December 21, 2013

Bullying in Academia More Prevalent Than Thought

Bullying isn't only a problem that occurs in schools or online among young people. It can happen anywhere to anyone, and a Rutgers-Camden nursing scholar is shedding some light on how it is becoming increasingly common in academia.

"What worries me is the impact that bullying is having on the ability to recruit and retain quality educators," says Janice Beitz, a professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden. "It has become a disturbing trend."

Beitz is a co-author of "Social Bullying in Nursing Academia," an article published in the September/October 2013 edition of Nurse Educator that draws upon interviews conducted with 16 nursing professors who were the victims of social bullying in an academic nursing workplace. Beitz says that the participants described in detail instances in which they were slandered, isolated, physically threatened, lied to, or given unrealistic workloads, among various other bullying tactics.

The participants in the study were primarily non-tenured female faculty teaching in baccalaureate programs throughout the Unites States.

"We don't know how widespread this is, but it exists," says Beitz, who says she was bullied in her career. "Not many people look at bullying in the academic environment. We wanted to raise awareness of it."

In the study, Beitz notes that in the most common cases of bullying, academic administrators are targeting faculty, but in some cases, faculty are bullying other faculty members or their administrative superiors.

Bullies may be threatened by a fellow academic's qualifications and scholarship, or victims may be targeted because they are perceived as weak, Beitz says.

"The bully can make life miserable for the target," she explains. "That's because in an administrative role, a bully has the power to make decisions about the target. Part of it is the unique nature of higher education. The tenure process is different than any other environment. Administrators in academia have power over colleagues, and sometimes that power causes them to bully their subordinates."

Beitz says bullying victims will often blame themselves for the actions of a colleague and she says sometimes the only thing a victim can do is leave the environment altogether, which can dissuade nurses from pursuing careers as educators.

"Institutions need to have good faculty who are experienced clinicians and researchers. That doesn't happen in a bad bullying environment," she says. "If I hadn't had support from fellow faculty, I would have left education. I wouldn't have wanted that to happen. I've enjoyed my career. I feel like I've had an impact on a lot of wonderful graduates who have gone on to have great careers. People want to feel valued. That's why it's important to serve the people you work with and employ a collegial, positive environment."

Beitz is now working on a follow-up study on resilience and how victims are surviving when bullied. Additionally, since her bullying study does address the prevalence of bullying in nursing academia, Beitz hopes to cast a wider net and perform a quantitative study on the issue nationwide. Beitz's co-authors on "Social Bullying in Academia" were La Salle University nursing professors Earl Goldberg, Ciara Levine, and Diane Wieland.


December 19, 2013

Imperial College...

Putting any lack of investment in staff development, strategies that exist to promote cronyism, incompetence, favoritism, and inequality, and to disguise management failures, Imperial College is a place where internal grievance procedures are used selectively by managers - against staff, with most senior managers untouchable and no accountability or transparency in any decision making process. If any complaints ever reach the surface those are ignored and the staff are victimised and penalised in such a way so that they serve as a lesson for others. Fear prevails among a silent majority, over-managed or under-managed according to senior staff needs. The working environment is toxic.


December 15, 2013

Why the Gifted Are at Heightened Risk

...A review of the literature by Zapf and Einarsen (2005) suggests that individuals describing themselves “as more achievement-oriented and as more conscientious than their colleagues” (p. 253) are more often mobbing targets. The (D.) perfectionism that is a virtue of the highly gifted individual is (A.) misunderstood by others, whereas for the gifted individual this is but an expression of his or her (D.) estheticism in the same way that a perfect diamond’s refraction of light is also beautiful. Colleagues will know that their work does not stack up by comparison, and they will need no one to tell them so. The gifted individual’s perfectionism and estheticism are seen as a threat, even if the gifted individual does not speak about them and does not offer criticism of others. A highly gifted adult cannot obscure his or her presence in such a milieu even through innocuous behavior. Such a presence will become and remain a recognized social fact because gossip, malicious and otherwise, will establish it as such. This malice will enforce the gifted adult’s social isolation, probably also intensifying his or her search for the meaning of that social isolation. Highly gifted adults’ (A.) difference from others, exacerbated by (A.) others’ misunderstanding of this difference, offers less capable colleagues the opportunity to establish by rumor and innuendo other socially recognized “facts,” to the detriment of the gifted person, whether those “facts” are actually true or not.

It is unhappily the case that there are not always enough places in superlative organizations to house the number of highly talented and gifted individuals who merit such positions. At institutions less than first-rate, therefore, one characteristically finds a small number of highly talented individuals who merit placement at a truly first-rate institution, surrounded by a rather larger number of less talented individuals who know that they could never reasonably aspire to such a position. The latter will typically compensate for their sense of inferiority by seeking ego-satisfaction through the acquisition of institutional power and prerogative. This power they will then tend to employ to make others’ lives hell, often targeting highly talented colleagues whose greater abilities evoke their own deep-seated insecurity.

Einarsen’s (1999) research on “predatory mobbing” (i.e., cases where the victim has not acted in any provocative manner that might justify the behavior of the predator) gives examples of the foregoing destructive cycle. Stucke’s (2002, cited in Zapf & Einarsen, 2005, p. 251) study establishes empirically that “active mobbing behavior [is] highest for a group high in narcissism but low in self-esteem stability, [as this group’s] individuals had to stabilize their high but unstable selfesteem by treating other individuals negatively.” In other words, inflated but weak egos need to beat down genuine quality in others. This is a “textbook description” not only of the organizational culture of the institution where I worked but indeed of the cultural syndrome of the whole broader social milieu of which the institution is characteristic. Zapf and Einarsen (2005) explain how such a dynamic develops on the microsocial level:

This group of victims was certainly [D.] not among the least efficient employees in the organization. Their problem was that they clashed with the norms of the work group to which they belonged. It is likely that in this case, the victims’ [B.] conscientiousness went against a group culture characterized by rigidity and low tolerance for diversity. These victims were probably perceived as constant annoyances or even threats to the work group to which they belonged. As a consequence, the group may have started to harass these individuals, either to enforce conformity or to get rid of the person. (p. 254; emphasis added)...


