That being said, when I read pilotguy's comment (#2) that he "would not wish [his] place of employment on a dog", I realized that if my former department's bully and her enablers had not catalyzed my decision to leave that place, I would still be there and miserable, rather then where I am now, making a little more money and suffereing a lot less frustration.

But it is no way to run a university. And I will surely think of that when it is time to shell out a quarter of a million bucks to send my child to college.

20. malhotrad - June 09, 2010 at 09:16 am

First of all, thank you for addressing such an important issue. I am aware of several instances of work place bullying in academe and in almost all of these cases, nothing is ever done by the university. While everyone has highlighted the bullying, no one is really trying to answer as to why it happens. As I understand, it is mainly because the bullies are very insecure. They do not like someone getting ahead of them. Usually, they expect that you coauthor with them so that they can also ride on your tail. Most of the time, (poor) deans and VPs do nothing because even they are afraid of this gang of bullies and in the process, victim can get harrassed even more.

21. dchance - June 09, 2010 at 09:16 am

This story really made me stop and give thanks that in my 30 year academic career, I have never had the displeasure of working with anyone who behaves like a juvenile, at least not to the extent of bullying someone. I am really sorry to hear that others have had this misfortune. I had no idea. I thought highly educated serious professionals do not resort to this kind of childish behavior. I won't deny that some of my scholarly colleagues behave childishly at times but never to the point of bullyism. Of course, I totally forgot that children behave like children and adults behave like children because they can get away with it. Tenure makes it easier to do so, but this behavior must surely also occur in other workplace environments, though I never saw it when I was in the corporate world.


22. cleverclogs - June 09, 2010 at 09:24 am

@jeremyjake #15 who writes: "If we are so smart, why not create a model system for other professions, including ours, that balances security of employment and necessary creative freedom with accountability?"

I'll tell you why not - most of the bullies are deeply invested in perpetuating the current system - they lived through it, have some scars and feel everyone should have to earn it too. Perhaps not surprisingly, these people often float to positions of power.

I've worked in many industries, including high finance and entertainment - in NYC, no less - and academe is, by far, the most uncivilized industry I've ever been in. It starts in graduate school, as farmerm #16 says, and is pervasive in administration.

Sidenote: In South Hadley, MA, several students bullied a new student in school and via the internet. Because the victim committed suicide, these students are being charged with a crime. Whatever the outcome, this will set a legal precedent. People used to behave themselves for fear of retribution in the afterlife. If the bullies go the jail, maybe people will transfer that fear to retribution in this life.

23. copology - June 09, 2010 at 09:25 am

I am not sure why the trenditional term bullying is being used as though it is something new when actually it is simple harassment. Mediation when used appropriately is a very effective tool. Just like laws, and restraining orders do not protect victims fully. As a mediator, the approach that I developed and use effective (Copology at Copology.com)is to provide a foundation for resolution that is grounded in learning self-protection not fostering further dependency on others (law, mediators, nor arbitrators)for safety. Iatrogenic effects are evident in flourishing recent economically-based workshops and conferences on harassment (bullying).

24. tdr75 - June 09, 2010 at 09:29 am

goxewu hits the nail on the head. While I am not faculty I have worked with and around faculty constantly over the last 8 years or so... and the bullies tend to be the ones with Tenure. They are untouchable because as so many have noted the administration is generally afraid to set the precedent of firing a tenured professor... and generally the AAUP will shout and scream bloody murder defending the faculty member fired (regardless of the transgressions noted it seems). It happened at one of my previous institutions.

The tenure system at all levels of education (from primary school on up the ladder) is broken. My understanding of tenure is that it was meant to protect academic speech (you can't be fired for voicing an unpopular opinion, for example), but it has become seen as a license to lifetime employment...for which it was never originally intended. It has become a justification for keeping mediocre teachers and professors. One school I worked at decided not to start a new, innovative program. Why? Because they didn't want to be saddled with 40 years of salary costs if the program didn't succeed.

Every university I have been at has had serious problems getting faculty to report on their own productivity...there seems to be a fear of being held accountable to one's work. Bullying is simply an extension of this attitude which promotes self-interest over the interests of others.

A final note...the fact that only 60 people responded out of 2200 contacts also speaks poorly to the state of faculty mentalities. We all complain about low response rates to surveys, but I wonder how non-respondents feel about undercutting a fellow academic's research. Would they want the same treatment?

25. shiksha - June 09, 2010 at 09:55 am

NO Tenure -- No bullying.

26. bert_desimone - June 09, 2010 at 09:59 am

What concerns me most about bullies is how they "breed" other bullies within an organization. Bullying becomes part of the organizational culture if it is not kept in check.

Bullies as discussed in this article are simply individuals in a position of authority who use their position to coerce others with fear. On the surface, bullying is a personal issue between individuals. Unfortunately, it is more systemic than that. It is a leadership issue. Bullies make bad leaders, though they often insinuate themselves into positions of authority, and bad leaders result in bad organizations.

27. oldassocprof - June 09, 2010 at 10:18 am

1. Insecure MHA chair was a bully at a technical college in Utica, NY. He not only was known as a bully on this campus, but had a reputation in the area as one. He once made as though to strike an accounting professor in our school of business to make him flinch.
2. This guy (tenured) threatened me (untenured)on several occasions. He was definitely trying to extract non-working co-authorships. He was incompenent. His writing was at a high school level.
3. He used students to spy on professors, and would remind the professors of this frequently.
4. I wound up being non-reappointed in a year when I had two publications and two more and a book in press. 11 out of 12 good teaching evaluations. Only 7 of the 21 professors in the school voted against me. The non-reappointment was illegal.
5. This guy was also the UUP president on campus. They were no help in this situation.
6. I got a better job rather than fight it. It delayed my tenure and promotion by three years, and I lost my SUNY sabbatical, which I would have been eligible for the following year.

28. jmalmstrom - June 09, 2010 at 10:21 am

How about administrative bullies or people who use the bully card to squelch dissent?

29. 22036873 - June 09, 2010 at 10:21 am

"NO Tenure -- No bullying."

Right, because you never find bullying in workplaces where people don't have tenure. True fact!

30. 11121641 - June 09, 2010 at 10:32 am

I was bullied and "mobbed" for 12 years. In the beginning it was openly homophobcially based, but over time became a general, concerted attack upon me. I did manage to win tenure [(a) I was eminently professionly qualified and (b) no one dared an openly homophobic pursuit.] I attempted to go the third-party conflict resolution route; this went nowhere as at least one of my bullies was always on that committee. I watched as other colleagues were hounded out of their jobs and who purused the anti-discrimination route. (Even when Massachusetts ruled in the colleague's favor and found the college guilty of discrimination, sone other reason was ALWAYS found to dismiss the colleague.) As I said, I was forced to come out as gay and HIV+. (My dept chair had the audacity to corner me and confront me about my HIV status because of rumors in the dept, a clearly illegal move on his part.) After ten years I had a major nervous breakdown and HIV illness relapse as a direct result of the hostile work environment. And I quit after 12 years. I gave up my tenure, I gave up my career, and I moved away from Boston. My life has been very econmically marginal ever since, I just barely make ends meet, no longer have health insurance, etc. But I do not for one minute regret getting the hell out of that academic shithole. I watched the "mob" literally kill two colleagues, and I am grateful to have escaped with my life.

Why do such extreme working conditions go unackowledged in the academic world??? In the final analysis I was completely on my own, and my physical survival ultimately was at stake. Doesn't this warrant ranking somewhere along the lines of crimes against humanity?! Academic integrity indeed.

31. swish - June 09, 2010 at 10:56 am

I certainly don't minimize the problem, and I've witnessed it, too. I also know someone who is nearly destitute after having been forced out of an academic position, and then pretty successfully "blacklisted" by the bully's network.

But there are also cases in which the "victim" is genuinely incompetent, overreacts to constructive criticism, or is engaging in bad behavior him- or herself. An internal investigation can often uncover the difference (and colleagues usually know), but I wonder how the Wilkes U investigators were able to tell.

(And dchance, if you're still reading, pardon my nitpicking, but I must respond: The behavior we're talking about here is hardly best described as "childish" or "juvenile." No need to represent behaviors obviously practiced by all age groups as characteristic of the one that is actually the most vulnerable!)

32. sahara - June 09, 2010 at 11:02 am

Have seen and been the victim of bullying both in the corporate workplace and in academe...in both settings, with the knowledge and tacit permission of senior management.

My observation is that bullies act from cowardice and insecurity, in all cases. They strike out at competent, performing colleagues instead of learning from them. They are miserable human beings inside, and they think this behavior will help them survive. Instead, they cheat their colleagues and their institutions or employers out of the opportunity to thrive and use human energy for positive purposes.

Top leadership setting standards, articulating them, and acting on them is the only thing that will curb bullying behavior. This is a matter of ethical standards and it must be addressed from the top down, or nothing will change.

33. john_d_foubert_phd - June 09, 2010 at 11:03 am

Generally you mediate an issue where both parties have led to a conflict. Bullying is a situation in which one person abuses a form of their power over another in a clearly inappropriate manner. It seems to me that you enable a bully by going to mediation. All too often in higher education we are too afraid to say "no" or "stop" to bad behavior. Sometimes you just have to say "cut it out or leave." Tenure provides protection for academic freedom. It means you can only be fired for cause. Bullying certainly should be cause.

34. profmomof1 - June 09, 2010 at 11:04 am

I spent years in a department where the primary bully and leader of the "mob" was the Chair. Any student or faculty member who expressed an opinion about departmental politics or the curriculum contrary to hers found themselves a victim. Since she had carefully cultivated and befriended all members of the administration above her, she was protected and allowed to do whatever she wanted. Bullied students feared to speak up and others joined the mobs so that the chair and her allies would help rather than hinder their future careers.

Every non-tenured faculty member who was bullied either ended up fired or quit. My suggestion of mediation was denied. Thankfully, AAUP stepped in, but only for those faculty members with enough courage to ask for their help. Ultimately they were able to move those faculty to another department on campus, but only when the Chair began doing things that were outright illegal (such as sending out untrue libelous claims and diatribes about the bullied professors to alumni and members of the profession).

However, nothing ever changed in the original department. Her friends in the administration were just not going to remove the Chair or put any stop to the mobbing and bullying. I hear from time to time that it's still going on against other victims.

Why do university administrations and professors put up with this sort of thing? I just don't know.

35. shiksha - June 09, 2010 at 11:24 am

@ 29. It exists everywhere, it is much more easy to fire an admin who bullies than a tenured faculty member who bulllies because he/she knows there is little anyone can do about it.

36. recurver - June 09, 2010 at 11:55 am

Never ever ever ever get emotional about your job. Your work, sure, but NEVER your job.
A bully only succeeds when the "get a rise" out of you.
Be Buddha, Jesus Christ, John Lennon, etc.
Also, everything is all always political--where you sit in a meeting, when you speak, to whom, how, etc. Keep a low profile until you get the lay of the land, but be ready to be as active as possible in a good place to preserve it.
There are many strategies for dealing with a bully.
You could run to them for protection from them, which is probably what they want, then after tenure pull a Judas or just ignore them--I know someone who married their bully then divorced them after tenure; the bully took it hard crying in the faculty lounge, basically stopping all scholarly work...
Or, be bold and respective, act hurt and confused but fearless and strong, do it in turns, like Hamlet considering if he will kill Claudius. No matter what happens they are not going to physically assault you, in fact, you are the more likely person to do physical violence (in the back of their coward minds, they know that). Just remember that you are all playing out a drama from their demented professional upbringing. You want it to end with them thinking you are their friend. Give them some reasons to see you as a useful ally.
Or you can confront the bully fearlessly, honestly, and in such a way that the bully cannot deny it. Then try to give them an "out" with honor that will nonetheless leave them wary of you. However, you have to be able to carry "hard-ass" if this will be your ploy. This is very very very hard to do, if you've never done it, do not try; and it is harder for women with men and vice versa.
Or, a bully sinks their teeth in like a pit bull, shifting their grip deeper and deeper, the trick is to give them as little to sink their teeth into as possible. Make attacking you uninteresting, don't rise to it, don't notice it, be blith itself (not dizy, or stupid, but like you somehow don't notice, like the whole thing is perhaps too silly to think about). Then, give occasional gestures of friendship, sometimes even grand gestures, something that will produce just the right touch of guilt. Bullies can be very useful allies, they just can't be trusted.

After any of these, you can wait to get tenure, then form a coalition and possibly bully the bully. Or, just ignore it all.

For older scholars, bullying is foolish because it is the scholars who come after you who will tell the history are living.
And, ultimately, this is counter productive for everyone concerned. It hurts the institution, the department, and the scholars. When you are being bullied you have a responsibility to resolve it by protecting all involved from the bully, including the bully them-self.

This is a thinking through not advice. Resolutions reached are your own and not mine as there are indeed an infinite variety of bully as there are an infinite number of possible responses.

37. pokerphd - June 09, 2010 at 12:17 pm

In may case, the constant bullying I absorbed essentially ended the day I played a summative recording thereof for the Board Chair. I had previously underestimated how far an otherwise innocuous looking ballpoint pen (with a convenient USB port for audio download)could go toward improving the workplace environment. Get smart indeed!

