November 22, 2014

Bullying at the Democratic Republic of Ulster University (UU) - An Introduction

In this first of an occasional series on the most despotic university in these islands, we would like to introduce you to the university's current dictator, President (definitely-not-for-life) Richard Barnett and his “Cabinet of Horrors”... sorry, I mean senior management team... Like many a uni expansionist Dick interpreted UU's old motto "to build anew" rather too literally and has reduced both his finances and a big district of Belfast, literally to rubble. Possessed with unhealthy ambitions of college lebensraum "Bully Barnett" came unstuck with his central Belfast campus vision. In fact unlike the Pyongyang based Mr. Kim, Dick met the fate of many erstwhile uni super-thugs, known in the murky trade of college politics as "Gadaffi's end". Richard is now on life-support having recently been shafted by his University Council, and will not remain dictator indefinitely. Like the late Libyan Colonel, UU's “lame-duck” President finally got a touch of his own unpleasant medicine as the uni Council forgiving the concurrence of any two (but not three) Presidential neuroses, ultimately deduced their strong man possessed a super-abundance of them all-myopia, incompetence and odiousness. Slightly more reticent than his immediate predecessor, the ousted Gerry "Black Bush" McKenna (a UU despot famed for outrageous drunkenness at University Senate) Barnett prefers “delegated genocide", never wishing to get professorial blood on his decidedly off-the-peg suits. But like Gerry, Dicky also espoused too literally the word "Vice" in "University Vice-Chancellorship" until his campus "killing fields" finally caught up with him.
There comes a time in every dictatorship when cupboards are just too full of academic corruption, closets unhealthily brimful of skeletons, and college basements overrun with the putrefying corpses of sacked lecturers. And so it came to pass that after almost a decade of staff harassment, financial mismanagement, dismal planning and ungodly governance, Dick finally got it in his own nuts. So indeed even now Richard is busily packing his suitcases with his ill-gotten gains of college dictatorship, including his proudly sported Rolex, a bribe for passing all those illiterate students his university loves to recruit from the Middle East. Some would say that he single-handedly brought UU to its knees, but that would mean air-brushing out the rest of the college mafia, the top uni managers who collectively sunk the “good ship Ulster”. So with displeasure, I solemnly introduce to you Dick's evil horrible in appearance as they are singularly heartless. This is a university "A Team" which makes Capone's gangsters look like an ensemble of choir-boys.
Let’s start with a vulgar creature who might seem more lion-tamer than human resources gopher in UU's grisly Zoo, one Ronnie Magee, the university's Chief Torturer and Executioner. This is a ghoulish man allegedly responsible for scores of destroyed careers, several staff suicides, numerous forced redundancies and whose very presence is enough to panic the university's immiserated working population. Ronnie who allegedly found "student love" is to inter-personal relationships what Hannibal Letcher is to dinner-time entertainment. This self-confessed socio-path  particularly enjoys his job portfolio of "discipline" but rumours are his days are numbered. Having already been formally suspended, his sojourn as UU arch henchman may expire with his master's departure.
Also introducing Deirdre Heenan, Minister of Mis-communication, a lady with a penchant for self-promotion, TV cameras and conjugating in uniform, and who at an early point in her career realized the best route to promotion was not a vertical trajectory but horizontal conviviality. "All frock and no filo-facts" Deirdre had a brief career as a telly don until the questions finally proved too difficult under the glare of live TV. Intensely grilled by BBC Ulster journalists her sickly smile could no longer disguise her intellectual emptiness and she vanished amidst vapors of Austin's couture and cheap perfume.
Hugh Mckenna is Chief of Research and Innovation, sometime country and western crooner and defrocked nurse with all the comforting manners of a pedophile priest. Always a bit crazy, Hugh’s start in mental health nursing was a good preparation for the mad-house of UU. It's oft said in health-care a good bed-side manner is critical but Hugh quickly became known in the uni as "`Nurse Death", harkening back to  his days as Southern Board’s cruel matron espousing the doctrine of "cure or kill". He's put those instincts to use flogging the university’s research arm.
Our Finance Chief (inappropriately named) Peter Hope, has labored for years imaginatively mis-juggling the finances of a “no hope" uni. While employed to cook the university books, Peter is a discreet specimen who is actually better known for having almost lost his wife to the uni's former HR director, Brendan “Halifax" Hamilton. Brendan started off his career threatening trainee bank clerks! The latter's liaison with (and unlucky gift of a watch to) Mr. Hope's wife (dishonestly purloined with a university credit card) persuaded UU to call time on Hamilton’s job. Our friend "Axe man" Ronnie Magee was instrumental in his former boss's demise! That left the Hope couple intact and despite the bad times for university finance, the name-card on Peter's door remains the only "hope" left in the entire campus.
We would also like to mention Alistair Adair, perhaps a reluctant thug, who asks forgiveness to his God at night for every poor soul he persecutes. Professor of Property Investment and an expert on the Built Environment, Alistair may just be a little too principled for the rest of the management team. Not keen on the university's expansion plan he may survive Barnett's departure but somehow lacks the unwavering ruthlesness needed for the UU "killing machine". It remains to be seen whether he will suffer the fate of another college "year zero" or may yet be the liberator after years of oppression.
Then we have Richard Millar in Planning & Partnerships whose former department accidentally admitted scores of failed students. A man with a mission, this muscular (or maybe just overweight) Christian is proud to be a leading light of British Computing and can rugby-tackle the scrum of Ulster university politics. Indeed his rise was achieved at the expense of UU strong-woman Anne Moran. A former school teacher, Anne was dubbed “Miss Moron" but her sharpened stilettos bludgeoned their way to university power despite her impressive ignorance. Finally Prof Millar slew this she-dragon in a manner that would have made St George proud.
It is hard to find anything interesting to say about Denise McAlister, Teaching and Learning Supremo except that like many health academics if you linger too long around her she is decidedly "bad for your health". Leading “Quality Assurance and Enhancement”, Denise would hardly recognize quality if it hit her with a rock.
Finally, Estates Director Paddy Donnelly the "man without a plan”. Trusted  to spin the uni's expansion and collect back-handers from property moguls, Paddy was almost sacked for being caught in coition with a former lady dean in a college store-room. Unlucky enough to be discovered by an evangelical security guard the latter's complaints about Paddy's impropriety could not be silenced. UU took the predicable decision to lance the boil. They promptly made the poor Christian security man forcibly redundant and let Paddy letch on.
That's all for now from the Democratic Republic of Ulster University. You've met the entire kitchen cabinet, the whole hellish rogue’s gallery. Next time we'll introduce you to the university deanship, known popularly as "Dick’s dunderheads" at least one of whom does not even possess an undergraduate degree. With such an august team of over-promoted dunces it is hardly surprising that some UU boffins think a "Dean's List" is something you'd find in a posh restaurant. So bon appétit from the cannibals of Ulster University!