November 23, 2013

Workplace Bullying in Canadian Graduate Psychology Programs: Student Perspectives of Student–Supervisor Relationships

Graduate students may be particularly vulnerable to workplace bullying by their supervisors, given the competitive and individualistic nature of obtaining promotions in academia and the power differential inherent in the student–supervisor relationship. The purpose of the present study was to explore the prevalence and nature of workplace bullying in the context of the student–supervisor relationship for graduate students in Canadian psychology programs. Data were gathered via an online questionnaire from graduate students in April, 2011. Of the 336 students (55 men and 281 women) who responded to the survey, 68 (21.3%) of them reported that they had been subjected to workplace bullying from their supervisors during graduate school. Exploratory factor analysis indicated three types of bullying behaviors: threatening–dismissive, passive–aggressive interpersonal, and work-management. There was no significant effect of student gender on bullying status; however students with female supervisors were more likely to report being bullied than students with male supervisors, particularly female students with female supervisors. In addition, students whose supervisors were at the associate professor level were more likely to report experiencing bullying than students whose supervisors had full professor status. The results point to the importance of exploring and creating dialogue around the issue of workplace bullying in graduate programs.


November 09, 2013

Otago University bullying alleged

The director of the University of Otago's marketing and communications division has been accused of bullying and being responsible for a ''toxic'' environment in the division.

The accusations against Virginia Nicholls were made at an Employment Relations Authority (ERA) case in Dunedin yesterday by former head of marketing services Kerry Kirkland, who claims she was unjustifiably dismissed and is seeking more than $270,000 in compensation from the university.

The accusations were supported by two other former staff members - including Dr Kirkland's predecessor - who agreed Ms Nicholls bullied staff and created an unhealthy environment in the division.

Dr Kirkland said the university failed to adequately address problems in the division.

''The work environment was toxic and the university had knowledge of the problems but refused to acknowledge or remedy this which is what made the working relationship untenable,'' she said in a statement provided to the authority.

After Dr Kirkland took the job in October 2011, it soon became apparent Ms Nicholls' management style was causing problems, Dr Kirkland said.

''I found the atmosphere in the department to be oppressive and staff members were distraught about the situation with Ms Nicholls and how they had been treated by her.''

Her relationship with Ms Nicholls got to the point where she went on stress leave in February this year after a doctor provided a medical certificate saying her work environment was harmful to her health.

The university responded on March 20 with a letter saying Dr Kirkland could not return to work unless she had a medical certificate saying she had ''recovered'' enough to return to work in the ''existing environment''.

She was later sent a letter dismissing her from her position on May 16 on the grounds of ''medical incapacity''.

Dr Kirkland argued the condition requiring her to get a medical certificate before returning to work was illegal and impossible to fulfil.

She said her relationship with Ms Nicholls deteriorated after allegations made by other staff members that she had been ''rude'' in meetings were repeatedly brought up by Ms Nicholls.

She felt the allegations were unfounded and was disappointed they were not investigated by the university thoroughly enough for either her name to be cleared or for her to be able to learn from her behaviour.

Under cross-examination of Dr Kirkland, counsel for the university Barry Dorking asked if comments made by her during the meeting with one of the staff members could be perceived as being ''rude''. Dr Kirkland replied saying ''clearly'', but said she was merely doing her job.

After being questioned by ERA member David Appleton about the ''extraordinary amount'' of compensation she was seeking, Dr Kirkland said she was still having problems sleeping. Her experience had resulted in a loss of confidence, damage to her reputation and she was yet to find a full-time permanent job.

Dr Kirkland's predecessor, Ruth Mackenzie-White, told the authority she left the university because of her relationship with Ms Nicholls.

''I regularly felt bullied by Ms Nicholls and I was frequently in tears in my one-on-one meetings with her due to the way she spoke to me.''

Former staff member Kate Kidson, who left the division this year, also backed Dr Kirkland, saying in a statement to the ERA she ''witnessed'' Ms Nicholls bullying Dr Kirkland. She also talked about the unhealthy culture in the division.

''In my opinion, there was a culture of fear at the department of marketing services.'' She was present at one of the meetings where Dr Kirkland was accused of being ''rude'' and did not believe the accusation was correct.

Lawyer David Sim gave evidence on a report he wrote for the university on Ms Nicholls' management style after the university received a letter of complaint about Ms Nicholls from the Tertiary Education Union.

Under cross-examination from counsel for Dr Kirkland, Len Andersen, Mr Sim accepted there were problems in the division, but stood by comments that none of the about 70 allegations he uncovered ''could reasonably be described as bullying'' - a comment he made in a letter to the court.

Mr Appleton said he did not ''understand'' how some of the allegations made by Dr Kirkland to Mr Sim could not be described as accusations of bullying.

Mr Sim replied to his questions saying, ''bullying is an easy word to use, but whether there is any substance [to claims of bullying] is another question''.

University chief operating officer John Patrick said following Mr Sim's report, the university had taken actions to improve the situation in the division.

He had met division staff in February and told them they could raise any concerns over Ms Nicholls' behaviour, for a period until June 30, directly with him.

Ms Nicholls was also asked to participate in a leadership course.

Asked if the environment had improved since, he said, ''Yes, I think [it has] improved significantly.''

He mentioned, based on his experience, that Dr Kirkland could be ''abrupt'' and recalled his first meeting with her, saying she told him: ''They tell me you can be ... a difficult person to deal with.''

He also recounted a meeting he had with Dr Kirkland in February at which he told her the university was not going to discipline her over accusations she had been rude in meetings with other staff.

At the meeting, he offered for the university to investigate the claims of rudeness made against Dr Kirkland.

Mr Appleton said there was confusion over whether the investigation offered would involve disciplinary action against Dr Kirkland.

Mr Patrick replied saying the investigation would not have been part of any disciplinary action.

The case continues.



October 14, 2013

Bad habits...

