Petition: Vice Chancellor, University of Leeds - Stop Treating International Students Like 2nd Class Citizens!

My name is Sanaz Raji and until recently I was a PhD candidate at the Institute of Communications Studies (ICS) at the University of Leeds in the UK. In September 2009, I was awarded an ICS 3-year full tuition fee and maintenance scholarship. My scholarship was wrongfully revoked by the ICS on the 15 August 2011, without following rules and regulations set forth in the University of Leeds Research Student Handbook. For most of the past year I have been embroiled in an internal dispute with the University of Leeds because they refuse to follow their own written procedures as indicated in the Research Student Handbook. 

In short, the message that the ICS sends to international students is that their education, their wellbeing, even their health is of lesser importance than that of home students.

Please sign and join us in fighting this outrageous decision collectively. Let us make sure that the ICS (University of Leeds) is held accountable for their wrongdoings.

Key points:

1. My PhD supervisors at the ICS (University of Leeds) failed to provide for two consecutive years the minimum required 10 supervision meetings as indicated in the Research Student Handbook.

2. I was repeatedly denied on three occasions a change of supervisors, and I was bullied by the Postgraduate Research Tutor to continue with an unworkable supervisory arrangement. This violates the rules and procedures set forth in the Research Student Handbook.

3. I was not provided sick leave from the ICS when I suffered a broken right ankle. The ICS failed to meet their required pastoral role in this matter.

4. I was racially discriminated at a supervision meeting on the 23 March 2011, when my co-supervisor asked if English was my first language. I was perplexed why I was asked such a question given that English is my native language. Likewise, this co-supervisor had never taken issue with my writing style before this date or when I contributed a chapter for her co-edited book. None of my other PhD colleagues who come from South America, North America, Europe or Asia were asked about their English language skills. This ridiculous question was brought up in order to undermine my confidence and make me feel incompetent because I am a minority student in this country.

5. The ICS Research Scholarship (fees plus maintenance) was withdrawn without the ICS abiding by the rules and procedures set forth in the Research Student Handbook. Specifically, the Research Student Handbook states:

"It is essential that the student should be given clear information in writing on the assessment of progress. Where progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory, the student should be interviewed by the Postgraduate Research Tutor and the supervisor and specific instructions and objectives given. The student should be advised that failure to meet those requirements may lead to a recommendation for the termination of the candidature.” (2009/2010: 74)

In fact, my supervisory meeting notes from 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 do not indicate any issue with my progress.

6. The committee overseeing my appeal against the ICS has conducted a kangaroo court by not allowing a proper hearing between myself and the ICS. On the 12th October 2012, I was informed via e-mail by the Secretariat, Mr. David Wardle that I would by denied a hearing with the committee overseeing my appeal because the evidence I had sent was deemed "comprehensive" and therefore I would not be needed to make any additional comments. This violates my human rights and the law of the land. I am entitled to a hearing in order to (a) present my evidence, (b) hear what evidence the other party, i.e. the ICS has presented to appeal committees, and (c) be able to defend myself against any accusations.

After much delay, on the 16th April 2013, I received a final decision from the university, which was negative and did not address the finer points of the arguments I  made. Despite the ample evidence that I  provided, the University of Leeds does not wish to remedy the situation, but prefer to exhaust me  to such a manner that I am forced to leave academia altogether and give up the research and teaching that I enjoy.

Let us teach the ICS (University of Leeds) that they are not a law onto themselves. They must respect the rules and regulations as indicated in the Research Student Handbook as well as the law of this country.

Please sign the petition.

Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds


For more than a year, I have been engaged in a case against the Institute of Communications Studies (ICS), University of Leeds. After many attempts to change supervision, the Postgraduate Research Tutor, who after that began bullying me, denied me this change.  Instead of providing me with the pastoral care he was responsible for, he forced me into an impossible supervisory arrangement that was preventing me from developing my PhD further.

I had only 8 supervision meetings during the 2009-2010 academic year, which decreased to five supervision meetings in the 2010-2011 academic year, well below the minimum of 10 supervision meetings that I am entitled to as stipulated in the Research Student Handbook. Despite the lack of adequate supervision meetings, I officially passed my upgrade viva and transferred into full PhD status on September 2010.