November 08, 2014


During one of the many times I was bullied by my last department head while I was teaching, I suggested that we go to mediation. I thought that since we couldn't arrive at a resolution that we both could agree to by ourselves, perhaps a third party could help. Maybe there was something at least one of us were missing.

Did it help? Of course not. I only succeeded in making him mad. He pounded his fist on the table, said he wanted nothing to do with that "mediation BS" (or words to that effect) and added: "I will deal with you as your supervisor!" The fact that I suggested mediation, which he refused, meant nothing to the dean. He himself was only to glad to be rid of me and I'm sure my telling him that only made him more determined.

One word of advice. NEVER rely on your staff association or union. It may be working with the management as collaborators and, yes, it happened to me. My department head put all sorts of defamatory material in my personnel file without my knowledge. This was contrary to regulations as not only was I to receive copies of such submissions, I had the right to offer a rebuttal. The president of our staff association at the time received copies of that material, as did the dean. For some mysterious reason, not only was my name left off the circulation list, I had no knowledge of it.


November 05, 2014

Culture of cruelty: why bullying thrives in higher education

Why employees bully other employees is a question academics have sought to answer since the 1990s.

The perspective proposed by Swedish psychologist Heinz Leymann, father of workplace bullying research, is that we bully one another because of factors within our work environment, including the nature of our work and organisational culture.

Characteristics of our jobs, such as low autonomy, boring tasks, unclear roles and high workload have all been implicated as possible causes of bullying. Employees working in uninspiring jobs may be tempted to enact destructive behaviour as a source of stimulation, whereas individuals stressed out by heavy workloads may perpetrate bullying to cope with frustration or to assert personal control.

What causes bullying: personality or environment?