38. bekka_alice - June 09, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I reported for several years to a bully empowered by the gossip and malice of a higher level administrator and a lower level "pet" who plotted with her - the ouster of the old regime and hiring of an administration intolerant of workplace drama did a great deal to alleviate the bullying. The period during which she was encouraged in her behavior was hellish in part because of the ingenious methods of bullying (e.g. pairing tasks that required complete concentration with tasks that required switching frequently between different customers and priorities and measuring the performance of employees forced to work this way against a favored employee not required to do the two types of tasks simultaneously - or implying that letters of thanks from across our customer base must somehow be fraudulent) and in part because calling her out was frustratingly difficult because addressing the issue required stating logically what was going wrong when her behavior was irrational and her bias impossible to measure objectively. In several cases all that saved me from writeups was that she was so ineffective a bully as to gossip within earshot of others who let me know her next plan. Taking this to senior management would be seen as the behavior of someone who wasn't "a team player" - it would brand me as a troublemaker particularly since one of her gossip partners was in senior management, so in those cases I directly called her on several of her stunts and gently implied I'd documented the issues and had witnesses - leading her in each case to issue a vague performance review for the term (one with whiteout over the area where she had originally written something else) and start a new round of plotting leading up to the next review period. If I didn't seriously believe in our mission and feel my assistance was crucial to many of our customers, I would have left within a year of this nonsense. As it is, I am both very happy that the new management gives high priority to our service, and also very enlightened by the reversal of this person's bullying into buddy-buddy behavior once she lost her power base. There is a middle range type of bully in between the individual egoist and the full-organization mobbing bully - the same type of person who stands with a group of girls in the high school bathroom and makes fun of other kids as long as they have at least two or three "teammates" in their bullying. Management refusal to allow collusive gossip makes a major difference in the application and outcome of this kind of mentality.

39. alleyoxenfree - June 09, 2010 at 12:42 pm

With all due respect to the prior poster, I have never seen an administrator fired for bullying - quite the opposite. And tenure has nothing to do with it. Just as bully faculty tend to wind up in administration, bully administrators are usually quite well connected with the other bullies. Kiss up, kick down.

But I'm quite surprised that no one has mentioned three things that could make a real difference. Just as professors submit to evaluations by students every semester, we should require evaluations by junior faculty of senior faculty, of chairs by faculty, of deans by chairs, and of Provosts and Presidents by Deans.

Two, we should require a system of accountability that looks at subordinate turnover. If a faculty member cannot keep grad students, if a chair cannot keep faculty, if a department has high turnover, if a dean cannot keep department heads, something is wrong there. "Collegiality" has an objective measure - the number of people fleeing.

Finally, just as faculty are grist for the Ratemyprofessor mill, all college's should set up Ratemysupervisor sites. These should post supervisory statistics, so that job applicants know, going in, that the prior 3 people fled the job after just months. In addition, people who have worked for the supervisor should be able to leave postings regarding their experience.

These moves would shut down many bullies quite quickly. Not only might it lead to some cost-effective retirements, bringing bullies to the attention of those who claim to want to do something about it. It would help college presidents, boards, and taxpayers realize that bullying is EXPENSIVE. It costs colleges and universities hundreds of thousands of dollars, over the career of a bully, in costs to recruit new victims. In our current economic climate in education, that's something most college presidents and boards care about.

40. nyhwa - June 09, 2010 at 01:08 pm

Mediation involving workplace bullying is a terrible solution in the address of this form of workplace violence. Bullies bully because they can and are empowered to do so by their employer, working culture or position in the organziation. Targets cannot be asked to sit in the same room suffering from the physical and psychological effects of this workplace violence and be able to counter all the abuses of this persons power. A bullied employee often doesn't understand what they are experiencing other than they know there is something wrong. They internalize the situation trying to figure out what they are doing wrong, trying to work with the bully (especially if their bully is their supervisor) and in turn receive confusing results from these encounters. The bully's goal is to dodge and deflect and run the person out of the organization because they fear the success this person brings to the employer. Likewise, the vast majority of us have a moral compass that wants to believe that most people are good and would never intentionally and maliciously harm another in the workplace. As a target of workplace bullying, I can speak from experience that you will very likely play into the bullies game as you are upset that resources are being taken away from you to do your job successfully. That people are being told to avoid you, creating physical and social isolation that contributes to the health effects and distress and ultimately the anger you will experience. As one employee told me when I was first experiencing this issue is that “only you see it.” I find it hard to fathom that even an experienced mediator at this point in time without extensive psychological training could "see through the story of the bully" and the anger and distress of the target and find in the targets favor. This is especially true if the bully is a high level narcissist or an undiagnosed member of the anti-social personality disorder class of bullies.

Mike Schlicht
State Coordinator (Upstate)
New York Healthy Workplace Advocates

41. lkeashly - June 09, 2010 at 01:40 pm

I want to thank the Chronicle for their continuing commitment to writing intelligently and thoughtfully about issues of bullying and mobbing in Academia. This article is I think the 4th one in the past 3-4 years focused on this topic.

I am one of the researchers who has argued that mediation has definite limits when it comes to addressing bullying. Specifically, we have argued that it can be useful in the "not-yet-bullied" phase when the behaviors have not yet taken hold. However, the situations being described here highlight the limitations of mediation, i.e., keeps the situation "private" when it may well reflect a long pattern with this victim and particularly others. It is focused on the future and does not typically address the need many victims have for acknowledgement of responsibility by the bully. Mr. Stallworth is correct in that there is very limited research on the application of mediation to bullying situations while there is some research on related areas such as sexual harassment that can be instructive. So we need rigorous empirical research in order to examine when and under what circumstances ADR processes may and may not be effective. Indeed, we need more research generally on a variety of strategies proposed in this article and the responses to get a sense of what is effective when.

Loraleigh Keashly
Associate Professor, Communication
Wayne State University, Detroit.

42. drkrocha - June 09, 2010 at 01:43 pm

Wow what a forum I thought I would never see. I am a victim of this for 6 years now. Regardless of what evidence was presented, the school I work at is controlled. They have made it look as though I was-am the cause of all the problems. Currently I am a sitting duck. I do not have tenure the female bully does and has been there for over 30+ years.

Sad but true, I bring my retired husband with me at nights, weekends, or whenever I feel I am going to be alone, because I fear for my well being from this bully! I have made this know to the top person and have in an email response from them....

”Exactly what would you like for us to do?”

Gosh, I just want to live!

Thank you for all the posts, as educators I now know I am not alone and truly believe this needs to stop and go to the next level.

43. 11272784 - June 09, 2010 at 01:57 pm

There is no solution in a given department. If tenured faculty are the problem, they have plenty of protection and chairs won't tkae action. The system is built to allow this, and mediation doesn't matter - people will act as they want to. If the bully is classified staff or admin/pro, you might be able to get them in trouble - but only "might".

The only solution is to move on and find a better place.

44. bigtwin - June 09, 2010 at 01:58 pm

I like alleyoxenfree's suggestions but I fear the protective shield that tenure provides professors will still mitigate a lot of these kinds of efforts. I think the key is to somehow take steps to make faculty more accountable and their actions more public. I like the idea of a ratemysupervisor site (I longed for one as a grad student) but I fear it would be too easy to identify negative commenters who would then face retribution by advisors and other faculty. I'd like to see faculty evaluations become more comprehensive and inclusive in a way that real problem faculty can be singled out and their actions publicized. I think public opinion will have more weight and influence in curbing faculty bullying than any internal mediation process.

45. rugger101 - June 09, 2010 at 03:04 pm

From my own experience, mediation does not work. The only effective means to stop a bully is to sanction and isolate them from the rest of the faculty. Tenure is a shield only if upper admin allows it to be. If you read the policies and statement of academic freedom of most major universities, you will find provisions that can be used to justify sanctioning the bully and to protect his/her victims. We had one case where we were able to successfully sanction a bully and the bullying stopped. He/she appealed to a faculty appeals panel and once they saw what this person was doing to their colleagues, the sanctions were upheld. The bully tried to hide behind the principles of academic freedom (right to dissent etc), but in the end, academic freedom does not give you the right to belittle, humiliate, and publicly slander your colleagues.

46. tgroleau - June 09, 2010 at 03:48 pm

I find it interesting that the anti-bullying program as my kids GRADE school gave up mediation several years ago. It became obvious very quickly that a mediation session simply victimized the victim a second time. If I'm being picked on why should I have to sit in the Principal's Office with the bully and discuss a "solution". I didn't do anything wrong. Now when they have evidence that bullying is happening they just punish the bully.

Why would we expected "mediation" to work any better with adults?

47. kmackenz - June 09, 2010 at 04:21 pm

I have recently experienced bullying as a doctoral student. All the elements you mentioned were present. A professor did not like my ideas, and in a dissertation seminar was so cruel to me that I almost cried, and felt shattered. It is a small department, and I quickly noticed that all the professors started treating me differently... with hostility and contempt.
I feel, now, like I am in enemy territority. A friend told me I should register a complaint with the Vice Provost, but I might as well slit my own throat. The professor in question did not get tenure this year, so I don't have to deal with him beyond next year. But I am not looking forward to the Fall semester.

48. youcantimagine - June 09, 2010 at 04:33 pm

Bravo to Peter Schmidt and the Chronicle for their recent coverage of the issue incivility in academia. It is long overdue! The level of incivility...let's just call it was it is..VIOLENCE...I experienced in academia by the chair of my dept, an anti-social, narcissistic, bully (the worst kind) and a group of female colleagues who "mobbed" me in order to be in good favor with her, was unbelievable and unimaginable. I am not sure of the extent to which the tenure process has to do with the kind of reprehensible low-life behaviors I was subjected to by these supposedly learned middle class people but at the state university where I taught young, untenured, faculty dominates the landscape...the admin prefers them because they are insecure and willing to put up with all kinds of demands that were not made on tenured faculty, even when they were not tenured a decade or so ago. In this environment, inept professors who dont give a damn about teaching effectiveness and who publish several ten page co-authored papers with 4 or 5 other people get tenure. But amazingly they are incredibly arrogant and full of themselves for every litte collective article they manage to publish. In no time at all they come to think that they belong at Harvard and the admin is supposed to jump to their every whim and fund their research every summer, even though these are little more than administratively paid vacations! While they are nickeling and diming the system, they are particularly vulnerable to the demands and dictates of lunatic bullies (whether chairs, faculty or admins)because they know that they are swimming in shallow waters. All they have to do is utter a dissenting opinion in the wrong company and they may find themselves being bullied by members of the "mob" from whence they came. Thus, high levels of fear and insecurity reigns in the state university system where the key to survival is "smile and wave"! This is a troubling environment if you happen to be genuinely competent, professional, and want to make a difference because you are viewed as threatening to those who, rightfully so, have a low opinion of themselves and their capabilities and are willing to slither around in the muck that academia has become...or perhaps has always been...because they think they belong in the ivory (or not so ivory)tower. I have experienced over a decade of bullying. As others have noted in response to the issue of mediation in academia, I tried everything...you name it and I tried it and NOTHING worked...ultimately, they got together and fabricated a termination. It was so convoluted that I still can't figure out why I was terminated...it was just the sick, twisted, rantings of a woman who was so desperate to not be in my presence that she was willing to resort to any means necessary such as making things up that did not happen and of course, accusing me of being 'uncollegial.' And the adminstration, who I had been complaining to for years and all they would say is "I don't like to hear about people being mistreated like that" then acted like a bunch of slimmy creatures and supported her recommendation of termination by telling me that the things she said about me have merit and does not warrant retention..and those colleagues who were not part of the 'mob' but equally guilty watched what happened to me terror..not for me but for themselves. So, I can truly relate to the trauma identified in the experience of others who have shared thier experiences. It is, without over-dramatization, like they kill you..one snub, one rumor, one put-down, one nasty, no regard for your humanity, comment at a time. So that you end up, if they have things their way, with student loans and a Ph.D that means nothing when you don't have and can't find a job!

Without reservation, outside of teaching and learning with students which I enjoy tremendously, academia was personally, professionally, and emotionally the worst environ i have ever worked in. And should i dare, as no one else who has responded to this blog, mention the issue of race? All i will say is that they are all white and I am not!

In closing, I don't think that people should remain silent to symbolic and real violence in the workplace...nor should we leave our jobs...or pretend to not see our colleagues brutally victimized.

I am not sure how but we can't continue to let administrators play lip service to "fair" policies and operate in these unseemly ways that target individuals (those who are victimized) while supporting more powerful but troubled individuals who make what is essentially their problems systemic ones or problems for us all. State universities have 'no harassment' policies but dare you complain that you are being harassed by a supervisor/chair. You are then further victimized by those who are mandated to protect you.

49. dboyles - June 09, 2010 at 04:34 pm

Just what is the line between (1) what is termed "collective bullying" and (2) administratively sanctioned, discretionary actions against faculty such as non-renewals putatively owing to, for example, "lack of fit," as well as, for example, dismissal resulting from committee action to not award tenure? One might think that due process is necessary for the latter, but isn't what is regarded as due process perhaps no more than a disguised form of bullying, a form of natural selection taking organizational form? Mediation would appear to be looking for some sweet spot between the two extremes, when in fact it is as several point out, without any more virtue than either.

50. periwinkleblue - June 09, 2010 at 04:44 pm

Based on the information released about Amy Bishop's experiences, she felt bullied. By no means do I condone her bahviour, but clearly she felt murder was the most effective response. In a very twisted logic, if bullying did occur by those victims, she did stop it.

