The Hook Investigates VQR

In the current Hook is one of the longest articles that I recall them publishing: Dave McNair’s investigation into the suicide of VQR’s Kevin Morrissey. There’s a lot more information, and better sourced information, than in the Chronicle of Higher Education piece, published last week. Perhaps the most interesting revelation in the article is that there was a 32-year veteran of the UVA-published magazine who says she was forced out by editor Ted Genoways in 2005; after she filed a harassment complaint against him, the university gave her a severance package. She calls Genoways “a danger” who “should not be in charge of other people.”

Obligatory disclaimer: I work for VQR, I’ve accepted a new job elsewhere at the university, this is super awkward to write about, and I’ve lost all perspective as to when I should write about this on and when I shouldn’t. Based on the explosion of comments on The Hook’s site this afternoon and evening, though, it looks like people are still pretty interested.

35 thoughts on “The Hook Investigates VQR”

  1. Perhaps the most interesting revelation in the article is that there was a 32-year veteran of the UVA-published magazine who says she was forced out by editor Ted Genoways in 2005;

    I wouldn’t worry about “perspective” just now. That tidbit from the Hook is a worthy tidbit. Sharing it on is equally worthy.

  2. Waldo,

    Given how painful this must be for you, and your close friends, you have done an incredible job of being a professional news guy. Being so close to this, you may not realize, or perhaps you do, that this is a national story with the possibility of bringing much needed change in boss/employee relations, not only at UVA, but institutions all over the country.

  3. Waldo:

    Yes, people are very interested indeed.

    I think you’re striking the right balance. Please continue.

  4. Agree with what Hawkins Dale wrote.

    People are interested and I feel like this site has done well to do what is always does, which is aggregate news from other sources relevant to the Charlottesville area.

  5. Thank you, Waldo. Agreed with all above, especially Grateful Citizen. The comments you’ve provided, for instance the one at the Hook site about confidentiality agreements, have been very helpful. In allowing an open forum at cvillenews where people could speak freely about Mr Morrissey and the problems at VQR, you started the ball rolling. And that ball certainly needed to roll.

    In my opinion, Dave McNair deserves a journalism award for his article. However, my feelings are tempered with sadness that the article came about because of this tragedy.

    People are writing online and off about their own bullying experiences. Some of what I’ve heard that’s happening in our own backyard in Cville is extremely disturbing. One can only hope that shedding sunlight on this issue will lead to some much-needed positive changes.

  6. The DP did a story today about opening an investigation.

    Throughout this tragedy I have not commented. I do want to say that this bullying behavior is rampent at UVA, especially at the hospital. I hope with a new president she will work to stop this from going on. I believe HR needs to be investgated also as to how they handled this situation.

    UVA won’t hire me and I am beginning to believe that may be a good thing. I do understand the feelings of hopelessness and frustration Kevin must have felt. I feel it every day myself.

    And Waldo, I am so so sorry for all of this. I wanted to write you a private email but I couldn’t find a non work email address for you.

    Hang in there.

  7. I’m think I’m on the UVA “black-ball” list, too. Back about ten years ago I worked for the UVA “temp” service. It was pretty good because the hours and the assignments were flexible and the pay was as good or better than places in the private sector like Manpower, etc. Anyway, I guess I ran up against one of those workplace bullies because I got in a riff with the boss lady and I haven’t been able to get an interview for anything since, no matter how perfectly qualified I was for the position. Back then I had two things going against me…I didn’t take crap, and I didn’t kiss butt. So you can’t get too far at any workplace with that attitude. I learned that the hard way. Hey Waldo, let me know if you need an assistant.

  8. Yup. I’m sure I have the DO NOT HIRE flag on my file. Of course they deny it. I worked there for 12 years with a good record when I left. I’ve applied for 20 jobs and not one interview.

    But as I said–maybe it’s a good thing.

  9. Of course there is a flag on your file. It is called a “verbal warning” or the like and describes, in detail, all facts that would cause a place to look elsewhere in an economy such as this.

    Why mess with someone who has a problem history.

    Really, just ask the Charlottesville School District about this….

  10. Re: the “Do Not Hire Flag”.

    I tried for a few “years” to land some sort of job at UVA- without success.

    And then- right after the “Charter Reform” crap was passed and implemented… I got all sorts of invitations from UVA to “re-apply” for any of the number of jobs I was trying to get hired for.

    In my situation it was… Too little too late.

    Of course under the new “charter reform” I would have been little better than a “private company” type of employee since Charter reform eliminated any of the benefits of state employment at UVa.

  11. The original charter legislation was far worse than the one that Warner finally signed. I spent many a day in Richmond lobbying the bill to keep ome of the state benefits.

    What Sullivan needs to do now is bring in a regular staff person-not a highly paid administrator-into her office with reporting lines directly to her.No ties to HR. Then when an issue comes up like bullying, harrassment, racism or discrimination there would be a regular worker to listen to another worker about the problem. No intimidation by an HR person or the formality of the ombudsman. And Sullivan would be aprised of the situation and hopefully handle it appropriately. Not every little omplaint, just the really serious life changing ones like what we are hearing now. It appears the VQR staff followed all the right protocols and still found no relief.
    It’s a tragedy.

  12. FWIW, Ted Genoways is still the editor of VQR, which means he’s still in charge of our work on the issue, and is telling us what to do.

    I never could have forecast that the university would allow us to remain in this situation. Hence, Wednesday is my last day, finished issue or no.

