Is There Bullying and Harassment in Major Universities?

When I think of what universities and colleges represent, several things come to mind straight away.

A place where higher learning takes place and a place where students go to grow into something more than they were when they first walked through the front doors.

Doing a little research (something that I found a passion for since I first attended Royal Roads University), I discovered that the word “university” is derived from the Latin phrase universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly means “community of teachers and scholars.”

COMMUNITY?

Fancy that! A community of teachers and scholars.

Why do I bring attention to the word community in relation to universities?

Well it just so happened that there was a media article this week highlighting the issue of bullying and harassment within those communities that I thought you might be interested in. I certainly was.

The article came from The Boston Globe in which it described an ugly situation that was occurring within the University of Massachusetts Amherst chemical engineering department.

Over the past three years the article stated, what had started as a minor personality clash between professors had evolved into an ugly power struggle. All over an aggressive — one report said “bullying” — attempt by four members of the department to recruit others in a coup to oust their Department head.

Documents and e-mails had been provided to The Boston Globe which painted a picture of the extended battle. There were descriptions of screaming at faculty meetings, a rigged department election, vindictive annual reviews, and an attempt to block a professor from securing a full-time position.

Does this sound like community oriented behavior to you?

Reading the article, you learn of allegations levied at several professors who in what was called a “disturbing” faculty meeting they “threatened and intimidated” then Department head T.J. Mountziaris. In an e-mail to the then dean, the professor described how another faculty member told Mountziaris: “We are your worst nightmare.”

The dispute between factions of the department worsened over the years.

Behavior allegedly included teaching sanctions being imposed improperly (which were later found to be illegal and reduced), professors being ostracized from mandatory meetings, information not being shared which tarnished reputations, nasty messages being left for faculty.

This does not sound like a University…more like a kindergarten! 

An investigator was brought in at one point but never ended up writing a report. Strange but true.

A mediator (herself a past student of the University) was brought in but was again asked not to write a report. Strange but true.

Formal complaints of bullying have allegedly been made to the University, all of which had been ‘withdrawn’ apparently and ultimately, with professors stating publically that the problems are far from resolved, they are now tired of fighting. They simply want to focus on their work and are hopeful that the incoming department head will help.

The University hired John Klier, a chemical engineer and executive at Dow Chemical Company.

He is set to start October 25th, which is the day I write this.

To John Klier, I say, “Good luck…the community needs your help.”