51. dmaratto - June 09, 2010 at 04:55 pm

First of all, anthropologically, this is a horrible idea. This is not dissimilar from asking a sexual assault victim to come to a meeting with their attacker and "discuss the situation," or having a mugger and the person they robbed sit down to have a talk about "resolution." Mediation is where you have two people butting heads or who both have issues, and you want to try to smooth it over and help them get along. Every society has rules and standards, and when people break them, they are punished (or should be, at least). I don't know of any society (maybe Chicago politicians?) where the punishment for an attack or assault is to sit and have a chat with the victim to get your point of view.

Second, people who are describing that they were verbally or physically threats/attacks have recourse to the police, not just their university or employer. Jeez, maybe it's because of where I'm from, or that I grew up with cops, but if someone says they're going to beat you up or they menace you, that's assault. If you really have a crazy person, then do like #37 and collect some evidence. Having policemen come to the door should make even the toughest, hardest bullies turn into the scared little punks they truly are.

52. thenomad - June 09, 2010 at 05:37 pm

I thought sahara's comment was a good response to pilotguy, and I would add my own statement in that my experience working at a university has taught me that although we have a wealth of management, we are poor in leadership. Academics are certainly not trained to be managers; they are academics who have somehow taken on management responsbilities, but not always because they are qualified to do so. In my own pursuit of higher education, I've been humbled by the truth of the cliche of "the more I learn, the less I know" during my graduate courses, and I see myself as a learner in a world that has more questions than answers. Unfortunately, what has seemed to happen with some academics is that their PhDs have created an arrogance in them; they've become too smart to think that they could engage in any sort of nefarious or unacceptable behaviour. And yes, the cause is sometimes the contrary, that they simply lack self-confidence and put others down to make themselves feel better.

While I agree that tenure should be there to help protect those whose opinions may be less popular than others, I also agree with the person who commented that it has allowed some faculty to have free reign to do whatever they want to whomever they want. And this includes non-faculty staff. I work in a central administration office at my university where the bullying by our AVP is evident, to the point that the deans and various academic and non-academic staff do not like her, and a formal HR complaint was filed by one employee who even had documented and recorded evidence of her bullying, and still, that employee was terminated under suspicious circumstances. But she's friends with our VP Academic, so she stays. As universities in North America are turning into big businesses rather than places of higher learning, I can only hope that administration follows suit and that univeristies begin to hire people who are effective CEOs and managers that can provide leadership and who are not afraid to terminate people when there is clear evidence of bullying or harassment.

53. 12111360 - June 09, 2010 at 06:26 pm

Thanks to The Chronicle for yet another airing of this prevalent problem in academe.

As a victim of years of such harassment by both the administration and a handful of "colleagues" at my institution, I can attest to the fact that mediation adds insult to injury. I also want to make the point that much of the campus warefare against a faculty member is rooted in differing political ideologies. The hatred spewed at faculty members who dare to politely disagree with the prevailing American campus orthodoxy can have disasterous professional consequences. It is also, in the long run, detrimental to the victim's physical health. What follows is based on my personal experience.

I am a senior faculty member in my department. In my case, I have been slandered and openly attacked for years due to my belief that colleges should hire the BEST-QUALIFIED candidates for faculty positions -- regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or other immutable characteristics. Sounds reasonable and in line with the focus of almost every college mission statement, which is EXCELLENCE, right? Wrong! Words are inadequate to describe the horror I have endured in my career as a result of this straight-forward belief -- which, by the way, I have always expressed very respectfully and civilly. Yet, the abuse leveled against me has included a wrongul dismissal, followed by reinstatement (thanks to a powerful law firm that represented me pro bono); numerous ethics complaints on bogus charges; being rumored to be a "racist"; depicting me as a liar; physically threatening demeanor by the department chair, etc. Keep in mind that slander is immune to facts and needs no proof. It thrives solely on innuendo. After years of such "hearsay", the gossip becomes fact and the target's reputation is shot. The marginalization and isolation that victims of smear campaigns endure is difficult to bear. For many reasons, abuse of this sort would neither be tolerated, nor could it be sustained for any length of time in the private sector. Academe, however, is a breeding ground for such psychological and actual violence.

My point is that there is little tolerance for any ideological divergence in the academy, and that it is dangerous to diverge from the prevailing political orthodoxy in today's ivory tower. For all the talk about tolerance, diversity, academic freedom and free speech rights in higher education, academe is known to be the very employment realm in which these values are known to be violated. CIVILITY and civil disagreement have become a casualty of political correctness and ideological conformity.

My personal experience is that the solution is NOT mediation, but documentation. I agree with commentator #37's advice: RECORD! Victims of campus aggression need irrefutable PROOF. Also, frame the injury as what it is: harassment. Identify the "stalker(s)", and name them. Go public, including going to the press. I did. Only if the university administration feels that it stands to lose a lot by NOT acting will it act. While the damage to one's reputation is done and the victim will most likely continue to be a "persona non grata" on campus, striking back in this manner serves as a warning to those who might contemplate joining the mob. In my case, it got me the attention of a law firm and ultimately a sense of justice.

Finally, and not lastly, forge strong bonds outside the confines of your workplace -- both privately and professionally. There are organizations, mostly of the Libertarian kind, that take up the defense and/or spotligh individual cases of "academic assault and abuse", regardless of the victim's ideological /political bend. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is one of them. They are very professional and principled. Help is as far away as your computer. Reach out! Tell your story. It is the right thing to do. Remember: Harassment is ILLEGAL, and you are not defenseless.

54. donaldcostin - June 09, 2010 at 06:28 pm

Kenneth Westhues of Waterloo, Ontario may know about bullying, especially at the University of Manitoba. (ok to remove the reference to U of M if necesary.)
Recall back in 1970 a group of academics went on a witch hunt to
the U of M Computer Science; a segment of the department of Computer Science was transplanted from I believe Guelph U to U of M apparently to "clean the place up". What a sham. I had been lecturing at the Dept for four years and was a respected member of the Dept, however I did not have a PhD ( give me break, who had a PhD in Comp Sc in 1970)so I was told by the new Dept Head Mr R.S.PhD that "my contract would not be renewed because of my spotty academic record" and that my Masters Degree was insufficient. So there I went, a wife and a child, and I would have had to move to Edmonton to enroll in a PhD program.
Not a chance, so I went to work in the Manitoba Gov.
What was so "bullying" was the fact that I was not given an opportunity to explain my life situation. [Cry baby!] Simply, I had several mastoid infections and missed classes and frequently went to write an exam carrying a massive headache. Just a flimsy excuse. How insulting and unjust. I completed some courses in Adult Ed in 2008/09 and got As and A+, so Mr R.S. is a bully; he fired me because I was an "outsider" to the Waterloo clan. Mr R.S. got rid of anyone he didn't like, and was described as ruthless - but with my personal life? So where is H.R. when that happens? Powerless; Mr R.S. does whatever he wants and has carte-blanch from the Dean.
D.C. - now living in Chilliwack B.C.

55. yarrow_house - June 09, 2010 at 06:29 pm

The institution I work for as a professor has effectively granted implied permission to a tenured faculty to bully colleagues and staff. He has free reign to disparage, curse, use threatening actions (pounding on tables, slamming books down, shaking his fists at the person, etc.)none of which is seen as an issue for administrative intervention. The department/college chair has witnessed his bullying others in meetings and does not intervene. The provost for the university has been known to "apologize" for this faculty member's bullying actions to his victims. The bully's actions are minimized along with the harm to those whom he bullies. After an egregious incident with this tenured bully, I filed a formal complaint against him with the institution's human resources officer. Because the university does not have a policy on bullying or hostility in the workplace, it was difficult for me to cite any institutional policy in my complaint (a requirement for filing the formal complaint). In addition, I discovered the institution does not accumulate any formal complaints filed with human resources on an individual. Thus, the history of his behaviors was not a factor to support my complaint. At the end of the day (several stressful months later), I requested to move my office and classroom assignments out of the department's building. While I miss the colleagueship of my department, I now feel safe.

56. kschulweis - June 09, 2010 at 06:29 pm

Wow, lots of comments in just a few hours. As an executive coach specializing in handling workplace bullying issues, I have never seen mediation work in bullying situations. My own theory about bullying in academia includes the following problem: most of us think of academia as a place where we have a community of scholars. In fact we have high competition, scarce resources, disparate values, and nobody minding the 'store'. These ingredients are known to foster bullying. Why should academia be any different than a competitive sales environment or law firm? It's not except in the minds of its members. Get over the idea that you're working in a community and get used to the idea that you're working on your own. That will help shift your mindset so that you're ready to defend, combat, and recover from things like bullying and harassment. More info? Visit http://www.confidenceconnections.com and subscribe to my blog. Watch for upcoming and free tele-seminars that will help you deal with the terrible and deeply damaging problems of bullying and harassment.

57. 12111360 - June 09, 2010 at 06:50 pm

To #48: My heart goes out to you. Your pain jumps out from between the lines. I am white, yet I have been the target of much of what you describe. For the most part, this kind of abuse is not rooted in racism, but narcissism. That is, it is a personality disorder, and personality disorders have no particular color, race, or gender. It is an "equal opportunity offender." Likewise, those who come to one's defense (very few do, I might add)also can not be classified by immutable characteristics. Rather, they are defined by courage and character, and both are colrblind.

Again, I am sorry for what you had to endure.

58. goxewu - June 09, 2010 at 07:39 pm

A note of caution (from someone who commented early [#5] and bluntly about what a load of crap this "mediating" with bullies and what a feckless, disingenuous organization the AAUP is in helping a faculty member with a bullying complaint against another faculty member):

Not everything in every one of these 50+ comments, most of them personal tales of woe, is to be taken at face value. A thread like this can resemble a gripe session in a bar where everyone is telling what a tyrant his or her boss is. After a while, one suspects that not everybody knocking back beers and complaining is a model employee. After a while, one wants to hear the bosses' side of the story. Grain of salt, etc.

59. farmerm - June 09, 2010 at 07:51 pm

I'd like to second #57's sentiments, but I'd also like to throw a flag and to encourage caution. None of us should be diagnosing anyone with personality disorders. In our field, it's a weapon, and I've been badly hurt by this sort of move. It was the last line the people in my department who bullied me used against me (so far) -- they assembled a bogus "intervention" to try to force me out. Turns out that I do need help -- but most of it is to recover from years of their collective abuse, from being so thorougly violated, and from trying to sort out what job prospects I could possibly have left after they told multiple people at other universities that I'm (allegedly) a borderline. Here's to hoping the people listening sniff them out for what they are and have the character to ignore their intentional, malicious acts of defamation. And thank god no one is going to make me have a mediation sit down. I would be so afraid of what they'd do when it was over.

60. oldassocprof - June 09, 2010 at 07:51 pm

I think the comment about "FIT" above is nonsense. FIT should actually NOT be a criterion in any sort of faculty assessment. FIT was actually the private reason the bully gave for non-reappointing me. FIT means that a bully or a mob can have their strange, informal criteria for reappointment, tenure, etc. At S___T, FIT would have meant (1) toadying to verbal threats, (2) putting up with the chair using students to spy on professors, (3) not protesting that our department never had elections (the only one on campus with a chair for life), (4) watching the chair threaten another faculty physically (he was afraid of me), (5) never mentioning disgraceful publications (only bullet points) done by other faculty, (6) including the chair as a non-working co-author on research, (7) overlooking eggregious violations of the New York Public Officer's Law, where tenured management faculty had other 40 hour a week employments off campus. I actually never mentioned any of these things, and dragged my feet on (6), but would have spoken out after tenure.

It's interesting to note that the president of this campus was run off by mobbing about a year and a half after I left. I think it was because he was getting ready to close down the double dipping. I'd be happy to discuss this campus with anyone at hyperreal2@gmail.com. When I make full professor, I'll be revisiting them. My wife talked me out of suing.

One tactic might be to place any department accused of bullying or mobbing into immediate receivership.

61. youcantimagine - June 09, 2010 at 08:16 pm

Thank you for your comments, 57. I believe I made myself clear in that I think the kind of bullying that I and so many others have experienced in academia is rooted in anti-social personality disorders on the oart of the perps. I believe also that in my case that race is a significant factor in how the situation manifested and played itself out. I think the most important aspect of what I wanted to say is that, as a trained mediator, I often try to help people come to an agreement over situations that they see quite differently; however, i agree with those who firmly believe that mediation in academia would be little more than putting a bandaid on an oozing sore and will most definitely subject the victim to more discreet forms of victimization. I have done a considerable amount of reading about bullying in the workplace and the associated mental disorders. What I learned is that bullies are incorrigible...mediation would just give them another venue in which to portray themselves as victims and would not encourage them to keep their problems to themselves. What is true for all bullies, but more so for educated ones, is that they are particularly good at all the harm they cause to others and ultimately to themselves. They operate surreptituously...always plotting and scheming...and using people to help them accomplish all the harm they can't seem to do to others on their own. They rarely miss a beat to portray their victims as unworthy of consideration. Mediation, in this environment, will surely hurt the victim and leave them even more powerless.

62. youcantimagine - June 09, 2010 at 08:24 pm

Who cares what administrators and other powerful figures on campus have to say about our supposedly tales of woe...they are the people who subject us to the demeaning, diminishing, circumstances we experience on campus and then go on to situations where they have more power and make more money. The fact that this column generated this 50+ responses in just a matter of hours and the many books written and being written about bullying in academia attests to the fact that this is a real situation that has a terrible impact on members of academia..even those who are not subjected to bullying...insensitiveity and off-handed comments are not welcomed...tell me about bullying when you've experienced it!