Bullying may be further facilitated by organisational cultures and structures that permit it. In certain organisational cultures, bullying is a means of achieving goals, and in cultures characterised by high internal competition, it may be the most effective way of improving reputation and climbing the latter. Reward systems can sometimes provoke bullying as aggressive tactics could be thought the best way to rid supervisors of either underperforming, or overperforming subordinates.

The other perspective on why adults bully concerns personality factors. An overarching personality profile cannot be applied to bullies or victims, however some consistent themes are apparent.

Traits associated with bullies include narcissism, unstable self-esteem, anxiety and a lack of social competence, likewise traits linked to victims are vulnerability, low self-esteem and a propensity to experience negative emotion.

The vulnerable victim is one typology associated with victimised individuals, but there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that victims share the same personality traits as perpetrators, leading to suggestions that perpetrators and victims can hold both roles.

Another view concerns interpersonal differences, as individuals who possess traits that differentiate them from the rest of the workgroup can make them vulnerable to bullying. For instance, in workplaces dominated by men, woman are more likely to be bullied and vice versa.

Research continues to address the causes of bullying, but perhaps surprisingly those investigating it are themselves operating in a risk sector as high levels of bullying are consistently reported in higher education.

In the UK, the overall prevalence of workplace bullying – based on the proportion of working people who have experienced it – across all working sectors is usually estimated at between 10-20%.

However the percentage of people who have experienced bullying within academic settings is higher than the national average. UK higher education studies have found the percentage of people experiencing it ranges between 18% to 42%.

Undermining behaviour: part of the job for academics?

Initially, it seems strange that more bullying occurs in higher education, as academic jobs are still characterised by large amounts of personal autonomy and the academy promotes values of collegiality and civility. However, a closer inspection can provide clues as to why bullying occurs in this context.

Cultures where bullying flourishes have been characterised as competitive, adversarial and politicised. While academia can be on occasion adversarial, it is more commonly competitive and political. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the bullying behaviours most cited within academic contexts – threats to professional status and obstructive behaviours, designed to inhibit employees achieving their goals.

A Canadian study explored academic bullying behaviours in more depth, finding that having your contributions ignored, being the subject of gossip and being undermined and belittled in front of others were the behaviours most commonly experienced.

In the higher education context where discussion, debate and criticism are encouraged, behaviours directed at undermining another individual can be more easily justified as part of the job. While competition for limited research resources may lead to displays of power and hidden agendas that can make the wider academic context even more toxic.

Furthermore, the “publish or perish” mentality, combined with teaching students and grant submission targets contribute to inherent role conflict. Such daily demands inhibit the ability of some academics to cope with bullying, and demands cause stress which may lead otherwise rational people to engage in bullying as the spiral of work pressure increases.

Due to a lack of available research, it is unclear whether bullying is getting worse in academia, although Jamie Lester, author of the book Workplace bullying in higher education feels it is on the rise. It has been noted that higher education has become more competitive and hierarchical which may facilitate greater levels of bullying.

However without documenting the rates of bullying in academic contexts over time it is impossible to discern whether the problem is getting worse. For this reason it has been suggested that academic institutions benchmark the nature and prevalence of bullying behaviours, while providing education and guidelines designed to reinstate the more collegial culture that academia may have lost.

So how can employees beat bullying? Here’s what to do if you are facing bullying at work:

• Firstly, don’t blame yourself – this will only make you feel worse.
• Keep a written record of events, along with any evidence of negative acts (eg emails, written correspondence).
• Seek informal resolution early in the conflict – speaking to the perpetrator early on may enable resolution without formal approaches that can be lengthy and stressful.
• If the bullying persists, identify whether your organisation has a grievance policy and report the problem to a relevant individual eg union representative, HR manager, line manager or occupational health adviser.
• Discuss it with your support network inside and outside of work. Support is also available from charitable organisations. For instance, the mental health charity Mind can offer support via phone (0300 123 3393) and email (

Sam Farley is a doctoral researcher at the Institute of Work Psychology (IWP), Sheffield University Management School – follower him on Twitter: @sam_farley3

Christine Sprigg is a lecturer in occupational psychology at IWP, Sheffield University Management School 


October 25, 2014

Bullying in academia: ‘professors are supposed to be stressed! That’s the job’

Bullying is rife in academia – and it is tolerated to an extent that wouldn’t be acceptable in other areas. I’ve seen careers wasted in academia just by bad management and bad practice. My story is an illustration of what can go wrong.

