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Information Item # 4: Submitted by the Faculty Affairs Committee (2017/2018 - Apr) 

UNF Faculty-on-Faculty Bullying Survey

 

The Faculty Affairs Committee of the Faculty Association is attempting to assess the nature and pervasiveness of faculty-on-faculty bullying at UNF. The following survey is a preliminary attempt to gather information on what behaviors UNF faculty feel constitute bullying and how common such behaviors are at UNF. We appreciate you taking the time to complete this short survey.

 

For purposes of this survey and as a working definition of bullying, we refer you to the definition adopted by the University of South Carolina (http://www.sc.edu/policies/ppm/acaf180.pdf) wherein:

 

Workplace bullying is repeated, unwelcome severe and pervasive behavior that intentionally threatens, intimidates, humiliates or isolates the targeted individual(s), or undermines their reputation or job performance. It may take, but is not limited to, one or more of the following forms:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Malicious criticism or gossip
  • Unwarranted monitoring 2
  • Unwarranted physical contact
  • Exclusion or isolation in the workplace
  • Work interference or sabotage
  • Cyberbullying
  • Other offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening,      humiliating, harassing or intimidating

 

Deployed November 21th, 2017 through Jan 12th , 2018.

 

 
Qualitative Synthesis, FAC Bullying Survey February 19, 2018


A note about this Qualitative Synthesis:
The qualitative portion of the survey included information that could identify respondents but the comments made were important to understanding the significance of this problem at UNF. With that in mind, the Faculty Affairs Committee opted to develop the synthetic summary that follows. Qualitative research like this does not seek do quantify how widespread these problems are or evaluate the legitimacy of any specific claim; this is not a representative sample. The value of compiling these responses lies in the notion that themes and commonalities that exist in reports across departments and across colleges point us to the conclusion that there is a problem to be taken seriously.

The Questions:
Participants were presented with the following definition of bullying taken from the University of South Carolina:

Workplace bullying is repeated, unwelcome severe and pervasive behavior that intentionally threatens, intimidates, humiliates or isolates the targeted individual(s), or undermines their reputation or job performance. It may take, but is not limited to, one or more of the following forms:
  • Verbal abuse
  • Malicious criticism or gossip
  • Unwarranted monitoring
  • Unwarranted physical contact
  • Exclusion or isolation in the workplace
  • Work interference or sabotage
  • Cyberbullying
  • Other offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, harassing or intimidating

They were asked if they define bullying differently, to provide examples of bullying, they were aware of, and given an opportunity to add additional comments.

Responses:
Faculty agreed overwhelmingly that the USC definition is a good one. They highlighted the emphasis on repeated behaviors, (i.e. one or two instances of conflict do not rise to the level of bullying), to qualify as bullying behaviors must be repeated over a of time.

There were recurring examples of bullying for which respondents had been a target or a witness, that arose in this section including:
  • Threatening (both verbal and non-verbal)
  • Gossiping, especially in ways that impact colleagues’ tenure and promotion and/or reputation
  • Cursing and/or yelling/screaming
  • Unwarranted monitoring
  • Berating
  • Isolating
  • Intimidating
  • Demeaning, in both professional and personal ways.

Taken together the comments show a concern about these behaviors at every level: administrator bullying of faculty, senior faculty bullying junior faculty, tenure/tt faculty bullying instructors and part-time faculty. Some comments pointed to a gendered component in which female faculty report being bullied by male faculty, but it is also the case that female faculty are alleged to be bully-ers. Concerns about administrator-on-faculty bullying were especially strong and remarkable because they were offered unsolicited on a survey that only asked about faculty- on-faculty bullying. Respondents indicate that these problems most often occur in meetings and in emails.

While the overwhelming number of respondents indicated that they had been targets of or witnesses to bullying, a small number indicated surprise that this could be an issue at UNF, concern that complaints of being bullied could be “contrived” to mask poor performance, and/or concern about being bullied by accusations of bullying.

Interestingly, respondents on both sides of this divide expressed dissatisfaction with UNF administration’s handling of concerns citing failure of chairs, deans, provosts, Human Resources and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, saying for example:
  • The administration has repeatedly failed to provide a forum
  • Administration does NOT listen about bullying
  • Shoddy investigations, biased final reports and absurd conclusions should not be the norm

There is a consistently repeated view that there are not adequate policies in place to prevent/ address bullying, that what policies there may be are largely unknown and poorly applied, and that the risks of reporting bullying are too great because it’s likely nothing will be done, leaving the reporter at the mercy of the allegedly bully-er: Respondents said:
  • there’s no point in reporting it
  • It’s largely ignored here
  • Faculty not comfortable reporting
  • There’s no protection for someone being bullied
  • I kept it to myself and it’s been horrible
  • I cannot imagine reporting it
  • You have to suck it up and take the hits
  • [this] won’t change anything
  • This is not what I had visioned for UNF
  • Those who complain can be sure someone above will get even
  • I have never worked in a place with so much bullying
  • We do not have the freedom to report the bullying

Respondents indicated that those they thought guilty of bullying were small in number but that many had been at UNF for years, had seniority and/or supervisory responsibility. While some cited department chairs as culprits, chairs were just as likely to be cited as a vital supporter, an ally, and even sometime a co-target of the bully.

Several indicated that they had considered leaving UNF over bullying or knew people who had left. One person indicated that her chair and department were so supportive of her she stayed despite bullying.

Suggestions for Action:

A number of respondents offered opinions on whether or not bully-ers were aware of the problems in their behavior and the opinions on this were split, indicating perhaps that training efforts might be beneficial. One detailed comment suggested that there is an absence of mechanisms to resolve interpersonal issues that lends itself to escalation and bullying that might be prevented with better communication. One person said that “if this is an issue,“ it’s not properly within the purview of Faculty Association, but several others indicated that they were glad FA is seeking to address the problem.

Overwhelmingly, respondents want to see cultural changes to prevent bullying; policies in place to protect those reporting bullying and to ensure due process for complaints filed; and repercussions for bullies.