63. abcde1234 - June 09, 2010 at 08:45 pm

#61's comments on the bullies portraying themselves as victims is worth noting, and my experience with an academic bully (#19) bore this out. After reading this article and posting, I surfed around a bit on the subject and read about "mobbing" and I began to see that my former department bully could have rightly seen herself as the victim of mobbing after the mediation attempt. I think that in fact so much bullying grows out of the bully's sense of being victimized. And maybe they are victimized, but at some point it becomes difficult to determine cause and effect. They continue the cycle by choice, though.

What makes a bully different from, say, and equal opportuuty a**hole, is that bullies tend to kiss up and kick down. Bullies are hierarchical, and understand full well that their protected position depends on maintaining the good graces of those above them. What sets them off is someone that they perceive to be of lower status acting out of place or failing to show proper respect. They embellish their own hazing and when they look around them they see the young'uns having an undeserved easier time. So they take it upon themselves to inflict disproportionate pain. But the whole time, they firmly believe that they are the victims.

It occurs to me that I am describing a female bully here, and I wonder if it is a fundamentally different dynamic with a male bully. A complicating factor with women bullies is that they tend to go after other women, and I believe that male administrators are reluctant to censure female bullies for fear of being charged with sexual harassment. And it is quite clear that a female bully generally feels entitled to bully other women bcause she sees herself as the poor victim of a male-dominated world.

I've found the posts by the scholars of bullying to be very illuminating, and I wonder whether any of them would care to take a crack at the difference between male and female bullies.

And I also wonder, as someone who has found myself the target of female bullies more than once but of male bullies pretty much never, how do female bullies select their targets?

64. kmackenz - June 09, 2010 at 09:20 pm

I am an adjunct professor, but also a doctoral student at a more prestigious University than the one in which I teach. My attitude is far more knowing than some of my doctoral peers. From the begining my female advisor was especially dismissive of my unorthodox ideas, and after awhile I began to feel it was more my'underwhelmed attitute' and my professional experience that made me a target. She constantly dismissed me, but it emboldened others in the department to also treat me badly. Finally, an untenured professor was verbally abusive to me during a seminar. It is worth noting that the mobbing was so severe that it even emboldened a non tenured. I never complained about the treatment, and his was extreme. He found out a week later, to his surprise, that he did not get tenure. The whole department pointed invisible daggers at me, and the situation worsened. I am not looking forward to Fall, and I'm debating a transfer.

65. oldassocprof - June 09, 2010 at 09:21 pm

No. 63, these are only some quick impressions. We seem to have two types of female bullies on this campus. One (N=1) is indistinguishable from a male bully: expects deference, has solicited bribes (lunches and gifts), appearently, from students and grad students, has made self non-working co-author on other faculty's papers and presentations, makes threats, yells and screams, and plays the race card (she's from a well-known West African country.)

Her victims are both men and women. Equal opportunity. This person is physically huge. Tends to operate alone, and, yes, does kiss up to administration, who have even sent her to administrative training (?). Probably indistuinguishable from a male bully.

The other type seems to expect a state of boundarylessness from her victims, who are usually female (N=10-15). Everything is done for the victim's "own good." One (a member of a clique) wanted to bust a couple of other women for ethics violations (so small as to be completely fabricated.) Another (in the same clique) began monitoring and logging other females' comings and goings from the dapartment. Another women in another department asked to become a new professor's mentor, then began riding her and harrassing her until the mentee had to involve the union. This bully was also untenured. In another department, a very bright, talented female professor was mobbed out by bullies led by the female department chair. This area is heavily Irish-Catholic, and I think that there is an expectation of complete passivity on the part of the bullied by the bullies stemming from Church culture.

All of these female bullies happen to be in the School of Education. (We don't have a nursing school, so that doesn't work into the equation, but it no doubt would if we had one.)

We've had men bullied out of Arts and Sciences departments, but this was always a result of mobbing, and was male-led in all the cases I know of. Interestingly, I don't know of any female victims in A&S. Ooops, there was one. Too assertive.

66. oldassocprof - June 09, 2010 at 10:19 pm

There's a heavy overlap with what sociologists call "labeling theory." While this doesn't work for explaining psychosis, as some social constructionists hoped, labeling theory can explain much of what goes on in bullying and mobbing.

The essence is: Victim emits unusual behavior (we all do this-- it's called residual deviance -- vicitms of academic bullying may have the "wrong" theories, or seem victimizable, or not accept the "superordinate's prestige", whatever.) Then prestige figure (the tenured person) labels them "wanting" or "non-professional" or something. If he/she can get the "mob" to agree, so much the better. If the victim internalizes the label, it's worked. Most non-tenured people will tend to do this, even if they fight it. Their "symptoms" will tend to increase, and they may even do the things they're being acused of.

So then, there's evidence they're actually a screw-up or whatever.

67. annabucy - June 09, 2010 at 10:38 pm

As a bullying researcher, I agree that we must do something more about bullying than expect some ADR to help the situation. In all situations of real bullying ADR often makes things worse. True disagreements or normal conflict may benefit from ADR; however, bullying is not normal conflict.

We also must call behaviors what they are--bullying may not be the problem. Much of what is called bullying in both K-12 and adult worlds is actually assault, battery, menacing, stalking, sexual/racial harassment and other legally actionable behaviors. We must create atmospheres of respect and responsibility at our workplaces and for our students (regardless their age). We must show no tolerance for abuse of any kind.

In academia, we should be above such behavior. Sweeping it under the rug or trying to intimidate complainants with some patronizing ADR process will not halt this type of behavior--which we have seen time and again--and may make things worse on top of robbing victims of the redress they deserve.

68. drkrocha - June 09, 2010 at 11:03 pm


Ok....fact I am a die heart Catholic Conservative Yankee working at a major Liberal, Liberal, school. Although the Prez professes to be Liberal, they are in fact a registered Republican. (Can you imagine if the Board of Trustees and Faculty found this out?)

Now, I am posting #41 from earlier and a victim of bullying from a female tenured professor who truly HATES me. Both of us are white, she is only five years older. I am 50. I have a PHD and no tenure; she has a MA and tenure (go figure).

Does it matter if the victim is Conservative or Liberal whether action is taken from the administration, or not?

69. housereb - June 09, 2010 at 11:23 pm

I was an unfortunate victim of faculty-bullying as described in the article; that bullying became so heinous, it negatively affected my already nebulous health. Though a mediator was hired, nothing substantive came out of it, except that it angered the head-bully, who happened to also have the power to fire me. I was let go after two years of bullying, and reporting that same bullying to the Department of Human Rights in my state. When I was let go, it was less than 24 hours after going on Family Medical Leave. I taught at my institution for close to a decade.

Here's the REAL problem: As illegal as the behavior I describe is, without a doubt, unless the individual takes the initiative to hire a lawyer and pursue a case, there is no real resolution. And what kind of ultimate resolution can be hoped for? Realistically? My reputation has been trashed. And we all understand that with the current market saturation, even the best of us won't get a chance to "explain" the albeit artificial "mark" on our record.

I reached out to the AAUP as well as the upper administration at my institution. Nothing came out of any of it except depression, sleep-deprivation and a host of other health issues. I want to thank all of you who shared your own stories here and talked so openly about the prevalence of this academic disease. While I appreciate the kind of article written here, and the attention being given to what is clearly a rampant problem in the academy, it all means nothing to those of us who have effectively lost our careers to this already. It's like someone silently stole more than 15 years of my experience and education and flushed it down some invisible toilet. There truly are no reparations for this kind of devastating result. And now I know, I'm NOT alone. When will we who have suffered most rise up against this? And more importantly, when will YOU--those who go unnoticed, who don't "participate" but yet remain silent?

Silence is as much the enemy as the bullying itself.

70. oldassocprof - June 09, 2010 at 11:31 pm

I've seen the I only have an MA, but am tenured, and you have a PhD, and are not-- become the springboard for bullying. My case is No 27.

71. 11161452 - June 10, 2010 at 12:02 am

As in most of these cases, I had to try and solve my own bully problem--no administrator had the guts. In fact, the Dean quietly took me aside to tell me the bully was gunning for me, and that I should watch out...but by the way I'd get no actual help from her! Her job was to be a sounding board for ALL faculty, bullies or not.

What did the most good was going against the prevailing tactic of letting the bully get his way without argument. Bullies don't understand that treatment, and they just consider the conciliation as doormat behavior. When I stood up to him, he was surprised by it, and things did get a little better. But I never got over the lack of leadership and courage from the admin.

72. heather_in - June 10, 2010 at 12:24 am

Mediation is a joke when you're untenured and your department chair is a sociopath. There are only two things that get the attention of administrators: money and potential lawsuits (notice how these two things are connected). A few words of advice that I can give... 1)Pick your battles carefully and then fight to win them. 2)Realize that a job is just a JOB, not your life. 3)Do not invest yourself in anything your bully has control over (this includes teaching). 4)Network with people outside... get excited about your research... find a new hobby... spend time with your kids. Every minute spent obsessing about a bully is a minute of your life that has been WASTED. 5)If you fear for your physical safety, get a restraining order! Do not count on the university to solve all your problems.

My bully was just demoted from his position, but the fallout will take a long, long time to clean up. We have an interim chair for one year, but I fear that we will eventually end up with another bully in charge. A tenured professorship is the perfect place for a sociopath to hide. "The Sociopath Next Door" should be required reading for graduate students.

73. alleyoxenfree - June 10, 2010 at 01:22 am

An additional step that prospective hires can take is to request a copy of the Employee Handbook. While some have noted upthread that a non-harrassment policy may not help if the administration is gutless, the sheer non-existence of any kind of code of behavior or non-harrassment policy is a giant red flag.

74. kmackenz - June 10, 2010 at 06:35 am

I would like to thank everyone for their comments, and for this article in particular. I am new to academia. I am an adjuncr and a doctoral student. My experience the last two semesters became more and more bizarre. I was embarrassed to mention what I was experiencing to anyone.

It is so liberating to understand that bullying and mobbing are common in academia, and I am not some isolsted pariah. I feel stronger already.

75. tolisj1 - June 10, 2010 at 07:08 am

<Comment removed by moderator>

76. renaissoxx - June 10, 2010 at 08:42 am

Bullying? Seriously? This isn't preschool... It isn't a charity either. It's a place where people must make valid useful contributions to be worth their positions. It is entirely possible to make "contributions" that don't really help anyone, were just common sense for everyone else, etc and still look superficially like you are a valid faculty member.

It is entirely necessary to recognize such people as perhaps not being cut out for university work. Being able to provide valid contributions and being able to stand up for those contributions, highlight their merits, and deal with criticism (though in my opinion not necessarily on the spot) is your job! I fear that what some call bullying is just a sort of necessary reaction to a affirmative action type practices of placing incompetent people in faculty positions.

If anything there is a natural balance that would be (or in some cases already is) compromised by nonsense "incivility" regulation. People who lie, cheat the system, steal ideas, or even just people who violate the implied rules of debate by talking over, using obscure irrelevant metaphors, etc perhaps should be dealt with using very direct "incivil" behavior. These people use such tactics because they are ignorant (else they would simply argue for their beliefs using knowledge) and yet want to influence their surroundings to everyone's detriment. Protecting such passive aggressive behaviors with incivility regulation lessens the efficiency of the system and hurts everyone.

77. cghixson - June 10, 2010 at 09:08 am

Wherever there is an imbalance of power and lack of accountability, bullying and mobbing can occur. I experienced it in one university when I was in an administrative position. No one is safe, if the people at the top tolerate it or are themselves afraid of being the next target.

78. honore - June 10, 2010 at 10:05 am

@75...from #17...Thanks for the compliment of framing my post for your new office...I only spoke from my experience and that of other colleagues, that I gleaned over a 25 year career in Ivy, R-1s and Big10 schools.

Sadl,y bullies are (as cited by several posters) everywhere, so we all have to be not only vigilant, but also very proactive and prepared for when they raise their ugly heads and sink their fangs into our lives.

At first our natural reaction is to question, doubt and even blame ourselves...after all, bully X, has a Ph.D, MBA, JD too, so they can't possibly be wrong about me, But then it hits you that you that you have DECADES of accomplishments and national recognition and that this bully has a CV/resume that reads like a crumpled grocery list of tattered appointments at schools from Hawaii to Harrisburg and seldom stayed more than a couple of years before catapulting to yet another unsuspecting campus.

My particular bully (for #63) was a white woman, who was a narcissistic, self-absorbed, vain, faded sorority girl from the 70s with a PhD in some tired, fraudulent, faux-feminist clap-trap that by today's socially conscious metrics, would be considered naive and trite. She would spend 10 minutes everyday in the ladies room spraying the hell out of her T.J.Maxx outfit of the day with Static Guard. 100% polyesterscarves with garish prints were her trademark and at the end of the day, she could be seen tearing out of the parking lot at 4:29PM on 2 wheels with the scarf flying out the window ala Isadora Duncan. Sadly, she didn't meet the same fate as Isadora when the latter's flowing scarf got tangled in the rear wheel of her sports car and she was strangled and jerked out of the driver's seat.

Typically, we (the target of the bully --- note I do not use the term "victim") will try to justify the OUTRAGEOUS behaviors that we are the recipient of. At 1 point, I even tried to blame the "Static Guard" for her total insanity, but after reading the chemical content, I didn't find one that could possibly be held responsible for my bully's behavior, unless taken intravenously for years.