The professional services department I've worked in at the University of Northampton has a habit of bringing in people on contracts, getting them to do huge amounts of work, bullying them and then sacking them when they finish projects. People get thrown to the dogs as soon as they finish big jobs, then the incompetent managers pick apart the work of that person and use them as scapegoats for their own incompetence. It happens every few months! You would think after a while people would catch on but the bullying culture of the department means that colleagues do nothing to support each other. Everyone is out for themselves. I've spent months medicated in order to cope. The managers are just ridiculous, they can't make decisions for themselves and change the rules and the goals constantly. They don't have experience in higher education either, so they don't even know some of the basics of working in HE. HR is useless, they are only there to support the same bullying managers time and on.


October 07, 2013

Public Money is Not for Silencing Critics

University of Ottawa must end its financing of a private defamation lawsuit 

(Ottawa, August 2013) — The Ontario Civil Liberties Association (OCLA) is demanding that the University of Ottawa stop financing a private defamation lawsuit against its long-time and outspoken critic Denis Rancourt.

The lawsuit is about a blog article on “U of O Watch” in which Rancourt concluded (correctly, it turned out) that the president had asked a black professor to criticize a student report that accused the university of racial discrimination.

Rancourt has published his “U of O Watch” blog since 2007, and is a former professor of the university. The private action was initiated in 2011, and has been widely reported in the media. The Ontario Superior Court recently scheduled the matter for a three-week trial starting May 12, 2014. A pre-trial hearing will be held on December 19, 2013.

The University of Ottawa is using public funds to finance the lawsuit. University president Allan Rock admitted under cross-examination that he approved the financing without a spending limit (with “no cap”) from the university’s operating budget.

Based on court submissions for legal costs, OCLA estimates that the university has spent over $1 million to date pursuing Rancourt, who was fired by the university in 2009, and who is self-represented in the civil action.

OCLA believes that the university’s funding is wrong because:

1. It violates Rancourt’s right of freedom of expression and the public’s right to hear all points of view; and

2. It is antithetical to academic freedom, which the university is bound to protect.

It is against the law in Canada for the government to sue an individual for defamation because that would violate the individual’s Charter right to free expression, yet here the government is financing such a lawsuit about a matter of public interest — racial discrimination at a major public institution.


October 04, 2013

Mobbing in two American universities

Prof. Jeff Johnson, from Northborough, Massachusetts done in court after allegations of harassment and identity theft quashed, from Boston, Massachusetts State, USA, intl., by Charles Dusman, Freelance Editorialist and News Writer, United Kingdom,, in consortium with Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey.

On Friday, September 20, 2013, former Western Connecticut State University administrator Linda Vaden-Goad, currently Vice President of Academic Affairs at Framingham State University, was ordered to attend a settlement hearing in Bridgeport, Connecticut in regard to civilly libelous behavior she wrongfully exercised toward former Western Connecticut State  University professor Rosalie Appel.

As first reported by United Kingdom press last spring, charges were suddenly quashed in pretrial conferences against Framingham State University Prof. Jeff Johnson, where he worked as an Assistant Professor for several years until he decided to part ways in 2011.  According to court records, almost every administrative decision preceding Johnson's departure involved Vaden-Goad.  Court documents confirmed the unprecedented fact that Vaden-Goad oversaw Johnson's employment hearing, under a provision of the collective bargaining agreement that does not exclude parties directly involved.

Appel and Johnson's cases are part of a foray on academic mobbing worldwide, including cases in North America, South America, Australia and here in Europe.  All examples meet one criterion: an administrator who is a driving force in two different case studies.

Rosalie Appel started experiencing retaliatory behavior from Vaden-Goad after she (Appel) came to the aid of a colleague in another WCSU case.  Vaden-Goad  was very much a key defendant in Appel's own civil lawsuit.  According to court records,   "The 'controlling question' was 'whether defendant(s) [Vaden-Goad] can show indisputably that they would have taken the same adverse actions, namely implementation and enforcement of the [remediation plan] and the resulting discipline against Appel, even in the absence of her protected speech'"  The court ruled in favor of Appel.

On 27 Mar 2013, Vaden-Goad et al., appealed this decision to  the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, who upheld that, "...a question of fact existed as to whether [Vaden Goad's] treatment of Appel after Appel filed her 2006 lawsuit...was motivated by legitimate reasons or impermissible retaliation [and] therefore affirm the district court's denial of qualified immunity on Appel's First Amendment claim."

The 27 Mar 2013 court records also affirmed Appel's second claim, "that defendants violated her right to privacy by requesting that she show them her medical records in connection with a psychiatric examination she was required to undergo to continue teaching." 

The court added that, "invading or intending to invade the privacy of an employee's medical or mental health records will violate the employee's Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process if the employer's intent is to "injure or to spite" the plaintiff."

According to the LCCS, "These two rulings are direct vindication for injurious, calculating and retaliatory behavior that Vaden-Goad et al.  wantonly and maliciously demonstrated toward Appel."

It is also a victory of principle and profession for Johnson, whose resignation is not without an extraordinarily similar pattern of escalating behavior perverted by Vaden-Goad upon Appel.  The LCCS confirmed that comparing court documents show an almost "xeroxed" match in the methodology of both academic mobbing campaigns, both pursued by Vaden-Goad.

Although some laws and procedure vary state to state, pretrial proceedings involve a 9-12 month process, during which the plaintiff's attorney and defense counsel pursue a disposition agreeable to the plaintiff(s), defendant(s) and counselors.  The counselors then present the disposition to the judge.  Fruition of a disposition generally requires 9-12 months, particularly those involving misdemeanor allegations.

The pretrial procedure in the United States justice system generally follows the following steps: arraignment, discovery, compliance/election, continuances and status appearances.  A trial will follow if the ADA and defense attorney cannot reason an agreeable disposition. 

This case, filed in July of 2011,  lasted twenty-two months in pretrial court proceedings. Significant delays are most often caused by unsuccessful efforts for a public prosecutor (an assistant district attorney) and public or private defense attorney to agree on a pretrial disposition.  Awaiting evidence analysis is another common cause for delay.

It is seldom that prosecutors enter their intent to no longer pursue charges after so much time has passed since the filing date. Longer time periods are indicative of the state strengthening their case against the defendant.  Among 

Common reasons a prosecutor/plaintiff may not prosecute include the nature of the offense, lack of or no valid and reliable evidence, the defendant’s (lack of) criminal history and (lack of) prior appearances in court. The defendant’s residence, employment status, and ties to the community are also contributing variables.

