Search Results for "bullying"

12th 2009
Women bullying women

Posted under class & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race

Yesterday the New York Times featured an article on workplace bullying and the (according to the author) “pink elephant. . . lurking in the room” is the fact that female bullies target other women much more often that not.  In the article, “A Sisterhood of Workplace Infighting,” leadership coach Peggy Klaus says that “female bullies aim at other women more than 70 percent of the time,” whereas male bullies are more “equal-opportunity tormentors” (h/t to regular commenter Indyanna for bringing this article to my attention.)  Klaus recites a number of reasons why women may target other women for abuse:

I’ve heard plenty of theories on why women undermine one another at work. Probably the most popular one is the scarcity excuse — the idea that there are too few spots at the top, so women at more senior levels are unwilling to assist female colleagues who could potentially replace them.

Another explanation is what I call the “D.I.Y. Bootstrap Theory,” which goes like this: “If I had to pull myself up by the bootstraps to get ahead with no one to help me, why should I help you? Do it yourself!”

Some people argue that women aren’t intentionally undermining one another; rather, they don’t want to be accused of showing favoritism toward other women.

I agree that these first three reasons, while wrong-headed, are excuses that people offer to explain bad behavior.  I’ve never understood the zero-sum mentality of “scarcity,” especially in the academic workplace.  Unlike people outside of academia, who are vulnerable to layoffs and being replaced by younger and cheaper employees, tenured faculty are safe.  They’re made men and women, so they have nothing to lose when their junior colleagues succeed, and if they have even a glimmer of civic-mindedness about their jobs they’ll be happy that their colleagues are thriving and making the department look good.  (Besides, rational Deans reward departments that are good at hiring and promoting good people, and they tend to look askance at departments who keep asking for lines to search because they keep firing the people they’ve recently hired.  Or so I like to think, in my dreamy dreamworld–those of you with administrative experience, please weigh in here!) 

Here’s where I disagree with Klaus: Continue Reading »


9th 2008
Academic bullying: these boots were made for walkin’

Posted under Gender & happy endings & jobs

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a major article out now on bullying in the academic workplace, “Academic Bullies.”  I was interviewed and extensively quoted in it, so if you’re curious, you can read it to learn the heretofore undisclosed location of my first tenure-track job.  (Many thanks to the article’s author, Piper Fogg, who provided Historiann with the free link.  Piper is a young go-getter with her eye on the main chance, so look for her byline in other high profile publications in the years to come!)  I think the article is a good overview of the problem, it offers some possible solutions, it points to resources for people who find themselves in similar straits, and my hope is that it will draw attention to what many of us in the academic blogosphere know is a major problem in our work environments.

These boots of Historiann’s were made for walkin’, and I’ve never regretted my decision to walk out of that university, saddle up Old Paint, and ride on out to Baa Ram U.  I hope those of you who are still stuck in a bullying environment are busy photocopying your CVs and dossiers and will all have good luck on the job market this year.  Changing jobs is not possible for everyone–family obligations, medical issues, spousal employment, or other factors mean that not everyone is as free as I was to change jobs, but I strongly believe that it’s the shortest and fastest route to preserving your career as well as your physical and mental health.  Institutions always have more money and time than individuals, and if your department or college administrators are unwilling to intervene effectively on your behalf, then you owe them nothing.  You’ve already put up with more than should have been expected of you.

For those of you just tuning in, or finding yourself in newly desperate circumstances, here’s a roundup of my major posts on academic bullying:

Workplace bullies and the academy, March 28, 2008

Academic bullying and discrimination round-up, yee-haw!, April 10, 2008

Don’t sue–run for your lives! (part I), June 24, 2008

Don’t sue–run for your lives! (part II), June 25, 2008

Academic workplace bullying:  run away, indeed!, June 27, 2008.


27th 2008
Academic workplace bullying: run away, indeed!