In time, I left, but not before resorting to tranquilizers, meditation and even consulting Dionne Warwick's psychic hotline for some insight (not really).

After I left, she went on to do the following:
1. She identified an administrative underling, a single mother of 3 and a 5th year doctoral student and terminated her appointment without notice the DAY before the underling's appointment was to be renewed.
2. She identified an African-American male administrator (in his late 50s) and removed him from his office to a corner in the secretarial pool in the basement. The reason? She never gave one, she just felt she needed to "teach him a lesson". Administration IGNORED this grotesque scenario even after she insisted he wear a DUNCE cap everyday for an hour and sit facing the wall.
3. She would plant herself on search committees and openly disparage applicant's credentials because"
"this one's got too many vowels in his name, must be a Po-lack, Italian...”
"she doesn't look like she would FIT in" --- no reasons given
"this one looks uppity to me"
"I once visited that crumby campus, he must be a loser"
"I don't want any more of THOSE people in my division"
“this one speaks too many languages”
4. She wrote harsh negative and LIBELOUS letters about various staff and inserted them in the employee's personnel file WITHOUT their knowledge or consent
5. She would cancel her OWN 30 person staff meetings at the last minute because she "didn't have anything to say"
6.She harassed THE senior administrative staff person during the MOST painful period of her life, her husband's suicide! The administrator (who was very highly regarded) reported our bully to her DEAN, but was forced to resign out of fear she would have a nervous breakdown under this monster.

I could go on, but I am saving these stories for my book regarding what REALLY goes on behind the Ivy Walls.

Again, thanks for the compliment. The Peter Schmidt and the Chronicle have done a great service with this story and I personally believe EVERY President/Chancellor out there should send this article to EVERY Chair, Dean, Director and all other heads of departments/division and make it required reading.

That won't really change a bully's behavior. They always see the world and others in it through a very sadistic, cruel lens that doesn't allow for even a glimpse of humanity, but reading this article and all of its attendant posts SHOULD alert top administration to the epidemic proportions of bullying/mobbing and after that, they have only their cowardice, incompetence and mediocrity to blame for the hell that bully targets are subjected to and the LAW SUITS that will be landing on their desks..........Madison, WI

79. goxewu - June 10, 2010 at 10:33 am

Re #58 (my own "grain of salt" comment):

OK, just to play devil's advocate about one of these (possibly) "Can I get a Witness!" testimonies, let's take #64, for example.

* How do we know that kmackenz's unorthodox ideas weren't eminently dismissible? (And what does the advisor being female have to do with it?)

* How do we know that it was kmackenz's "'underwhelmed attitude' and [lack of?] professional experience" that made him or her "a target"? All we have as evidence is kmackenz's "feeling."

* How do we know that it was the advisor who "emboldened" others in the department to treat kmackenz badly? Maybe the deserved dismissibility of those unorthodox ideas got around.

* How do we know what the untenured professor's "treat[ed] me badly" in a seminar consisted of? Maybe it was just a blunt comment about the quality of kmackenz's work. (We're all so used to the Lake Wobegon effect in higher education that somebody who acts like John Houseman in "The Paper Chase" is seen an abuser of the first order.)

* How do we know that the "mobbing" that kmackenz experienced wasn't just consensus opinion of his or her "unorthodox ideas" being substandard?

* How do we know that the "invisible daggers" pointed at kmackenz aren't just hurt feelings and bordeline paranoia on his or her part?

It's entirely possible, of course, that kmackenz's account is true, and that a bully advisor has brought mobbing down on kmackenz's head. But it's also possible that kmackenz is simply a doctoral candidate who's not going to make it, who's seen the writing on the wall, and who, for reasons of pride and self-esteem, wishes to morph the academic failure into a case of bullying and mobbing? Aren't academics, of all people, supposed to be just a little bit skeptical about uncorroborated reports?

That's why I said, "Grain of salt."

That bullying and mobbing exist there is no doubt. But the fact that so many personal testimonies about experiencing them have been generated in so short a time isn't evidence that all, or even most, of the accounts should be taken at face value. I'd bet that if you had a similar post on unfairly harsh grading of undergraduates, you'd get (maybe not on "Brainstorm," but on a more undergraduate-friendly site) a similar number of personal testimonies in a similarly short time. I mean, there is a certain "RateMyAdvisor.com" and "RateMyTenuredColleagues.com" quality about this thread, isn't there?

80. youcantimagine - June 10, 2010 at 11:56 am

Hey #63, i think your question on male versus female bullies is an interesting one. I have witnessed the behaviors of both and I don't know if there is a real difference; however, your comments made me think of the different perceptions we have of male and female gang members. Essentially both engage in the same kinds of activities but our view of female gang members, framed by sexism, is harsher because we just dont think females should be involved in behaviors that we associate with gangs. The bully i was up against was a female but her behaviors were very similar to a male bully chair who i witnessed making his target's lives miserable in pretty much the same ways! It is unacceptable, no matter the sex of the perp and target/victim. The male bully was a conservative who waved a liberal flag claiming he fought the civil rights battle, was openly homophobic, mysogynistic, racist, and elitist. Whereas the female bully claims to be a feminist and an opponent of social justice...blah, blah, blah. the only real difference i saw between them is that the male bully was prone to temper tantrums and made his dislike for certain people clear but then he would kind of move on and wait for the next opportunity to publicly humiliate his target...I saw him do this with atleast 3 people. Whereas the female bully, a feminist, wore this disingenuine smile on her face but was no less prone to temper tantrums, although she managed to not do them in public, and she also made her dislike for certain people clear but unlike the male bully, she never let up on her targets for one minute. It was as though she framed her entire life around getting even or rid of a person...and did not let up until she accomplished her goal...but then within a short period of time thereafter she would start in on another target. And all of her loyalists/mob members perpetually ducked and did her bidding to isolate, alienate, and report things to her about her target for favors. Living with the fear of who would be next because this woman was not a happy camper if she was not fighting with someone.

81. oldassocprof - June 10, 2010 at 11:59 am

Some of the respondents here probably ARE bullies. I think one key indicator is the "accomplished faculty being attacked by less accomplished faculty" issue. If that's present, bullying is. Whether new faculty (or old) are accomplished or not, though, criticism is not the way to enhance their performance. Helpful mentorship is.

82. kmackenz - June 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Hi #79.

It could all be in my imagination, this is true, how would you know?

However, I don't believe my ideas are substandard (all I can say is that they encompass content areas that differ from the prevailing ideology of my professor/s), and neither should any advisor or professor or advisor. I am also an adjunct, and I would NEVER undermine a student's ideas. I would help develop, and point out weak ideas/research, but I am being paid to be supportive not assumptive.

What I term 'mobbing' is the ripple effect, through gossip and 'sucking up,' that happens when others in the department adopt the attitude of the lead bully, and the atmosphere is hostile. I did not imagine it, and why would professors feel hostile if my ideas were just 'substandard?'

I am learning alot about the politics of academia. I am sharing my story as I perceive it, and it was with much reflection. I am empowered to know that my story fits so many others, and if you take things 'with a grain of salt' perhaps you have been lucky enough to either be a bully, or never experience the politics discussed on this thread.

83. alleyoxenfree - June 10, 2010 at 12:40 pm

I have never yet been bullied by someone more qualified than me. In hindsight, I would never take a job again, willingly, where the supervisor had less education and less experience. Even if you are perfectly open-minded, ready to work with them, respect their experience, and so on, you are much more likely to be a target. They have to want to work with you.

My current job, and my previous one were chosen - turning down two others - based on reading research on bullying and mobbing. So far, things have been much better.

If you are being treated this way, you can get smarter about what you spot in the job interview, the hiring process, and in the job postings to begin with.

An additional element that needs to become common in the hiring process is for job candidates to ask for letters of recommendation or the opportunity to talk to the prior person in the position. Top business executives often already have this, but the fractured grapevine of academia, which excludes most, prevents us from knowing about bad behavior from which others are fleeing. Currently, employees are required to submit the equivalent of "working papers" (which we ought to have left behind in the New England mills) before they can get an interview. That makes bullies all the more powerful because one bad reference and you can be at the homeless shelter. Institutions need to begin being required to make the prior worker available or to produce a "testimonial" about the supervisor from the prior worker. That would also end quite a bit of bullying right from the beginning. Oh, that chair/dean/Provost can't produce a testimonial from his/her faculty?

84. nampman - June 10, 2010 at 12:42 pm

In my experience (such that it is) bullies are usually lazy cowards. The tactic that has worked best for me in dealing with them is to make it more costly for them to bother me than to leave me alone. Find their weaknesses (everyone has them) and push hard. Things will get worse before they get better but if you stick in there they will eventually chicken out and run. It's sad to say, but I have not found a less aggressive strategy that works. Good luck to all of you having to deal with these jerks.

85. bigtwin - June 10, 2010 at 01:20 pm

Yeah, nampman bullies usually are cowards with attention and low self-esteem issues.

It's not always easy to do, but the best way to deal with bullying in a professional workplace is to take the person aside privately and have a very frank talk. Don't freak out or dump on them but state in a very polite way what they are doing and that it is unacceptable. Confront them with the truth and then they will know that you have limits and lines not to cross. One thing I've learned is that bullies in the past is that they will keep pushing you until you push back. Fortunately, depts arent a schoolyard so we don't have to resort to violence to do this.

And most importantly, write down when and where every incident and conversation with your bully takes place - this information will validate your claims and may come in very handly someday should things get really bad.

86. pales1990 - June 10, 2010 at 01:57 pm

An important consideration to keep in mind is that the way individuals respond to conflict is a learned behavior. It is not a function of personality or character; things that cannot be changed. Anyone who uses destructive responses to conflict has learned to do this over time; usually beginning in their family of origin. Bullying is an active destructive response to conflict, which as many of you have pointed out, will do great damage to an institution. It is critical that bullying behavior is confronted head on and bullies be given the opportunity to learn a new way of relating to others. Separating someone from the institution is a difficult process, but it must always be an option if the bully is unwilling to learn new behaviors. Another important aspect is to teach others how best to respond to bullies to limit their destructive impact.

Cathy Pales, Ed.D.

87. abcde1234 - June 10, 2010 at 02:12 pm

Dr. Pales (#86)
I'm sure this is a great topic for a lengthy document or conversation, but could you give us, say, 8-10 bullet points on how to effectively respond to bullies, for both targets and organizations?

88. drbiterbiscuit - June 10, 2010 at 02:50 pm

Phew, didn't make it through ALL 81 comments, but I will say that sahara (32. sahara - June 09, 2010 at 11:02 am) hit it on the head for me.

Unfortunately, I was hired into a fairly inbred department. Administrators have NEVER been willing to step up and reshuffle the deck. I will always be the odd "man" out. It could be a really great place to work - nice students, nice colleagues, fairly relaxed environment. But I am ambitious so greatly dissatisfied.

Admins have told me to fix the situation myself. Yeah right, I'll just tell my colleagues who have all of the power and security to give up the kingdom. Mediation would just make me look even more weak and like a bad colleague who complains to administrators behind my colleagues' backs. We're all "friends."

I am growing weary of it, though. Hopefully things will improve in the next couple of years. I live in a great town and have a young family. I don't exactly want to relocate - just want to live, create, collaborate, and teach!

89. sahmphd - June 10, 2010 at 03:13 pm

I think there are so many comments on this article because people are desperate to share their experiences and connect with other people who have experienced mobbing in higher ed. Mobbing is the skeleton in higher ed's closet. I first read about mobbing a year ago and to some extent the work on mobbing has been a lifeline for me as I tried to navigate through a mobbing experience. It is life-changing and traumatizing. It has negatively affected my identity, self-esteem, regard for the academy, trust in others, and my marriage. The mobbing started a year before I went up for t&p. A bare majority of my Colleages in my dept. voted to deny T&P (using the wrong criteria to rationalize their decision), an external committee saw the injustice in this decision and declared that the previous recommendations be reversed. The Provost recommended Tenure. People in my dept. violated protocol and went to the president before he saw my file. The Pres. denied me T&P. I am now unemployed in a terrible market.

I was in a department that has a long history of treating people poorly. Two years after I arrived there was a workshop for members of my department mandated by administrators because another colleague stated she was mistreated (bullied). It didn't work. The bullies laughed about the mediation process. Since then several others have been bullied and all but one is gone (voluntarily or involuntarily). Administrators do NOTHING. I think Ken Westhaus has said that the only way bullying ends is when administrators say "ENOUGH!!"

90. dboyles - June 10, 2010 at 04:03 pm

At the risk of overgeneralization by using the word "dysfunctional"--a descriptor meaning many different things in different contexts--"civility" clauses and "codes of ethics" can themselves be an organizational form of bullying in a 'dysfunctional' environment. The "laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy" over not just the classroom (AAUP's phrase) but over the academy-at-large may effectively suppress sufficient dialogue or contribute to its dearth, leading to the actual outbursts of strong emotion and opinion on issues in need of address, but which are receiving little if any. While this doesn't justify "bullying"--a similarly highly-charged phrase which to some extent exists in the eye of the beholder (be he victim or agent--coupled with organizations erected around highly competitive stakes and trimmed lean, namely, 21st century universities--may be expected to give rise to bullies and accusations of bullying, as stressed as faculty are in a changing academy in which faculty are increasingly regarded as disposable parts or pawns of various agendas.

