A Sample Selection from Kenneth Westhues, ed., Workplace Mobbing in Academe: Reports from Twenty Universities, Lewiston: NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2004.


Editor's Introduction, pp. iii-v

On an autumn day in 1991, the eminent mathematician Jack Edmonds, longtime professor at the University of Waterloo, walked across campus to the Department of Sociology. He had been locked out of his office, dropped from the payroll, eliminated from the faculty. Accolades had poured in six years earlier, when he had won the von Neumann Theory Prize, the same laurel worn by John Nash, whose life inspired the film, A Beautiful Mind. Now Edmonds’s career lay in ruins – not from psychological pathology as in Nash’s case, but from some weird organizational pathology. The university itself seemed to have gone mad. For no good reason, it had dumped one of its most beautiful minds. Bewildered and hurt, Edmonds thought sociology might have an explanation of what was going on.

Edmonds did not find me that day but we met soon after. Thus began the most important, challenging and satisfying chapter of my scholarly life, one that continues even now, as I introduce this wonderful, terrifying book. Edmonds got most of his job back in 1993, and returned to his algorithms. I, on the other hand, have worked ever since at identifying and explaining the precise social ill that did him and our university such harm, and that has had still worse effects on other beautiful minds and on other institutions.

Development of this new field of inquiry has been a collaborative effort from the start, initially among professors puzzled and outraged by a series of wrongful dismissals at Waterloo. As the scope of inquiry broadened to include cases elsewhere, the network of researchers of what we came to call workplace mobbing enlarged. I did not know initially that anybody earlier had discerned mob behavior in bureaucracies as a distinct focus of study. Learning from my wife Anne Westhues in 1994, that Swedish psychologist Heinz Leymann had not only conceptualized workplace mobbing ten years before I did, but had produced a large body of research on it, counts among the most gratifying moments of my life. Leymann is the giant on whose shoulders I and other researchers of mobbing stand.

Credit for getting the subfield of academic mobbing off the ground goes to another scholarly giant: Herbert Richardson, founder and lektor of the Edwin Mellen Press. Richardson read the manuscript of my first book-length report of my research in late summer of 1998. He not only understood what I was saying but thought of ways to help me say it better. This was thanks to his historical and theological perspective on the topic, and to his skill at masterminding. It was also because he had himself been mobbed in the academic workplace, having been ousted from the University of Toronto in 1994, in the most famous dismissal case in Canadian academic history.

Mellen Press published the preliminary report of my research in the fall of 1998: Eliminating Professors: a Guide to the Dismissal Process. For the next five years, my research and writing were immeasurably eased by knowing that Mellen was eager to publish a comprehensive report of my work in this area, including a detailed analysis of Richardson’s own case. My book was ready for the printer by summer of 2003.

Then, however, instead of releasing the book immediately, Mellen Press embarked on a project for expanding my book’s contribution to knowledge beyond my book itself. It published a preliminary edition and invited reactions to it by first-rate scholars in diverse disciplines at universities across North America and beyond. Scores of reactions, long and short, were received. The press accepted 39 essay-length responses for publication. The press’s aim, and mine, was fulfilled: to multiply the insights in my book, by letting it serve as a stimulus for other scholars to share related insights of their own.

Nine essays in response, those addressing Richardson’s specific case, were published as an appendix to the first Canadian edition of my book, entitled Administrative Mobbing at the University of Toronto: the Trial, Degradation, and Dismissal of a Professor during the Presidency of J. Robert S. Prichard. That volume was launched at a reception in Toronto’s Sutton Place Hotel on 29 January 2004.

Shortly thereafter, Mellen Press invited me to act as editor of the first separate book of essays in response. We agreed that it should be a stand-alone volume, a sourcebook on academic mobbing that administrators and professors could understand and profit from, with or without a prior reading of my own books. This objective guided our choice of essays for inclusion. The resultant book, the one you hold in your hands, is as good a place to start as any, for understanding the ever-present threat of being mobbed in academe.