In November 2010, I broke my right ankle and notified my supervisory team that I was immobile and unable to work. I shared with my supervisory team and the Postgraduate Research Tutor my physician’s letters that stated that the accident I sustained "will have affected her ability to study."  Instead of providing me with pastoral support, the supervisory team sent threatening e-mails indicating that if I did not get well by a certain period of time, they would suspend my PhD.

I had no idea what they meant by "suspension" and when asked to clarify matters I was not given a response. This added considerable pressure and anxiety while I was unwell and is just another example that points to the level of bullying and intimidation that I encountered while being supervised.

I was asked to attend a 6-month progress review meeting on the 10th January 2011. The timing of this meeting was very suspicious, as I had only passed my upgrade viva only four months ago on September 2010. If this was supposed to be a 6-month progress review meeting, it should have been scheduled in March 2011, not in January. Additionally, it was odd that a progress review be called given that I had been unwell for almost two months and was not able to work on my research.

During the 6-month progress review meeting, one of the members asked me rather bizarrely if I was depressed as I “appear[ed] unwell during the meeting”, and once again I explained that I was still recovering from a major accident and still not back to 100% good health. I said that it was highly unprofessional to accuse someone from suffering mental issues in order to obscure the seriousness of my frustrations with his lack of supervision and the general supervisory arrangements thus far.

Additionally, I am told that I have not made sufficient progress with my research. I protested and indicated that I have been unwell and immobile for nearly two months and have extensive medical evidence that indicate that that my accident would affect my ability to study. When I inquired about getting an extension, I am told that my illness does not warrant one. 

I was racially discriminated by one of my supervisors, at a supervision meeting on the 23rd March 2011. I was shocked when this particular co-supervisor asked if English is my first language. I was perplexed why I was asked such a question given that English is my native language. I was not required by the ICS to take a university English language test as indicated in the Research Student Handbook (2009/2010: 11). Likewise, Prof. Knott never mentioned anything of my writing style before this date or when I contributed a chapter for her co-edited book. At no point of working on her book project did this co-supervisor raise any issue with my writing style and/or asked if I was a native English speaker/writer. 

I did not understand the relevance of asking me such a question during our supervision meeting. I mentioned that while I do at times make grammatical errors, that I was confident in fixing those. My main concern was the content of my chapters and the lack of engagement with it during supervision meetings. I can think of no other reason why this co-supervisor would ask such a ridiculous question other than to undermine my confidence and make me feel incompetent because I am a minority student in this country.

Despite continued bullying, I was able to make progress with my research and was invited to give a presentation at the International Association for Media and Communications Research (IAMCR). I received funding by the ICS and support from both my supervisory team and the Postgraduate Research Tutor to attend and represent the ICS at the conference. At the IAMCR conference, a lecturer from the ICS who attended my presentation stated:

"I was in attendance at [Sanaz’s] talk at IAMCR and saw first-hand the high quality of her doctoral research and the way it engaged scholars in a highly productive way."
Returning from the IAMCR conference, I attend a second 6-month progress review meeting on the 22 July 2011. At this meeting, I am told that I am not making sufficient progress with my PhD studies. I argued that none of my written supervisory minutes indicate any issue with the progress that I have made since January 2011, and if there was an issue with my progress, why then did the supervisory team and the Postgraduate Research Tutor encourage and fund my presentation to IAMCR?

After more bullying my research scholarship (fees plus maintenance) was withdrawn without being informed clearly in writing about the assessment of my progress. The withdrawal of my scholarship is in breach of the Research Student Handbook regulations, which state:

Where progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory, the Postgraduate Research Tutor and the supervisor and specific instructions and objectives given should interview the student. The Student should be advised that failure to meet those requirements might lead to a recommendation for the termination of the candidature.

I was never interviewed by the Postgraduate Research Tutor and the supervisory team and given specific instructions and/or objectives towards improving my PhD. In fact, my supervisory meeting notes from 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 do not indicate any issue with my progress.

