Just say know: Tim Wilson wants to change the world– one story at a time

UVA psych professor Timothy Wilson’s book Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change begins with a horror story. A police officer in Florida is the first to arrive at a house engulfed in flames. There are screams for help coming from the structure, and through a window the officer sees a trapped man. The officer tries to break down the heavily bolted front door, but when it finally gives way, it’s too late.

“He was curled up like a baby in in his mother’s womb,” says the officer. “That’s what someone burned to death looks like.”

The next day, when the officer reads the local newspaper, he realizes the victim was a friend. The officer couldn’t sleep or eat, and so his superiors scheduled a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, which is basically a therapy session with professional counselors designed to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder. Survivors of the 9/11 attacks and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings underwent similar interventions.

Sounds like the compassionate, common sense things to do, right? READ MORE

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Leadership fitness: Did Dragas engage in plus-sized bullying?

Given the lack of specific, convincing reasons that Rector Helen Dragas has given for forcing the resignation of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, what really motivated the decision has become a mystery. What if a visceral, even unconscious, prejudice against Sullivan’s physical appearance, manner, or gender contributed to the undignified way in which her firing was handled?

“The problem here,” says UVA Faculty Senate chair George Cohen, “is I haven’t seen any evidence that President Sullivan wasn’t capable of addressing the University’s challenges or problems.”

UVA’s Larry Sabato has called the process leading up to the decision “absolutely outrageous.”

“There wasn’t a scintilla of transparency in it,” he told Richmond Station NBC12 in a rare interview. “This has given us the worst two weeks of publicity since I’ve been associated with the University, and that was 42 years ago. I’m sick at heart.”

Sabato likened the ouster to a military “command and control” operation, and said that the only cure for the blunder was to reinstate President Sullivan.

For many, however, the question remains: What on earth were Dragas and company thinking? According to one source, Dragas assured UVA ‪Provost John Simon‬ that the fall-out from the firing would blow over in a “couple of days.” What might have lead to such short-sighted, foolish thinking? READ MORE

Bully buster? VQR spurs UVA launch of ‘respectful workplace’

"We will not tolerate retaliation against an employee who reports an incident," says UVA President Teresa Sullivan.

A year-and-a-half after the suicide of the Virginia Quarterly Review’s managing editor Kevin Morrissey launched a national debate about whether it was the scene of workplace bullying, UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan has launched the Respect@UVA program, a comprehensive workplace initiative designed to promote “kindness, dignity and respect.”

But one workplace bullying expert thinks the reforms announced February 15 don’t go far enough.

Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, contends that bullying should be put in the context of real violence to avoid letting programs like this get “shackled by all its shortcomings.”

READ MORE

Rotunda rehab: Good-bye and good-riddance to magnolias?

UVA architect David Neuman says the magnolias need to come down.

As UVA gears up to begin a $4.7 million roof replacement project for the Rotunda, part of a planned $50 million restoration of Thomas Jefferson’s famous centerpiece on the Lawn, a major visual transformation of the UNESCO World Heritage site (along with Monticello, one of only four in the country) could take place before the first piece of old sheet metal is removed.

According to a statement by University architect David Neuman, the six 100-year-old magnolias in the two courtyards that flank the Rotunda need to be removed, both because they have become a danger to the structure and because of the need to erect scaffolding for the roof work. What’s more, according to UVA’a leading Lawn historian, the giant magnolias, which have grown to the roof line and crowd the Rotunda’s curved walls, would mostly likely displease the structure’s original architect, who preferred that his major buildings “stand up and stand out” against the horizon.

However, according to over 3,000 people who signed an online petition opposing the removal of the trees, they should stay up and stay put. READ MORE

The bully pulpit: Documentary explores VQR tragedy

Last summer, the tragic suicide of Virginia Quarterly Review managing editor Kevin Morrissey, who made a 911 call reporting his own shooting down by the Coal Tower on former UVA president John Casteen’s last official day in office, made national headlines, including a segment on the Today show, which revealed a troubled office environment at the award-winning magazine and launched a discussion of so-called “workplace bullying.”

That caught the attention of New York City-based documentary filmmaker Beverly Peterson, a former bullying victim herself, who has devoted herself to telling these kinds of stories. Almost as soon as the VQR story broke, she called the VQR offices.

“Our arrival was delayed a few weeks when the Today show segment came out and no one wanted to talk on camera anymore,” says Peterson. “I was pretty surprised at the way the story was framed in that segment, so of course it only intrigued me more as events continued to unfold in both the press and the comment boards.”

Eventually, Peterson managed to get just about everyone connected with the story on camera, including VQR editor Ted Genoways, whom former VQR employee Waldo Jaquith had accused on the Today segment of treating Morrissey “egregiously” in the last few weeks of his life. Indeed, Genoways appears in Part I of the documentary, along with his wife Mary Anne, who tearfully says, “We did so much for Kevin, but it was never enough.” read more

Submission guidelines: Will the fallen VQR rise again?

For 86 years the Virginia Quarterly Review, UVA’s award-winning literary journal, had appeared on bookstore shelves and in mailboxes each season. But that publishing streak was threatened last summer when the magazine’s managing editor, 52-year-old Kevin Morrissey, took his own life. In a burst of violence and grief, the reputation of one of the nation’s oldest and most distinguished literary journals, along with that of the youthful editor who had lifted the magazine to new heights, appeared in tatters.

Eight months later, however, the magazine has managed to preserve its publishing streak, gotten nominated again for several National Magazine Awards, and has already won in the digital category for an interactive website about the war in Afghanistan.

Despite the cloud that had been hanging over VQR, the good news suggests things are back to normal.

Or are they? (read more)