16 June: This is my final blog post. I want to conclude my thoughts on this experience, which has lasted more than eight months.
I am still terribly bitter about what happened. There are things I cannot disclose because of the confidentiality clause I have signed, and when I think about that I speculate what I could have done better to stop me from talking. Perhaps I could have been more courageous in fighting my grievance, but the machine against me was overwhelming. The terrible irony is that much of my working life has been to challenge the misuse of power in adult relationships and before my academic post I worked hard, both nationally and locally, against violence and abuse. For structural power to defeat me so overwhelmingly is somehow a terrible injustice. It is only in the last few weeks that I feel more myself. I thought I was stronger.
The blog: My intention in writing this blog was to illustrate what happens in these disputes: to give a victim’s “version” – a blow-by-blow account. I accept it was only my version, but it was undertaken, for the most part, as a sequenced “recording” of events. It was never something I undertook well after the event. It has only recently ended in “real time”. Indeed, for that reason, I want to thank all those who took the time and contributed to the blog. Those of you who supported me throughout this ordeal helped in very bleak moments, sometimes a few sentences of empathy really did make a difference and I want to thank you all for that. The blog has been cathartic for me, the experiences shared by others remarkably similar to my own. The common experience has been of psychological torment from organisations and the way they marshal resources in the persecution of one individual – a truly remarkable process where real attempts are made to systematically “take out” the person who dares to challenge.
What has come out of this experience has been an understanding that universities seem to cultivate a strange “world within a world”, where they occupy a unique and strange defence mechanism.
The old team: Perhaps one of the most disheartening issues has been how divisional staff remained silent. Not a word, even when they were told I was not coming back – no card, goodbye, apology for not making contact… Nothing. Some actively preach the need for anti-oppressive practice with service users, the need for an analysis of power, yet could not summon up a few words: “So sorry, I feel as helpless as you…” or “I wish I had said something”. A friend, who has been through similar experiences, suggests that it will take at least a year for my bitterness towards them to subside.
The grievance process: I was totally naive over the role of human resources. I really thought they were supposed to be “in the middle” and not taking sides. What happened was a complete surprise in terms of their bias and attempts to subvert me. Constant letters, emails – taking care NOT to make actual contact. It was a shocking revelation which left me in a void. The union was my only lifeline, a mixture of my local contact treading water in quicksand with me hopeful of a cavalry charge from regional office, which never came.
Looking back, there was one critical theme to the way the whole organisation worked – this was to isolate me. The university acted illegally with the directive that I could not talk or socialise with anyone there. This was in my view an act that required the severest of reprimands – no vice-chancellor should be able to hold office with such a culture of totalitarian malice and disregard for the legal process. There cannot be more than a handful of grievances within a university at any one time and vice-chancellors should see it as their duty to ask questions and clarify how matters are progressing.
I cannot see how matters will change in universities until there is a willingness from good people with power to act. We must presume there are good people willing to do something. They need to explore reform, which includes an equitable hearing for staff who feel they are treated in ways that exemplify shoddy management and duplicity…
Which leads to my final thoughts about the managers I took out my grievance against: “Marcus” and “Helen”. What lies they both told. What terribly disingenuous individuals they both were throughout my grievance.
Perhaps, sometimes “Marcus” and “Helen” will wake early with an icy feeling, something not quite tangible, which stops them sleeping and leaves them uncomfortable and almost burdened. That is me: the Bullied Blogger. In the deep recesses of their minds are my words, my truth, my experiences of what happened: my experience of two other human beings trying their best to destroy me. After eight months, I have survived and life will be good again. But I will not forget…
To the reader, I suggest a different path from mine. If you have anything that resembles a desire to “blow the whistle” or consider that you are able to take on your university because of the way you have been treated, think again and leave quietly – because you will experience a terrible ordeal.