1
Experience level: 
Intermediate
Intended Audience: 
All
Authors: 
Benjamin Anderson, Caroline Chen, Craig Davis, George Whaley

Timing is Everything: Handling bullying in academia

Reed Billings, a tenured faculty member at Bay State University (BSU), filed an official grievance against professor Frank Burns, the assistant director of the School of Management (SOM). Although Billings had not been the recipient of Burns’s confrontational behavior, he believed that a recent outburst by Burns towards an untenured non-Ph.D. faculty member was enough to be considered workplace bullying. Billings felt that he needed to do something beyond informally talking with Burns about how his behavior was doing irreparable harm to the School. Further, because the SOM Director indicated he would not address this situation until a grievance was filed and other faculty felt powerless to submit a grievance, Billings felt that the task fell upon his shoulders. When reflecting upon his submission of the grievance, he wondered whether his grievance was on solid ground based on academic freedom principles, BSU policy, and state and federal laws at the time and he was uncertain as to the eventual outcome. Students are asked to analyze concepts related to these topics to assess whether the College Professional Ethics Committee should rule in favor of Billings’ grievance. This critical incident case is an embryo submission.