How academic mobbing works

Kenneth Westhues, professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo, himself a victim of such a campaign, devoted himself to the topic for decades. In his 2006 book, The Envy of Excellence: Administrative Mobbing of High-Achieving Professors, Westhues developed a list of criteria to identify true mobbing. Amongst them:

  • The target is popular and high-achieving. Mediocre performers tend not to arouse the eliminative impulse in peers.
  • Unanimity prevails among colleagues: “The loss of diverse opinion is a compelling indication that eliminative fury has been unleashed.”
  • The charges are vague and fuzzy.
  • Rumours and gossip circulate about the target’s misdeeds: “Did you hear what she did last week?”
  • Unusual timing of the decision to punish, e. g., apart from the annual performance review.
  • The adding up of the target’s real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.
  • A lack of due process.
  • The rhetoric is overblown. “The more fervent, excited and overwrought the language used against the target, the less likely is the basis for exclusion of anything but a collective will to destroy.”
  • The target is seen as personally abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.

An Academic Mobbing at McGill