91. oldassocprof - June 10, 2010 at 04:28 pm

I saw bullying of this sort outside of academia only in the Army. A chemical detachment at Ft. Lewis, about 5 men, actually mobbed its clerk, the only high school graduate. The others were all college grads. In an artillery battalion in Korea, the very inferior sergeants mobbed an excellent sergeant (the Ammo Section NCOIC)because he was soldier-friendly, rather than clique-friendly. There's lots of clique stuff in businesses, but productivity is hard to argue with. I did see cliques dump very productive people a couple of times though. Each time, it was a female clique dumping a productive man. The reason noised about was that he was "rude" (read analytical.)

92. oldassocprof - June 10, 2010 at 04:39 pm

Re 90. I think the Deborah Tannen research muting principled academic argument has been somewhat destructive. Debate can be recast as "sexism," unfortunately, in this context.

But, #90, real bullying is quite palpable, I assure you. It's like being caught in a bad surf. You don't know if you can survive or what you can do. My chair at S__T was an actual primary sociopath, I'm fairly convinced. He was instrumental in the mobbing of the president after I left, but only his toadies spoke out publically. Very smooth. Like many sociopaths, he could be quite winning and funny, occasionally.

We had medical doctors take our program at times, and he went out of his way to humiliate them because they had the MD or DO.

It is possible to survive someone like this by becoming a toady, but if you're not made that way, it doesn't work.

93. goxewu - June 10, 2010 at 05:00 pm

Re #82:

Taking testimonies with a grain of salt merely means employing the necessary skepticism (not outright disbelief, mind you) that academics are supposed to use. (That's what scholars do: They don't take the first account of something at face value. They either check it against other sources or weigh it against reason and experience.) A few--just a few--of the comments on this thread do have an noticeable quotient of self-pity.

Sometimes, when things go wrong, people tend to see powerful people plotting against them, or exaggerate insensitive criticism into "bullying," or see lack of support from colleagues as "mobbing." I'm only saying "sometimes"--not all the time or even most of the time.

It'd be informative if all the alleged "bullies" and "mobbers" mentioned on this thread were able to recognize themselves and the circumstances and reply (pseudonymously, of course). Do I think that all the stories of woe on this thread would be substantially discounted? No. Most of them? No. Half of them? No. Two or three out of ten? Yes, that'd be a reasonable estimate.

Yes, I was bullied, back in the distant past. Stood up to the bully not because I was brave, but because I was young, impetuous and reckless. Luckily, the guy backed off, we didn't speak for two years, and then he retired. No, I never bullied anybody. At least I don't think I did. I certainly might have said something insensitive or blunt that somebody on the receiving end might have interpreted as an instance of bullying, but I never kept it up.

94. kmackenz - June 10, 2010 at 05:25 pm

Hi #93

My situation is more complicated (read boring, and tedious to explain) than outlined in my previous comments. My current advisor was the advisor, many years ago, of the Chair of my department in a different, not as prestigious, University. They had many issues between them although they still communicate at conferences, etc.

My seminars conflicted with the one graduate class that I teach, and neither my advisor or my Chair would give me slack for the others sake or for mine. I am caught in between the two, and feel a bit like a pawn.

95. 12111360 - June 10, 2010 at 05:41 pm

The above comments say it all. There is little to add -- except ONE thing: Due to the prevalence of this serious phenomenon in the academy, it would behoove the legal profession to make this issue a "legal specialty."

I am dead serious. Attorneys and law firms, I predict, would be plenty busy if they advertised that they specialize in "academic mobbing and other forms of academic harassment." As was the case for me personally, (I am commentator #53 and #57), the most egregious forms of workplace violence might be taken on pro bono. In most cases, however, even just a strong letter from a legal firm to the administration gets the institution's attention. "In-house resolutions" (mediation, grievance process, etc.) DO NOT WORK! I reiterate that the institution HAS TO KNOW THAT IT HAS MORE TO LOSE FROM DOING NOTHING than from acting. And the administration (and the Board of Trustees) will only act if and when a legal challenge is posed. Yes, it will cost you some money, but it is NOTHING compared to losing your employment and, worse, being blackballed in your profession. One thing I can guarantee you: no future college or university will employ you if you have been dismissed/left on your own -- no matter how much you explain/show proof of the wrongful dismissal or your reasons for voluntary termination of your employment.

Here is my advice for effective survival of this horrendous form of "academic violence" -- based on research, VERY PERSONAL experience, and observation of and intervention in the mistreatment of colleagues:


2. CONSULT WITH A GOOD ATTORNEY/LAW FIRM (an attorney associated with a pretigeous law firm is a better choice than a single-office attorney not unaffiliated with a firm).

3. HAVE THE ATTORNEY WRITE A STRONG LETTER TO THE TOP ADMINISTRATORS AND THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES (a good attorney who has maticulous documentation from the client will know exactly how to phrase the demand for remedy and the consequences for lack thereof)

4. GO PUBLIC (In my own case, an egregious wrongful dismissal, the attorney called the press himself. As a result, I found my case aired in several newspapers for weeks on end. Surprisingly, I found that exposure to be a liberating experience. I assure you that it beats being violated behind closed doors. Nothing is worse than anonymous suffering). There are other venues of publicity that your attorney may want to pursue, aside.

5. CONTACT ORGANIZATIONS THAT SPECIALIZE IN PUBLICITY OF ACADEMIC WORKPLACE INJUSTICE (FIRE, CENTER FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS, NAS, ETC.) You need hope and support at this time. These organizations (at FIRE, ask to speak to Adam Kissel and/or attorney Greg Lukianoff)will write about your case on their website and may have other remedies, suggestions.

6. HOLD YOUR HEAD UP HIGH! (You have done nothing wrong. Portray strength and confidence, no matter how much you hurt. There is something about a confident aura that commands respect)

7. DON'T BE AFRAID (You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The bully(bullies) have already smeared your reputation, and he/she/they will not take pity on you even if you begged. In the end, they will only be put into their place through actions #2 and #3 above. Therefore, do not show weakness. The time for negotiating and hoping for improvement is OVER!

8. YOU MAY WISH TO DO ALL OR SOME OF THE ABOVE. (I did ALL of them simultaneously, and it got resuls)


10. Finally: THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS!

96. 11223435 - June 10, 2010 at 08:29 pm

Many of these comments about bullying and mobbing and incivility--and all of them ring true to my witnessing and sometimes experiencing these behaviors, both as a faculty member and as an administrator--include the expectation that bullying faculty members should be rebuked by administrators or disciplined or even fired for such uncollegial behavior (And I have seen such behavior that deserved termination). Well, just give it a try...The Chronicle has run at least one story about such an action in the last year, and the bully was played as a victim of the administration. Everyone lines up to excoriate any administrator who takes such an action based on collegiality. How does the AAUP, for example, feel about ANY personnel action based on a judgement of collegiality or even the inclusion of collegialtiy as a criterion in any personnel process? Look it up. Our basic assumptions contradict any action being taken, or at least make it damn near impossible, and fraught with legal dangers for people and institutions.

97. goxewu - June 10, 2010 at 09:14 pm

See what I mean?

"A professor did not like my ideas, and in a dissertation seminar was so cruel to me that I almost cried, and felt shattered. It is a small department, and I quickly noticed that all the professors started treating me differently... with hostility and contempt" in #47 and "after awhile I began to feel it was more my'underwhelmed attitute' and my professional experience that made me a target...The whole department pointed invisible daggers at me" in #64, becomes...

"My current advisor was the advisor, many years ago, of the Chair of my department in a different, not as prestigious, University. They had many issues between them although they still communicate at conferences, etc...I am caught in between the two, and feel a bit like a pawn" in #94.

I feel like I'm watching "Rashomon."

98. gophertortoise - June 10, 2010 at 09:21 pm

I worked for a higher education non-profit and went through this same experience until I had to resign. Then I wrote to the BOD outlining the abuse. It was a hard decision to make because my first thought was, "Maybe it is me." But after watching at least a half-dozen other people leave the organization because of the same problem, I knew it was definitely not me. The board is taking action to make sure that employees will have recourse from such abuse. It's too late for me and others who have left but I have hope that the staff still there will have some protection. However, I am not at all certain that the bully can be reformed. No employee in any job should have to endure the emotional pummeling and the feelings of helplessness caused by this treatment.

99. kmackenz - June 10, 2010 at 09:42 pm

Well, #97.

All the above are part of an unfolding drama. Begining with the tension between my Chair and advisor, who is also Chair of her department, vibrating through the department, and effecting other professors, and finally hitting me again.

See, more complicated, and ultimately tedious. (Although, it is hard to live/work/think in tainted atmosphere).

100. 11223435 - June 10, 2010 at 09:58 pm

Well, #97, it has to be expected--the Chronicle has made itself into a giant pity party. The percentage of this wailing that's true? How in heaven's name can anyone know--or even guess? In the meantime, our wailing, our self-centeredness, and the very real contradictions of the profession that are aired here, along with our sense of entitlement and our self-pity, make us look increasingly irrelevant to the rest of America. When is the last time you read a comment on here from someone not in academe who wasn't negative about what's read here?

101. drkrocha - June 10, 2010 at 10:03 pm

To #95....

3. HAVE THE ATTORNEY WRITE A STRONG LETTER TO THE TOP ADMINISTRATORS AND THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES (a good attorney who has maticulous documentation from the client will know exactly how to phrase the demand for remedy and the consequences for lack thereof)

I did have a great attorney write a five page letter to the President. Documenting T's & I's. To be sent back a letter from the school stating...

"This is a closed personnel ISSUE and we have been told by counsel that we have no comment!" Sincerely, School

So, how does one handle that?

102. oldassocprof - June 10, 2010 at 10:45 pm

I wish people who talk about self-centeredness and pity parties could experience bullying. Most targets of bullies are trying to do a credible job. Academia would be a pretty nice place if it weren't for bullies. But for positions requiring doctoral level educations, it doesn't pay all that well. I don't give a damn what the public thinks. I work my tail off. I've produced 22 publications at 4-4 and 3-3 places in 13 years, including two books. I've served generously on committees, done community work, and assumed leadership positions, especially on my current campus.

I think the bullying occurs because of the role of prestige in universities and colleges, and the slippery nature of what counts and what doesn't as performance. I saw people in a mob at my current campus make up lies about a faculty member they didn't want to tenure, saying he didn't actually write the things he wrote, and the like.

People who are poor performers but have attained power may be trying to victimize better performers. My bullying ex-chair seemed desperate to control me in a number of illegitimate ways. When I obtained a $15,000 federal grant to evaluate a drug program, he suggested I work on something else and not do the work. Madness. The provost and others celebrated my grant, although they did not support my challenge of my non-reappointment. The college gave no reasons for the non-reappointment, breaking their own procedures.

My chair wanted to direct my research, but, as a professor, I direct my own research. The guy was practically illiterate. He kept talking about us doing a joint project, and I was willing to do this, but he was unwilling to do any work whatsoever on it. So I went slow.

He'd threaten me occasionally. One was: "Don't ever ask for a sabbatical. You won't get it." This out of thin air. Another: "Teach me SAS, or you won't get tenure." I don't use SAS, I use SPSS. Many other little jabs like that. Hard to deal with. The main idea seemed to be to try to get fawning deference.

103. eudaimon - June 10, 2010 at 11:04 pm


104. eudaimon - June 10, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Tenured faculty can be dismissed or demoted for cause. Serious mistreatment, if it is documented and if it continues after attempts to bring about a resolution, should be included in the category of for cause violations. Tenured faculty can be dismissed for misrepresenting their credentials? Why should abusive, harmful behavior be accepted? Why should perpetrators not be dismissed for defamation? The AAUP recognizes moral turpitude as a cause for dismissal. Abusive behavior is morally reprehensible, so it should not be hard to treat it as such an infraction. Simply recognizing that tenure should not be equated with a sinecure, but as a form of for cause (as opposed to at will) employment, would help the profession immensely.

105. youcantimagine - June 11, 2010 at 12:29 am

For the self-righteous among us who is intent on questioning the validity and accuracy of the bullied experiences of others which are characterized as self-centeredness pity parties for inept scholarship which gives the public a poor view of academia...I say, Celebrate!

And Yes, thank you Chronicle for making this dirty secret in academic communities PUBLIC. I and others who find themselves looking for jobs that dont exist while we try to figure out how to make ends meet for no other reason than the egregious mean-spiritedness of self-possessed lunatics have every right to engage in any level of self pity we choose. I can only speak for myself when I say that years of being targeted and hounded by a group of women who behaved like a pack of wild dogs....pity was a defense I used to hold my head high, maintain professionalism no matter what they did or said, and not buy into the persona non grata that they subjected me to. The desperation I experienced is reflected in the voices of others who have disclosed the psychological, physical, emotional, financial hardships they have experienced as a result of bullying. It has been over a year that I left that awful place and I don't miss it or them at all, I feel FREE, no matter what. So I am so appreciative of this opportunity to not only share my experiences but most importantly to know that, as others said, I am NOT alone...there is a community of us...I have benefited so much from the info people have shared and my heartaches and I am angry as hell but not just for myself anymore.

So, some can sit on their high horses and question what is real from what is not and being concerned about public disclosure if that is what rings their bell. I, for one, am certain that people may have different perceptions of the same event but a person's experiences are real to them and therefore valid, from a social constructivist view, and thus worthy of our collective consideration...but be mindful of the fact that this is not a court of law...we don't have to prove anything to anyone in this forum. Yet, we have every right to express our experiences in, and opinions of, academia...and I don't give a hoot that it may contribute to people getting an inside view of what is going on. Like someone else mentioned: Oh, you have no idea...wait until I write my next book! I don't care if I have to publish it on copy machines in the library...I am going to do my part in getting the word out about bullying and mobbing in academia , if it is the last thing I do on this earth and I mean that sincerely...so I can have a pity-party if I want to...naysayers will not stop me!

