Report Details High Cost of Bullying in an Academic Department

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has spent about $78,000 on outside advisers to deal with accusations of bullying in its chemical-engineering department, yet some faculty members there see the conflict as far from resolved, according to The Boston Globe.

The newspaper describes the department’s strife as having begun several years ago and as continuing despite the university’s expenditure of a separate $98,000 last year on bullying-prevention training for all of its employees. That training was part of an exceptionally ambitious and comprehensive anti-bullying campaign mounted by the university’s administration and employee unions.

As described in detail by The Chronicle, the campaign assumed workplace bullies could be taught not to treat others badly — an idea debated by behavioral experts — but also provided for the disciplining of employees found to have bullied others.

Three professors who have been disciplined by the Amherst administration in connection with the chemical-engineering department’s strife are regarded by some there not as bullies but as people who sought to expose the bullying problem, according to the Globe.

Of the $78,000 the Amherst campus spent to try to resolve the department’s problems, it paid $17,000 to an investigator whose impartiality was questioned and who ended up destroying his notes without ever issuing a report on his findings, the newspaper says. Some $61,000, it says, went to an outside mediator who spent 32 days trying to resolve the department’s strife, which involved accusations of “screaming at faculty meetings, a rigged department election, vindictive annual reviews, and an attempt to block a tenure bid.”

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