Showing posts with label mobbing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mobbing. Show all posts

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Conference on workplace mobbing posts presenters

Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division, via Picryl
The Niagara Conference on Workplace Mobbing is taking shape.

Read more about the interdisciplinary conference at Niagara University, July 22-24, 2024, in the February announcement.  The conference website now features information about presenters and their work. Presenters include:

Dr. Ann Marie Flynn
Dr. Caroline Crawford
Dr. Emily Godbey
Dr. Eve Seguin
Gail Pursell Elliott
Dr. Janice Harper
Dr. Joseph Donnermeyer
Dr. Karen Moustafa Leonard
Dr. Kenneth Westhues
Dr. Peter Wylie
Prof. Richard Peltz-Steele
Prof. Robert Ashford

Dr. Rebecca Pearson
Dr. Qingli Meng
Dr. Walter DeKeseredy

As well, from the conference website:

Host of the conference is Niagara University, which dates from 1856, and which is meeting the challenges of the present century with extraordinary success. Its president, Rev. Dr. James Maher (theology), and its provost, Dr. Timothy Ireland (criminology), will welcome conference participants.

Among sponsors of this conference is the Edwin Mellen Press, which has published more books on mobbing than any other publisher. Professor Herbert Richardson (theology), Its founder and chief editor, now in his 93rd year, will address the conference on cybermobbing. In 1994, he was the subject of what is still the most famous case of academic dismissal in Canadian history. Dr. Eva Kort will also be on hand representing the Edwin Mellen Press.

A book by the late Joel Inbody, his factual analysis of being mobbed as a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, will be released posthumously at the conference. His mother, New York educator Kimberly Lewis, will tell the story behind the book, and chronicle the events that led to Joel’s being slain by a gang of six law enforcement officers in New Mexico, in 2023.

Also sponsoring the conference is the Society of Socio-Economists. Its founder and leading light, Professor Robert Ashford, Professor of Law at the University of Syracuse, arranged for a session on academic mobbing way back in 2010, at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. Professor Ashford will address the conference on "Mobbing and Academic Freedom."

Registration remains open until July 1, or 100 participants, whichever comes first.  If you or a colleague wish to present as well as attend but are finding out about the conference only now, after the proposal deadline, reach out to Dr. Meng via the conference website to inquire.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Florida A&M moves to fire Latina law prof who spoke on public concern; Hispanic law students resist

You may review and sign on to a letter of the FAMU Hispanic American Law Student Association opposing Reyes's termination here. 

Prof. Maritza Reyes
My colleague Professor Maritza Reyes, who is tenured at the Florida A&M (FAMU) College of Law, is fighting alongside students and other allies to save her job and to preserve academic freedom.

Reyes has been notified of the school's intent to dismiss her for doing her job in faculty governance. Reyes commented, professionally and appropriately, in a community email discussion of the abrupt, contentious, and institutionally embarrassing resignation of the law dean at FAMU in February.

FAMU apparently did not like what Reyes had to say. In a plain violation of academic freedom, the school proferred the email discussion as the reason to terminate a tenured professor.

I have written many times, since 2011, about the failure of universities to recognize academic freedom in spaces "penumbral" to published research and classroom teaching, namely faculty governance. In the same vein, Professor Keith Whittington wrote recently about the importance of protecting "extramural" academic speech.

Reyes is an accomplished and highly respected law teacher—thus, just the sort who attract condemnation in the academic culture—who is treasured by generations of students and has especially made a difference for persons of color in law schools and legal practice. She is FAMU's first and only tenured Latina law professor. In 2022, she founded the Graciela Olivárez Latinas in the Legal Academy ("GO LILA") Workshop, which she discussed in 2023 for AALS Women in Legal Education.

Students and alumni are leading the resistance to Reyes's termination. Please review and consider signing on to the following letter.  You can share the letter further with this link: https://forms.gle/VUnYPKiMwyWtMDJx8, or via The Savory Tort.

(This post revised and updated on Mar. 19, at 5:40 p.m.)


Dear President Larry Robinson and Provost Allyson Watson:

We, the undersigned members of the Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University (FAMU) Hispanic American Law Student Association (HALSA), joined by fellow students, alumni, allies, and friends, respectfully request that you rescind your intent to dismiss College of Law Professor Maritza Reyes (Professor Reyes) from her tenured position. For the past fifteen (15) years, Professor Reyes has been a caring professor and has made excellent contributions to the school, especially its students. Professor Reyes has also served as HALSA's faculty advisor for many years.

