Friday, May 18, 2012

Bullying in Academia Must Stop

I have been reading Nicholas Kristof's excellent columns in The New York Times, including the ones that he has written about bullying. He has also posted a link to essays that teenagers have written on their experiences with bullying.

Sad to say that, even in the bastions of the "ivory" towers of academia and higher education, bullying exists.

It exists where "rules of the game" are changed after students matriculate, including those for doctoral students, especially when females are involved.

It exists where females' initiatives are discounted and ridiculed.

It exists where, time and time again, those most qualified are never given chances or opportunities for appointments to administrative posts, if desired.

It exists where achievements are not acknowledged or are belittled by one's academic administrators.

It exists where and when  activities and newsletters are removed from academic websites since "this is not a departmental activity," despite such documents having been on the website for over half a decade.

It exists when and where females' comments and suggestions are summarily rejected in public emails.

It exists where females are publicly, through an email, "immediately" fired from an administrative post, without prior notification, with the sole justification afterwards being that a junior male colleague needed to up his record of service for promotion and tenure.

It exists where one's request for maternity leave, in some form or fashion, is not responded to, until a few days before she gives birth, and then a few weeks after she is teaching her class from her home.

It exists where females have been asked to teach extra courses without any added compensation and have felt "obligated" to do so.

It exists where only the "chosen few" get to teach extra courses online at much added compensation.

I could go on, but will stop here.

The ivory tower is crumbling.

All the above have happened to me, some very recently,  and I am a Chaired Professor at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst and valued sufficiently by the College of Engineering to also have appointments in two different departments there.

And one wonders why  are there so few females going into technical fields and rising through the ranks of academia?

At least we have our research to support us and our students and collaborators as well as friends and family members. Ultimately, it will be the research that you did and the positive influence that you have had on others that you will leave as your mark.

So, write those essays, write those papers, and write those books. Do the best work that you are capable of and mentor others and when the accolades come, and they will, if you work hard, know that you have made a difference.

Also, in whatever manner that you can, do speak out and I am doing so with this blogpost.

Just a week ago, I received a survey on bullying to fill out anonymously at UMass Amherst. Perhaps someone is starting to notice.