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  • Writer's pictureClara Wajngurt

What Can Students Do When the Bully Is Their Professor?

Many times, we as students are working with teachers and professors who have hired us, let's say to do science research in a research laboratory or to work in a language lab, or Math Center or remedial center. After a few weeks we find that our teachers and professors are speaking harshly to us, verbally insulting us, and keeping us from advancing on our jobs by sabotaging or isolating us. You say to yourself-this can't be--something is wrong with my thinking! But there is nothing wrong with your thinking-this is actually happening and we as students must do something about it---by speaking up.

The problem is that this occurs too frequently (Huang, Táng & Adler; March 20, 2022). Especially senior faculty and administrators can threaten, shame, belittle, retaliate against

graduate teaching assistants, women, and diverse groups. The students become stunned-and they are forced to change career paths because of some obnoxious professor. Have you heard of certain professors at the University of San Diego calling their research assistants lazy and stupid? And this is not specific to the University of California system - it exists in higher education all across the country.

A study quoted by the above authors (Huang, Tang and Adler) emanating from Michigan State University and Wake Forest University found that 'academic bullying-sustained hostile behavior exhibited by one's superior was rampant in higher education.' And students are so paralyzed by their academic superiors that they don't even report the incidents! These supervisors act like know-it-alls-subjugating their targets.

So, you complain to the administration and the administration does nothing! Why? Because many of these professors are world renowned and bring lots of money into their colleges and universities. Now who wants to mess with that? So, the university tolerates the behavior of these professors.

But we must fight back---students must fight collectively and speak to the Boards, the Unions, etc. in order to expose these problems. Some even go to the newspapers to expose the academic problem of bullying in higher education. Our colleges and universities must commit themselves to contractual statements that address bullying in their contracts. Bullying must be reported without fear of retaliation and must be subject to some college grievance process. When this is done students can safely continue with their chosen majors and interests, so they can pursue their career interests.

By acting together collectively, students can force their colleges to face the rampant bullying around us. Do not give up!


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