Academic bullying. In what ways does it manifest itself? When does it occur? Why does it exist? And most importantly, how can bullying be eliminated and an affirming environment for graduate education be enhanced? The questions are many, the answers actually complex.
Academic bullying has become increasingly more visible in the past few years and might even to appear as being more tolerated in higher education today. One comprehensive study was conducted and the results published in 2011 by John M. Braxton, Eve Proper, and Alan E. Bayer entitled Professors Behaving Badly: Faculty Misconduct in Graduate Education.
Several other books on bullying have been written in the last few years. Articles, reports and coverage within the higher education media (see articles in Chronicle of Higher Education, InsideHigherEd) occur with some frequency. Bullying exists in higher education and Graduate Schools must assume a leadership role in addressing the concerns for graduate education and graduate students.
Although the terminology of ‘academic bullying’ is recent, the emphasis upon quality of and for graduate education extends back to at least the 1990s including prominent examples from AAU and the AAUP. The Association of American Universities (AAU) established the Committee on Graduate Education and issued its report calling on universities to examine graduate education programs (AAU GradEd report). Shortly thereafter in 1999, the AAUP established policy about graduate education and resources for graduate students. Mentoring, collegial relationships and affirming education + equitable employment conditions were important and remain so. Civility should be the expectation and bullying should not be tolerated.
Today, most if not all of the U.S. Graduate Schools now have statements and documents in which they articulate the established principles for graduate education frequently referred to as principles or guiding principles, codes, or expectations. Even though the terminology of ‘academic bullying’ might not be specifically mentioned, the intent of these documents is to articulate the expectations for quality graduate education and an affirming climate for graduate students. This is the approach taken by the Virginia Tech Graduate School. We entitled our document Expectations for Graduate Study in which the expectations for graduate students, faculty, departments/programs and the Graduate School were articulated. A website was created along with a summary of the expectations Expectation_Glance_2011.
The VT Graduate School is committed to enhancing the graduate education experience and providing opportunities for graduate students to thrive. We are changing the paradigm from survival, silence and acceptance of status quo to transforming graduate education. The conversation about academic bullying will continue. Watch for additional blog posts, information about models and promising practices, and ways to share concerns anonymously.