My scholarship was revoked on 15 August 2011. The ICS knew very well that it would be nearly impossible for me to raise enough money to be able to continue on for my 3rd year of studies, especially as I was only three weeks into the start of the new academic term. The Head of the ICS along with Postgraduate Research Tutor offered me no other help or advice if I wanted to appeal this decision.

It took me four months to collate all evidence to bring forth a case against the ICS. The ICS contributed in preventing the ability to collect all information needed in a timely and efficient manner. On the 16 January 2012 my staff e-mail account, which held a large portion of correspondence central to my case was closed, violating the UK Data Protection Act.

On the 24 May 2012, I submitted a pro forma application for adverse academic decision in order to bring about an internal university investigation concerning my situation. The Secretariat responded on the 18 June 2012 indicating that they would investigate my case further.

Nevertheless, the university continued its program of bullying and isolating me. On the15 October 2012, an e-mail was circulated to institute staff and PhD students indicating that should I try to access my office, they should notify university security to have me escorted off the institute’s premises. I had no knowledge of this e-mail until a fellow PhD student informed me of what was written and later handed me a copy of the circulated message. I currently live in university accommodations. How is it acceptable that I be allowed to live in a university flat but not be allowed access to my office and be allowed to keep up with my PhD work and advocate for my case?

Unfortunately during the university’s internal appeal, the committee overseeing my appeal against the ICS conducted a kangaroo court by not allowing a hearing with the ICS. As evident in the e-mail correspondence with the Secretariat in October 2012, I was told that I would be denied a hearing with the committee overseeing my appeal because the evidence I had sent was deemed “comprehensive” and therefore I would not be needed to make any additional comments. This violates my human rights as I am entitled to a hearing in order to (a) present my evidence, (b) hear what evidence the contra-party, i.e. the institute has presented to the committee and (c) be able to defend myself against any accusations.

After much delay, on the 16 April 2013, I received a final decision from the university, which was negative and did not address the finer points of the arguments I have made. Despite the ample evidence that I have provided, the University of Leeds does not wish to remedy the situation at hand, but rather exhaust me out to such a manner that I have no other choice but to leave academia altogether.

Currently, I am waiting to hear from Legal Services Commission (now known as the Legal Aid Agency) to see if I qualify for legal aid in order to (a) get a barrister to advise me on my case, and (b) be able to take this case to court.

It should be stated that I am not the only person who has filed an internal case against the ICS. A PhD student from Thailand filed an internal case against the ICS, for insufficient supervision and for the ICS accepting him onto his PhD course, while knowing all along that he had not passed a University English Language examination and had noticeable problems with his English verbal skills. The University of Leeds found in favor and reimbursed him the full amount of his tuition, £13,700.

I would be grateful for any advice, suggestions, or help that the readers of this blog could give at this time.
Many thanks
Sanaz Raji

Mediating in the Academic Bully Culture: The Chair's Responsibility to Faculty and Graduate Students

Faculty incivility can rear its ugly head at various levels within higher education institutions. It can surface at any one of the many administrative levels with administrators being the bullies, or it can be found within the faculty ranks with faculty members bullying each other. Interestingly, students can also be victims of uncivil behavior. Administrators, faculty, and students can play different roles in the bully culture: perpetrator, victim, or mediator. This article focuses on faculty incivility with the department chair as mediator, as well as faculty incivility to students, particularly graduate students.

The Chair as Mediator

Although chairs can be involved in bullying as the bully, as the one bullied, or as the mediator in a departmental bullying situation, this section will focus on the chair as a mediator between faculty members. This job responsibility often creates consternation in department chairs. At the same time they are trying to build camaraderie among faculty, they are also facilitators who are responsible for carrying out the institution's mission, liaising between the department faculty and higher administration, and making merit and promotion and tenure recommendations. These tasks can often be in conflict with one another.

Because chairs have a major impact on the future of individual faculty members, they must be able to recognize when a faculty member is being bullied and intervene to stop the bully while simultaneously respecting the privacy, professionalism, and integrity of the faculty member involved. Recognizing a bullying situation means chairs must be aware of the indications of a bullied faculty member as well as the traits of a bully.