Professor Reyes is an accomplished teacher, scholar, and member of the legal academy and community. She began her employment in the FAMU College of Law as a tenure-track assistant professor of law in 2009, earned tenure in 2015, and is now a tenured, full professor of law (the highest faculty rank). FAMU has evaluated Professor Reyes's record during many formal evaluative processes, including applications for promotion to associate professor, for tenure, and promotion to full professor; annual reviews; and, most recently, post-tenure review. Professor Reyes has demonstrated consistent excellence and productivity in scholarship, teaching, and service. She has too many accomplishments to list here, including being recognized in the U.S. Congressional Record for her service to our community. You are well-aware of her many accomplishments including through all of the above listed evaluations.

We were heartbroken and outraged to learn that Provost Allyson Watson (Provost Watson), by letter dated February 16, 2024 (the "Notice"), informed Professor Reyes of the University's intent to dismiss her from her tenured position. According to FAMU Regulation 10.120(2)(c), the "Contents of Notice" must include the following information: "A list of documents or written explanation on which the charges are based; and a statement that documents shall be available to the employee upon request." The documents Professor Reyes received consisted of emails that were sent to the entire College of Law Community during the period of February 1, 2024 to February 5, 2024. The entire College of Law Community (faculty, staff, and students) received the emails after then College of Law Dean Deidré Keller (Dean Keller) opened this email forum on February 1, 2024 to provide notice of her resignation effective immediately. Several professors, including Professor Reyes, and three students participated in these communications and sent emails to the entire College of Law Community. The use of email forums/listservs to the entire College of Law Community was not prohibited. Professor Reyes's emails were informative, professional, and timely. They helped bring transparency and accountability regarding Dean Keller's resignation, a matter of institutional and public importance. The Tallahassee Democrat initially reported about Dean Keller's resignation on February 2, 2024. Subsequently, Dean Keller provided her letter of resignation to this newspaper, which published it in a second article on February 6, 2024. These materials were readily available online via the newspaper's website.

In response to Professor Reyes's contributions via emails about Dean Keller's resignation, Provost Watson issued a Notice of intent to dismiss Professor Reyes from her tenured position. It seems to us that Provost Watson targeted Professor Reyes for the content of her speech and sought to silence her voice and future contributions in the FAMU College of Law. In a matter of days, Provost Watson charged Professor Reyes for dismissal without allowing her an opportunity to respond to a formal complaint, go through an investigation, receive meaningful due process, and get a report. To us as law students, the way Provost Watson has handled this situation screams of injustice and lack of due process.

Many students and alumni describe Professor Reyes as an exceptional educator who made a lasting and meaningful impact on their law school experiences and legal careers. She always set high standards and would provide the guidance and skills necessary to reach them. She also inspired students to achieve their individual levels of excellence. Some of us made it through difficult situations during law school thanks to her unwavering support. Professor Reyes has also been an advocate for student organizations. Therefore, if your intent to dismiss Professor Reyes comes to pass, you will harm past, current, and future FAMU College of Law students by taking away an excellent professor who has been our teacher, mentor, advocate, ally, supporter, and friend. You will also harm the law school, including with negative publicity. You have already disrupted the high-caliber teaching law students expected to receive when they registered for Professor Reyes's courses. You abruptly replaced her with less-credentialed and less-experienced instructors who had never taught in a law school before. Many of us will be further traumatized by Professor Reyes's dismissal. We cannot remain silent in the face of such injustice.

There are currently twenty (20) tenured professors (associate and full) in the College of Law. Professor Reyes was the first and thus far only Hispanic professor hired in the tenure track and subsequently tenured in the FAMU College of Law. She has served as HALSA's dedicated, supportive, and highly competent faculty advisor. According to the FAMU College of Law American Bar Association 2023 Standard 509 Required Disclosures, Hispanic students make up 25% of the total law student body. It is important that Hispanic students be appropriately represented in the law school. While this letter is spearheaded by HALSA's Board, we are being supported in our efforts by students and alumni of diverse backgrounds who appreciate and respect Professor Reyes's teaching, mentoring, and support.

There is a strong sense among the student body that an injustice is happening in view of all of us. On February 27, 2024, students met with FAMU College of Law Interim Dean Cecil Howard and protested the intended dismissal of Professor Reyes. Interim Dean Howard responded that the decision was made by Tallahassee Administrators to whom students should voice their protests. This is what we are doing via this open letter. We have distributed this letter widely for signatures by students, alumni, allies, friends, and supporters of justice everywhere. Please hear us when we tell you that the intended dismissal of Professor Reyes is a grave injustice. You have the power to stop this intended wrong. Please do so!