Posted under jobs & unhappy endings

Every time I post on bullies, I get linked to by national blogs (thanks Chronicle of Higher Education, Suburban Guerrila, and Inside Higher Ed!) and the outpouring of misery is disturbing and sobering.  The hair-raising stories recounted in the comments here, here, and here have really touched me, and I hope all of you are on to better jobs and much happier lives, and if not, that you will be very soon.  For the rest of you, my wish is that you’ll all be on the lookout for incipient bullying in your workplaces, and that you’ll intervene on someone else’s behalf to preserve the collegiality and mental health that are the bedrock of all functional academic workplaces.

When I titled my posts on bullying earlier this week “Don’t sue–run for your lives!” I did so somewhat prankishly (as in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with King Arthur and his army always screaming, “run away! run away!”)  Some commenters here and over at the Chronicle here thought that I was giving blanket advice–that people should not try to improve things and that they should just resign from a bad job.  Of course, everyone has to make hir own calculations about whether to stay and fight, or whether just to “run away” as fast as possible.  But, I was disturbed by the judgmental tone of some of the comments that implied that “running away” was irresponsible, and your stories have convinced me that “running away” is not such bad advice after all.  (At least, you should consider putting it near the top of your list of options if you’re currently being bullied at work.)

I didn’t say this in my initial post, but it took me four years to “run away” from my bad job–four years of telling allies about the aggressive things that people said to me, four years of confronting one chair and then another when they said demeaning and hostile things to me, two years of having one chair either blow up at me or give me unsolicited advice about my personal life, two years of another chair telling me that “you need to teach more broadly,” because of three student evaluation forms that complained that all I ever talked about was “blacks, women, and Indians, not American history,” two years of that chair threatening my tenure, two years of meeting with the dean, only to be told that “you have to understand, Historiann, that you’re a very intimidating person.”  That’s right:  Historiann, the youngest and most junior person in that department was told that she was intimidating to tenured professors a decade, or two, or three older than she!  I was told that my self-confidence and (very modest!) successes made my senior colleagues uncomfortable, so maybe I should try inviting them out to lunch to make nice!  What did I get for my four years of trying to draw attention to the problems in that department?  Like most of you have testified, the only thing most of us get for following the faculty manual and reporting bullying behavior is retaliation!  At that point, I started to photocopy my Vita and send out letters of application.  Thank goodness someone wanted me–so I packed my wagon and drove it west as fast as my horses could run!  (That’s me pictured above!)

As enraging as my story is, the comments many of you have left (here, here, and here) were filled with truly hair-raising stories much worse than my own.  While I still think that everyone has to make hir own decision about what to do about an abusive workplace, because of all of your comments, I now believe that “run away” is actually pretty good advice, especially for untenured people.  Because I lived in a household with a second income, because I had wonderful friends at another local university who were my sounding board and refuge, because I am a highly self-confident person, and because I was still an Assistant Professor, I had a lot more options than many other victims of bullying have.  (I’ve noticed the tendency for bullies–male and female alike–to prey on unmarried/un-partnered women, women who don’t have the back-up plan of another household income, and who therefore are perceived as economically and emotionally vulnerable.  My second household income gave me the liberty to resign even if I hadn’t found another job.)  Given the lack of support from department chairs and deans reported by so many of you in your experiences of being bullied, it seems that leaving sooner rather than later, before you lose sleep, sanity, and good health, before you’re committed to a lifetime of happy pills and therapy, before you jeopardize (or lose) your relationship, your family, and the rest of your career, is not such bad advice after all.