Indicators of a bully include showing disrespect toward a faculty member and continually promoting him or herself. Chairs should also be aware of a faculty member who makes a habit of "secretly" informing them of departmental matters, be they manufactured or bona fide. That is, the bully will repeatedly initiate and/or perpetuate rumors. He or she may continually break the confidences of other faculty members and reveal highly classified committee proceedings. The chair must recognize this for what it often is: the bully's attempt to ingratiate him or herself to the chair in order to continue bullying without reprimands from the chair. It's an I'll-take-care-of-you-but-I- expect-you-to-take-care-of-me-in-return situation. A bully is also difficult to recognize because his or her behavior is frequently disguised as concern for the department in some way while it is actually promoting the bully's own personal agenda. Aside from ignoring the rumors and confidences shared by the bully, the chair must avoid contributing to the sharing of confidences. This will essentially "grant permission" to the bully to continue his or her inappropriate behavior. The chair must learn to recognize such behavior and not succumb to it. Not supporting the bully ultimately renders him or her ineffective.

The chair must learn not only to recognize bullying behavior but to discern the indications of a bullied faculty member as well. If a faculty member approaches the chair with assertions of being bullied, the chair must not ignore the individual. Bullying is frequently very subtle, and bullies are good at disguising their behavior in public settings. Often, the chair believes that the bullied faculty member is being paranoid, when, in fact, there is a genuine problem. If the chair is uncertain, he or she should avoid immediately dismissing the claim, but rather carefully watch for other indications that the faculty member is being bullied. The chair must recognize behavioral changes in the faculty member. Bullied faculty members frequently isolate themselves. They remain in their offices and talk with no one during the day. Because they often feel marginalized (and, in fact, may actually be marginalized) they rarely volunteer for service opportunities, be they departmental committees or other activities, and seldom engage in departmental discussions. They rarely participate in social activities with colleagues, even when sponsored by the department or institution. The work effort of previously productive faculty who are bullied may suffer. Research productivity may noticeably decrease, and once above-average student evaluations of teaching may suddenly drop. The constant pressure of being bullied might manifest itself as aggression by the bullied. The aggressive behavior will be misdirected, and this will be the clue for the chair that some- thing is amiss. Bullied faculty members are likely to avoid the office and work at home more than usual. Any one or all of these changes should be an indication to the chair that something is wrong.

Among many other responsibilities, the chair must address bullying issues in the department. All faculty must be able to trust the chair, believe that their work will speak for them, and that rewards will be allocated based solely on productive work, evaluated both for quality and quantity. To prevent or minimize bullying, chairs must be focused on their department, not on themselves or on matters outside the department or institution. Chairs must be very careful not to inadvertently reward bullying behavior. At the beginning of each academic year the chair should establish a code of behavior encouraging courtesy and respect and discouraging yelling and arguing and promulgating rumors. If rumors do circulate, the chair is responsible for seeking the truth and thwarting the gossip. The bully must be confronted and reprimanded.

The chair must be knowledgeable about internal grievance procedures and share workplace harassment policy with new faculty. The chair's job is to ensure that faculty work together to understand the institution's policies and procedures and to develop departmental policies and procedures. This cannot be done without establishing common ground within the department. If bullies in the department are only concerned with their own welfare, the goal of common ground or community will be impossible. The chair must protect the tenured as well as nontenured faculty. It is a mistake to believe that bullies go after only nontenured faculty. Faculty members who have only their self-interests in mind and are not concerned with the successes or accomplishments of other faculty will bully anyone they feel is in their way, be the person tenured or not. Above all, the chair must be cognizant of the signs of bullying and be willing to address the behavior as a problem.

Faculty Incivility and Graduate Students

Faculty incivility does not contain itself just to faculty and administrative ranks. It often spills over to involve graduate students and, more often, graduate teaching and research assistants. Faculty cannot only take advantage of their colleagues but their students as well. A power relationship that faculty have over students makes it easy to control them overtly and covertly for several reasons.

