Dialogue Strategies

Anti-bullying in Academia

The Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence at UAA, in partnership with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, United Academics, and the UAA Provost’s office, has created a booklet and film designed to help launch productive discussions on faculty-to-faculty bullying on campuses across the country and beyond.

The film, “Toxic Friday,” is based on a script and live theater performance that depict some of the most common forms of toxic behavior within academic departments.  The scriptwriter conducted a series of interviews with faculty members at three universities, as well as Human Resources and union personnel.  The resulting piece was then “workshopped” with faculty input, and performed multiple times at the UAA campus prior to being turned into a film.

The accompanying booklet and discussion describes the challenge of academic bullying and toxic behavior in higher education and the ways in which UAA and other campuses are responding to that challenge, including through the innovative use of interactive theater.  It includes the script that formed the basis for the film, as well as notes about the “backstories” created by the actors that inform a “talkback” session that follows live performances of the script.  In that session, actors remain in character and respond to questions from the audience about their motivations.  They either respond publicly, in which case the other actors can hear their responses, or privately, in which case they can share more honestly about their feelings, opinions, and behaviors.  The booklet also contains a series of questions and suggestions for conducting in-depth and constructive discussions after audiences view the film or live performance of “Toxic Friday”.

UAA hopes that, taken together, these two resources will provide the necessary support to promote widespread discussions about next steps to take to ensure that all faculty work in safe and supportive environments.