106. peterplagens - June 11, 2010 at 08:57 am


107. sikora - June 11, 2010 at 09:49 am

I was bullied as a non-tenured assistant professor, at a religious SLAC at which I didn't belong. I don't think my bully realized he was bullying me, I believe he thought he was doing the right thing. I was one of three faculty members in my department. He was tenured, I wasn't. We had strong ideological differences, and he believed that my discipline was immoral and religiously incompatible with the institution. I was his major target, but not his only one. I made things worse by pushing back. For instance, I overheard him twice gossiping with students about other faculty. He accused a faculty member of "heterodoxy." So I told my chair, and the target. The target went to the dean. The bully denied the charge, and I was forced to apologize. I also made things worse because of an undertreated mental illness, and I broke down. The college put pressure on me to resign. I did, but was unable to find another job. The school was not able to find a replacement, but when I inquired about staying on another year, bully wouldn't allow it. BTW, he discussed my mental health with a candidate for my job, and I suspect he discussed my mental health with students. He discussed a lot of things with students, actually.

Truly,I believe he thought he was doing the right thing by driving me away. He was protecting the institution and students from the "spiritual damage" I was doing via my courses and my liberal politics (which I worked hard to keep out of my courses, but I now know I should have left Marx totally out of my social theory class). Plus, we just plain disliked each other. I fully accept my screw ups. It was a poor institutional fit, I pushed back inappropriately and in anger, my illness negatively affected my performance - honestly, I wouldn't have given me tenure. It hurt, but I am less a victim than I thought I was three years ago. I got very little support from my chair (he was intimidated himself, and wearily ready to retire).

I have not recovered professionally. I am well credentialed, but I am now working as a research assistant. I was unemployed for two years. My career is over. There's no recovery here. I don't know what I am going to do next. Ten years of grad school and three graduate degrees, all on fellowships, gone to waste. It's mostly my fault.

108. robcohen - June 11, 2010 at 09:57 am


109. 11223435 - June 11, 2010 at 01:03 pm

If you think 100% of these anecdotes are true, unbiased narratives, then you've never ever heard a colleague bitch and moan for what turned out to be a reason that no one else could understand, or had a colleague who expected to be chair next year because he'd just been promoted to full and the chair position "was next," or someone who thought he was just great and wasn't, or just exaggerated, or couldn't believe anyone had intellectual positions different from her, or who simply filed false claim with HR or Diversity or the Campus Police (such instances have been reported moe than once in the Chronicle), or who claimed to be bullied as a way of bullying others.

And, in fact I did not say these stories here were all false, now did I? I started to advise those who misread my last comment to "Grow Up," but I think I'll amend that simply to "Think!"

And if you think it's simple to dismiss a tenured professor--hell, anyone from an academic position of any kind--give it a shot yourself when you get the chance. Or until then, ask around your university and see if anyone can remember the last dismissal of a tenured professor. Sure, it happens once in a blue moon. But in how many numbers? Does it strike you that such a dismissal is considered "news" by the Chronicle because it is very rare?

Give reading and thinking a shot. You might just like it.

110. academicwanderer - June 11, 2010 at 02:16 pm

I have seen/experienced bullying at three different institutions; both the bullies and their victims included department chairs, tenured faculty, and untenured faculty. The actions included e-mail harassment, open and irrational hostility, demeaning victims in front of colleagues and students, and other forms of psychological violence. In no instance was the bullying resolved by anything short of the departure of the victim (in all but one case) or the perpetrator (in that one case). In general, the various administrations did nothing about the bullying; indeed, in one case (which I experienced) the dean tacitly participated in the bullying. In the one case where the bully was compelled to leave, it was not because of his bullying of his former chair, but because he didn't finish his Doctorate within the time allotted for it.

For myself, I went into academic administration to escape an individual who was already showing signs of bullying behavior, even though he was untenured. The other woman in the department and I tried to convince our (male) colleagues that he was trouble, but they wouldn't listen. It was clear he was going to get tenure, so I got out.

My analysis of all this:

1. Those who are bullies have been bullied; academic bullies learned their behavior as children, when they were bullied in the schoolyard for being bookish, clever, etc. The fact that they were probably victims in NO WAY excuses their behavior (not all who were bullied as children grow up to be bullies -- I didn't!).

2. As long as the tenure system "locks up" the middle of everyone's career trajectory (and the end of most of us), there will be no solution to bullying in academe. The problem with tenure is not so much that it protects the bullies (though it does); it is that it allows no escape for the victims. Look at the job listings -- there are NO JOBS for associate professors; if you are tenured, you don't leave your institution, no matter how bad it gets, because you'll likely not get another job. So, you stay and endure the bullying; administrations know this, so why should they try to fix the problem? Get rid of tenure, create greater mobility around institutions, and maybe something will be done. (BTW, there should still be some kind of protection for freedom-of-speech/thought -- but, I just don't think it needs to be tenure -- a union would probably work just as well).

3. Professionalize academic administration; it is absurd that we rely so much on individuals with no people-management skills or expertise to run departments and colleges. Being widely published does not mean that you have the skills necessary to chair or dean.

And goxewu -- there's a time and a place for academic skepticism and textual analysis. Perhaps this isn't the best one. If you can't let go of your intellect and tap into your empathy, then maybe you shouldn't read these posts.

111. academicwanderer - June 11, 2010 at 02:20 pm

One other thing; maybe we need an online support group. A Ning? A Facebook page? Any ideas?

112. bigtwin - June 11, 2010 at 03:58 pm

If you read goxewu's posts elswewhere on this site, you'll see that he/she fits the bill for what's being discussed here. Bullying.

113. manhatto - June 11, 2010 at 04:20 pm

i's sad to read all this, but very happy for me to know that it's prevalent and that i'm not the only pariah walking around. i was bullied by a chariman out of a job, i won't say out of the profession though the appearance certainly didn't help my cahnces. many here have speculated on a solution; in my university the chair had sole authority to recommend retention, viz. had unilateral power to hire and fire. the other senior faculty advised him against what he was doing to me, but to no effect. that, obv., would have to change.

114. goxewu - June 11, 2010 at 04:40 pm


115. cstars - June 11, 2010 at 04:42 pm

I have a less standard bullying story.

I was a a new Chair. One of my colleagues was married to a senior Administrator and a friend of the new President. This colleague made my life hell for two years: spreading lies about me, telling others I was picking on him, running to the President whenever I suggested policy he did not like. All this culminated in a dreadful scene in my office (and the ahllway, and another colleague's office). I never had experienced anythinkg like it in some 30 years in academe.

Some colleagues insisted I report the episode to the HR head. I did, and she was quite sympathetic. However, what were the options? I could not go to the spouse of my bully, and I could not go to the Prez. Even if the latter believed my account, anything he might have said to the colleague would simply have produced greater tension. Besides, I felt sure the Prez would tell me it was a "test" of my "leadership."

Eventually spouse and colleague left. Only after their departure have I fully come to realize how much stress I suffered in that situation; the screamng and threatening conduct in my office was only the visible tip of the iceberg. But, there is good news: we can heal ourselves after these experiences. It takes time and support from friends and family. But, you will survive and flourish.

116. goxewu - June 11, 2010 at 04:48 pm

Re #112:

I'm a he. I'm also a little at a loss as to how I "fit the bill for...bullying."

All I've said is that a) a lot of these posts should be taken with a grain of salt, b) academics, especially, should exercise some skepticism about single-sourced personal testimonies about anything, including hot-button topics such as bullying, and c) that the percentage of posts on this thread that would probably be substantially discounted by the "bullies'" side of the story is probably two or three out of every ten. And then I gave an example of (b), with kmakenz's evolving story.

If this kind of judiciousness "fits the profile of bullying, then academe is in a bad way.

Perhaps this will dampen the thread's credulousness just a bit: This thread now bears a resemblance to one of those "men's rights" websites on which there's one story after another about how an evil ex- or estranged wife trampled on the guy's civil, social, and financial rights. One wonders what the wives would say. Likewise, one wonders in, oh, two or three out of every ten posts here, what the "bullies" would say.

117. pantani - June 12, 2010 at 04:23 am

A number of posters have asked why chairs do not do something about it. Well, mainly because they are not supported in doing anything about it by upper administration. Chairs actually have very little power, and "quiet words" with bullies frequently result in chairs being called into the dean's office, and told to stop taking sides, stay out of it, or accused of having an agenda against the bully. What cstars describes in #115 is the most common response of administration --chairs are frequently told they are bad people managers when chairs step in to stop it, or suggestions made that the chair is failing a "test of leadership."

Most chairs are bad people managers simply because higher administration won't let them be anything else.

Could chairs still fight the battle? Most likely, the chairs would lose, and the department as a whole left in a weaker position for the funding, office space, etc. I think many more chairs (at least those who are not bullies themselves) would like to do something, but are strongly discouraged from doing so.

Also, the whole accreditation/ranking systems work against fixing the bullies. The attitude of, well, my dean anyway is: "Yes x is a bully, but the research hu is doing keeps our rankings high and makes our college and your department look good to upper administration. Remember, the upper admin don't care that other members of your department have to put up with a bully. They care about more important things."

The problem in academia is that the management system encourages passive-aggressive (or in the case of the lower ranks), passive, interactions and management.

118. rear_view_mirror - June 12, 2010 at 09:22 am

If you think our court system is over wrought now, wait until we pass "anti-bullying" laws, creating a new class of victims, with new entitlements.
Bullying is terrible. My girlfriend is currently a victim of a bullying boss.
As with many organizations in the private sector, the employee has people with whom she may discuss the situation, but they tend to be either aligned with the bully, or reluctant to rock the boat.
She's looking for another job.
Thanks to some of those who have taken an interest in problems that many adjuncts face today, I have been able to learn from CHE forums that a person who stays in an unduly stressful workplace has himself to blame. So any collective effort to improve or remedy the injurious situation would be a case of misplaced responsibility.

119. youcantimagine - June 12, 2010 at 11:44 am

I think that the individualization of bullying in academia helps tremendously to sustain the problem. We stay in these stressful workplaces, to the extent that we can, because we blame ourselves and other blame us for what is happening to us. We go on with the hope that we can somehow get it right and the bullying will stop. But the truth of the matter is that bullying in academe is systemic. It is historical and structural..and will not diminish based on the actions of individuals who duck and run and in fact it, like all social movements, requires collective action. What became historical events often began by individuals speaking out and taking a stance....but their experiences, like ours, were discounted as the problem of individuals...until the masses cried out for help and the atrocities committed upon them were made glaringly public!!

So, academicwanderer #111, I don't know much about where to begin but I could invest some time, as I look for jobs that don't exist, in helping to create an online support group or something...what do you think?

120. oldassocprof - June 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Hey, Rearview 118. The problem with academic jobs is that they have at least a one year cycle time, and intense and frequently irrational terms of competition. (What I mean by irrational is that a new ABD may look better to a college than I do, even though I'm well published, and got a PhD from a great school. Much hiring is driven by fads as much as qualifications.) And you frequently can't take, say, tenure, or even rank many times, with you if you do get a new job. In the current market, giving up a tenured or tenure track job is madness. This gives bullies a great deal of leverage.

I have a theory that bullying happens more on teaching campuses. At least the type of bullying that involves less-qualified people picking off more qualified ones. So the remark above about Prof X being more published and a bully wouldn't apply to our campus-- but it might on research campuses.

121. kemal - June 13, 2010 at 04:46 am

they assembled a bogus "intervention" to try to force me out. Turns out that I do need help -- but most of it is to recover from years of their collective abuse, from being so thorougly violated, and from trying to sort out what travesti job prospects I could possibly have left after they told multiple people at other universities that I'm (allegedly) a borderline.

122. rear_view_mirror - June 13, 2010 at 02:32 pm

Another type of bullying: you are an adjunct, and the chair asks [requires] you to prepare or provide course material for him to use in his course (three weeks' worth), without compensation. I've had this happen, and complied.
Another time he asked me to substitute teach his course, without compensation. I said OK, then at the last minute, got up the nerve to demand payment, which I got.
Another time, another tenured professor (not the chair) asked me for materials. I said sure, then just forgot about it.

123. tyche - June 14, 2010 at 03:54 pm

Bullies are torturers.

It is urgent that the legal definitions of torture be expanded to include bullyism. I agree with post #48 that bullyism is violence, is a form of psychological torture, and it needs to be classified as such. Being subjected to torture is a question of HUMAN RIGHTS. Bullies violate the human rights and the dignity of their victims, their intention is to kill a person psychologically, morally, and financially, and as such bullies need to be prosecuted. Victims need reparations, as the scars of torture are deep. Many times victims are forced to leave (exile from) their universities and consequently these faculty members should be given the opportunity to get asylum in other institutions that are known for protecting human rights. Universities who have staff, students, faculty, or administrators who bully (torture) should get sanctions (put them in conditional accreditation) and their transgressions should be exposed publicly. A group of victims needs to come out of this current discussion and act to shape legal, accreditation, and academic policy. We cannot continue relying on faculty organizations that seem to side with universities that house and protect bullies.

