A Guide to the Dismissal Process

Kenneth Westhues

Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, xii + 218 pp, 40 chapters, endnotes, afterword, hardcover, 1998. ISBN 0-7734-8210-5

Available from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Blackwell's (or probably for free at your local university library).

Featured Review

With publication of this book and his continuing research on the subject, Westhues has virtually founded a new field in sociology. ... Tongue in cheek, the book gives supervisors step-by-step advice on how to get rid of a misfit professor named PITA (Pain In The Ass): oddly, but typically, the only one in the proximate institutional setting who actually gives a damn about what they do. His or her commitment will tend to embarrass and threaten all those (the overwhelming majority) around him or her, whose only commitment is to their paychecks and leisure. The book is amusing but very scary at the same time.

David S. Clarke, Professor of Management of Technology, Southern Illinois University, and Editor, Knowledge, Technology, and Society, in his weekly e-newsletter, 2003.

The book's chapters—highly readable, personal, engaging, and illuminative—alternate between a suspenseful narrative of Westhues's own case winding its tortured and exasperating way through an appeal, and the "how-to" chapters, which are written, this reader presumes, with an intensely ironic, but tellingly effective voice. They sound like advice-to-administrators' manuals, of which genre the readers of this journal should be overly familiar. But let the reader beware that Westhues skewers them with a satiric intensity that chills the blood.

David W. Leslie, Chancellor Professor of Education, The College of William and Mary, book review in The Journal of Higher Education, 2000.

. . . a remarkably perceptive account of the techniques useful for getting rid of unwelcome academics. Of course, it can also be read by those who are targeted, and their supporters, as a primer on what is likely to happen and how best to oppose it.

Brian Martin, Associate Professor, Department of Science, Technology, and Society, University of Wollongong, book review in Campus Review (1999). Read the full review online.

. . . an interesting, informative and passionate look into the darker side of ideological correctness and intellectual weakness within academe.

Bill Zwerman, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Calgary, book review in The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology (2000).

. . . engaged me on several different levels. Although it was not the book I thought I was getting, it did cause me to think about and question group and departmental dynamics in ways I had not before. I became aware of new areas of research. I do know different people got very different meanings and insights from the work and on that basis alone I can recommend it.

Peggy Brandt Brown, University of North Texas, book review in Education Review (2001). Read the full review online.

. . . first of all a scholarly treatise devoted to the sociology of controlling human relations in academia and thus it contributes to our understanding of policy and practice at many Canadian universities. ... Within this context it is recommended by this reviewer that Eliminating Professors be read by members of Faculty Associations across Canada and their respective Academic Freedom and Tenure Committees, keeping in mind the possibly new environment of rules in which their committees will operate. And university administrators might find a place for it alongside their editions of Mein Kampf, Kafka, and Machiavelli.

Robert Needham, Director of Canadian Studies, University of Waterloo, book review in The UW Gazette (1999).

It is well known that universities rank among the best known offenders in supporting petty tyrants full of pompous bombast with an obtuse, indecipherable, self-righteous and downright unconscionable bureaucracy which works mercilessly to torture competent people. Westhues, an award-winning teacher himself, has been on the receiving end. Miraculously, he provides a dispassionate analysis of the forces coming down on him while waiting for the firing squad to load their weapons. Though thinly disguised as a guide for oppressors, it is a must read by any student of bullying and psychological terrorization.

Gary Namie, Western Washington University, co-founder of the International Campaign Against Workplace Bullying and co-author of The Bully at Work.

This account has the chill of graveyard truth. I've often read about the ideal of a fearless objectivity in the social sciences, but I've rarely experienced it as forcefully as in this book.

James R. Kelly, Professor of Sociology, Fordham University, prepublication review for Mellen Press.

So, why is he writing a book telling adminsitrators how to eliminate professors? It is a rhetorical trick. What he is really telling us is, this is how it is done, based on my case studies. And, how it is really done is a very chilling affair, in which truth plays little role. The main goal is to get rid of the accused professor, and information is used and distorted to achieve that end. Westhues's findings are similar to mine in the area of sexual harassment. . . . This book does a great service by showing exactly how college administrations can corruptly use information to dismiss professors who do not deserve dismissal. If anyone thinks the process used in colleges is usually fair, they ought to read this book. It is eye opening.

Russell Eisenman, Department of Psychology, University of Texas — Pan American, book review in The Journal of Information Ethics, 2001.

As a how-to guide for administrators seeking the dismissal of certain members of the academic staff, it is fraught with errors of the most serious kind. ... Perhaps most importantly, the book does not acknowledge the possibility that tolerating the occasional DR. PITA who is fulfilling his or her job to teach and do research is sometimes necessary in order to maintain the integrity of academic freedom within the university.

Sylvia D. Jansen, University of Manitoba, book review in The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 1999.

Eliminating Professors is a witty, cathartic, and intelligent discussion of the often painful dismissal process endured by tenured professors in higher education. ... Westhues' advice to administrators is not to fear campus outrage, but asserted that 'moral panic is an administrator's best friend. The key point is to manage it' (p. 99). His book contained numerous strategies for administrators that often blur the line of ethical behavior.

Courtney Welch, Coordinator of Student Programs, Texas Women's University, book review in Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 2001.

A sociological study of and administrative guidebook to getting rid of unwanted professors based on 25 case studies of professorial elimination.

Book News, 1999.

Eliminating Professors : A Guide to the Dismissal Process is a recommended book that humorously deals with a difficult but important subject. The author acknowledges that he does not pretend to present the final word on this issue and that this book is just ‘‘an invitation to action, and to study, reflection, and research.’’ After reading this book,
the reader will view the professoriate life and the concept of tenure with a different perspective.

Octavio J. Esqueda, University of North Texas, book review in Community College Journal, Research and Practice, 2002


Table of Contents

Overview and Objective

1. Carpe diem: September 28, 1997
2. Readership
3. The problem of Dr. PITA
4. The objective: PITA’s elimination
5. Marks of undesirability

Two Initial Stages: Ostracization and Harassment

6. Marking PITA out
7. Techniques of torment
8. Millennial fears
9. October 4, 1997
10. Which lesson from Fabrikant?

Stage Three: the Incident

11. Deep trouble
12. Sanctions
13. The small matter of truth
14. October 11, 1997
15. Leading Leymann’s mob
16. Necessary harm
17. The star chamber
18. Making the star chamber work
19. Managing moral panic
20. October 19, 1997

Stage Four: Aftermath of the Incident

21. No playful romp
22. Unit-think
23. PITA’s internal appeals
24. Appeals to the board
25. October 25, 1997
26. Letters from PITA’s friends
27. Judges
28. Arbitrators
29. The media
30. Other outsiders

Stage Five: Elimination

31. Mental illness as exit door
32. November 2, 1997
33. Endings
34. An ending to beat all
35. November 12, 1997
36. November 20, 1997
37. November 28, 1997
38. December 5, 1997
39. December 10, 1997
40. December 11, 1997