These steps would normally call for a 9-12 month period following the date that the charges were pressed in court.  A trial would not add any more than a month.  

Even more peculiar is the consent and participation of the affiant in press coverage of an ongoing investigation for which they identify themselves as the alleged victim, as was written in a November 2011 university article.

This article marks the ten-year anniversary of Susan Dunn's breakthrough report on multi-international academic mobbing reports among the nations of three continents: Australia, Europe and North America. Dunn is a prolific writer for and marketing coach, consultant and website reviewer of  

Following the tradition of Dunn's work, the current research mainstreams an international foray of academic mobbing examples.  Among approximately eight hundred academic mobbing examples since 2003, sixty cases significantly surpassed the profundity of exploitation, extensiveness and injurious effect solicited upon higher education faculty by their respective institutions.  

In comparison and counterpoint to Appel's case, this article reports one of the most "heinous" and "obvious" examples of academic mobbing that experts have considered in recent years, also involving Vaden-Goad.  Research, legal analysis and integration of court documents, bankruptcy records on affiants involved,  police reports and prior media attention provides a voice to enfranchise the victim of mobbing, Professor Jeff Johnson of Framingham State University. "Mobbed faculty" are rarely complicit to offer direct testimony about their mobbing experience.  Exhaustive.  Johnson's case is particularly intriguing due to his tenacity and insistence not to speak publicly about it.  

According to Freelance compatriot and legal journalist Jayne Howarth, "A mobbing campaign commonly begins with a benign incident provoked and facilitated by an administrator, usually the Academic Affairs leader: a dean or VP. The target of mobbing is almost always a non-tenured, middle-class, young and well-liked professor or a long-standing, tenured and  senior faculty member."

"The trigger incident is benign in order that the administration has access to control it's narrative.  The outcome is almost always imposing disciplinary action on the unsuspecting non-tenured faculty member, and exploiting the characteristic emotional instability in the tenured professor. " Howarth added.

According to Howarth, "The academic affairs facilitator then acquires the resources and influence from Human Resources to persuade the tenured faculty member to pursue recourse with their union.  The escalation of paper purposely trails on a fast track toward internal law enforcement.  An HR director's goal is to massage the tenured employee to report allegations that require little to no evidence to substantiate and hardly any power to enforce: harassment.  The tenured professor is usually quieted by direction from HR, as they could sabbatical the validity of the harassment claim."

Howarth noted that, "Court records in the Framingham State University case demonstrate the most reliable evidence that academic mobbing is at play: the 'the victim who readily discloses to media outlets.'"

Victims who aggressively reveal their identity with an on-going investigation of harassment and a harassment order in play disrespect the resources of the court. Swedish academic mobbing cases readily treat the alleged victim who pursues public disclosure as committing tortious interference."

Tortious interference charges are controversial because they impose a distinction between speech freedom and speech privilege.  When an alleged victim is complicit to engaging in publicity about an individual who has allegedly harassed them, they harm the credibility and integrity of the order with every word they convey.

Howarth added that, "'People who obtain a  restraining order out of a genuine need are in fear for their safety, and do not publicize their their grievances on an alleged defendant in any way. Publicity has historically provoked undue and avoidable retaliation."

"Legislation in the United Kingdom. USA and Canada holds that victims who publicly name their alleged victimizer is just as well perjuring their restraining order's credibility and civic integrity.  Violation of harassment orders are almost always quashed following an alleged victim's revelation of the defendant and details in regard to affidavits and police reports they submitted to police,"  Howarth added.

Howarth further stated, "A victim's public behavior may likely be wantonly and maliciously considered as a revenge tactic for unfulfilled intentions they had when first obtaining the restraining order. This circumstance conveys an ex post facto admission that the original order was fraudulent, and can result in a variety of criminal and civil charges."

These charges may include charges for intentionally filing a false police report, slander, defamation, liability for causing law enforcement to unnecessarily expend public funds to investigate false allegations and perjury.

"Victims who journalistically disclose their alleged harasser's identity is waving a red flag of false pursuance of the order, to the extent that it is virtually unheard of on the United Kingdom, The United States and Canada, for alleged victims to willingly pursue, comply with and participate in news coverage of their alleged harasser in an ongoing investigation."   Haworth stated.

Audits for perjury are not uncommon when an alleged victim shows a zealous willingness to comment in the news prior to investigation closure.

 Freelance compatriot journalist Maureen Hunt-Yellick added that, "When an alleged victim is willing to pursue and offer substantial feedback to the 'published public' on harassment charges and any related criminal allegations, courts historically call into question the credibility of the affiant."

Hunt-Yellick added that, "a 'smoking gun' that perjurious and injurious behavior has been committed by a plaintiff upon a so-called defendant is whether or not the plaintiff specifies the defendant's motive to the published public, and then changes that motive to this audience in later publications."

This investigation discovered the inconsistency a month prior to Hunt-Yellick's "smoking gun" contribution.  "Poor review, discrepancies in resume, a grant, pending termination," are just a few incongruous reasons provided by the "victim" in Johnson's case.

Hunt-Yellick elaborates that, "Victims virtually never make public statements about open harassment charges they filed.  A willingness to disclose substantial details for journalists denotes that the affiant did not possess a credible level of emotional distress or alarm warranting the successful fruition of harassment charges.  It is alarming how often and willingly the alleged "victim" consented to commenting publicly about her own alleged harassment, and how often she entirely changed the reasons why it happened."

Hunt-Yellick added that a reasonable affiant essentially forfeits their claim of emotional distress and alarm by voluntarily and willfully offering an abundance of published feedback on an open harassment case.  They also disqualify the infliction of a "reasonable person" requirement.  Alleged victims who press harassment charges, or any charges for that matter, injure their claims and credibility, because the defense can use the alleged victim's feedback as a vital and intuitive tool that contradicts the requisite level of distress and alarm. Many precedent cases hold that an alleged victim voluntarily commenting publicly on their open case because any sign that they arguably publicized privileged and personnel related information expresses contempt for the resources they sought from the court.  In other words   a violation of this privilege by the alleged victim has precedently been deemed retaliation by the alleged victim.  It is then admissible for the defendant to submit that the affiant is exploiting the court's resources and limiting their potential to protect the alleged victim. The alleged victim injured their credibility because public disclosure, although legal, will call into question the veracity and integrity of the distress and alarm they felt from the defendant.

