Laurie Taylor Column

October 28, 2005

" Bullying rife in RAE run-up " - The Times Higher , October 21

From: The Office of the Vice-Chancellor

I understand there is some concern about the way that managers are treating members of staff who have failed to take a positive attitude towards the forthcoming research assessment exercise.

While one has little sympathy with academics who fail to produce research articles of the right type, length and standard, such deviants ("non-counters") should be treated in ways appropriate to a community of scholars. I am, therefore, laying down some guidelines in the hope that this will reduce the current number of mischievous complaints.

1. Ringing deviants at home

Acceptable - although calls should be confined to a maximum of four an evening and timed so as to avoid allegations of "sleep deprivation".

2. Threatening non-counters with transfer

Acceptable, provided the place selected for the transfer is not one that the non-counter is likely to fear would subject him/her to severe humiliation and possible injury (eg Estates and Gardens).

3. Special clothing

There is no basic objection to asking unsatisfactory colleagues to don distinctive clothing. (Managers should note that this dispensation does not extend to the "hooding" of non-counters.)

4. Deprivation of sensory stimuli

Moving non-counters to poorly lit, under-heated offices is acceptable, but it is inappropriate to lock them in cold, dark rooms for more than three hours.

5. Arousing anxiety by the use of aversive objects

It is inappropriate to draw a black cross on the door of a non-counter's room or to place live bullets in their pigeonhole. Neither is it acceptable to use large dogs as a means of retaining non-counters at their desks.

This university takes a principled stand against all forms of managerial intimidation while simultaneously recognising that in extreme circumstances it may be necessary - and I put it no more strongly than that - to resort to a little light torture. I hope this clarifies the situation.

The Vice-Chancellor (signed in his absence by Mrs Dilworth)

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