Experiencing workplace bullying in academe is a bad thing, but the entry of workplace bullying into academic dialogue is a big step in the right direction. I had an opportunity to witness the latter twice during the past two weeks.
Two weeks ago, I participated in a conference at the Western Institute for Social Research in Berkeley, California, a tiny storefront college devoted to social change and community activism. I’ve been pursuing graduate studies at WISR via distance learning, and this conference was an opportunity to present some of the work I’ve been doing on workplace bullying and intellectual activism. Overall the conference was terrific, and my presentation was greeted with an array of thoughtful, insightful comments and questions. Many of the participants shared stories about workplace bullying drawn from their own employment experiences.
At the end of last week, I visited the main center of Empire State College — the adult learner-centered college of the State University of New York system — in Saratoga Springs, New York, for a series of meetings and events built around the 25th anniversary of the school’s graduate programs. (I earned a master’s degree in labor and policy studies from ESC in 1999.) From the many discussions I had with faculty and administrators, I could tell that workplace bullying registered with them as a topic worthy of attention. My former thesis adviser told me how pleased he was to see one of his current students citing my work on workplace bullying, and I was interviewed at length on the topic for the alumni magazine.
It is noteworthy that within academic circles, the attention given to workplace bullying is bubbling up mainly from the grassroots. Many of the leading researchers are from state colleges and regional universities, not from elite private schools. Their research often embraces, rather than avoids, practical applications. Among the graduate students who are researching and writing about workplace bullying, many have returned to academe after some time in the real world. It makes eminent sense that many are enrolled in distance learning and flexible degree programs that accommodate their busy schedules, support independent study, and encourage them to draw inspiration and insight from their own work experiences.