Graduate students are reluctant to speak up about faculty who fail to meet minimal obligations to them in terms of teaching, job supervision, or directing doctoral research. Power imbalances of faculty over students coupled with the student's desire to complete the degree typically silence the acts and the student. Furthermore, because students are in this precarious position, they avoid complaining or confronting and instead retreat as a coping strategy and means of survival. Meanwhile, the student's inaction can be seen as an invitation for perhaps another encounter.

A culture of silence explains why other faculty, administrators, and student peers tend to be unaware of or oblivious to these problems. Some are unable or unwilling to intervene on be- half of a student based on the perception that no one would know how to remedy the situation. Considered unprofessional, faculty would be unlikely to criticize colleagues' judgment regarding the oversight of graduate students or their dissertation research. It is possible that the administration knows of certain faculty who poorly supervise and advise their graduate students, and yet they do nothing. What is worse, they tend to cover it up, find plausible excuses for it, and disregard further complaining by disgruntled students. Thus, anything untoward that faculty supervisors and advisors do becomes acceptable by default, supports an insular, protective stratum, and perpetuates the culture of silence.

Few departments and chairs, however, prepare themselves to sanction faculty over this potential form of control or manipulation. If a star professor has already been placed on such a pedestal (or placed him or herself there),the professor may choose to further self-aggrandize to the detriment of the student. Should the student choose to complain, the department would be unlikely to reprimand the professor and more likely to cast dispersions on the student. The faculty member remains above reproach and, furthermore, regards his or her behavior as appropriate.

To overcome this culture of silence, students may benefit from an open forum conducted periodically by a neutral party, such as an ombudsman or human resources manager, especially if the department is unwilling to intervene. Students would be permitted to express problems in oral or written form, whichever is more comfortable, and know that their concerns are being heard.

Graduate students evaluate faculty teaching in the aggregate, but typically students seldom rate faculty supervision of their assistantship or dissertation research. This supports the realization that graduate students are not recognized as part of a community of learners or a community of scholars.

Furthermore, at no time is feedback from this supervisory aspect of academic life factored into faculty promotion, tenure, or post-tenure review. Without a feedback loop, some students will encounter or be assigned to faculty members who exploit their student labor and/or fail to socialize and usher them effectively into the profession. Because some students expect faculty to initiate contact and professors rarely do, students perceive faculty as unsupportive, intimidating, and/or uncaring. An opportunity for the department chair to inquire into the one-on-one relationship between student and faculty member, either separately or as a dyad during a performance appraisal, is essential. Maintaining the sanctity of a strong advisor/mentor/ supervisor relationship between faculty and student should be a top priority.

Educating faculty formally in the supervision of students and academic work and research should be considered a professional development necessity. Discussing the expectations of the faculty/student relationship could begin the graduate student socialization process. Consider a stated contract of ground rules and expectations between student and supervisor, student and dissertation chair, student and advisor, and so on, explaining the duties and responsibilities of each party to the other, the time to be allotted, and the outcomes to be realized, instead of relying on unstated implications. This approach would be helpful to both parties and should be initiated by the department chair. Colleagues seldom choose to police boundaries with another colleague and often decline to condemn, sanction, or remedy the situation; a contract stating expectations may avert that uncomfortable task.

Without a clear policy statement that reaches beyond a stated or implied ethical code of conduct, little can be done to break the silence. Policy discussions may begin with initial research obtained from student exit interviews, alumni interviews, and separate focus groups of current students and faculty and proceed to subsequent drafts from a policy formulation committee that is comprised of faculty and students. Without recognizing that problems exist, there will be no first step toward averting them. This undertaking may be perceived as an arduous task by the chair, but it is one that is worth the effort.

