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Madison Faculty Survey Finds Widespread Bullying

April 12, 2017
 
 

Some 35 percent of faculty members who completed a survey on work-life issues at the University of Wisconsin at Madison reported having been bullied by colleagues within the last three years, The Cap Times reported. “The measure of incidence of hostile and intimidating behavior is rather surprising,” reads a new report on survey results prepared by the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute at Madison.

The same survey found that 91 percent of respondents said major budget cuts due to decreased state funding lowered morale. Some 72 percent of respondents said controversial new tenure policies adopted after changes to the state statute on tenure lowered morale. The survey involved tenured and tenure-track faculty members and saw a 59 percent response rate.

About half of women and faculty members with disabilities said they’d experienced bullying. Professors with tenure and those in the social sciences also were more likely to report having been bullied than participants over all. Some 42 percent of respondents also said they’d witnessed bullying, defined in the survey as “hostile and intimidating behavior.”

The institute has conducted the work-life survey five times since 2003, but the most recent survey, conducted last spring, was the first to ask about bullying. Hostile and intimidating behavior was also a factor in 16 percent of cases brought to Madison’s Ombuds Office in 2015-16, according to an annual report. Reports included bullying from supervisors and peers. In 2014, the UW Madison Faculty Senate and Academic Staff Assembly adopted policies defining hostile and intimidating behavior and establishing informal and formal processes for reporting it, according to The Cap Times.

Respondents said hostile and intimidating behavior is treated “somewhat” seriously on campus. Greg Bump, university spokesperson, said the uptick in reports of bullying may be attributable in part to Madison’s efforts to encourage victims to come forward. The university is developing training tools for managers, he said.

Academic bullying isn’t unique to Madison, or even the U.S., as evidenced by the popularity of a 2013 blog post on “academic assholes” by Australian scholar Inger Mewburn, moderator of the Thesis Whisperer blog. Bob Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University and author of The No-Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, said at the time that academe may perpetuate “selfishness” by virtue of its rewards system. He doubted bullying was worse in academe than in many other professions, however, including nursing, where the phenomenon is well documented and comes from a variety of sources.

 
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