Academic Bullying: A Barrier to Tenure and Promotion for African-American Faculty

By Frazier, Kimberly N. | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Academic Bullying: A Barrier to Tenure and Promotion for African-American Faculty


Frazier, Kimberly N., Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


Traditionally academics were identified as white males and universities across the nation have made efforts to change the makeup of their traditional white male faculty into one that reflects diverse backgrounds. This diversity of faculty is often obtained through initiatives and strategies specifically focused on increasing the numbers of faculty of color on traditional campuses. Despite a discerned effort, current representation of faculty of color is very low and one many believe the reason is due to universities focusing on the recruitment rather than the retention of African American faculty (Thompson, 2008; Trower & Chait, 2002). Further, despite anti-discrimination legislation, affirmative action initiatives, and higher numbers of Black students graduating with doctorates, African American faculty are underrepresented in colleges and universities (Allen, Epps, Guillory, Suh, & Bonous-Hammarth, 2000). Adding to the difficulty of retaining faculty of color is the critical role tenure and promotion plays. Workplace issues that have been identified as barriers to the promotion and tenure for African American faculty include lack of personal time, Institutional climate, review/promotion process, marginalization of research, lack of mentoring, and covert discrimination. These barriers to tenure and promotion serve to disrupt the ability of faculty of color to perform in their faculty roles satisfactorily and impact their socialization towards promotion and tenure (Patitu & Hinton, 2003; Thompson, 2008). In addition, academic bullying has also served to limit faculty of color in their ability to attain tenure and promotion on traditional campuses. The purpose of this paper is to introduce and define the term academic bullying as it relates to workplace bullying. In addition a review of literature outlining the issue of tenure and promotion for African American faculty, a case example that illuminates academic bullying incidents, and recommendations for bullied faculty are also given.

Academic and Workplace Bullying

Current literature surrounding the experience of faculty of color in academia is deficit model focused and looks at ways the faculty can improve the experience rather than the system and people who contribute to the experience (West-Olatunji, 2005). The concept of workplace bullying has not been introduced into academic literature and the academic bullying concept provides the link between workplace bullying and bullying in the academy. Academic bullying is a concept being introduced that looks at systematic long-term interpersonal aggressive behavior as it occurs in the academic workplace setting in both covert and overt forms against faculty who are unable to defend themselves against the aggressive behavior committed by faulty in power in the workplace. These aggressive behaviors can take the form of racial microagressions, marginalization, and covert and overt forms of racism as it relates to the faculty of color's research, teaching, collegiality, and overall institutional climate in the workplace.

Brodsky's (1976) work The Harassed Worker is regarded as the first document interest regarding workplace bullying. Brodsky's book details the stories of people being subjected to long-term harassment in the workplace by fellow colleagues and superiors in the workplace. Increased interest in bullying in the workplace as incidents of lack of civility, emotional abuse and workplace harassment have increased. For incidents to be labeled bullying the following must be present: (1) an imbalance of power between the person being bullied and the person inflicting the bullying, (2) the behaviors must be systematic and occur in a long-term time frame, and (3) those being bullied must find it difficult to defend or retaliate against those inflicting the bullying behavior. Researchers have defined bullying in the workplace as a escalating process in which one person become the target of systematic negative social acts between one person in an inferior position and another person in a superior position. …

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