Bullying at the University of Newcastle (Australia)

We are working to highlight and stop academic workplace bullying at the University of Newcastle, Australia. We are a group of staff and students who have been bullied for speaking out about misconduct.

Help make a difference –

*answer our survey,

*contribute to the blog, or

*contact us.

This will help us gather as much information as possible so that we can put an end to this bullying with its’ decades-long history.

“Systemic bullying, hazing and abuse generally are identified with poor, weak or toxic organizational cultures. Cultures that are toxic have stated ethical values that are espoused but not employed, and other non-ethical values which are operational, dominant, but unstated.

Such cultures thrive when good people are silent, silenced, or pushed out; when bad apples are vocal, retained, promoted, and empowered; and when the neutral majority remain silent in order to survive. Those who are most successful in such a toxic culture are those who have adapted to it, or adopted it as their own”. (McKay, Arnold, Fratzl & Thomas, 2008)

Thursday, August 25, 2022

 

Submission No. 53 to House of Representatives Inquiry into Workplace Bullying

Publicly available  http://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=ee/bullying/subs/sub53.pdf

 

BRIEF SUMMARY OF SUBMISSION -

From 2003 to 2007 (a period of five and a half years), I worked predominantly within the speech pathology discipline as a part-time or casual lecturer, course co-ordinator, researcher and/or clinical educator with the then head of discipline, (“ " " ”). During this period, my conference presentation and paper publication rate was similar to or greater than most other staff members in the discipline. I also contributed a substantial amount (around one to two days a week) of my own unpaid time supporting students, ongoing and casual staff. I was involved in a number of external grant applications and had an NMHRC UQ administered post-doctoral fellowship for three years. For four years I was on an annually-renewed contract as a clinical educator with the university’s highly successful aphasia groups, run as a joint project between the speech pathology discipline and XX  XX XX XX.

During this lengthy period, I also discussed a number of problems that arose within the discipline with XXX . These problems included soft marking, being told to ignore plagiarism, staff absences due to personal interests, unfair, incorrect and unrepresentative exam papers and assignments, as well as a lack of preparation and support for students on their clinical placements, amongst other difficulties. On all these occasions, XXX was receptive to these difficulties and spoke openly about the staffing difficulties she was having.

In mid-2007, a new ongoing lectureship was approved for the discipline. XXX
approached (“XXX”) to fill the position. XXX did not fulfil the essential criteria for the position and was the only person interviewed. Furthermore, there was a conflict of interest on XXX’s part during the recruitment process. I discussed these anomalies confidentially with the Faculty representative in Human Resources.

Reprisals against me were swift, immediate and devastating. I have been subject to “harassment” and “bullying” as defined in Policy XXX. This situation is known to the Head of School, Humanities and Social Sciences, and to Human Resources but no action has been taken.

In December 2007, on the second working day after my HR meeting and whilst I was still employed, I was told by XXX  that I was hostile and could not work with a team. She told me to relocate my office and refused to renew my aphasia group contract, despite the fact that the groups had already been organised for the following year and that around 30 patients would be without therapy. She said that I must not contact her directly – only via the head of school. She later also told me that I could not enter my office during working hours. At that stage, I was using software licensed to my computer for my NHMRC research (on which XXX was an investigator). It then took two and a half months before I was able to continue my NHMRC research in my new office. I had a personal item stolen and was physically prevented from attending meetings, obtaining my mail and removed from all mailing lists or any contact with Speech Pathology, despite XXX being my “supervisor” on the NHMRC project and also despite my name and personal website appearing on the speech pathology discipline webpages.

Subsequently, I have been ostracised by the majority of SP academia in Australia. My applications for employment as a lecturer/researcher and email contact with colleagues in other universities are not acknowledged and previous teaching in Sydney has been discontinued. I have been unable to obtain employment as a lecturer and/or researcher within speech pathology. At conferences and workshops within Australia, my research colleagues actively scorn me. XXX’s lack of involvement in the NHMRC resulted in our research data being incomplete.

In April 2010 I made a Protected Disclosure to XXX , VC of the University as well as a complaint regarding the reprisals that had been taken against me. Both these were dismissed by the university.

I was subsequently employed within the School of Architecture and the Built Environment at the university (March 2009 to February 2012). When my contracts came up for renewal at the start of the academic year (2012), the Pro-Vice Chancellor refused to allow any further employment contracts be issued to me, despite the fact that my contract, number of hours and number of students had already been arranged within the Head of School. I have never been notified of the reasons for this, or contacted by the Head of School. I am now not employed.

Friday, October 15, 2021

"Chilling goings-on"

 "Sue Sherratt reports on chilling goings-on at (some) universities: being ostracised in academic workplaces. She examines the background and practical and psychological impacts of such behaviours. It shouldn’t be happening! Reading this paper along with Anne Richards’ offering make one wonder how things got like this." (Dobson 2021).