Shortly after I moved from my old university to a new job as head of a science research centre at a Russell Group university, my partner and I were hit by a series of problems in my immediate family. It started when a number of family members were diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. We had to make regular visits and provide a lot of support. But the worst was yet to come – a horrific family tragedy, which was devastating for us all.

At the same time, my new role was a busy, high-profile job that included being on the executive committee for a major international journal and two UK funding committees. We’d had a reorganisation in the faculty and an extra layer of management was inserted. It was made clear to some members of the research group that performance had to be outstanding.

My newly-appointed line manager came to see me just as I was about to go home on a Friday evening. He asked me how things were. I said, “Oh, I’m absolutely stuffed, I’ve got no energy, I’m worn out.” He replied, “I’m not here to talk about that – I’m here to talk about your research performance.” In the discussion that followed he told me I should change the focus of our research. I explained that the work we were doing was slow and painstaking, but significant.

He was adamant about changing the focus, and I started to get more and more stressed. It was before the last research assessment exercise (RAE), and the vice-chancellor was saying he wanted the university to be in the world top 50 rankings, so my line manager was taking this as an excuse to do all sorts of things.

Other members of staff in my group would come to me saying, “I feel I’m being bullied, I’m being squeezed out, I’m being threatened.” We also had a regular monthly group meeting that I inherited from my predecessor. My line manager came and said, “I don’t want you to have these any more, I see it as divisive.” I think it was a threat to his autonomy.

I went to see a university counsellor, who I think was probably more used to stories about people’s PhD supervisors giving them a hard time. I told him my story and I could see his eyebrows shooting through the top of his head.

I had a couple of meetings with him. At the start of the third one, the fire alarm went, and we had to evacuate the building. Outside he said, “I’m really sorry about that, but I’ll call you to arrange another appointment”. But he never called. So I think it was actually too much for him.
I started to drink a lot. The pressure and weight of responsibility continued both at home and in work, so I went to see my doctor, who made an emergency referral to a specialist counsellor.

Then as it was getting closer to the RAE, my line manager called to see me. He said, “I want you to do this extra thing for the RAE.” I said, “I’ve got enough on, and I’m not adding to my stress.” He shouted at me, “You’re supposed to be stressed! Professors here are supposed to be stressed! That’s the job.” I said, “With all due respect, I don’t think any other professor in our faculty has had the stress I’ve had to cope with in the past year.”

He told me that a lot of people were stressed, and he still wanted me to do the additional work. At that point I started to look for a way out, and when the university was looking for ways to save money, they sent an email around saying that they were reorganising and would offer voluntary redundancy, which I decided to take. I was 48.

I put in a watertight succession plan with funding agencies to make sure that the person I’d recruited to my group as a lecturer could take everything over. I know that if I hadn’t done that, my manager would have dispersed my lab and my equipment, and absorbed it into the greater group.

In other industries, the human resources departments are really strong on bullying, and if there is any accusation of bullying, it’s taken seriously. But in academia, there’s a culture that the line manager or head of department has absolute power. They can make or break your career, and people very rarely go to HR. I have spent several years working for a drug company and there the climate was much more professional. You were trained to look after the people in your group and to look out for any warning signs. UK universities are 10 or 20 years behind.

Unfortunately, instead of institutions being encouraged to work together, we are now expected to compete against each other for the same, smaller pot of money. Until that changes, I expect the bullying culture to continue.

Are you being / have you been bullied in your job in higher education? Help us understand more about this issue by completing our survey

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this piece, contact Samaritans or National Bullying Helpline.

Would you like to write for Academics Anonymous? Do you have an idea for a blog post about the trials, tribulations and frustrations of university life? Get in touch:


September 28, 2014

Marina Warner compares UK university managers to 'Chinese communist enforcers'

The chair of judges for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize has delivered a blistering broadside against her former university employers comparing higher education managers to unquestioningly obedient Chinese communist officials. Writing in the London Review of Books, Marina Warner said she felt “pushed” into resigning her role earlier this summer as a professor in the department of literature, film and theatre studies at the University of Essex where she had taught for the past decade.

The acclaimed author and academic accused institutions of being forced into competing against each like high street supermarkets in the search for profits.