Hunt-Yellick concluded that, "A legitimate harassment claim does not demonstrate unreliable testimony from the complainant.  A lawful claim of harassment does not tolerate publication of privileged fact or false statement of fact. Legal review and precedent holds that an alleged victim of harassment expels the integrity of their harassment claim by participating in wanton press coverage with suggestive or overt punitive editorial of the defendant.  In other words, in my personal opinion, the university and the "victim" "cooked" this complaint.  It is textbook academic mobbing directed at Johnson."

Courts can neither tolerate nor justify legally admissible however  voluntary  punitive treatment of defendants.  To reiterate, the  result is a corruption of the court's litigious assistance that the alleged victim requested after the initial harassment claim.  

Mr. Johnson could not be reached for comment on the morning of 4/29/13.  No phone calls were returned on 4/29/13. 

According to former student Aaron Chase, "Jeff [Johnson] is the most docile person I ever met."

Mr. Chase stated that since the individual who filed these charges may still be teaching, he [Johnson] may not want to comment because it was not in the best interest of former, present or current students.

Mr. Chase studied Public Speaking under Johnson in the summer 2009.  Chase added, "When I heard about this matter, it felt like I was kicked in the stomach.   But I always knew Jeff was innocent and these charges were bogus."

Another student Alla Stackland added, "Everyone in the loop knew that Jeff [Johnson] was innocent.  Nobody commented on the charges other than students."

"Nontenured and part-time faculty are the most vulnerable targets of academic mobbing," Strickland added. "There is much less liability for a college or university to target the non-tenured professor regardless of any legal or moral dilemma. Conflicts involving the pairing of one tenured and one non-tenured professor, unions, colleagues and administrators are well-versed, ahead of time, in the institution's potential  liability, and very often they feel they can move more cost efficiently on the non -tenured party.  Administrations lack of pursuance to rid this problem and elevate the morale of the academic and collegiate culture is a testament to the chronic problem of academic mobbing. 

"Colleagues are unlikely to openly support the target openly out fear of retaliation, and job loss," Strickland added.

Tigrel added, "The more recent the incidents of academic mobbing are, the more disturbing they reverberate."

After an exhaustive review of public court documents and affidavits provided by Framingham, Johnson fits almost the entire criteria according to American expert Joan Friedman's extensive research on mobbing characteristics both foreign and domestic.

According to Friedman, "First, mobbing victims are typically productive, inner- directed individuals who also often act on their principles. Their productivity in higher education may also include successful grant procurement (personal observation). They are also often a little different. You might have noticed that our mobbing victim was foreign-born, had accented speech, came from a working class background, and, unlike colleagues, was religiously observant. The results of several studies in Europe suggest that woman are mobbed more than men (Meschkutat, Stackelbeck, & Langenhoff...however these results are controversial and may be influenced by women’s willingness to report this embarrassing phenomenon more.

Fear of retaliation was both warranted and precedented.  According to public court documents, this is not the first time a member(s) of Framingham State University's administration allegedly used tactics to injure the professional fitness of a faculty member.  

Vice President of Academic Affairs  Linda Vaden-Goad was concurrently one of several defendants in a civil litigation matter in Connecticut.   

Professor Rosalie Appel, a tenured Art Professor of nearly 40 years at Western State Connecticut University (herein referred to as  WCSU) experienced  discrimination and professional misconduct at the hands of administrators.  

Court documents show WCSU administrators violated legal and civil rights of Ms. Appel.  According to court records, among these administrators was Ms. Linda Vaden-Goad (herein referred to as Vaden-Goad),  the now current Vice President of Academic Affairs at Framingham State University. 

Three  other administrators at WCSU were also found to have violated Ms. Appel's rights.  The egregious way Appel was treated also violated union and even legal standards.  According to court documents, the civil infractions against Appel were initiated by Vaden-Goad. 

Vaden-Goad et al. began an alleged mobbing campaign by making Appel the target of an unsanctioned petition against Appel..  Vaden-Goad approached the WCSU Art faculty to mobilize a department-wide petition in protest Appel's alleged  behavior.  

Following the petition, Vaden-Goad et al. founded a special assessment committee to examine Appel‟s conduct and develop an action plan to address any problems the Committee identified, ultimately calling for Appel to undergo a neuropsychological and projectives assessment.

Court records indicate that Ms. Appel's confidential medical records were accessed by administrators.  By law, access to medical records is prohibited by any subject unless permitted otherwise.  However Ms. Appel gave no such permission.

Ms. Appel was not successfully contacted for comment.

The most unbecoming factor was Vaden-Goad et al.'s due process violation clause of the 14th Amendment in ordering Appel to submit to a psychiatric exam while intending to access Appel's mental health record and the results of the exam.

The recent Framingham State University matter sounds an alarm that continued arrogant, unethical, union-violating and illegal behavior was not quelled by this WCSU case. Reports of grant investigations, teaching quality and adviser competence against Johnson and countless others are common publication items that university administrations use to "attack the target".  

These target strategies are meant to suggest suspicion because investigations took place.  University officials, especially those in the public sector, do not publish any counterfactual or meretricious proceedings on current or former employees, and jargon such as "investigation" functions in school press to transfer guilt and defamatory suggestion onto the "target".  

By law, receipt or provision of monies exceeding $5,000 are always subject to investigation.  Even more, banks are required to report funds transacted in excess of $4999.99 to the IRS.  

According to tax consultants Ernst & Young, financial advisers for the Oslo Atrium, Christian Frederiks Plass, and financial consultants in the United States, "An investigation of Johnson's grant is an article that could be written about anyone who receives grant money in excess of $5,000."  

Court records show that Mr. Johnson solely informed a former university advancement director of applying for the funds and receipt of a pledge.  The Assistant District Attorney corroborated this fact on the record in pretrial proceedings.  