We respectfully demand that you keep Professor Maritza Reyes in the tenured faculty position she earned. She has done nothing warranting dismissal. We also demand that you grant Professor Reyes's request for a public meeting regarding her intended dismissal.

[Sign.]

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Conference on Workplace Mobbing to convene in July, aims to establish mobbing as discrete field of study

PLEASE JOIN US IN NIAGARA IN JULY,
AND SPREAD THE WORD TO YOUR NETWORKS!

The first Niagara Conference on Workplace Mobbing will convene July 22-24, 2024, at Niagara University in Niagara, New York, and registration is now open for participation and presentation proposals, in-person and hybrid.

The conference is sponsored by Niagara University and co-sponsored by the Society of Socio-Economists. Additional sponsorships are invited; please contact conference registrar Qingli Meng, in criminology at Niagara University, via the conference website.

Mobbing is a form of group abuse of an individual and has been documented in studies in sociology and related fields for almost half a century. Mobbing is associated particularly with workplaces, where persons act in concert to effect a victim's alienation and exclusion from the community.

Workplace mobbing is especially prevalent in academic institutions. A sociologist and expert on mobbing, Professor Kenneth Westhues has studied the phenomenon and why the academic work environment is especially fertile soil for mobbing behavior. Westhues maintains the website, Workplace Mobbing in Academe.

While forms of interpersonal abuse such as harassment and bullying have found traction in law and become recognized in popular culture as wrongful, mobbing has not yet come fully into its own. Mobbing behaviors are complex, involving multiple perpetrators with variable states of culpability, so mobbing is not always as readily recognizable as a more abrupt infliction, such as bullying. Like harassment and bullying victims, especially before the wrongfulness of those acts were widely acknowledged, mobbing victims tend to self-blame and self-exclusion, so might not bring mobbing behaviors to light.

A purpose of the planned conference, therefore, is to disentangle mobbing from adjacent behaviors, such as bullying, harassment, and ostracism. By recognizing mobbing as a discrete phenomenon and focusing study on mobbing as a cross-cutting scholarly sub-field, fields such as psychology, economics, organizational management, employment law, and criminal law can recognize and respond to the problem of mobbing more effectively, bringing relief to victims and preventing victimization to begin with.

A welcome and invitation at the Niagara Conference on Workplace Mobbing website explains the conference mission better than I have here, as resources available through Westhues's website well explain mobbing and its defining characteristics.

I am chairing the Scientific Committee of the Niagara Conference on Workplace Mobbing . The interdisciplinary committee also comprises Dr. Meng; Dr. Westhues; Robert Ashford, in law at Syracuse University; Walter S. DeKeseredy, in criminology at West Virginia University; Joseph Donnermeyer, in criminology at Ohio State University; and Tim Ireland, provost at Niagara University.

The conference is grateful for technical and logistical support from Niagara University's Yonghong Tong, PhD; Michael Jeswald, MBA; Valerie Devine, assistant director of support and web development; Michael Ebbole, audio visual systems coordinator; William Stott, audio visual systems specialist; and Chang Huh, PhD.

The Niagara Conference on Workplace Mobbing is a project of Conference on Workplace Mobbing Ltd., a New York nonprofit organization.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Atlantic's Applebaum adds to reminscences of academic, editorial freedom; mob justice rules now

In an article in the October Atlantic, Anne Applebaum examined the potentially devastating effect of cancel culture on academic and editorial freedom.

With her usual incisive writing, Applebaum compared contemporary cancellation with the summary imposition of the scarlet letter on Hester Prynne and described how today's mob justice is dangerously empowered by social media.

What's missing from Applebaum's tale is recognition that the threat to academic freedom is not new.  Workplace mobbing has been studied since the 1980s ("ganging up"), and, as I have written before, sociologist Kenneth Westhues wrote about the threat to academic freedom in a 2004 book. I know of what I speak (2005-10, 2017-19).

The following lines struck me as most salient in Applebaum's analysis.

A journalist told me that when he was summarily fired, his acquaintances sorted themselves into three groups.  First, the "heroes," very small in number, who "insist on due process before damaging another person's life and who stick by their friends." Second, the "villains," who think you should "immediately lose your livelihood as soon as the allegation is made." .... But the majority were in the third category: "good but useless.  They don't necessarily think the worst of you, and they would like you to get due process, but, you know, they haven't looked into it."

This observation is spot on.  My heroes once were two in number, another time zero.  One of my heroes paid a price for his chronic condition of character.  Villains are rewarded by employers.  But I respect honest villains more than I respect the "good but useless," who are the vast majority of academic colleagues, for their hypocrisy is galling.  That this group is the majority is precisely what makes "ganging up," or "mobbing," possible; the villains, otherwise, are too few in number to get away with it.  Especially in legal education, I have been horrified repeatedly by the selfish indifference to wrongs in their midst borne by people who hold themselves out as champions of civil rights.

