Mobbing at the University of Toronto: The Trial,
Degradation, and Dismissal of a Professor During the Presidency of J.
Edwin Mellen Press, 2004.
This book is a work of
compassionate advocacy, a brief
for the defense by a professor of sociology who has himself been
(later exonerated) by academic process run wild. In his detailed
account of the
dismissal of Herbert Richardson, Professor of Religious Studies at St.
Michael’s College in the University of Toronto on the charge of “gross
1994, Westhues charts and establishes a new field of sociological
“academic mobbing.” Boxed text summarizes some
“compare and contrast” case studies (including my own), plus an
appendix of nine
on the book
(but unfortunately not including one from the
Academic Mobbing reads like a “who-dunnit,” or
“what-dunnit,” because it is only on page 231 that we learn what Richardson is convicted of. In the
up, allegations included bad teaching, abuse of students,
neglect, plagiarism, scholarly misrepresentation, disloyalty to
teaching (!), mis-using a four-month medical leave, and failing to
activities in “Mellen Enterprises” ─ the Edwin Mellen Press (which his
opponents labeled a “vanity press,” and, it must be noted, published Academic Mobbing), and Mellen University
(which, perhaps because it is chartered in the West Indies, accusers
biography is fascinating. Born in
1932 in Baltimore, Maryland, he was reared in Lakewood, Ohio, in a downwardly mobile but
politically liberal WASP
family. Forbidden by his father from joining any “Whites only”
fraternity, Richardson became part of a racially mixed
pre-theology students at Baldwin-Wallace College, outside of Cleveland. In 1955 he did graduate work
at Boston University with Martin Luther King, Jr. as
From 1956-62 he completed a doctorate at Harvard University Divinity School where he also served as
Professor from 1962 to 1968.
1968, Richardson became the first Protestant theologian
the Roman Catholic faculty of St. Michael’s during the ecumenical
which he identified. Achievement-oriented,
self-confident, hard-working, free-thinking, and entre-preneurial
suggests Richardson’s quintessentially American, Protestant,
personality was sure to create friction eventually.
to Westhues, the trigger for the “mobbing” was theological differences.
example was Richardson’s 1971 book on sexuality and women’s issues,
Nun, Witch, Playmate: The Americanization of
Sex (Harper & Row). Then there was Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, tagged by opponents as a “cult” which Richardson defended from 1976 to 1985, even testifying
the U.S. Senate on the legitimacy of religious conversion. More
his 1974 founding of the Edwin Mellon Press in Lewiston, New York, building it into a 3 million dollar a year
publishing house, with four thousand titles by 2001.
attendance had fallen dramatically. Theological careers were
Ecumenism suffered as conservative Popes and administrators took power.
1986, Richardson and St. Michael’s were seriously at odds. Despite his
productivity — 20 books published (authored, edited, or translated); 25
dissertations and 30 Master’s theses directed, many of them
published; a distinguished teaching award; 100 invited talks at other
universities and seminaries — his request for a year’s leave of absence
(without pay) was denied. His Dean wrote that the college would “not be
destitute” if he decided his future lay elsewhere.
Richardson refused to sign the theology bylaws the
demanded in 1989 as part of a new contract, saying they violated his
freedom, each side engaged attorneys. In 1991 Richardson lost his temper in class, shouting at his
“Get Out! Get Out! Get Out!” Students complained, reporting their fear
“violent, abusive behavior.” Another protested to six administrators
that Richardson questioned the seriousness of the problem of
against women on campus. (However, he usually got high teacher
tribunal struck down the charges of bad teaching and poor scholarship.
charges sustained against Richardson
non-disclosure of information about Mellen Press and Mellen University, alleged conflicts of interest, and the
caused, plus the charge of abusing a medical leave. Westhues succeeds
in his brief for Richardson’s defense and also in documenting the
phenomenon, although I thought he tap-danced around the creation of Mellen University, saying he found it less interesting to
While I know of colleagues who have (very legitimately) started
houses and other businesses, I know of none who have started another
members will enjoy this book. Worthy of a screenplay, it will serve as
source book for many years to come.
Westhues, a SAFS member, is Professor of Sociology at the University of
author of Race,
Evolution, and Behavior
J. Philippe Rushton, also a SAFS member,
is professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario.
Newsletter, April 2004-Text