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Excerpts from 25 emails
about John Gravois, "Mob Rule,"
Chronicle of Higher Education, 14 April 2006

From the many dozens of emails I received in the two weeks following publication of Gravois's article on my studies of academic mobbing, I have selected 25 for brief quotation below. Except in a couple of cases where I was confident the author would not object to being named, I've edited the comments to remove identifying information. Thanks to all these correspondents for adding evidence in support of practical research on mobbing in colleges and universities. — Kenneth Westhues, University of Waterloo, 28 April 2006.

1. From an African-American female professor in the South:
An eye-opening article on your work, found in the Chronicle of Higher Education, was recently forwarded to me by my attorney. That should give you some indication of my status of mobbing recipient. I forwarded the article to selected colleagues who all said, "You mean there's a name for this?" ...
If you ever decide on a revised edition of your work (which I've just ordered for my private library), come on down to Texas where — as with so many things that are larger and stranger than life — we can show you how mobbing is really done.

2. From a white male professor in the North:
A friend recently shared your research on mobbing. I had no idea that this concept existed but I have lived it for very many years. I have achieved every possible commendation for my work and I have endured every possible attack: ombuds assaults, conflict of interest charges, numerous false charges about failing to follow policies. I couldn't believe your article. I thought you had interviewed me. It affects everything — my work with my students, my home life, everything. I often do not know how I will make it to retirement; I wonder how I will make it to the next academic year. Thanks for your work.

3. From a professor in a private liberal-arts college:
So much of the article applies to my situation at this college as well as to many others I have witnessed in my years here. What's particularly disturbing about my situation is that on the surface everyone is all smiles. It is only behind closed doors, under the cover of anonymity, that the claws come out. In my opinion, covert agression is the most dangerous and the most cowardly form.

4. From a librarian in a state university:
I want to thank you for your work. I read about it in the Chronicle and for the first time in the years I've been at this university, I realized I was not alone. I have had terrible difficulties trying to understand what was "wrong" with me, but when I read your article, I knew that the problem was not me, but mobbing. ... Your work is absolutely critical and the more you can influence institutions about this subject, the better off everyone will be.

5. From an AAUP official:
You describe a situation that is all too prevalent in higher education, and that AAUP should, in my opinion, address. ... thank you for your valuable work on behalf of all of us.

6. From a former professor living in a small city:
I look forward to immersing myself in your website. Yes, I've seen "The Children's Hour" and now know the devastating effects of small-town gossip. Promise I won't bombard you with any more tales of woe. Strangely enough, my "valley of the shadow of death" wilderness adventure has strengthened me tremendously. As you well know, it is the hallmark of bullies and cowards to strike when their target is most vulnerable. ... I'm slowly getting my strength back. And, when I do, watch out!

7. From a senior professor in a large city:
I am indeed in the twilight of my career, and I do feel part of this mobbing is a result of the attempt to get rid of older, tenured faculty. Perhaps I can seek assistance pursuing that avenue.
At any rate, I will pick up your books and please let me know if an attorney who specializes in mobbing or related discriminations ever comes to mind. Thanks again for all of your efforts!

8. From a sociologist:
You have succeeded in creating a community of scholars. More specifically, of damaged scholars. No, of resilient scholars.

9. From Joseph Blase, University of Georgia, co-author (with Jo Blase) of an excellent book, a research report on mobbing and bullying of elementary and secondary teachers:
This is an excellent article. Thanks for sharing.
By the way, Jo and I have received hundreds of heart-wrenching emails from throughout the US from abused teachers who have read Breaking the Silence.

10. From a junior professor in a small college:
My colleagues especially pointed to the "envy" aspect detailed in the article. I have taken to keeping my professional accomplishments quiet, because they are significant, whereas most faculty here do very little. ... My research has been cited in journals around the world. Soon I will have a book coming out, a major scholarly work, but I have kept it quiet, not wanting to further incite the powerful few who have been my antagonists. The students here view me as an excellent instructor. I doubt you are surprised.

11. From a heterosexual professor on her way out:
I cannot express my gratitude for discovering your book on academic mobbing (I am today ordering a copy). I have suffered this phenomenon the past year and a half due to not only being a threat academically, but from sexual harassment issues as well — I am not a lesbian feminist, while the females that drove me out are. It has been the most horrific experience of my life.

12. From a tenacious professor in a state university:
How many of the victims in your studies have stayed instead of leaving? Personally, I believe that the fact that I have endured the mobbing for as long as I have makes the "mob" even more determined to "get" me. I am the recipient of hate mail from one or more of my colleagues; of course, the mail has been anonymous. The administration says I brought it on myself. In your research, have you found any mobbing victims who have received hate mail? Was the institutional response to blame the victim?

13. From a senior professor whose wife is a lawyer:
To be quite blunt, you have to have clean hands (which is not to say that I don't make mistakes), and you must be willing and able to beat the mobbers' fucking brains in. I wish my mobbers would sit down and reason through issues but that is not the way it has worked in practice. I may lose, but I haven't lost a battle yet and I don't expect to lose this one.
We have ordered your books. My lawyers find your ideas are a useful way to organize their arguments. I find them extremely interesting. My practical experience with the law is that judges and juries are persuaded by logic and evidence, not always, but often enough to keep my sorry butt out of jail. The point is to cause folks to pause long enough to ask critical questions about facts and evidence. Your ideas may provide a framewok to do just that. The facts won't change and they must ultimately withstand scrutany. But that's all part of the process. A classroom in the "real world." Let's see how it works.

