Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Myrna Olson


The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of graduate students and faculty members who experienced bullying as a result of their role in higher education. Phenomenological exploration of this topic involved interviews with 14 participants; seven graduate students and seven faculty members. Power as described by Foucault (1994) was used as theoretical framework for this research. Findings from the study revealed institutions of higher education exploit power through differentiation, institutionalization, instrumental modes, types of objectives, and rationalization. Age, gender, life experiences, and positional rank were differentials found between the subject and aggressor. Institutionalization was expressed through the policies and procedures ingrained within higher education. Participants revealed role authority and being bound to rules were often protective of bullies, making it difficult to bring a complaint forward. Bullies sought different types of objectives by increasing leverage in their current position and protecting themselves from potential threats. Yelling, defamation, and isolation were ways the bullying behaviors occurred, and were rationalized as personality differences or inability to address the behavior. Victims experienced life-changing impacts, ultimately resulting in deteriorated mental and physical health, requiring the use of anti-anxiety medications and in extreme cases, forced victims to leave academia permanently. Creating a system with support that offers victim protection and authority to implement changes is important to addressing this issue in higher education.