A representative for the NFIE, an organization through which the monies were pledged to Johnson, confirmed that, "We maintain a strong climate of privacy and anonymity about our grant activity.  Our mission is to grant funds directly to recipient without administrative sifting of funds."

They added, "Many universities and institutions have delayed the progress of grants by presuming they have a right to a portion of the funds.  It is not uncommon for this misunderstanding to lead to trumped up disciplinary action."

The NFIE strongly encourages institutions to observe that there is no guarantee of administrative entitlement to the funds. They urge institutions to study [their] philosophy about grant privacy.  They stress that privacy and anonymity is a means to help prospective recipients use their affiliates' funding as they see fit. 

The NFIE corroborate that the grant was at their pledge stage.  They noted a  receipt of a copy of an email sent to Campus Currents, in which Johnson solely reported his application and pledge status with the grant.

After lengthy court proceedings, Appel‟s due  process claim was deemed to have merit to proceed against Rinker, Spiridon and Vaden-Goad. Appel‟s 2006 claim of First Amendment retaliation claim was also deemed substantive and having merit.  Also, Appel's claim of First Amendment retaliation arising out of a claim filed a year earlier will proceed against Spiridon and Vaden-Goad. 

Appel established a substantive case to proceed against Vaden-Goad et al.  in their official and individual capacities.  See the following court documents which outline the case.  

Note: Charles Dusman is a freelance journalist for the London Times.  This article's intent ls to report the sizable that  international/sc o academic mobbing. 

Note the following selected public documents:

Bibliography of Spiridon v. Appel Records

December 2006

June 2008

July 2008

August 2010

August 2011 
(concurrent with Framingham State University matter.

September 2011

January 2012

As of 2012

March 2013


Friedman, Joan. "The Anatomy of Academic Mobbibg." Academic Mobbing (2009): 64. Print.
Journal ArticleTagsEditDelete

E. Yelgecen Tigrel and O. Kokalan, "Academic Mobbing in Turkey," International Journal of Behavioral, Cognitivex   Cxx, Educational and Psychological Sciences (1:2 2009), pp. 91-99. CThis a

About the Author & Contributors

Charles Dusman, author, is a freelance reporter on London, UK.

Elvgin Tigrel is a professor of Istanbul E. University 


1) Jayne Howarth, Freelance Journalist.

2) Maureen Hunt-Yellock Freelance Journalist, London;  Free Press Online Contributor

October 03, 2013

UCU uncovers high price of failure to hit REF targets

More than 10 per cent of academics at eight UK universities have been told that failure to meet their institution’s expectations on producing work for the research excellence framework will lead to redundancy, according to a survey by the University and College Union.

In recent weeks, Times Higher Education has highlighted several examples of what critics have described as draconian treatment of non-submitted academics, but the UCU survey, carried out in June, suggests that policies vary widely.

Just over 4 per cent of nearly 7,500 respondents report having been informed by a manager or senior colleague that failure to meet REF expectations will result in redundancy. At Middlesex University, however, 29 per cent of respondents have received such messages.

Other institutions with high percentages include the University of Leicester (24 per cent of respondents), City University London (21 per cent), Queen’s University Belfast (18 per cent) and the universities of Birmingham (13 per cent), Sussex, Warwick and Cardiff (11 per cent each).

A Middlesex spokesman said that although the institution “places substantial new focus” on research, no compulsory redundancies had been threatened.

Meanwhile, 17 per cent of respondents at the University of Warwick say they have been told to expect disciplinary procedures for non-submission, compared with 2 per cent of all respondents.
A Warwick spokesman denied that its performance management procedures were linked to the REF.

At the University of Essex, 29 per cent of academics report having been told to expect denial of promotion, 20 per cent to expect transfer to inferior terms and conditions, and 59 per cent to expect to be moved to teaching-focused contracts. Sector averages for these threats are 10, 4 and 12 per cent, respectively.

An Essex spokesman said that it had “clear targets for all staff with research in their contracts to be submitted to the REF”, with 60 per cent of all academics to be submitted. But since “other factors” affected who were submitted, non-submission was not seen “in itself” as a “performance issue”.

He added that promotions were made in accordance with a strict set of clearly stated criteria. A small number of academics had moved on to teaching-only contracts, but Essex’s priority was to help research staff maximise their potential.

At the University of East Anglia, 36 per cent of academics have been told to expect “capability procedures” to address underperformance, compared with a sector average of 4 per cent.

A UEA spokesman said that non-submitted staff were being “mentored to help them progress their research careers”, while the institution had also “explored in a positive way the opportunity for a small number of staff” to take up teaching-focused roles, which enjoyed “parity of esteem” with research roles.

Several of the universities also said that the survey’s relatively small sample sizes – typically less than 100 responses for each institution – were not representative.

But Stefano Fella, national industrial relations official at the UCU, insisted that they were “reasonable”, with the results demonstrating “a significant level of discontent even where respondents said they were going to be included in the REF”.

Across the sector, 53 per cent of respondents fear losing their jobs if they fail to meet REF criteria. Some 61 per cent expect to be submitted and 21 per cent do not, a figure roughly evenly split between those who do not meet quality criteria and those who do not fit into institutional submission strategies.

Only 35 per cent of respondents agree that their institution’s selection procedures are transparent. Six per cent indicate that selections are made by senior managers without any input from peer review.
Meanwhile, nearly 25 per cent of respondents – and just under 30 per cent of women – say they undertake more than half of their work on REF outputs outside “reasonable” hours.

Some 34 per cent (39 per cent of women) say that meeting REF expectations has had a negative impact on their health.

Mr Fella said the survey confirmed what the UCU had been hearing from members about the impact the REF was having on their lives.

“Universities should acknowledge the REF is a bit of a game they play to maximise their reputation and funding, and separate it from treatment and assessment of staff,” he said.


October 02, 2013

More on gagging...

At the University of Newcastle in Australia, 15 people reported in our survey that they had been gagged by the University. As well as these fifteen individuals, we have had additional reports of ex-staff being gagged. We estimate that each of these were given around $250,000 or more e.g. additional funding into their super. This amount is low compared to the payouts of senior executives who have had their contracts paid out - these executives earn over $350,000 per year. Conservatively this means that the University has spent $3.75 MILLION (15 x $250,000) on getting ex-staff to keep quiet about what happened to them. A number of those gagged reported being harassed and bullied for exposing misconduct.