This paper uses a single case study, drawn from the Parliamentary inquiry into Workplace Bullying (redacted)(https://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=ee/bullying/subs/sub53.pdf)

 "Single case study

Tamara, with a doctorate from a world-renowned university, had been employed in a regional Australian university ‘by the Speech Pathology discipline …for nearly five years, in various positions as a researcher, lecturer and/or clinical educator on casual and fixed-term contracts’ (Tamara, 2012). She was active in research, had a good record of publications and conference presentations and contributed to an inter-university research group and professional education. She discussed several academic staff misconduct issues with Jana, the head of discipline, believing Jana would be concerned . She also met with Human Resources but did not report any issues outside the university. Immediately after this meeting, she was told by Jana that her ongoing and already organised contracts would not be renewed. She was immediately physically and practically removed from her job, her office and contact with colleagues, with no warnings nor reasons for this, either prior, during or since. She has subsequently been ostracised by colleagues from the same discipline at other universities and her attendance at workshops and research meetings has been denied. Her applications for employment at other universities are ‘not received’. Her complaint was dismissed as baseless by the university."

 

The full paper is available here https://aur.nteu.org.au/current-issue/#contents

 

 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

 

University orders PhD supervisor to retract paper that plagiarized his student

Andy Eamens

A researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia plagiarized a former student’s thesis, according to a summary of a university investigation obtained by Retraction Watch.

Andy Eamens, who at least until recently was an agronomy researcher at Newcastle, published a paper in 2019 that included work by Kate Hutcheon, whose PhD work he supervised, without any credit. Hutcheon, who earned her PhD in 2017, contacted the journal, Agronomy, an MDPI title, in November 2019. 

The journal, Hutcheon told Retraction Watch, “forwarded a copy of my complaint directly to my PhD supervisor (without my consent). Thankfully they also forwarded me a copy of his response.” In what we found a bit confusing, to say the least, Eamens wrote, in part:

I can confirm that the images presented in Figures 1A, 1C and 1D were generated by Kate during her PhD tenure under my supervision at the University of Newcastle. Kate had previously provided these images at my request for my use in an invited oral presentation at the 2016 ComBio Conference (Brisbane Convention Centre, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, October 3-7, 2016); a presentation in which Kate’s work and contribution was duly acknowledged. The images have been taken from this presentation and have neither been “directly copied” nor “plagiarised” from Kate’s thesis. Indeed all project work outlined either in our manuscript or in Kate’s thesis was conducted in my laboratory, as part of a program of research that I developed, and which was funded by monies solely secured by me. I therefore fail to see how I have ‘plagiarised’ any of the work detailed in our manuscript. 

The journal concluded:

We feel sorry about this authorship dispute, but we would recommend that you may communicate with the authors now for a solution at the moment.

In December 2019, Hutcheon lodged a formal complaint with Newcastle’s research integrity office. In March 2020, she “received an email saying the preliminary assessment had completed and the matter had been referred for investigation,” and in April 2021, she “received an email saying that the investigation found several breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research and recommended the paper be promptly retracted…The University asked Dr Eamens to submit the retraction request himself.”

In a letter to Hutcheon, Mark Hoffman, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor (Academic) and vice-president nominated responsible executive officer said that:

breaches of Responsibilities 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 25 and 27 of the [Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research] Code have occurred. 

Those breaches include failures to:

  • Support a culture of responsible research conduct at their institution and in their field of practice.
  • Provide guidance and mentorship on responsible research conduct to other researchers or research trainees under their supervision and, where appropriate, monitor their conduct. 
  • Adopt methods appropriate to the aims of the research and ensure that conclusions are justified by the results.
  • Retain clear, accurate, secure and complete records of all research including research data and primary materials. Where possible and appropriate, allow access and reference to these by interested parties.
  • Disseminate research findings responsibly, accurately and broadly. Where necessary, take action to correct the record in a timely manner.
  • Ensure that authors of research outputs are all those, and only those, who have made a significant intellectual or scholarly contribution to the research and its output, and that they agree to be listed as an author.
  • Cite and acknowledge other relevant work appropriately and accurately

The letter continues:

Based on the Investigation Panel recommendations, corrective actions are to be implemented in response to the findings. The corrective actions include: 

• prompt request for retraction of the Publication and update of the researchers’ research profiles; 

• audit of laboratory practices; 

• research integrity mentoring and training; and

• supervisor education. 

The Investigation Panel made further recommendations that the University will be reviewing in full, relating to the introduction of laboratory notation guidelines, ensuring the effectiveness of internal research integrity training, and reviewing information provided to higher degree by research candidates and supervisors regarding intellectual property. 