She said changes to the higher education sector had resulted in “one-size-fits-all contracts, inflexible timetables, overflowing workloads, overcrowded classes” which were harming teachers and students whilst benefiting the growing armies of administrators.

“Among the scores of novels I am reading for the Man Booker International are many Chinese novels, and the world of Chinese communist corporatism, as ferociously depicted by their authors, keeps reminding me of higher education here, where enforcers rush to carry out the latest orders from their chiefs in an ecstasy of obedience to ideological principles which they do not seem to have examined, let alone discussed with the people they order to follow them, whom they cashier when they won’t knuckle under,” she wrote.

Ms Warner, who is also a fellow of All Souls Oxford, accused Essex of becoming a “for-profit” enterprise and betraying its radical founding principles which saw it become a hotbed of counter cultural protest in the 1960s and 70s.

She said that research was no longer a guarantor of external funding and that the emphasis had been put on increasing student numbers.

“So the tactics to bring in money are changing. Students, especially foreign students who pay higher fees, offer a glittering solution,” she wrote.

Ms Warner said she eventually decided to resign after being asked to take a year’s unpaid leave when her “workload allocation” became impossible to reconcile with her outside roles, which she said she had been encouraged to accept.

“The model for higher education mimics supermarkets’ competition on the high street; the need for external funding pits one institution against another – and even one colleague against another, and young scholars waste their best energies writing grant proposals.

“Eventually, after a protracted rigmarole, I resigned. I felt I had been pushed,” she added.

“What is happening at Essex reflects on the one hand the general distortions required to turn a university into a for-profit business – one advantageous to administrators and punitive to teachers and scholars – and on the other reveals a particular, local interpretation of the national policy. The senate and councils of a university like Essex, and most of the academics who are elected by colleagues to govern, have been caught unawares by their new masters, their methods and their assertion of power,” she wrote.

A spokesman for the university said: “At the University of Essex, students are our priority and we are committed to delivering a transformational educational experience, where students are taught by the leading thinkers in their field and have the opportunity to undertake research. Excellence in education and research are our two priorities and they enjoy equal esteem.”


September 20, 2014

Bullying and academic culture

...Several aspects of academia lend themselves to the practice and discourage its reporting and mitigation. Its leadership is usually drawn from the ranks of faculty, most of whom have not received the management training that could enable an effective response to such situations. The perpetrators may possess tenure — a high-status and protected position – or the victims may belong to the increasing number of adjunct professors, who are often part-time employees.

Academic mobbing is arguably the most prominent type of bullying in academia. Academic victims of bullying may also be particularly conflict-averse.

The generally decentralized nature of academic institutions can make it difficult for victims to seek recourse, and appeals to outside authority have been described as "the kiss of death."

Therefore, academics who are subject to bullying in workplace are often cautious about notifying problems. Social media is recently used to reveal bullying in academia anonymously. Bullying research credits an organizational rift in two interdependent and adversarial systems that comprise a larger structure of nearly all colleges and universities worldwide: faculty and administration. While both systems distribute employee power across standardized bureaucracies, administrations favor an ascription-oriented business model with a standardized criteria determining employee rank.

Faculty depend on greater open-ended and improvised standards that determine rank and job retention. The leveraged intradepartmental peer reviews (although often at a later time, these three reviews are believed to be leveraged by the fact the peers determine promotions of one another at later times) of faculty for annual reappointment of tenure-track, tenure, and post-tenure review is believed to offer "unregulated gray area" that nurture the origin of bullying cases in academia.

Although tenure and post-tenure review lead to interdepartmental evaluation, and all three culminate in an administrative decision, bullying is commonly a function of administrative input before or during the early stages of departmental review...


September 16, 2014

Attempts to 'gag and silence' academics are commonplace

There is “a tremendous atmosphere of gagging and silencing” in UK universities that prevents academics from speaking out when they feel that they have been treated unfairly.

This is according to Marina Warner, until recently professor of literature, film and theatre studies at the University of Essex. She left her post after 10 years at the university and, rather than stay quiet, publicly documented the reasons for her departure in an article for the London Review of Books.

Her criticism relates to the way in which the university is managed, which Professor Warner claims has resulted in scholars being pushed to complete an unmanageable list of activities in the pursuit of “prestige, publicity, glory, impact”; a shift of emphasis from research to teaching in order to attract lucrative overseas students; and a leadership team that enforced top-down change in a manner that, she said, often showed no regard for the opinions of academic staff.