Sometimes advocates of the new mob justice claim that these are minor punishments, that the loss of a job is not serious, that people should be able to accept their situation and move on.

Indeed, in my experience, I vividly remember one colleague acknowledging the wrongfulness of the persecution, but advising that I "just wait five years" for people to forget the false allegations.  Never mind the opportunity cost to career, nor providing for my family in the interim, nor the uncertainty that five years would be enough, nor the inference of guilt that would derive from acquiescence.

"I wake up every morning afraid to teach," one academic told me: The university campus that he once loved has become a hazardous jungle, full of traps.

Check.  My classroom students are both my greatest motivation and my greatest fear.  I think of both every single time a class is about to begin.  It is a difficult and stressful dissonance to manage. 

[T]he protagonists of most of these stories tend to be successful....  They were professors who liked to chat or drink with their students, ... people who blurred the lines between social life and institutional life....  [Yale Law Professor Amy Chua:] "I do extra work; I get to know them," she told me. "I write extra-good recommendations." ....

It's not just the hyper-social and the flirtatious who have found themselves victims of the New Puritanism....  Others are high achievers, who in turn set high standards for their colleagues or students.  When those standards are not met, these people say so, and that doesn't go over well.  Some of them like to push boundaries, especially intellectual boundaries, or to question orthodoxies.

First, yes.  Westhues long ago identified jealousy, revenge, and schadenfreude as mob motivators.  Hard work and success make one a target.  Second, also yes.  To be fair, early in my academic career, work probably was too much my life: too much overlap between co-workers and social life.  In my defense, that's not unusual for an ambitious young person, especially after relocating to a new city for a new career.  

I've been disabused of that ethic.  Co-workers willing to sacrifice you to save or glorify themselves are not your friends.  Workplaces and schools design social events with the intent to mislead, imbuing senses of belonging and community that only serve the master's interests.  At today's university, students and faculty rather should be forewarned explicitly that if they find themselves on the wrong side of the groupthink, they will be devoured by the mob.

Workplaces once considered demanding are now described as toxic.  The sort of open criticism, voiced in front of other people, that was once normal in newsrooms and academic seminars is now as unacceptable as chewing gum with your mouth open.

Just so.  The kind of hard-nosed, openly aired editorial critique that was a staple of my education as a journalism student, and which conditioned me to take heat and to be stronger for it, I wouldn't dare administer in today's classroom.  Some of my law students understand the new game and read between the lines, and they'll be OK.  Some will be shocked the first time they are across the table from an adversary or in front of a judge who wasn't schooled to coddle.

Students and professors ... all are aware of the kind of society they now inhabit.  That's why they censor themselves, why they steer clear of certain topics, why they avoid discussing anything too sensitive for fear of being mobbed or ostracized or fired without due process.

True.  I have resisted modestly on this front, refusing to purge sensitive content from class materials.  But I do prioritize-down the sensitive, choose materials strategically, and exert tighter control of student discussion.  As usual, this decades-old practice in the academic trenches became a point of public concern only when Yale and Harvard professors started talking about it, as if they discovered the problem. 

If nothing is done, Applebaum concluded,

[u]niversities will no longer be dedicated to the creation and dissemination of knowledge but to the promotion of student comfort and the avoidance of social media attacks.

"[W]ill"?

The article is Anne Applebaum, The New Puritans, The Atlantic, Oct. 2021, at 60.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

So now you care about academic mobbing

Angry Mob by Robert Couse-Baker, CC BY 2.0
Princeton politics professor Keith E. Whittington (on the blog) has a wisely worded op-ed, on The Volokh Conspiracy at Reason, on the too often abdicated responsibility of university administrators to push back against viewpoint-based campus mobbing of faculty.

"It is now a familiar pattern," he writes: attack, petition, social media campaign, demand for termination.  Of the university's duty, he writes:

University presidents have a responsibility in such a situation. It should go without saying, but unfortunately it does not, that they have a responsibility to actually live up to their constitutional and contractual responsibilities and refrain from sanctioning the faculty member for saying something that someone finds controversial. They should insist that harassment and threats directed against members of the faculty will not be tolerated. Professors should at least be confident that when the mobs arrive, pitchforks in hand, that university leaders will not flinch and give in to the demands of the mob.

I hope the piece hits the desk of every university president in the land with a thunderclap of j'accuse.

