The writer of the June 4 letter “Retaliation fears real for Penn State workers” highlights fear of retaliation among Penn State employees in the areas of finance and business, writing that “The folks concerned about retaliation for reporting wrongdoing are not the people in the academic units, not the people in athletics.”
Fear of retaliation for reporting concerns is also real and justified for staff and faculty — non-tenure line and tenure line — across the university.
I have seen or had described to me retaliation, or its threat, used by supervisory staff against their direct reports; by department heads and deans against faculty; by department heads against associate deans; and by deans against department heads.
And I have learned from colleagues at other campuses that the problems they face are as serious than those faced at University Park.
In the examples that I am aware of, taking a report of retaliation — or its threat — “up the food chain,” to human resources or to the ombudsman office is ineffective at best; at worst, it compounds the problem.
At Penn State, retaliation is not isolated; it is systemic.
It is part of a suite of condign “management tools” that are deeply embedded in this very hierarchical institution’s DNA. I was heartened by Vice President David Gray’s admission that the fear exists; however, it will take much more than an admission, or a set of forums, to transform the Penn State that is into the one that it could be.
Lee Samuel Finn