At one point, she compares UK higher education more generally to the world of Chinese communist corporatism, “where enforcers rush to carry out the latest orders from their chiefs in an ecstasy of obedience to ideological principles which they do not seem to have examined, let alone discussed with the people they order to follow them”.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Professor Warner said she feared that “a culture of obedience and deference” was taking hold within universities.

“People used to appreciate independent-mindedness and freedom of speech and advocacy of ideas,” she said. “People at large still value that, I think, and some parts of the world are in flames because of it.”

However, it was increasingly difficult for academics to criticise their institutions, she said, even after they leave their post, because of gagging orders put in place to prevent them from speaking openly.

“You have to decide, as I did, to break all connections [with the university],” she said – adding that this was something she was fortunately able to do because of her career outside academia.

“I was in a lucky position and I wanted to use my lucky position,” she said of the decision to go on record with her experience. “I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve had [since the LRB article was published] – an avalanche.”

One such letter asked: “If they can do this to you with your reputation, what will they do to postdocs just starting out?”

There could have been “an element of pour encourager les autres” about her treatment by Essex, she said, adding that the university’s refusal to compromise for a long-standing and prestigious academic such as her might mean that others would “come in line because they will be frightened”. She said she hoped that writing her account would help to raise awareness of the changes that are taking place in UK universities.

“In this new system…the chain of command leads to administrators,” she said. “Academics are subjugated to the managers.”

Essex’s vice-chancellor, Anthony Forster, who comes in for particular criticism in the LRB article, declined an invitation to speak to THE. But in a statement the university said: “Students are our priority and we are committed to delivering a transformational educational experience, where students are taught by the leading thinkers in their field and have the opportunity to undertake research. Excellence in education and research are our two priorities and they enjoy equal esteem.”


August 19, 2014

Support floods in for Steven Salaita

Bill Mullen, a professor of English and American Studies at Purdue University and one of the organizers of the effort to get the American Studies Association to vote to honor the academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions, reports on the tide of support for a pro-Palestinian professor fired by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Steven Salaita poses with his child 

Steven Salaita poses with his child
A MASSIVE public campaign in support of fired pro-Palestinian and Arab-American scholar Steven Salaita has now generated more than 15,000 signatures calling for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to reinstate him. More than 2,000 faculty from around the world have signed pledges to boycott UIUC until Salaita is given his job back.

But Salaita has not been offered his job back, and his status remains uncertain.

On August 1, Salaita received an e-mail from UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise saying that his job offer to become an associate professor of American Indian Studies was not likely to be approved by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Salaita had already signed an offer letter--the equivalent in academia to an employment contract--to take the position as of October 2013. He sold his home in Virginia, where he was associate professor at Virginia Polytechnic University, and was in the process of moving with his family, including his two year-old son, when he received Wise's notice.

Salaita was fired after the Daily Caller and the News-Gazette newspapers in Champaign-Urbana published articles that included criticisms of Salaita's twitter posts opposed to Israel's Operation Protective Edge massacre in Gaza.

What you can do
Sign the petition demanding that Steven Salaita be given his job back. You can also write a letter of support for Salaita to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees at

Send an e-mail expressing your support for Steven Salaita to UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise. Copy your e-mail to the chair of American Indian Studies Robert Warrior.

Subsequent to Salaita's firing, the Jewish Voice reported that executives of the Simon Weisenthal Center had written a letter to University of Illinois President Robert Easter calling Salaita's posts "blatantly anti-Semitic."

After Israel began its bombing campaign on Gaza in July, Salaita, who has written several books on Arab American literature and one critical of Israel state policy, tweeted his outrage at the loss of Palestinian life.

In an article published first at Mondoweiss, Phan Nguyen carefully examined Salaita's tweets, showing that Salaita was not only consistent in his criticism of Israeli state policy, but he had a long record of criticizing anti-Semitism. Nguyen documents his contention with numerous examples, including this tweet, for instance: "I refuse to conceptualize ‪#Israel/‪#Palestine as Jewish-Arab acrimony. I am in solidarity with many Jews and in disagreement with many Arabs."