Yet it is fascinating to me to see described today as cliché what was once fringe.  Canadian sociologist Kenneth Westhues, professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo, published his Workplace Mobbing in Academe (2004) seventeen years ago, and that book was built on his earlier Eliminating Professors (1998).

By the time I met Ken in 2009, he was already the world's leading expert on academic mobbing.  He still is.  Westhues's website is still the online clearinghouse on mobbing as a sociological phenomenon. But he's almost never cited, at least in the legal lit.  I find eight references to Westhues on Westlaw's JLR database, and none in the last dozen years.

At a program at the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) in 2010, I accepted the invitation of Westhues and Syracuse University law professor Robert Ashford to speak of my experience.  Ashford perceived a worthwhile connection to his inventive work in socio-economics, and Westhues flattered me with my name as a participle

The splash we made at AALS and in legal academics eleven years ago might be described well as mostly indifferent curiosity.  Mostly modifies indifferent, not curiosity.  

I wrote in the Journal of College and University Law in 2009 about the need for broader academic freedom, beyond published research and into the professorial "penumbra."  I presented at AAUP, besides AALS.  The article was cited once in a 2011 bibliography and once in 2013.  (Thanks, Profs. Benson and Jones.)  And that was that.

Not until cancel culture reached the well known coastal scholars of academia's elite institutions did mobbing hit the mainstream.  Now a lot of important people are wringing their hands over academic freedom and waning tenure.

Too bad they don't seem able to find my article.  Or Westhues's work.  Is there really a wheel until it's invented at a "top" school?

It's nice to see serious people having serious thoughts about academic freedom, at last.  But it's too late to give solace to a generation of victim-scholars.  And it's probably too late to resuscitate intellectual liberty on campus, for at least a generation yet.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: So You've Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson



In an afterword to his 2015 book, Jon Ronson reported that So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed was not the first-draft title.  

Indeed, it must have been a struggle to name this wide-ranging volume.  Ronson explores shame in many contexts, from the woman whose off-color joke about AIDS on Twitter “blew up [her] life” (as the N.Y. Times put it) to the clients of a busted prostitution outfit, to the featured participant in “a German-themed BDSM orgy” (as the New Statesman put it).  I’m not here naming the Twitter woman, because if you read the book, I think you’ll agree she’s been named—and shamed—more than enough.

By Ronson’s broad definition of public shaming, I’ve been there.  Ronson does little to distinguish those who fairly earned some degree of public shaming—such as a journalist who made up quotes—from those who were disproportionately rebuked, or just misunderstood, or falsely maligned.  Ronson’s light touch with judgment—he admits he has not always been so evenhanded in his own social media life—frustrated me at first, as I’m one who likes to see justice done, or at least to wring my hands when it’s not.  However, I came to appreciate Ronson’s approach.  His reluctance to reach normative conclusions forced me, as reader, to acknowledge my own.  Do I really know how This American Life fact-checks, say, David Rakoff, versus Mike Daisey (see “Retraction”)?  Do I need to have an opinion at all on what consenting adults do in their sex dungeon?  (See also extended adventures with Jon Ronson in the porn world at his 2017 podcast, The Butterfly Effect, coming to iTunes free in November.)

Judgment would get in the way of Ronson’s search.  Chapter to chapter, Ronson leads us in a dogged effort to understand the shaming mob.  (Cf. the excellent work of Prof. Ken Westhues on mobbing.)  When does the mob spring into action, and when does it not?  Ronson tells stories of public shamings from the perspectives of the victims.  He went to the trouble of tracking them all down to get their stories; the Internet doesn’t usually bother.  (In my experience, neither does The New York Times, nor even a respectable author.)  Can the victim do anything to fight back against a public shaming?  Ronson gives us a fascinating glimpse into the sometimes shady world of online reputation management.  And ultimately:  Is there such a thing as redemption in the Internet age?

That was the question that kept me turning pages.  Coverage of Ronson’s book since 2015 really obsessed on the implications of social media, but this book is about so much more than that.  Despite my ongoing research into online erasure, or “the right to be forgotten” (e.g., here and here, and an exciting panel discussion at NCA 2016, reported here and here), I was surprised to see Ronson make the connection.  He considers the RTBF later in the book, tackling the conflicted feelings about RTBF that a lot of people in the journalism world have over interacting rights to expression, privacy, and identity. 

I continue to be captivated by the redemption problem, which I wrote about in a Washington Post opinion column some years ago.  I won’t tell where Ronson’s search leads, because that would spoil the fun.  Suffice to say, there’s plenty of work yet to do, if justice is really our aim.