Surviving the Panopticon -pt 1

I’ve been involved in whistleblowing at a Scottish University. This is a simple sentence. An understatement. It’s eroded me since 2017.  Endless advice to keep my head down, not to give evidence, stay out of the firing line, to look after my self by looking/walking away. An old boss (now pal) said I fight with walls in the face of injustice. She said this with love. It is why she hired me.

As a whistleblower, there are several narratives that surround me- none of them complimentary. I guess the best I heard recently was “what did they get you on?“. I am writing to you to tell my story of surviving the panopticon. Not being silent. I write because the team, division and institution remain in denial. This blog has had over 5,000 visitors. It is my strongest platform.

I entirely understand why people look away. Why my colleagues kept their heads down. Why, when a graduating student submitted a full account of University staff bullying of students within an NHS clinic as part of her dissertation, two female colleagues silently read it. Together. Did nothing. shrugged and said. We have no power. There is relational ownership within the team that’s more important.

The Team, The Pack ©mactheunbecomingacademic (2018)

Meetings are conducted without agendas and the atmosphere becomes an agenda. These same people later fuelled derogatory and discriminatory counter-narratives when I spoke out. They still are. I had been an undergrad and postgrad student and then their colleague in this panopticon. Thirteen years of my life. They’ve now forgotten who I am. I broke the cardinal rule. Hunt as a pack. It ends with covert and overt exclusion. I accept this openly for my own well being.

Time back, parallel universes, would I do it again? Yes.

2019, currently there is an internal investigation into the cover up of alleged bullying, harassment and sexual assault of different or perceived weaker students by staff. I have also now reported it outwith the institution. These mechanisms have been ineffective so far, I don’t have a lot of hope.

In case anyone is confused, what I have reported is overt and covert discrimination and abuse of people who are different by those in more powerful positions. This is oppressive practice and forms oppression. Apparently, this is a new concept for institutions…

I reported this since 2014 as a lecturer. I was also one of the many students subject to it. I was told by human resources not to give evidence. Told as a student to withdraw complaints. So nah, I don’t have faith in the internal investigation.


I reported it consistently throughout the last two years as an employee. Years before this,  students complaints to the Scottish Ombudsman were upheld. Recommendations made. No action was taken. The team blamed others. Spoke with degradation. I cringed. Watching them bed into their firmly held rule. Hunt as a pack. Attack. Fear difference. Changed nothing.

The university administration have done what all administrations do. Denied there is a problem. Then scapegoat a few people they want to get rid of, fuelled the few bad apples narrative. Deny there is a problem.

I continued to report to anyone who listened. I have endless evidence. They tell me to move along/nothing to see here/get a sense of humour/make an individual complaint about one person. I say. No good, it embeds anger, denial and does not change the culture. The culture that continuously covered up repetitive abuses of power.

I ask for reparative measures to stop further abuses of power. I beg for anti-oppressive practice training. HR. Management. look blankly mouths loose.

The slow expulsion from the team over those months was painful. I loved them. I wanted it to change. I wanted them to see my actions as they were, not as an attack.

A colleague once said ‘when does a pattern become a carpet? ‘ when we were discussing this abusive culture. When we say ‘look! see the pattern! ‘ the institution shrugs replying ‘no that is our carpet‘.  

The administration is running out of carpets to hide under.

If YOU are in a position of power, you have power. You have power over some other human/s. In this neoliberal world, YOU are being paid for holding that power. So. YOU must hold your own self to account.

Catherine Riley

When you witness patterns of behaviour that involve repetitive abuses of power. You look away. I understand why. You feel powerless in the Panopticon of Power. YOU abuse your power. 

Try this: Turn up, tell the truth and let go of the outcome. Act with love. When you don’t, you collude and do damage.

How do you hold your power?

© Mac The Unbecoming Academic 2019





7 thoughts on “Surviving the Panopticon -pt 1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.