14. From two professors in a large research institution:
We are two males who are conservative politically. We were in a department largely populated by women. The faculty in our department were generally unproductive. We brought in huge research grants and published 10-15 peer-reviewed articles each year. Our students regularly were awarded academic positions right out of our program. We were mobbed by the department. They refused to talk to us all of the sudden and began making accusations against us. They accused me of having an affair with a student (denied by both of us), of creating a hostile environment, and of research misconduct. Some of their complaints were bizarre, unbelievable. We were in the end exonerated. The university eventually came to the conclusion that the accusations were driven by academic jealousy. We were moved to a different school. Our former colleagues have now made complaints to outside agencies, but the university is now on our side and is defending us.

15. From two professors in a small research institution:
We have our union and an attorney trying to fend off an attack from a mob of faculty and administrators going after us for everything under the sun including failure to meet office hours, not saying hi in the hallways, not congratulating a faculty member on a family occasion, harassment, threatening comments, lack of collegiality, not including others on our research projects, and the list goes on and on. Instead of calling us into a meeting, we received certified letters announcing an investigation that has lasted a year now without any formal complaints on file. We have always received perfect evaluations.

16. From a law professor on the East coast:
This article could not have been more timely. We have a situation that has gone from bullying to the angry edges of mobbing concerning one of my colleagues, and so I sent this article around to the entire faculty, sans editorial comment. I believe it speaks for itself, but we'll see. Please keep up the important and good work.

17. From a former professor in a denominational college:
A friend sent me "Mob Rule" for an obvious reason, and I confess that as I read it, I found myself saying (like Jonathan Bean), “That’s me all over.” To cite only one similarity: like Jerry Becker, I have recently spent a great many evenings and weekends writing a point-by-point rebuttal of false charges. I am out of academia now. In many ways (salary, location, benefits, etc), I have landed on my feet, done better as a matter of fact. Still, the experience galls and I would like to do what I can so others don’t have to endure similar treatment. Also for my own peace of mind, I suppose. I’m offering my case for your study, if it might be of interest.
In my case, the administration was part of the mob, and thus able to bypass the “quasi-judicial bodies” mentioned in the piece. In fact, I longed for a public forum before any judicial body, quasi or otherwise. False charges were made by senior administrators under seal of “confidentiality,” and then leaked (without my knowledge) to further encourage the mob. This left me isolated and desperately seeking recourse, which of course was precisely the intention. This abuse of confidentiality might be one more manifestation of mobbing that others should be alerted to.

18. From a former dean:
During the discovery stage of the gender discrimation lawsuit I filed, my lawyer discovered that I had been what you call 'mobbed'. Several (male only) faculty had been campaigning (some secretly, some openly) for my dismissal. Due to their influence, others became reluctant, even fearful, of working with me. After I was dismissed as dean, rumours that I had committed a crime were circulated. When questioned, the provost said he could not discuss the reasons for my dismissal because he needed 'to protect me'.
My case has subsequently been settled out of court for cash, continued employment for a year, pension rights, etc., but the psychological scars remain, as you can imagine.

19. From a doctoral student:
So glad to see the Chronicle cover! What are the events that led to the cover story? I am still nursing my wounds but making progress. It seems very few people understand how wounding a mobbing event can be, and the scars it can generate.
Again, congratulations with the hope that mobbing will start to gain widespread and immediate public visibility of the kind it has in Europe.

20. From a retired sociologist:
I read John Gravois's excellent summary of your works. I don't think I could fully understand the part about original sin. I hope you will explain this part sometime.

[In Man and Aggression (1973), Ashley Montagu argued at length that Konrad Lorenz (in his 1963 book, On Aggression) was resurrecting the old Augustinian notion of original sin. In my view, Montagu correctly understood what Lorenz was saying, namely, that human behaviour is based not only on social learning but also on instincts or innate impulses, some of which are destructive. I side with Lorenz in that debate. So, I believe, does Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate (2002). KW]

21. From a professor in mid-career, teaching in the Midwest:
Today I read with interest the article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on workplace mobbing. What struck me is that it describes exactly the treatment I have received since I came to this university seven years ago. I do plan on reading your work so I can develop a better understanding of what is going on.

22. From a law professor on the West coast:
Have you made use of the work of René Girard (emeritus prof at Stanford and member of the French Academy)? In my view, he offers a brilliant analysis of mobbing and related phenomena.

[Perceptive comment! Click here for my review of one of Girard's books. KW]

23. From an aspirant professor:
Have you written about how "high-achieving professors" are subject to the mob even before they are hired? In the last eight years, I have been a finalist for a tenure-track professorship three times at the same major university, top-ranked in my field. The second and third times, it was leaked to me after the searches that about half of the faculty essentially thought that I was overqualified to work there.

24. From an English professor:
I congratulate you on your important work. Before coming here I lost two jobs, one for supporting a janitors' union and another for speaking up against a martinet of a director who was bullying the women in his program. As bad as the bosses are, the faculty down here in the states are so cowardly and afraid it makes me sick. I will contact our library and try to get them to order your books. Keep after it. I am pleased to know that there are still voices of courage and reason.

25. From a prominent professor of social science in a state university:
A friend pointed me to your work on academic mobbing, noting you liked to collect cases. I think I'm one.

26. From Lawrence R. Huntoon, editor of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons:
Nice article by John Gravois. From what little I know about mobbing in academe, it does not appear that it has "evolved" to the same level of organization as in medicine — i.e. sham peer review. I saw a little bit of this when I was in academic medicine, but it is nowhere near as frightening and lethal as what goes on in medicine in hospitals.