K. Westhues Homepage

Workplace Mobbing in Academe

A Dozen Free Online Articles

that Have to Do with Mobbing

in Academic and Other Workplaces

Compiled and annotated by Kenneth Westhues, University of Waterloo, in 2014.



Full text online. The author is Professor of Chemical Sciences at Dublin City University.

Apryll M. Stalcup, "Surviving Toxic Work Environments," Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 405 (2013), pp. 1145-1147. Don't let the journal title scare you off. This article includes no technical language or professional jargon. It represents the application of rigorous scientific reasoning to a debilitating social problem. The toxicity described here comes not from some poisonous chemical compound but from destructive patterns of human interaction. A lot of wisdom in this short essay, and sound practical advice.



Full text online as PDF. One of eight interrelated articles by these authors in a special issue of the journal on "Belonging and non-Belonging: Costs and Consequences in Academic Lives."

Michael Manley-Casimir et al., “Contextualizing Academic Lives,” Workplace: a Journal for Academic Labor 19 (2012), pp. 4-13. Thoughtful, comprehensive review of academic careers in their historical and institutional context, with analysis not only of extreme situations like mobbing but of "garden-variety" situations involving saga-keepers and newcomers. I can't imagine any professor, regardless of seniority or field, whose awareness of self and workmates would not be enhanced by this essay.

Full text online. Gunn is a workplace consultant in New Brunswick, also the author of the recent novel, Amphibian.


Carla Gunn, "The Big Chill: Secrecy, Exclusion, and Collusion in Academic Committees," University Affairs (March 2010), p 96. While not directly focused on mobbing, an insightful reflection on the poisonous culture of collusion and factional politics out of which mobbing cases often arise.

Full text online. Price not only analyzes the case but calls on AAUP, AAA, and similar academic groups to come to Harper's defense. See also the report of Harper's firing in The Chronicle of Higher Education.



David Price, "Trial by FBI Investigation," Counterpunch (August 10, 2009). An account of the mobbing of Janice Harper, anthropology professor at University of Tennessee Knoxville. Raising concerns about the dearth of women faculty in her department appears to have provoked a barrage of wild charges against Harper, including the modish smear of being some kind of terrorist, a threat to national security. Police and FBI investigations turned up nothing against her, but UTK's Institutional Review Board joined the mob. Despite glowing academic evaluations and a college committee's unanimous vote to give her tenure, Harper lost her place on the UTK faculty in 2009. A lawsuit is pending.

Full text online. A potentially life-saving article for those mobbing targets, whether in academe or elsewhere, who wonder if they are paranoid, or who are considered so by others.



James Randolph Hillard, "Workplace mobbing: are they really out to get your patient?" Current Psychiatry (8:4, April 2009), pp. 45-51. Many mobbing targets, probably the majority, consult with a mental-health professional at some point in the process. This may be of their own accord, at the suggestion of family or friends, or at management's direction. In any case, it is essential that they read Hillard's article before the visit, and print a copy to give to the professional. If the latter cannot believe the story of Dr. Hillard and Mr. G, he or she is not qualified to deal with a mobbing case.

Full text online, by subscription. Now a professor at the John Marshall School of Law in Atlanta, the author was teaching at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, VA, in 2002, when a former law student there committed mass murder on the campus.



Helen Hickey de Haven, "The Elephant in the Ivory Tower: Rampages in Higher Education and the Case for Institutional Liability," Journal of College and University Law 35 (No. 3, 2009), pp. 504-611. In this long, tough-minded, exhaustively researched article, De Haven makes prudent use of research on mobbing in the academic workplace. This is a far more insightful analysis of school shootings and similar tragedies than is found in the typical official reports. "Facing the institutional responsibility for the rampage phenomenon," she writes, "is not only the best way to tame the beast that lurks in our midst, endangering our cherished open spaces, it is also a way of transporting the academy as a whole into a future better adapted to the survival of its fundamental principles."

Full text online. A blunt, hard-hitting, truthful heads-up for anybody who has colleagues.



Gary A. Olson, "Avoiding Academe's Ax Murderers," Chronicle of Higher Education (October 15, 2008).
Concise, perceptive essay by a dean at Illinois State about mobbing tendencies in academic departments. Reminiscent of Nietzsche's adage, "Distrust all those in whom the impulse to punish is powerful." People of this kind often arouse the same impulse in normally tolerant individuals, and thereby a mob is born.

Full text online. Of equal interest to both sexes.



Sandra Stokes and Sheri Klein, "In Their Own Words: Academic Mobbing: Is Gender a Factor?" Women in Higher Education (May 2008). Click here for the monthly journal's homepage.
Two professors at campuses of the University of Wisconsin, one at
Green Bay and the other at Stout, describe what academic mobbing means and relate it to issues of gender discrimination.

Full text online. Addressed to all employees, whether in academic institutions or not. Vicki O'Brien, "Mob Mentality," BC Business (June 1, 2007)
An informative article that begins with the story of a university instructor who "went from being on the A-list at work to being isolated, singled out for criticism and branded as 'trouble.'" Using examples from both inside and outside academe, O'Brien describes the variety of ways mobbing cases play out. She ends with practical suggestions for both individuals and organizations.
Full text online. A British follow-up on Gravois's US article. John Sutherland, "Not Strictly for the Birds," Guardian Unlimited (May 6, 2006).
The prominent British English professor and Guardian columnist argues that mobbing belongs in the "lexicon of terms which, once we know them, make facts of working life around us materialise..." From his four decades in academic life, he recalls half a dozen cases he was, in one way or another, involved in.
Full text online. One of the most widely read introductions to research on mobbing in American academe. John Gravois, "Mob Rule," The Chronicle of Higher Education (52:32, April 14, 2006), pp. A10ff.
Very well-written report of multi-method investigation of mobbing in universities. Gravois draws on research about both birds and humans, on his field trip to Southern Illinois University with one mobbing researcher, and on interviews with mobbing targets on that campus. This article nicely conveys the complexity of mobbing as a subject of social scientific inquiry.
Full text online in VISTAS 2006. Useful to anyone eager to assist a targeted workmate, family member, or friend Jody E. Housker and Stephen G. Saiz, "Warning: Mobbing is Legal, Work with Caution," American Counseling Association, Annual Conference, Montreal, 2006.
While briefly summarizing the mobbing research and describing a professor's case, this article emphasizes what counselors can do to help. The advice is sensible and realistic.