I understand people’s concerns that if bullied people just go away, that workplaces will never reform themselves, but criticizing victims for throwing in the towel is monstrously unfair.  There is a big industry now selling advice about how to deal with workplace bullies–and the people in that industry can’t sell as many books as they’d like to if their advice boils down to “get out as fast as you can.”  They’re selling hope to people in a bad situation, and some of their ideas for combating bullies may prove useful to many people.  But suggesting that the victims of bullies have the primary responsibility of cleaning up the mess after suffering the bullying seems, well, bullying!  Bullies are the ones who need to change, and their enabling co-workers are the ones who need to force those changes on the bullies and in themselves.  What do you think a victim of bullying owes the department or institution that is bullying hir?  (Hint:  that’s a rhetorical question!)  My answer?  Jack crap

Workplaces that tolerate bullies and do little if anything to assist the victims don’t tend to generate a great deal of loyalty or affection.  (My bad job was at a religiously affiliated university, which loved to deploy the rhetoric of family and community when it came to extracting unpaid work from staff and faculty.  But somehow, we weren’t all “family” or “community” when staff and faculty needed redress, or when students were raped on campus.)  If victims want to assist in a Great Reformation, then by all means they should.  But of all people in abusive workplaces, victims are the ones with the least responsibility for making changes.  Most of us tried.  Most of us were repaid with  more abuse.  So, I think it’s more than OK for most of us to resign and say, “happy trails!”  (Or, you could write a book about your experiences in a bullying environment like this guy!)


10th 2008
Academic bullying and discrimination round-up, yee-haw!

Posted under Uncategorized

There have been a number of good posts ’round these parts recently that have continued discussing bullying and harrassment in academic work environments, especially as they affect women faculty members.  (Not so happy trails today, friends–but be good to your horse anyway.)  See for example Clio Bluestocking’s appalling stories of harrassment:  part I, part II, and part III.  She makes the observation in Part III that “[T]he focus in harassment cases is upon the “sexual,” which is not the source of the abuse. The source of the abuse is in the “harassment,” which is not always sexual in nature. While most universities and workplaces have a policy against sexual harassment, they do not have policies dealing with simple harassment or bullying. . . . unless provable damage had been done, and unless the hostile work environment rested upon sex, the subordinates had few options for recourse.”  The result of this failure to police or prevent harrassment is that in her case, “the colleagues of these [harrassers] did not see objections to their behavior as anything other than a personality conflict. When I brought my problem to the chair of the department in the third case, he told me, ‘you can’t file a complaint against someone for being an a**hole.’” 

Why not?  Isn’t creating a “hostile work environment” part and parcel of being an a**hole?  (I wouldn’t have minded working with a**holes so much if they left it at home.)  Tenured Radical posted last year about a book by Robert I. Sutton that argues that keeping a**holes out is an important precondition to creating a healthy and happy work environment.  She writes, “What is great about The No A**hole Rule is that Sutton’s examples help identify the a**hole behavior that is particular to one’s own workplace, how to identify it in oneself, and how to resist it. He also demonstrates the damage caused by a**holes, several of which seem particularly relevant to academic institutions, in my experience. One is that a**hole behavior is contagious: if effective interventions are not made, people who are not certified a**holes become more prone to temporary a**hole behaviors as they try to resist domination and seizures of power.”  (By the way, go ahead and type in the esses if you’re looking for Sutton’s book–Historiann doesn’t like to work blue.)

Prof. Zero makes a related point about abusive environments in her recent post, I Object, in which she meditates on domestic violence and victim-blaming.  She writes, “I find it very interesting that [women] are expected to escape physical abuse and are heavily criticized if we do not, but [we are expected] to absorb verbal and emotional abuse. We are to say it is happening because we have a ‘communication problem.’ Had we phrased things just right, we would have avoided ‘misunderstandings’ and would not have been abused. Now that we have been, we must be quiet and wait for the next episode. In the meantime we must still function at a high level.”  She’s absolutely right–why do we blame the victims if they don’t leave after being physically abused, and then blame victims again if they don’t just shut up and take it when being bullied and abused emotionally?  If we accept that victims of physical violence have no control over their abusers’ behavior, why do we tell people who are being bullied that they should “try to get to know people better,” and suggest that if they took people out to lunch more often, the harrassment would end?

