UVa Will Review Allegations of Workplace Bullying at Literary Journal

August 19, 2010

The University of Virginia announced on Thursday that it would "undertake a thorough review" of the management and operations of its literary journal, The Virginia Quarterly Review, amid concerns raised after the suicide late last month of its managing editor, Kevin Morrissey.

Mr. Morrissey had accused his boss, Ted Genoways—the review's editor—of workplace bullying. And he and other staff members at the review had complained repeatedly to university officials about Mr. Genoways, but people close to the review said the university did little to help.

"The untimely death of Kevin Morrissey ... has raised questions about the university's response to employees' concerns about the workplace climate in the VQR office," UVa's new president, Teresa A. Sullivan, said in a written statement. "I therefore am announcing that we will be undertaking a thorough review of VQR's operations."

Ms. Sullivan emphasized that performing a review "does not in any way presume that any members of the VQR staff have been involved in improper conduct. ... The review will, I hope, provide a factual basis for understanding this workplace and deciding what corrective actions, if any, the university should undertake."

The university had already announced that it was performing an audit of VQR's financial operations. In her statement, Ms. Sullivan said both the audit and the management review would be conducted by Barbara Deily, the university's chief audit executive.

Mr. Genoways has denied all accusations that he acted inappropriately, and has said it was Mr. Morrissey's depression, not any strife within the VQR offices, that caused him to take his life. In a statement last week to The Chronicle, Mr. Genoways said the university had already "reviewed all the allegations being made against me and found them to be without grounds." But the university, which refused to comment to The Chronicle on that statement, has subsequently told other reporters that Mr. Genoways's statement was wrong.

Maria Morrissey, Mr. Morrissey's older sister, applauded the move by the university to broaden the investigation. "It sounds like they are taking a step in the right direction," she said in a telephone interview. "My only hope is that they take a serious workplace bullying policy to heart, so nobody else has to go through this anymore."

But people close to the review say Mr. Morrissey's death has not put an end to tension between VQR staff members and Mr. Genoways. After the suicide, the staff members believe they were told they would be putting together the upcoming fall issue on their own, without Mr. Genoways, who is on leave on a Guggenheim fellowship. But this week, people close to the review said, Mr. Genoways submitted to the review's design company a completely different version of the fall issue, with a different cover, than the one staff members had been working on. Now, say people close to the review, the staff members are threatening to take their names off the masthead.