Conclusion

Although we have discussed two different levels of incivility in this article, the indicators of victimization and the solutions for the prevention of bullying are the same regardless of who is being bullied and who is doing the bullying. Victims of bullying, be they faculty members or graduate students, generally retreat into their own world. They become silent, fearful of repercussions or being seen as a whiner or troublemaker. Providing an environment in which the victim feels comfortable to share what is happening is the first step toward minimizing bullying behavior. Another major step is to establish formal policies against bullying, including the actions to be taken to eliminate the behavior. The policy must also include a process by which the bullied can seek help without fear of retribution by the bully. Finally, the policies and processes contained therein must be made available to everyone, even discussed with new faculty and graduate students, so they feel comfortable in the environment and confident that someone will intervene if incivility occurs. The department chair plays a pivotal role in facilitating this process.

From: http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/tomprof/posting.php?ID=992

The University of Ulster

The website ‘www.profrichardbarnett.com’ published information regarding what it means to study and work at the University of Ulster. Information published in this site are all from public domain and verifiable to be correct. They are also considered to be of public interest.

None of the employees of the University of Ulster is responsible for this website or owns the domain name. Information about this website was published in this blog earlier:

http://bulliedacademics.blogspot.in/2013/02/the-curious-case-of-andy-biggart.html. 

 On 27.02.2013, Arthur Cox, a Belfast legal firm acting on behalf of the University of Ulster, threatened the owner of the website of a defamation suit and asked that site should be taken down immediately. The letter is attached herewith. A libel suit in the UK is dreaded like plague. No matter what - the very nature of the UK libel law cuts the defendant deep.

Moreover, the owner of the website does not reside in UK and it is very difficult to defend such an allegation from outside UK. As a consequence of the threat by the University of Ulster the website is taken down for the time being even though all materials published in this site are in public domain and verifiable to be correct.

Possibilities of publishing the materials are being explored and hopefully the website would surface again at the earliest.

ONE LAW PROFESSOR'S PRAYER





As I lay me down to sleep tonight and pray the Lord my soul to keep, I will also pray to have a  faculty meeting judge.

You see, here is the problem. Privileged people have very bad judgment about whether their ideas are good or bad. This is because they have so often been told their ideas are good sometimes by fancy law schools that are paid to do just that. And, they rarely utter a work they do not think is important. And then there are the peeing cats. These are folks who talk just "mark" their spots. They've got nothing to say but they are saying it anyway. Finally there  are people who are one-way thinkers. The one way is negative -- "here is what is wrong with that" as opposed to "is this a good outcome."

What this means is that the quality of discussion can be dismal because there is no correlation between inclination to speak and the quality of what one is saying or how constructive it is.  It could be better if we had law school faculty meeting judge. The judge could make two rulings at any time at his or her discretion. These are:

1. Irrelevant:

Let's suppose the issue is whether a candidate should be given tenure. From the faculty comes the following:
"He is a really good father."  The judgment here is an easy one. It may even qualify for the second category but it fits nicely here. It's like a huge non sequiter. In some rare instances the faculty judge may actually choose to escort the person from the room.

2. Too stupid to warrant further discussion (or actually even to be stated in the first place).

 Let's say the discussion is about students taking courses from their parents and the faculty votes, as mine has, that it is not permissible. Then someone notes that we will have to decide what to do about the grades of the students who are currently in the classes of a parent. From the faculty we hear, "Give them all As because that is what they expected when they signed up for Dad or Mom's class." This can overrule as too stupid and again the judge may escort the person out of the room.

I pray for the law school faculty meeting judge. Amen

Mobbing and psychological terror at workplaces -

This article, probably the most concise and lucid summary Leymann ever penned of his foundational research, is published on the Heinz Leymann Memorial Website (http://www.mobbingportal.com/leymannmain.html) with the kind permission of the Springer Publishing Company, LLC, New York, NY 10036, 13 February 2009. Other sites are welcome to link to the article as published here, but any republication elsewhere requires explicit permission from the Springer Publishing Company.

Abstract 

In recent years, the existence of a significant problem in workplaces has been documented in Sweden and other countries. It involves employees "ganging up" on a target employee and subjecting him or her to psychological harassment. This "mobbing" behavior results in severe psychological and occupational consequences for the victim. This phenomenon is described, its stages and consequences analyzed. An ongoing program of research and intervention that is currently being supported by the Swedish government is then considered.