September 26, 2013

Silenced: Uni’s £1.8m gagging orders

The University of Sheffield has spent over £1.8 million taking out controversial ‘gagging orders’ on former staff members in the last five years.

Compromise agreements with confidentiality clauses, known informally as ‘gagging orders’, have been issued to members of staff leaving employment for reasons other than early retirement. They are now known as settlement agreements following the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

The agreements are used when the University is in dispute with a staff member and are made through a voluntary process where both the University and the employee are legally represented. But unions fear that employees may sign compromise agreements because they fear the stress associated with taking legal action or remaining in work.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said: “We are seriously concerned that the new legislative provisions on the admissibility of settlement offers and discussions in unfair dismissal cases will send a signal to employers that they are free to sack staff for arbitrary reasons without needing to follow a fair disciplinary procedure.

“Whilst employees will have a theoretical right to turn the employer’s offer down, many will consider they have no genuine choice other than to accept the sum of money and leave their job. Many employees will accept the offer simply because they assume it is a foregone conclusion they will be dismissed if they do not.

“Others will fear that they will be bullied or victimised if they remain in the job. The provisions are therefore open to abuse by employers and could have a detrimental effect on wider employment relations.”

The University said that “the decision to compromise is made taking into consideration factors including the beneficial impact to all parties through timely resolution to the dispute, the commercial impact of resolution, and the effective management of personal and or organisational risk.”

A former University employee who signed a compromise agreement told Forge Press: “Such is the stress of taking legal action against powerful organisations that many employees choose to sign a compromise agreement containing a gagging clause rather than pursue legal action and put their health in jeopardy.”

Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Sheffield city council, described the figures as “worrying”, going on to say: “When such large sums are being spent on these agreements students have every right to know why this money isn’t being invested in university services instead. As one of the largest and most respected institutions in our city,  the University of Sheffield should be setting an example to other employers.”

Compromise agreements have been a contentious issue in the area recently, sparking outrage from local people when it was discovered that Sheffield city council had spent almost £200,000 on the orders since 2011.

Sheffield city council spent £28,000 on compromise agreements in 2011 and £162,530 in the 2012-2013 period, with many of their compromise agreements including the controversial confidentiality clauses. But the University of Sheffield’s spend dwarfs this – with £196,907 spent on gagging orders in 2011 alone, more than seven times the amount spent by the council in that year, despite having only 6,031 employees compared to the council’s 18,000 plus.

The number of agreements made and the costs incurred are subject to annual scrutiny by the University’s senior remuneration committee, made up of the vice-chancellor and non-University staff.

The University has racked up almost £2 million worth of the controversial clauses in the past five years, peaking in 2009 when 24 agreements were made at a cost of £549,589.

In total, the University has made 102 compromise agreements with confidentiality clauses since 2008, resulting in a total spend of £1,835,498.

These figures also tower over the “concerning” spend of almost half a million pounds at the University of York. When the University of York Students’ Union officers found out about the £479,464 spend on confidentiality clauses since 2008, the spending was criticised as “careless”.

Kallum Taylor, York Students’ Union president, told York student paper Nouse: “These numbers are obviously concerning. Obviously we don’t know the ins and outs, but 80k a year could go a hell of a long way elsewhere for students here. Students are now paying a fortune, and their financial stake in the University has increased dramatically. Scrutiny on spending should be higher than ever, and this type of business shouldn’t be carelessly accepted as a norm.”

University of Sheffield Students’ Union president Ally Buckle declined to comment on the figures. A human resources spokesperson for the University said: “The University of Sheffield has a well deserved reputation as an excellent employer committed to developing a culture of excellence, collaboration, innovation, commitment and respect.

“The University is proactive in ensuring that it promotes and develops its staff capability, and considers a range of employment options to address any shortcomings which, when the circumstances warrant it, include compromise agreements. We take care to ensure this approach is only used voluntarily, and in circumstances where both parties have agreed it’s the best course of action, frequently in discussion with trade unions.

“The number of cases and University of Sheffield spending on such agreements is low when compared to other sectors. Over the past six years, spending has been at an average of around £18,000 per case, representing a tiny fraction of our total £1.1bn staff budget over the same six years.”

September 05, 2013

Failure to investigate bullying claim costs $350,000

Three Queensland Appeal Court judges have upheld a security guard’s appeal and awarded her $364,008 in damages for a psychiatric illness caused by her manager “verbally” abusing her.

QCA President Justice Margaret McMurdo and Justice Robert Gotterson and Ann Lyons ruled University of Sunshine Coast’s (USC) failure to investigate and take action on an earlier bullying and harassment complaint left staff unreasonably exposed to risk of damage.

USC security guard Gjenie Wolters brought action against her employer on the grounds it had breached its duty of care by failing to provide a safe place of work. She alleged she developed a “debilitating psychiatric illness” after her line manager Mark Bradley verbally assaulted her in March 2008.

Wolters alleged Bradley “aggressively confronted” her, waved his arms at her and yelled while accusing her of abandoning her duties during a blackout. She said she attempted to explain her conduct, but Bradley did not want to discuss the matter and “stormed off”.

Wolters lodged a grievance with USC HR the next day but the unit “declined to investigate her grievance”.

Bradley, the judges heard, had been the subject of a bullying and harassment complaint some months earlier to Wolters’ grievance. Another female security guard, Heather Carney, lodged a complaint Bradley verbally assaulted her and threatened her position.

Carney voluntarily left USC but did not withdraw her complaint...

Former USC vice-chancellor Thomas said Bradley had a history of raising his voice to security staff. But Thomas did not regard it as bullying as security staff were “quite different from the normal people who populate universities” and used to being yelled at.

The Appeal Court judges upheld Wolters’ argument USC’s failure to investigate the Carney complaint meant “no consideration was given to specific aspects of Mr Bradley’s conduct about which he should have been counselled”. “It follows logically the appropriate reprimand and counselling Mr Bradley would have been given would have placed considerable emphasis on bringing that deficiency to his attention and counselling him to check his facts first before criticising other staff members.”