Nguyen's article also pointed out that Salaita critics like Cary Nelson had both misused and misinterpreted Salaita's twitter posts to accuse him of anti-Semitism. Nelson is a longstanding backer of Israel and critic of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise has also criticized BDS.

It is no coincidence then that Salaita has been fired for supporting the Palestinians and criticizing Israel.

More on this at:

August 18, 2014

Life after whistleblowing

Academics who have made disclosures reflect on the long-term impact on their careers

Whistleblowers in universities can hit the national headlines for shining light on issues of public interest, only for their careers to end up in very dark places.

Some of higher education’s most prominent whistleblowers paint a bleak picture about the impact on their subsequent careers. They talk about being persecuted by colleagues after coming forward. But even after leaving their jobs, some believe they still suffer a legacy. One talks about being “effectively blackballed” from ever working again in higher education.

For other whistleblowers, exile is self-enforced. “It has damaged my career. But I’m not really sure I wanted a career by the end of it…There were so many people in prominent leadership positions who behaved so appallingly, I just couldn’t carry on within the profession. I just felt sick about the whole thing,” says Aubrey Blumsohn, who left his post as a senior lecturer in metabolic bone disease at the University of Sheffield, after raising concerns in 2005 about research on a drug made by Procter & Gamble, a funder of research at Sheffield.

But others point to cases where whistleblowers highlight wrongdoing, their concerns are investigated responsibly by universities and their working lives continue as normal.

David Lewis, professor of employment law at Middlesex University and convener of the International Whistleblowing Research Network, argues that the media only report cases “where things go pear-shaped”, as the nature of successful whistleblowing means that it remains within institutions and never emerges in public.

Lewis says that his anecdotal evidence suggests there is “quite a lot of successful whistleblowing that goes on in universities”.

Nevertheless, when things do “go pear-shaped”, the impact on people’s careers can be shattering. Those cases may offer lessons to learn, for both universities and prospective whistleblowers...

Read the rest of this lengthy article at:

Imperial employment tribunal: ‘conspiracy’ claim

A head of department at Imperial College London has dismissed complaints made against him of bullying as a conspiracy to oust him from his position and replace him with his deputy.

Philippe Froguel, head of the department of genomics of common disease at Imperial, made the claim last week during cross-examination at an employment tribunal case brought by Robin Walters, a former researcher in the department.

Dr Walters, who is now a senior scientist at the University of Oxford, was dismissed by Imperial at the end of 2011 after he refused to work under Professor Froguel any longer.

Dr Walters is claiming unfair dismissal, as well as victimisation, harassment and discrimination, and alleges that various abusive encounters with Professor Froguel during 2011 – including one during which he claims he was shouted at for being autistic – had left him suffering from acute adjustment disorder, which results in feelings of depression and anxiety.

Dr Walters is married to Alexandra Blakemore who, at the time, was a reader and Professor Froguel’s deputy. She also lodged complaints of victimisation, harassment and discrimination against Professor Froguel, but her case was settled before hearings began. She is now a professor of human molecular genetics in Imperial’s department of medicine.

At the hearing, Professor Froguel said he had regarded Dr Walters as his friend, whose recruitment he had spearheaded and for whom he had been determined to secure a permanent lectureship. An opportunity to bring in the necessary funding to achieve this had arisen in 2010, when Imperial was invited to participate in a European Union-funded project, known as Imidia, to improve diabetes treatment.

However, when Professor Froguel’s work relations with Professor Blakemore began to break down in early 2011, Dr Walters claims he was targeted by Professor Froguel because of his relationship to her.
Professor Froguel strongly denied having threatened to destroy Professor Blakemore’s career or to sack Dr Walters.

He told the hearing that he had occasionally been “hard and abrasive” towards Dr Walters, such as when he made the remark about autism. “But 99 per cent of the time I have been extremely gentle,” he said, adding that no one had complained about him in the past two and a half years.

The tribunal heard that three other members of junior staff at Imperial made complaints about Professor Froguel’s behaviour in the summer of 2011. It also heard that a faculty review in 2011 concluded that his management had sometimes been “tactless and direct” and that a human resources manager reported he had been warned to take a “gentler” approach.

But he attributed this glut of complaints in 2011 to a “conspiracy”. “They were a gang headed by [Professor] Blakemore [whose aim was] to have me sacked or put on sick leave or sabbatical and [for her] to take the lead as acting head of department,” he said.