In the Midst of the Maelstrom: Struggling Through the Revulsions of Academic Mobbing While Maintaining One's Ethical Compass

In the Midst of the Maelstrom: Struggling Through the Revulsions of Academic Mobbing While Maintaining One's Ethical Compass

Caroline M. Crawford (University of Houston – Clear Lake, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9485-7.ch010

Abstract

Academic mobbing's impact upon the target and the target's professional world can throw one's world off kilter to the point that the target has difficulty maintaining a semblance of psychological and cognitive balance. This story is one target's approach towards maintaining a semblance of balance within the midst of the horrors of academic mobbing and bullying attacks. This target's ethical compass and balance are maintained through the support and guidance of outstanding colleagues, yet in more personal moments the target's sense of psychological equilibrium and emotional stability are drawn from the lifetime accumulation of quotations, lyrics, and poems that articulate one's ethical compass and steadfast psychological center.
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Introduction

I found myself sitting in the pews of a memorial service for a faculty colleague whom I also called friend. The day was a perfect blue sky with fluffy clouds, a soothing breeze and just warm enough to bring a contented smile to the face of everyone enjoying such a lovely day in the city. I thought of the perfection of the day as I walked into her memorial service, knowing of her struggles with cancer and her grace through her battles as well as acceptance of the inevitable. The day was a perfect reflection of my friend and colleague. One song came to mind, by Nina Simone, with the specific lyric from her Feeling Good song:

Dragonfly out in the sun, you know what I mean, don't you know?
Butterflies all havin' fun, you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done, that's what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world, for me (Simone, 1965, para. 5)

This second verse so perfectly described her grace as she walked through life, her acceptance, her strength, and so much of which I found deeply special in her soulfulness. This perfectly illustrated her legacy to me, and my memories of her.

On the drive home, I began thinking about other quotations from which I pull strength and why these quotes are so impactful to me throughout my own life’s journey. Perhaps these quotations and poems reflect my own ethical compass, my own sense of integrity and depth of desire to actively respond to other’s inaction in the face of injustices. The quotations always come to me during difficult times, soothing in a way that is sometimes indescribable. Perhaps, I reflect, this is why quotations of others have become so important throughout the maelstrom of academic mobbing that I’ve been journeying through for so many years now.

I then began thinking about the academic world in which I professionally live. The academic mobbing issues began almost as soon as I started with the institution, beginning with nasty suggestions about my personal life and rumors about which faculty colleagues were engaging in romantic trysts. There was no truth to any of it, but that didn’t seem to matter; many of the same rumors continue to spread, even after a twenty year association with the institution. I was intrigued by the gossip, as the underlying suggestion was that I wasn’t a capable academic and needed other ways to accomplish my professional achievements. I was naïve, to imagined that the academic mobbing would remain encapsulated and only associated with laughable gossip about my private life.

As the bullies slowly developed a level of comfort within the organization, having tested and learned that there would be no corrective action by administration nor by faculty colleagues viewing the attacks on what would become a continuous basis, the academic mobbing became more pronounced and directly impacting my work associated with teaching, research and service. It became so pronounced that my college dean actually wrote a contemptuously disdainful letter and placed it in my personnel file without issue or oversight, much less a date stamp that was expected of all files placed into the personnel files as procedurally mandated. This letter listed several non-documented and non-supported falsehoods with the urging to formally mandate that I attend anger management courses, and with the stated ultimate goal being to begin developing a documentation trail that would result in removal of tenure and firing from the institution. I was shocked and traumatized, that these types of falsehoods and misrepresentations of professional and personal character could be haphazardly and effortlessly inserted into formal documentation files without administrative alarm and rectification. There should be no documentation to support any of the claims in the letter, as none of the claims had ever occurred. Yet when I attempted to follow policy and formally request that the newly hired head of human resources revisit and remove the document from my personnel file, this request was rejected. My professional reputation and my personal reputation were under attack within the university, without anywhere to go for fair and impartial help. I felt revulsion by the actions of the bullies, but also revulsion by the inaction of the silent majority who watched as my professional reputation was unfairly torn apart, the gas lighting that I was constantly attempting to overcome in the work space, and the personal impact upon my cognitive and physical wellness, also including the vicarious impact upon people in my personal life.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Bullying Attack: This term is a label associated with each instance of a larger academic mobbing experience, strategically engaged in by bullies and focused upon a specific target.

Ethical Compass: This is a term that refers to a person’s sense of personal knowledge and assurance, perhaps described as one’s core understanding and belief in oneself, in the midst of confusingly frustrated and bizarre or inexplicable events.

Academic Mobbing: A style of individual harassment and attack upon a specific person, normally occurring by a group of people labeled as bullies, upon one specific person within the workplace referred to as a victim.

Target: This person is the focus of the bullying behaviors throughout the academic mobbing experiences.

Emotional Stability: This term focuses upon the need of the target to remain grounded and balanced, suggesting attempts towards retaining a calm disposition and recognition that the gas lighting events occurring are not a true reflection of the target nor of the target’s reputation, during bulling attacks during academic mobbing experiences.

Psychological Center: The ability of a person to maintain a focused understanding of one’s own behavior and one’s own personality, continuously assessing the external occurrences against one’s own knowledge of self.

Silent Majority: This term refers to the persons who watch as academic mobbing occurs, yet who choose to remain quiet while the bullying and revulsive attacks occur, but who are not one of the bullies nor the target but who are equally culpable due to the choices made to not correct bullying behaviors based upon the fear of becoming a target oneself.

Maelstrom: Is defined within this discussion as a confusing and tumultuous situation that does not make sense from an inside viewpoint nor an external audience experience.

Psychological Equilibrium: The ability of a person to maintain a balanced understanding related to external and internal dichotomies that may impact thought, behavior and attitude.

Bully: This label is given to each person who is actively engaged in attacking the target of academic mobbing.

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