The judges awarded Wolters $364,008 and ordered USC to pay her legal costs for the appeal.


Prevalence and Forms of Workplace Bullying Among University Employees

Over the past decade, a growing number of Anglo-American and Scandinavian researchers have documented the extent to which the university environment provides opportunities for workplace bullying. By contrast, there has been a visible lack of similar studies in non-Western national contexts, such as the Czech Republic and other Central Eastern European (CEE) countries.

The present article addresses this gap by reporting the findings of the first large-scale study into workplace bullying among university employees in the Czech Republic. The exposure to bullying was assessed with the Negative Acts Questionnaire-Revised (NAQ-R) in a sample of 1,533 university employees. The results showed that 13.6 % of the respondents were classified as bullying targets based on an operational definition of bullying (weekly exposure to one negative act), while 7.9 % of the respondents were identified as targets based on self-reports. This prevalence is comparable to bullying rates in Scandinavia but considerably lower than in Anglo-American universities.

Differences between Anglo-American and Czech universities were also found with respect to the status of perpetrators (bullying was perpetrated mostly by individual supervisors in the Czech sample), perceived causes of bullying (structural causes perceived as relatively unimportant in the Czech sample), and targets’ responses to bullying (minimal use of formal responses in the Czech sample). The authors propose that cross-cultural differences as well as differences between the Anglo-American model of “neoliberal university” and the Czech model of university governance based on “academic oligarchy” can be used to explain these different findings.


August 16, 2013

THE Best University Workplace Survey: staff unheard?

Around four in 10 university employees feel unable to make their voices heard within their institutions, according to preliminary findings from the first Times Higher Education Best University Workplace Survey. Analysis of the first 2,300 responses to the survey, which is still open to all university employees, reveals that 37 per cent disagree with the statement: “I can make my voice heard within my university.”

The figure rises to 56 per cent when including those who neither agree nor disagree.

“There is de facto no meaningful management at an everyday level,” says one senior lecturer at a university in the South West of England. “Shop-floor problems such as too few teaching staff are usually ignored by managers and dealt with by staff ad hoc.

“There is almost no meaningful forward planning beyond thinking about the needs of [the research excellence framework], or branding issues such as the National Student Survey.”

A respondent from another institution, who works as an IT technician, sums up the concerns of many respondents, saying: “Communication between staff and senior management tends to be a bottleneck in both directions. Senior management makes all the right noises – but never checks that it is happening in practice.”

However, although many employees appear to feel overlooked by their institution’s hierarchy, the vast majority enjoy working with their peers. Just 6 per cent say they do not, with some 47 per cent “strongly agreeing” when asked if they enjoy working with their immediate colleagues.

“My department is particularly good at supporting early career academics. I have worked at other institutions where levels of exploitation are appalling but [my department] is especially sensitive to the needs of [such] staff and proactive in ensuring they get the support and career development they need,” says one academic at a Russell Group university.

A professor at a 1994 Group institution adds: “My line manager is an excellent, responsive, can-do sort of person who really cares about his academic colleagues. My department has really good morale.”

The Best University Workplace Survey is open to all UK higher education staff. John Gill, THE’s editor, said: “The larger the number of people that participate in the survey, the more detailed will be the picture that we piece together about working life in our universities.

“Our intention in this first year of the survey is simply to get an idea of the areas in which universities are performing well as employers, and those where they need to do more.”


Exeter’s rankings success gained at staff’s expense

League table success at the University of Exeter may have been gained at the expense of staff, who claim to have experienced “undue stress”, “bullying”, sexism and a “loss of voice”, according to an internal report.

A group convened at the request of management and led by Nicky Britten, professor of applied healthcare research at the institution, has identified a “top-down management” culture as a source of problems at Exeter.

Based on 288 responses from the university’s 3,900 staff, the report says that many people found the senior management team remote, with major decisions being “made by a small group of people behind closed doors without consultation”.

“The tone of communication (described as ‘hectoring’) might have been appropriate for managing underperformance ten years ago, but is inappropriate now,” reads the report, which was presented to the university’s council, alongside the senior management’s response, on 21 February.

Many staff felt their opinions were ignored, “with no acknowledgment or feedback”, it adds. The group also documents “some alarming reports of bullying, manipulative and unpleasant behaviour” by particular senior managers and a feeling among some that the university “is a self-perpetuating male-dominated culture” with policies such as maternity leave not taken seriously.

“There are reports of men making casual sexist remarks…referring to women as ‘girls’, promoting men over women (despite the women having equal or better CVs),” it adds.

The investigation was initiated after the university’s wider staff survey of 2012, which found that 36 per cent reported feeling unduly stressed, compared with a benchmark figure at universities conducting the same survey of 28 per cent.

The survey also found that only 60 per cent said they felt able to voice opinions, compared with a sector benchmark of 76 per cent.

Exeter vice-chancellor Sir Steve Smith told Times Higher Education that senior management would respond to the concerns identified by the group, and in many cases had already made changes.

Expanding student numbers and raising Exeter from an average ranking position of 34th in the UK during the 1990s to the top 10 today had meant being “very centralist”, he said. However, efforts were now being made to try to reverse this.

Exeter had already reinstated academic heads of discipline to decision- making positions on the university’s college executives and was on a recruitment drive that would reduce workloads, he said.

“I could have written to staff saying ‘we’ve got the [2012] survey results and we did better [than] or the same [as the benchmark] in 17 out of 25 [areas]’, but the truth is I know that there are tensions…We’re trying to be as open as possible,” Sir Steve said. The problem would now be working out how widespread the concerns were and whether or not they were historical, he added.

However, co-president of the Exeter branch of the University and College Union, Jo Melling, said the union felt that senior management’s response did “not meet the needs outlined” by the group.

“In particular, we are concerned that the vice-chancellor’s executive group has not recognised the issue about voice and governance that the group clearly flagged up,” he said, pointing to recommendations that the university commission an independent review of distribution of power within the institution.

Management has said that the university’s governance will be assessed in 2014 as part of its regular five-yearly reviews.