My Campus Administration, Faculty Association, Senate, and Me: A Case Study in Academic Mobbing

My Campus Administration, Faculty Association, Senate, and Me: A Case Study in Academic Mobbing

Peter Wylie (University of British Columbia – Okanagan, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9485-7.ch008

Abstract

This chapter recounts recent experiences of the author with the University of British Columbia (UBC), its Faculty Association (FA), this association's relationship with the author's campus administration at UBC Okanagan campus (UBCO), and the relationship of the campus administration with the senate of the campus. The chapter is a case study of academic mobbing. The author's targeting, exclusion, and ostracism is fully documented in the chapter and fully explained by the concepts of academic bullying, harassment, and mobbing. It is a case study of where an elected union representative of faculty members and an elected senator was targeted, excluded, and ostracized by the powers that be in the union and university administration, working in collusion and complicity.
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Introduction

This chapter recounts recent experiences of the author, a tenured associate professor close to normal retirement age, with the University of British Columbia (UBC), its Faculty Association (UBCFA, or simply, FA), this association’s relationship with the author’s campus administration at UBC Okanagan campus (UBCO), and the relationship of the campus administration with the senate of the campus. The chapter is a specific and personal case study of academic mobbing, defined as “an insidious, non-violent and sophisticated kind of psychological bullying that predominantly takes place in college and university campuses” (Khoo, 2010, p. 61). The chapter is one of a series of works the author has written and published in recent years on the institutional analysis of UBC, especially UBCO and the FA (Wylie, 2017, 2018a, 2018b, 2018c, in press). A comprehensive account of some early in time aspects of this case study is published elsewhere (Wylie, 2018c) and hence is not repeated in this chapter.

The inquiry draws on narrative and self-study methodology requiring a close, critical process of inquiry and reflection (Clarke & Erickson, 2003). Self-study is paired with narrative (Hendry, 2010, p. 73). Care however was taken to anonymize as much as possible, other than the actual institution. The chapter explores how administrative managers at the campus, who de facto control the senate, deny and explain away inconvenient information, and how the FA supports them do it. The article demonstrates a turn on ‘don't shoot the messenger’ wisdom, as sweetheart unionism, defined as “collusion between management and labour” in terms “beneficial to management and detrimental to union workers” (Dictionary.com, 2018) and an all-administrative academic governance (Ginsberg, 2011), goes out of its way to muzzle and sideline critics and whistle blowers. The analysis is partially grounded on a particular theory of human reception of inconvenient data:

We habitually avoid or ignore evidence that contradicts long-held views and tend to believe only the things reported to us by people we like. We reject inconvenient data as lies and propaganda. We are massively susceptible to peer pressure. We also fiercely resist admitting error. (Behr, 2010)

The objective of the chapter is to generate conversation, dialogue, feedback, input and future inquiry into the issue of academic mobbing, in the spirit of critical engagement as well as insight into new courses of action.

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Background: Academic Mobbing

Although the case study of this chapter is primarily a personal account of events, it is of course useful to locate it within the professional literature on academic mobbing. Estimates put mobbing at 15-20 per cent of all participants in the workplace in the United States (Davenport, Schwartz and Elliot, 2011; Hoel and Salin, 2003). Of the 100 or so academic mobbing cases known in Canada and the United States to one expert in the field, around two dozen were from Canadian institutions (Westhues, 2005). Others characterize such phenomena as “low incidence, high severity” (Gunsalus, 2006, pp. 124-25). Yet others argue that the phenomenon is pervasive (MacDonald, Stockton and Landrum, 2018). One commentator cites that an estimated 12 per cent of mobbed professors end up committing suicide (Seguin, 2016, para. 14). One infamous example is that of Justine Sargent, a McGill University neurologist, who committed suicide with her husband in 1994 (Cran, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

All-Administrative University: A university that is governed by its managerial cadre rather than its elected senate or other representative bodies.

Complicity: University management and faculty union united in turning blind eyes to violations of faculty member rights.

Academic Freedom: The freedom of faculty members to honestly speak their mind and opinions, including the freedom to criticize their university and union.

Academic Mobbing: The concerted attempt by university managements and faculty unions to ostracize a faculty member seen to be threatening their interests.

Senate: The elected academic governance body of a university in law but typically not in practice.

Respectful Environment Policies: Attempts by university management to suppress academic freedom in the name of fostering a harmonious environment.

Faculty Association: A union of faculty members purportedly representing their collective interests vis-a-vis the university employer.

Collusion: University management and faculty union working together in unison rather than in opposition.

Investigation: An internal university procedure operating on the legal principles of a Star Chamber or kangaroo court.

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