The paper has yet to be retracted. Eamens, who did not respond to a request for comment, no longer appears to be affiliated with the university.

 https://retractionwatch.com/2021/09/08/university-orders-phd-supervisor-to-retract-paper-that-plagiarized-his-student/

@Uni_Newcastle

#workplacebullying

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

An open letter to those academics who bullied me out of my job at the University


Remember me?  I am the person who you bullied out/got rid of/destroyed/vaporised/ eradicated.  I have never been given a reason why, neither before, during or since.  Was it because I spoke to my immediate manager about staff misconduct?  I am the person who is now unemployed, not allowed to attend meetings, prevented from attending workshops, shunned and ostracised by the academic community in my field.  My physical and psychological health has been destroyed, my relationships with family and friends are strained.

The work we do is a significant aspect of our identity – for all of you your profession, your academic standing and your university titles are very important.  How would you feel if  this was all suddenly taken away from you – your plans, your goals, your training, your studies, your hard work, your passions, your dreams – all trashed.   Even worse, how would you feel it this was taken away from you because you followed university policy i.e. you did the “right” thing and reported staff misconduct?

Because of your “power” and “standing”, you were easily able to influence your colleagues throughout Australia and could easily spread untruths.  Why did you do this?  To get in first so that I would not be believed??

Try to envisage my life as it is now - imagine if every day was a struggle as it is for me.  I get up every day and know that I cannot do my work, cannot continue doing what I  love, cannot help the people I want to help with my clinical work, my research, etc.  I know that most of the people in my profession “no longer know me” – I am shunned, ostracised, isolated and ignored.  I can be at a conference and I am invisible.  I can be at a workshop or meeting and I am invisible.  Even those people who may want to be in contact with me cannot be seen talking to me because their careers are at risk.  My job applications, emails and letters are never “received” by your colleagues from other universities.

My family relationships are tense – my family do not know how to help.  My kids are so disilusioned – I always taught them to stand up for what is right.  My family and friends do not know what to do with my depression, with my suicidal thoughts.  What would you do if your partner, your mother, your child, your friend was considering suicide?  Would you want to put the burden of your suicidal thoughts on anyone else?  Would you want your child to worry that you might be dead by the time they get back home from work or school?

Does it feel like a huge victory to you to see someone so destroyed?  Do you quietly gloat and wink knowingly with your co-conspirators?  Do you smile with satisfaction when you see me snubbed and ignored?  Does it make you feel happy when you see my unhappiness and tears?  Do you applaud yourself for rising through the ranks because you colluded with others in covering up the truth and thereby managed to silence me and prevent me from telling the truth?

Can you ignore the little voice inside you which whispers that what you did and continue to do  is unjust, undeserved and unethical?  When you look in the mirror in the morning, do you have a clear conscience?  Or do you enjoy the reflected image you see of someone who has been promoted, by unfair and immoral means?  How would you and your colleagues feel if you were the direct cause of someone’s suicide?  Would you have a clear conscience then?

As A A Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, stated
“In the quiet hours when we are alone and there is nobody to tell us what fine fellows we are, we come sometimes upon a moment in which we wonder, not how much money we are earning, nor how famous we have become, but what good we are doing.”

Perhaps that small voice will whisper to you that your career, power and standing were not worth destroying another person’s life.  

Friday, August 31, 2018

The death of Michael Spautz


It is with considerable sadness that we have heard of the death of Michael Spautz, a past senior lecturer in the Commerce Department at the University of Newcastle.

Michael tried by various means to raise issues about the research record and PhD research of a newly appointed professor.  He tried official channels which were blocked.  He then attempted to raise the issues with the administration of the University. 

His efforts drew the attention of the University of administration – an inquiry was set up.  Instead of investigating Michael’s allegations, the inquiry focused on Michael’s own behaviour.  “Basically, he was told to shut up” (Martin 2018).

Following a second inquiry, Michael was dismissed.  in Australia it is quite rare for a tenured academic to be fired” (Martin 2018).  He continued his campaign, launched court cases and was eventually declared a vexatious litigant.

“The University of Newcastle paid a severe penalty too. Spautz’s campaign brought it unwelcome attention, and several senior figures at the university had to spend considerable time dealing with Spautz’s charges against them. There were occasional news reports about Spautz’s legal cases. For a university administration, this is not a desired sort of media coverage.”

“More damaging was the effect of the dismissal on the academic culture at the university. Although many staff found Spautz’s behaviour objectionable, many also were disturbed by his dismissal. “

“When I visited the campus in 1981, a year after Spautz had been dismissed, I could sense fear. Some staff did not want even to discuss Spautz, as if that would taint them and make them vulnerable. Openly expressing disagreement with the dismissal was felt to be risky, perhaps because they might be next. Spautz was unbowed by his dismissal, but it frightened many others.”

