One tragedy in academia

Among my various pet causes (promoting nonviolence, encouraging the creative writing of kids and teens, supporting increased awareness about breast cancer), one of the most recent for me is bullying.

Usually, we associate bullying with the schoolyard, and when the news reports on bullying (and it has been reporting on it more in recent years, which is good for helping combat it), the stories are nearly always about kids and teenagers. But workplace bullying is just as serious, just as dangerous, just as important to remain vigilant against.

That’s why this recent article* in The Chronicle of Higher Ed is so distressing and so tragic, especially since it hits so close to my own academic and creative heart: the university-supported literary journal and the people who work to share the newest, best literature with the wider world.

The comments following the article tend to descend into petty back-and-forth arguments over the intent or style of the reporting (see the note below), but one careful reader was helpful enough to focus on the allegations of bullying and noted that whether or not those allegations are entirely true in this case, they are indicative of a serious problem in academia that we should not ignore. (If you’re looking for the comment, it’s #22, written by Professor David Yamada.) And then, rather than simply offer that observation and walk away, he actually links to his professional blog post on the issue as well as a web resource on bullying and suicide.

Here’s the link to the blog post, which also includes more links to web resources on bullying in the workplace and in academia specifically.  Please, check out that or, if you prefer, conduct your own research into the subject. And in addition to your office-door stickers of commitment to intellectual freedom, workplace diversity, religious tolerance, and all your other causes, consider committing yourself to combating bullying everywhere you see it, for children and adults alike.


* Among the criticisms some readers level against the Chronicle story, the most prevalent is that this isn’t quite journalism.  Some claim it is merely lax about its editorializing, while others complain it is nothing better than crude gossip, but the broader point is that much of its reporting stems from (informed) speculation and lacks concrete documentation. Most of the more careful readers, though, are quick to move past that point and acknowledge that the real stories here are the dangers of workplace bullying and, more importantly, the tragedy of Kevin Morrissey’s death.

Kevin Morrissey, from VQR’s website.

I join those readers — and the author of Literary Rejections on Display (from which I first found this story) — in offering my condolences to everyone: the VQR staff, the UVa faculty, and especially Morrissey’s friends and family.

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