124. tyche - June 14, 2010 at 03:59 pm

But law is not enough.

Bullyism is a moral and ethical question, but it must also be a psychological illness. What does bullying say about the moral, ethics, and psychological wellbeing in universities? I would like to see disaggregated data on bullyism by race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, accent, political views, ideology, and class origin, but also data on faculty being bullied by students, which is an unexplored area. I faced serious bullying at a state university by a Chair and a Dean who later blacklisted me, which is another way of perpetuating the legacy of the bully. I thought that her coming from a “minority” status, (the Dean is lesbian) this person would have some consciousness, but identity of any kind is not a guarantee that the individual will have the capability of respecting the lives and rights of other human beings. Unconditional support from the institution, access to excessive administrative power, impunity and lack of accountability make the bullies invincible. The impunity bullies enjoy defines the character of the universities that house and protect them. The tactics they use make faculty, staff, students, and other faculty and administrators coward and corrupt, as they keep silence and even lend themselves to be accomplices of the bullying. Their gain is that by siding with the bully they will be protected from being bullied, but they compromise their honesty and integrity in places where these values are supposedly regarded and encouraged.

125. tyche - June 14, 2010 at 04:04 pm

I do not believe in mediation as a solution to bullying, as power differentials will intervene in the search for a just solution. Solutions need to come from those who have been subjected to bullyism.

I believe in organization and action and I believe that is what the victims or targets of bullies need to do. To provide an organized response.

Bullyism is defining universities in the 21st century. Universities who ignore bullyism are sites where human rights are violated. Faculty organizations that ignore bullyism should be deprived from their privilege to represent faculty. Urgent action needs to be carried out. The post by Youcanimagine#119 has started with an excellent proposal. Keep us informed. I am for it.

126. youcantimagine - June 14, 2010 at 05:30 pm

#123 and 124, Tyche...I didn't start the proposal for collective action. It was suggested by #110/111 academicwanderer. I just responded that I would be happy to get involved in doing something to get the word out and to support others who have been bullied on academic campuses. Academicwanderer has not responded yet but hopefully we can try to maintain communication and figure out what we can do..I am so willing to do this! And am putting the word out to anyone else who wants to get involved: Let's just to figure out a way to connect.

127. youcantimagine - June 14, 2010 at 05:31 pm

I mean: Let's just try to figure out a way to connect and brainstorm!!

128. rear_view_mirror - June 14, 2010 at 06:15 pm

Not only does the dean not have "capability of respecting the lives and rights of other human beings,"
any accusations can be countered with a charge of discrimination.
Welcome to political correctness gone wild.

129. tyche - June 14, 2010 at 07:36 pm


I read with interest the responses by David Yamada, Mike Schlicht, Loraleigh Keashly, and Cathy Pales throughout this conversation. They show sensitivity, expertise, and willingness to address the issue (sorry if I am missing others). I wonder if they would be willing to help in suggesting a way to organize a support group? I would like to participate in a list or any other forum that could be a SAFE space to connect, participate, provide/receive support, and continue the conversation to explore alternatives and solutions, and to brainstorm and compile best practices as those already suggested by 12111360 and others.

Looking forward to receiving a response.

130. oldassocprof - June 14, 2010 at 07:40 pm

Just found this site. Specifically for American and Canadian faculty and staff. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=135542209794804&v=info&ref=mf

131. goxewu - June 15, 2010 at 09:09 am

Just to stir the pot again a little (and, perhaps futilely, to try to inject a little skepticism into this parade of "Can I get a witness!?") --

1. General point: Many of the commenters here refer to "bullies" like law & order conservatives do to "criminals." To them, it's ordinary decent citizens versus a career class of people who are nothing but criminals, whereas the reality is that there are relatively few career criminals and that crime is committed by people who aren't criminals as a matter of course, but who, for various reasons of class, culture, and personal immorality, commit crimes from time to time. Likewise, this thread posits a separate career class of bullies, as if these people weren't fellow academics, who didn't come into their jobs the same way their victims did, and don't do anything else (teaching, research, service, etc.) except bully.

2. #121, kemal. Really?

3. #115, cstars. Why couldn't cstars "go to the Prez?" The President of a college is supposed to have the interests of the college at heart, and not to put the friendship of a faculty member above that. Sure, the President might not have agreed with him about the faculty member, but cstars's timidity about the alleged bully being a friend of the president prevented the President from even hearing about it. There's no system of grievances, complaints, arbitration, mediation, etc. that completely obviate the occasional need for a little bit of courage on the part of an academic.

132. otdoc - June 15, 2010 at 09:58 am

I was a f-t tenure track professor in an allied health program at a medical college in Georgia, and along with a high number of predecessors and co-workers, was the victim of a tyrannical, narcisstic, anti-social department chair, who was protected by an equally crazy dean. She employed most if not all of the bullying styles enumerated in the article, and when I agreed with the HR director to a mediation session, this Chair came and manipulated the mediators as well! It was a total disaster for me, and only resulted in additional retaliation. What is needed are codification of anti-bullying laws at the state level. I and others sought external civil legal counsel and were told by the attorney that in his past experience, he had observed these university administrators willingly perjure themselves to escape legal action. This Chair could also bully others of her sycophantic followers into vouching for her against me or whoever was the victim du jour. She even went so far as to talk to students and employ them in the discrediting of my (and others') teaching. I could go on and on, but it has taken me almost 5 years to recover from the PTSD symptoms. I'm so happy to be out of there, and blessed to be in a healthy, supporting faculty environment.

133. oldassocprof - June 15, 2010 at 10:58 am

Here's another excellent site: http://www.workplacebullying.org/

134. tomahawk0299 - June 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I think bullying is a problem. Most bullies, are in fact, cowards, who also refuse to answer to or attempt to resolve the issues.

Let's never forget the example of Columbine, or the August 1986 Edmond Post Office Sherrill event where the postal worker shot 12 or 13 of his colleagues.

Everyone's eyes raise up and say how bad the actors were for picking up a gun ... and at the same moment they fail to question or consider the abuse, alienation, and bullying the actors endured prior to taking things into their own hands.

Let's never forget that EVERYONE and ANYONE can be found on the various Internet sites, identifying one's household, family members, ages, etc. in spite of having unlisted phone numbers, etc. What's stopping a victim from looking the bully up on one of these sights and then taking actions and eliminating the bully and their entire family from the gene pool?


Allow a person to be bullied to the point he/she loses their livlihood...are YOU willing to risk having this done to you? Are there people willing to take actions like this? I think there are...

Let's not under-estimate anyone!

Therefore, bullies put a lot of people at risk, and I'm just not sure if any set of laws is enough to resolve the problem.

I've had one manager while I was in the military who took two people, gave them a project to last 3 or 4 months, and told them to work together on it. That if there were any issues, he'd see to it that both would suffer. While the problem was resolved soon after, I realize we're not in the military.

Resolution only comes from courage from the victim; strong leadership from management; and effective "zero tolerance" organizational policies, communication, and dispute resolution activities.

135. tom_kosakowski - June 21, 2010 at 04:23 pm

This article caused some consternation among Organizational Ombuds, especially those on college campuses. What piqued Ombuds was the plan by AAA and the ADR Consortium persuade colleges to adopt anti-bullying policies and codes of civility which would then provide an incentive for alleged faculty bullies to submit to arbitration or mediation -- services AAA and the ADR Consortium are gearing up to sell.

Most colleges already use alternative dispute resolution techniques to address allegations of harassment and discrimination. Three hundred colleges and universities have Ombuds offices and campus Ombuds routinely assist bullied individuals. In 2007, the International Ombudsman Association developed a uniform reporting instrument to classify cases and included a specific category for "Bullying, Mobbing (abusive, threatening, and/or coercive behaviors)." However, the Chronicle Article did not even mention the widespread and on-going efforts by Ombuds to address bulling concerns. But that was not the primary focus of Ombuds that read the article.

Ombuds know that arbitration and mediation are ineffective tools for handling bullies. The prospect of private arbitration as a means of disciplining faculty is extremely unlikely. The arbitration model used by AAA is very different than the disciplinary process in place on most campuses. It's hard to imagine any faculty senate agreeing to abdicate its traditional governance role to an outsider, much less an individual professor agreeing to arbitration after a complaint.

There are at least three reasons why mediation is vastly inferior to the services of an Organizational Ombuds.

Too Little Insight

Outside mediators know too little -- they lack familiarity with the policies, culture and personalities on a particular campus. Ombuds, on the other hand, are part of the organization and know the political dynamics, unwritten rules, and history. These subtle but important factors allow Ombuds to give more strategic advice and craft more effective resolutions. MIT Ombuds Toni Robinson recently addressed the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources and explained that Ombuds are uniquely position to help individuals use leverage to get a resolution and advocate for fair process.

Too Late In the Process

Outside mediators come to a conflict too late -- they receive the case only after both parties acknowledge the problem. Ombuds, on the other hand, are available to victims at the first sign of bullying. A recent article by the American Association of Medical Colleges highlighted the decision of MD Anderson to create an Ombuds office to help prevent troubling behavior by listening for and making recommendations on various faculty problems.

Too Many Parties

Outside mediators require too many parties -- they begin work only after two parties acknowledge a conflict. Ombuds, on the other hand, are available for consultation by individuals whom may want to address the situation on their own rather in a two-party process. An article by DePaul's Ombuds, Rev. Craig Moussin, for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities cites the flexibility of Ombuds to offer safe counsel and explore options that serve all parties.

There are many reasons why college administrators should rely on existing Ombuds programs as a tool to address bullying. Nonetheless, the complexity of the problem may make outside arbitration and mediation attractive as the next trend in higher education. In the long run, however, outside neutrals are unlikely to be as effective.

136. 11185089 - June 26, 2010 at 08:05 am

While #135 argues for internal/campus mediators rather than ouside mediators, the vast majority of these readers' comments point to the inappropriateness of using mediation at all in cases of bullying. Again, bullying is not about disputes!!! The bottom line is that bullying is pathological and the only appropriate treatment is psychological therapy. And, the only appropriate response from our institutions is to remove bullies (and supervisors who dilly dally around the situation) from positions of power. It is simply irresponsible, ineffective, and harmful and unfair to others to try to wait/nudge out or "mentor" a bully toward healthy behaviors.

137. enna_deguzman - June 27, 2010 at 09:58 pm

I presented an independent study paper entitled "In Search of a Solution: A Meta-analysis of Workplace Bullying vis a vis Mediation" at the 7th International Conference on Workplace Bullying and Harassment in Cardiff, Wales last June 2-4, 2010.

Proponents of mediation say that it encourages cooperation instead of litigation, empowerment instead of being made spectators in a court process. Those arguments are true but the paper challenged the thinking that mediation is an appropriate intervention for workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying cannot be put in a neat little box of a definition. For the study, the essence of workplace bullying dynamics was distilled from the perspective of 100 international academics and researchers: targeted, willful, malicious, continuing and relentless. Continuing and relentless both connote duration of time. "Relentless" was added because it has the negative connotation of persistence. The harassment is unyielding in severity and the bully, especially if he or she represents the employer,is unforgiving and the punishment is unproportional.

The paper included examples of bullying to illustrate that workplace bullying is neither a dispute nor a conflict. Some tactics are innocuous. Others are morally hurtful. For instance,stealthily placing a target in an incorrect medical benefit plan which meant that the premium was higher and the take-home pay was smaller. A company which boasts of compressed work week and flex time refused as "not organizationally feasible" a modest variation in an employee's work schedule to attend to her son's high school rugby game. Some bullying tactics are forms of mobbing or conspiracy.

Therefore, to use mediation as an intervention for workplace bullying is to subscribe to the mistaken idea that it is related to misunderstanding or lack of communication or personality conflict. That it takes two to fight.

If you wish to have a copy of the full paper presentation, please email: ennadeguzman@yahoo.ca

Enna B. de Guzman
Vancouver, BC Canada

138. seekeroftruth - June 30, 2010 at 11:00 pm

I am now an adjunct who was bullied in an administrative post by a senior administrator (only shortly my boss) while I was pregnant. It led to premature labor and a change in my career path. This person later bullied a staffer requesting leave due to alcohol dependence. What I went through after a dozen years of service to my institution in my one and only pregnancy was nothing short of traumatic. I tried all means of intervention, beginning with dialogue with the bully first, then H.R., affirmative action, even considered a union grievance. My heart and spirit gave out. My Achilles heel of depression was activated. As I would like to believe that one's heartache leads to insight, I'm quite surprised (as an untenured but active teacher) to read of all the suffering in the tenured ranks on this thread.

Please do try to take action in your community, even if you are still wounded. Work with kids. Add to a research project. Write (anonymously or, bravely, with your name).

Again, as an adjunct I have little clout at my institutions but I do know that my son almost died and I was never the same. Human nature had reached a new low. I'm not naive, but I was very dedicated to that organization.

Administrators and ombudspeople: Keep a special pair of eyes open to the behavior of bullies when confronted with perceived weakness, like pregnancy or need for a mental health or other leave. It brings the worst out of some people.

139. 11134193 - July 10, 2010 at 05:23 pm

Bullying as a topic has generated 138 responses prior to this one. There is enough material here for the basis of a two-semester graduate course on BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE - testimonials, dangers and solutions real and potential. The CHRONICLE has not had
written pieces much more popular than this. The topic deserves some serious research and I am on it!!! Are you ready?
Stan Wollock-POB 2211/Wayne, NJ 07474

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