Finally, Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Profs has put together some useful links in Data on Women and Men in Academia.  Note in particular the link to “Women, Work, and the Academy:  Strategies for Responding to ‘Post-Civil Rights Era’ Gender Discrimination,” a report by Alison Wylie, Janet R. Jakobsen and Gisela Fosado at the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

Whew.  Historiann has got quite a few stables to muck out now, doesn’t she?  Giddyup.


13th 2015
Universities choose their students, not the other way around.

Posted under American history & bad language & happy endings & jobs & race & students

You don't get to go here or stay here unless we say so.  Full stop.

You don’t get to go here or stay here unless we say so. Full stop.

Why are people so confused about the right of both public and private universities to select their student body and establish a code of student conduct?

Public universities, as universities that are funded by and answerable to the taxpayers of the U.S. states in which they reside, have to play by somewhat different rules than private universities.  For example, they can’t discriminate on the basis of religion when it comes to student admission or faculty employment, but private sectarian colleges and universities may discriminate.  Also, I’m pretty sure that the god-bags and the crazies that scream at passing students and faculty on the main plaza at Baa Ram U. are there because our campus is a public square, whereas a private university is probably permitted to escort protesters to the borders of campus.

In short, there is as yet no constitutional right to a university education at a particular institution, so public unis–like private schools–are perfectly within their rights to establish codes of conduct for students and faculty alike.  Indeed many would argue that they’re under an obligation to establish and uphold rules for conduct so as to better ensure safe and equitable access to and experience of classroom and campus life.  (Does anyone else remember Gina Grant, the Harvard admit whose offer was rescinded 20 years ago because it discovered that she killed her mother?  Now, maybe her mother needed killing, but that doesn’t mean that Harvard or any other university, public or private, doesn’t have discretion over the students they admit, or over their on- and off-campus conduct.)

Jonathan Zimmerman apparently disagrees, as he argues today at Inside Higher Ed, citing the recent expulsions from the University of Oklahoma and the University of South Carolina for the use of a highly offensive ethnic slur.  Zimmerman, a historian and education proffie at New York University, thinks that universities can’t expel students for speech acts:   Continue Reading »


7th 2013
But I thought guns made us all safer: fear and intimidation in Westchester County

Posted under American history & Gender & unhappy endings & weirdness

The New York Times has a revealing article about the suburban New York newspaper, The Journal News, and its decision a few weeks ago to publish a list of names and addresses as well as an interactive map of all of the people who hold handgun permits in Westchester and Rockland counties.  The print and online edition of the article, “The Gun Owner Next Door:  What You Don’t Know About the Weapons in Your Neighborhood,” became a nationwide sensation, and the Times’s summary of the story so far documents an amazing display of narcissism and projection:

Calls and e-mails grew so threatening that the paper’s president and publisher, Janet Hasson, hired armed guards to monitor the newspaper’s headquarters in White Plains and its bureau in West Nyack, N.Y.

Personal information about editors and writers at the paper has been posted online, including their home addresses and information about where their children attended school; some reporters have received notes saying they would be shot on the way to their cars; bloggers have encouraged people to steal credit card information of Journal News employees; and two packages containing white powder have been sent to the newsroom and a third to a reporter’s home (all were tested by the police and proved to be harmless).

“As journalists, we are prepared for criticism,” Ms. Hasson said, as she sat in her meticulously tended office and described the ways her 225 employees have been harassed since the article was published. “But in the U.S., journalists should not be threatened.” She has paid for staff members who do not feel safe in their homes to stay at hotels, offered guards to walk employees to their cars, encouraged employees to change their home telephone numbers and has been coordinating with the local police.

Was The Journal News right or wrong to publish this information in this fashion?  Most unusually, I have had a hard time formulating an opinion on this.  I can see the arguments from both sides:  Continue Reading »


27th 2012
A felony arrest by the “language police!”

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & happy endings & wankers

Relicts of childhoods past.