“At the University of Newcastle, all that administrators did was set up committees of inquiry that focused on Spautz’s behaviour.” (Martin 2018)

Michael’s case was and is not unusual for the University of Newcastle.  Professor Don Parkes has reported on how the University of Newcastle handled a case of fraudulent doctoral level scholarship in his book “Doctored”.

The widely-publicised case of Dr Michelle Wills (Adams) is another case in point.  So are cases brought before the Parliamentary Workplace Bullying Inquiry.

This website has survey results from 195 staff and students at the University of Newcastle who were victims of bullying at the University – many had raised issues of staff misconduct and had been bullied as a result.

Recent cases of bullying at the University of Newcastle indicate that NOTHING has changed.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

Banning sex between academics and students

"Academics at RMIT University in Melbourne are calling for Australian universities to institute a blanket ban on sex between faculty members and students." (ABC online)

Whoa!! That's big!

10 per cent of all postgraduate students in Australia had been sexually harassed by a tutor or lecturer, and 6 per cent of undergraduate students, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission survey.

It is well known that sexual harassment and sexual relationships occur in certain schools at the University of Newcastle.

It's also well known that those students often get privileged access to employment based on these relationships.  Nepotism, nepotism, everywhere!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A classic case of workplace bullying and ostracism?

The following summary (submission 53) was obtained from 
https://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=ee/bullying/subs.htm

"BRIEF SUMMARY OF SUBMISSION - XXXXXXXXXXXX

From 2003 to 2007 (a period of five and a half years), I worked predominantly within the speech pathology discipline as a part-time or casual lecturer, course co-ordinator, researcher and/or clinical educator with the then head of discipline, XXXXXXX   (“ XXXXX   ”). During this period, my conference presentation and paper publication rate was similar to or greater than most other staff members in the discipline. I also contributed a substantial amount (around one to two days a week) of my own unpaid time supporting students, ongoing and casual staff. I was involved in a number of external grant applications and had an NMHRC UQ administered post-doctoral fellowship for three years. For four years I was on an annually-renewed contract as a clinical educator with the university’s highly successful aphasia groups, run as a joint project between the speech pathology discipline and XXXXXXXX, XXX XXXX.

During this lengthy period, I also discussed a number of problems that arose within the discipline with XXXXX  . These problems included soft marking, being told to ignore plagiarism, staff absences due to personal interests, unfair, incorrect and unrepresentative exam papers and assignments, as well as a lack of preparation and support for students on their clinical placements, amongst other difficulties. On all these occasions, XXXX   was receptive to these difficulties and spoke openly about the staffing difficulties she was having.

In mid-2007, a new ongoing lectureship was approved for the discipline.  XXXX approached    (“XXXX   ”) to fill the position.   XXXX did not fulfil the essential criteria for the position and was the only person interviewed. Furthermore, there was a conflict of interest on  XXXX  ’s part during the recruitment process. I discussed these anomalies confidentially with the Faculty representative in Human Resources.

Reprisals against me were swift, immediate and devastating. I have been subject to “harassment” and “bullying” as defined in Policy XXXXX   This situation is known to the Head of School, Humanities and Social Sciences, and to Human Resources but no action has been taken.

In December 2007, on the second working day after my HR meeting and whilst I was still employed, I was told by XXXX   that I was hostile and could not work with a team. She told me to relocate my office and refused to renew my aphasia group contract, despite the fact that the groups had already been organised for the following year and that around 30 patients would be without therapy. She said that I must not contact her directly – only via the head of school. She later also told me that I could not enter my office during working hours. At that stage, I was using software licensed to my computer for my NHMRC research (on which  XXXXXXXXX was an investigator). It then took two and a half months before I was able to continue my NHMRC research in my new office. I had a personal item stolen and was physically prevented from attending meetings, obtaining my mail and removed from all mailing lists or any contact with Speech Pathology, despite XXXX   being my “supervisor” on the NHMRC project and also despite my name and personal website appearing on the speech pathology discipline webpages.

Subsequently, I have been ostracised by the majority of SP academia in Australia. My applications for employment as a lecturer/researcher and email contact with colleagues in other universities are not acknowledged and previous teaching in Sydney has been discontinued. I have been unable to obtain employment as a lecturer and/or researcher within speech pathology. At conferences and workshops within Australia, my research colleagues actively scorn me.  XXXX ’s lack of involvement in the NHMRC resulted in our research data being incomplete.

In April 2010 I made a Protected Disclosure to   XXX, VC of the University as well as a complaint regarding the reprisals that had been taken against me. Both these were dismissed by the university.
I was subsequently employed within the School of Architecture and the Built Environment at the university (March 2009 to February 2012). When my contracts came up for renewal at the start of the academic year (2012), the Pro-Vice Chancellor refused to allow any further employment contracts be issued to me, despite the fact that my contract, number of hours and number of students had already been arranged within the Head of School. I have never been notified of the reasons for this, or contacted by the Head of School. I am now not employed."