  13. Just posted this also at the Hook:

    Is it true what Waldo Jaquith posted late last night? Is Ted Genoways still — or again — in charge of the Virginia Quarterly Review, in the middle of this tragic mess he seems to have helped create? Are his supervisors at the university so arrogant, or clueless, or dumb, or fettered by their own bureaucratic chains that they have not yet placed him on some kind of leave, at the very least? Or, even worse, have they reinstated him to oversee the magazine and its staff, while they are conducting an investigation into allegations of numerous serious transgressions by Mr. Genoways himself, into his purported violations of university rules and regulations, and into suspicions of collusion by the former university president’s office? If this is indeed true, have the people responsible for such boneheaded fortress mentality completely lost their faculty of judgment? Do they believe they can make the scandal — more and more a scandal of national dimensions and implications — go away by circling their wagons?

  14. go away by circling their wagons?

    It’s the UVA way! Especially when lawyers become involved. I would have hoped he’d be on administrative leave at least during the investigation. Is there anyone working there except for him now???

  15. Waldo, I hope you have a plan to begin to recover – I have long appreciated your work on this site and I am so sorry you have ended up in the middle of the aftermath of this tragedy.

  16. Waldo, I am very glad to hear that you have a new job, and I would like to echo the appreciative comments above. You have been and you continue to do a great job reporting on/relaying links to this. Which is pretty amazing under the circumstances. You are a true journalist, and an honorable and good person. Many thanks for all of that. I’m glad you do what you do.

  17. Hey Waldo, saw you on The Today Show this morning (Mon.). Good stand-up piece and along with comments. Lighting was OK. I think they got your good side.

  18. Lord, that’s the least of my worries. I just made myself watch it, and managed not to vomit. It was awfully one-sided, which I guess I should be happy about…but the story’s not that simple. I shouldn’t be surprised that they skipped all of my nuanced remarks and just used the simpler ones, but I still don’t like it. And it’s not true that Kevin blamed Ted in his note. That’s a fabrication.

    Argh. Another morning in which I’m too sick to eat.

  19. Waldo, you did just fine. These things are always edited to death, and that’s very frustrating.

    On a positive note, I was surprised that they spent a good deal of time on the story. Only wish they’d mentioned that others had trouble at VQR as well, and that staff was impacted collectively.

    If the goal is to shine light on the topic of workplace bullying, then the Today Show piece certainly did that. Though not bullied in the same way Kevin was, I was mobbed at work about 6 years ago. After 4 months straight of this, I left before I had a nervous breakdown. Leaving a job wouldn’t be possible in today’s economy, nor at my age.

  20. Waldo- Despite the inaccuracy you pointed out, the Today segment may help others reconsider how they treat people in the workplace.
    I hope that you will be able to take some time later this week to focus on your own needs.
    Also, I hope that you have a situation with your VQR coworkers where you can continue to give each other support in the weeks ahead.
    And, this may be heresy, but if a thread on another site is hijacked by idiots, please don’t waste time/emotion on the nonsense.

  21. Waldo,

    You showed great courage in going on the record with the Today show, and I admire you tremendously for that act of bravery. It is a tribute to Kevin Morrissey–your speaking truth to power.


  22. I think the irony regarding the Today Show piece is that their industry (the Entertainment Industry) ranks number one in the type of “workplace bullying” that they are reporting on. They all know good and well what it looks like first hand, but they get up there and pretend its something they’ve never experienced in their sheltered lives.

    And the 2nd half of the Today Show segment- the Q&A interview with the “expert” – that was a total joke.

  23. It’s very kind of y’all to say that. I have to admit that it doesn’t feel at all like bravery. This was something I decided to do rashly, I selected my words only very cautiously, and I barely worked up the nerve to watch the video just once.

    For many years now, I’ve carried around John J. Chapman’s commencement address to the graduating class of Hobart College in 1900 in my wallet, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot in the past few days. I’m in danger of becoming the cautionary story that Chapman provides. And that’s not bravery—that’s a festering mix of cowardice and opportunism.


  24. Is anyone left at VQR? The masthead has dropped all names but Genoways and Levinson-Lebrosse, as has the contact page?

    Is anybody IN the office? Is this a protest or a shuttering?

  25. Thanks for sharing Chapman’s words. I needed to read that very much on this particular afternoon.

    Will print out and add to my existing wallet advice:
    “We are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect.”
    —Robert Jordan

  26. About the masthead: I notice that David Rubin, chair of the poetry board, has also left the VQR.

  27. Dahmius & Jan,

    Bear in mind that a great many of the jobs advertised by the University are not actually available. Very often a position is going to be filled from within by someone who is already an obvious choice. Like if the manager of the Department of XYZ quits and the assistant manager has been there for 8 years and has done a good job and knows their way around then its only fair to give them the promotion. But as a publicly funded entity, UVa is legally required to pretend that this position is actually available to apply for. They place ads and accept applications. They might even go through a charade of conducting some interviews, but its all perfunctory. People who don’t know how this works will apply for these jobs and don’t understand why they can’t get anywhere.

  28. Yup Jack. That’s why i stopped applying for jobs at UVA. No use. But there is a ton of nepotism. HR needs to be investigated big time. Not only for what happened at VQR but what happens every day there. I worked there for 12 years. Perfect record. Now I cannot get an interview for jobs that I am way over qualified for?


  29. Huh? They’re just bringing me for “window dressing”, eh? Well, that’s OK. It’s good practice, and who knows, maybe I might outshine the internal candidate. But I did notice on the jobs@uva site that most openings have a “for current uva employees” only designation on them. Or something like that. It just seems if you can’t get a job in this town with the city, the county, or UVA, you’re stuck being a sous chef or a hedge fund manager.

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