Hey, kids–good news!  Self-appointed language liberator Ann Coulter has proclaimed “retard” to be OK again, and not at all an insult to disabled people, because she says so.  So get your “retard” on again, friends!

What?  You’re not interested in dusting that one off from elementary school in the 1970s and 1980s?  I bet you don’t even laugh at dead baby or fart jokes, either.  I guess the language police got to you, too. Continue Reading »


24th 2012
The Daily Stupid

Posted under American history & Gender & the body & wankers & women's history

I don’t know what is worse–the fact that The Daily Beast has published a press release for this fertility doctor as a news story, or the fact that this story recycles the completely unbelieveable trope that women in their 30s and 40s are truly surprised when they learn they might not be able to have children: 

Some bosses offer dating tips. Diane Sawyer counsels her colleagues on freezing their eggs.

The anchor of ABC’s World News has long been a sounding board for her famously hard-working staff on a host of personal issues, from dating to the more complex realities of a demanding career. A recurring theme with women: finding time away from the office to meet a partner and have kids before they hit 40. It doesn’t always happen, as Sawyer, who first married at age 42, well knows. When it doesn’t, Sawyer sends her workers to New York University’s Fertility Clinic.

.       .       .       .       .       .      

Three quarters come in because they aren’t ready to have children yet. Some are sent by their parents: I know you want to work, but I want grandkids someday. Many are furious their doctors didn’t tell them about egg freezing sooner. “I want to send Diane a basket of flowers for what she’s doing,” says one childless 40-something in the media.

The idea that one could be a woman in her 40s in the media and not be aware of fertility issues is just completely laughable.  Continue Reading »


19th 2011
Teevee not for tots–but online Kindergarten = awesome?

Posted under American history & childhood & unhappy endings

from Adbusters

The American Academy of Pediatrics retrenches in its losing war against putting young children in front of screens:

Parents of infants and toddlers should limit the time their children spend in front of televisions, computers, self-described educational games and even grown-up shows playing in the background, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned on Tuesday. Video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under age 2 and leaves less room for activities that do, like interacting with other people and playing, the group said.

The recommendation, announced at the group’s annual convention in Boston, is less stringent than its first such warning, in 1999, which called on parents of young children to all but ban television watching for children under 2 and to fill out a “media history” for doctor’s office visits. But it also makes clear that there is no such thing as an educational program for such young children, and that leaving the TV on as background noise, as many households do, distracts both children and adults.

And yet, we we hear from Jonathan Rees at More or Less Bunk that there is such a thing as online Kindergarten curricula, which he (correctly, in my view) calls “child neglect:” Continue Reading »


4th 2011
DePaul University: safe for white male scholars only?

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

We’ve gone over this here before, friends–in “DePaul tenure process takes a turn for the . . . ” last May, and in “Women in Catholic higher ed:  do we exist yet?” last January, it sure looked like DePaul University was in the running to beat even Baylor University’s record of discrimination in advancement!  (I know–daringly ambitious, isn’t it?)  We read this morning that DePaul University is back in the news at Inside Higher Ed, which reports that last year, race was clearly a factor in the outcomes of tenure cases there: 

In the 2009-10 academic year, all those who were denied tenure were minority faculty members, and all white candidates won tenure. Of 43 applicants, 10 self-identified faculty members of color went up for tenure, but the University Board on Faculty Tenure and Promotion – the final committee to review candidates and, DePaul’s president said, the one with the most weight – voted to deny six of them (despite previous reports of more applicants and more approvals). The president ultimately signed off on an appeals board’s recommendation to reverse one candidate’s denial, meaning that in the end, 100 percent of white candidates got tenure, compared to half of minority candidates.

Of course, sex discrimination appears to have been operative in many of these cases too–the reporting over at IHEis a little difficult to follow, but it’s clear in the case of Philosophy Professor Namita Goswami that sex bias was a part of the package.  (How else to explain comments and opinions like these?) Continue Reading »


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