VQR's Genoways: Did bully defense lead to code offense?

After last summer's suicide of Virginia Quarterly Review managing editor Kevin Morrissey, the Hook obtained a series of emails from editor Ted Genoways that revealed "poisonous" tensions between the staff, accusations of "workplace bullying," his banishment of Morrissey and another staff member from the office for unexplained "unacceptable workplace behavior," and his frustration and anger with both colleagues and co-workers. Nearly a year later, another email fired off by Genoways has surfaced– and it could get him in some hot water. 

After Washington Post reporter Daniel de Vise wrote a May 3 story about grieving sister Maria Morrissey speaking at a news conference in support of proposed New York legislation on workplace bullying, Genoways took issue with de Vise's reporting and fired off a stern email to him and his editor Victoria Benning.

"I see that you have, once again, written about me without speaking to me– or, apparently, anyone else at the University of Virginia," Genoways wrote.

Genoways went on to defend himself against the suggestion that he was a 'workplace bully' by mentioning various statements that VQR staff members had made to the press over the last year. While the comments criticized him, he pointed out that no one had specifically used the term "bully."

But Genoways went a step further, telling de Vise that he had a tape of former circulation manager Shelia McMillen (who has been a harsh critic of Genoways in the press, and has told the Hook that she had left the magazine because of him ) making a statement  to the University in which she allegedly said of him, "He has always treated me with respect, and I have never seen him treat others with anything but respect." Genoways also offered to make the tape available to de Vise.

According to UVA officials, that's a no-no.

"UVA managers should not share personnel matters beyond the appropriate persons within the University," says University spokesperson Carol Wood.

Ironically, Wood, who said she was unaware of the tape, said she couldn't comment anyway because the contents of the tape were personnel matters. McMillen, who has retained a lawyer, is also prevented from responding for the same reason, much to her frustration. While Genoways had offered de Vise the tape, it took a Freedom of Information Act request for McMillen to get a copy.

"If this isn't a double standard, I don't know what is," she says.  

According to official UVA policy, sharing and/or falsifying such information is a "Group III" violation of UVA's Codes of Conduct, which can result in immediate discharge, suspension without pay, or a demotion or transfer with a deduction in salary.

Both Thomas Skalak, VP for research and Genoways' new boss, and Susan Carkeek, VP for Human Resources, declined to respond to questions concerning the appropriateness of Genoways' use of the tape and whether any disciplinary action would be taken. Genoways was asked to confirm the existence of the tape and the accuracy of the statement he claimed to have pulled from it, but he has yet to respond.

Meanwhile, it appears that UVA is continuing to pour money into VQR, which recently found itself in the winners circle again at the National Magazine Awards, taking home a fiction prize and one for an interactive website about Afghanistan. This despite an internal review of its operations ordered by incoming President Teresa Sullivan last fall, which revealed, among other dysfunctions, a less than frugal approach to spending.

Indeed, while subscription rates have been plummeting, the VQR budget had risen from roughly $200,000 in 2003 to nearly $800,000 in 2009-2010, with nearly $500,000 drawn from its endowment between October 2006 and June 2009. Today, VQR appears to have just 1,156 paid subscribers, a more than 60 percent drop since the summer of 2008.

Still, in addition to Genoways' $170,000 compensation package, three positions have been approved: an office manager with a hiring range between $35,422 - $58,319, a web editor ($42,000 - $74,000), and most lucrative, a new publisher position with a hiring range between $62,396 and $155,981.

President Sullivan's report also called for the formation of a new VQR Advisory Board, the first task of which was to create a mission statement and business plan for the magazine by October 1, 2011. According to Skalak, this Advisory Board has yet to be formed.

Asked why the VQR needed a publisher, Skalak emphasizes VQR's bold new ambitions. The publisher, he says, will help grow circulation by attracting new audiences, designing events connected with the content, and enhancing revenue streams, i.e. selling advertising and obtaining donations.

"It's consistent with our vision," says Skalak, "to produce a magazine of literature and current reporting that has national impact and visibility."

Attached Documents: 


I am disappointed that Mr. Genoways is still employed by the University. His statements and behavior are incompatible with the UVA I know.

It seems a bit much to suggest that the staff positions (other than Publisher, perhaps) are "new" and that UVA is continuing to "pour money" into it -- these are roles that have been vacant that now need filling with new staff, with comparable salary ranges as they had before. And while the top range of the Publisher position is indeed, lucrative, the range itself is very broad for that kind of role. The magazine's achievements over the last 5-6 years have been remarkable -- I'm a little disappointed that The Hook seems to continue its bias and hyperbole here against the work itself. The http://assignmentafghanistan.org/ site is truly stunning.

in contrast to Col. Forbin, this story shows the UVa I know very well doing business as usual, including Genoways's attempting to bully WaPo personnel, far outside of what one would consider his sphere of influence. This story covers dark truths that have never been exposed, in part due to UVa's strange and disturbing insulation from the kind of real litigation pressures from employees and ex-employees to which almost every other peer institution is subject. thank you Dave McNair for bravely keeping an eye on this story.

It is sad what happened but since when is it my responsibility to treat you with kid gloves or go out of my way not to hurt your feelings?

Where do we draw the line between sensitivity the ability to manage others?

Unfortunate circumstances coupled with personal issues/stress/perceived "disrespect"/ and ones feeling of hopelessness would be hard to navigate properly.

Yeah, yeah, yeah....same ol' UVA rhetoric!

deleted by moderator

I enjoyed reading Mr Genoways essay on The Price of The Paperless Revolution . He really knows his stuff of what is actually going on in the world . I spend way too much time trading grass roots mining shares esp. PMs and consequently have read thousands of stories about such companies in the mining sectors of the globe . The Mountain range from upper Alaska down the West coast to bottom of Chile are ideal locations. Mr Genoways did a tremendous job of relating the thankless work of poor locals diging dirt to modern high tech . I expect he will continue to produce outstanding insight on many important areas . He has a small staff and with a big agenda so there is little room for passengers who think their job is all about a title,a pay check ,and a manager to baby them .No doubt he will be dogged by the jealous for the frivilous as he continues to pile up awards .

The term "bullying" is getting way overused in this society, big time. And this is coming from somebody who experienced a severe form of it as a child, unrelenting, nearly every day for 8 years. It's the new meme of the moment, and I see and hear people tossing it around the second somebody says anything stern, firm, or with conviction. For instance, "au contraire's" post, where they claim that Ted Genoways' email to the Washington Post constitutes "bullying." Are you out of your mind? I'm not defending Ted Genoways, and for all I know his behavior at UVa with his staff really does fall into the category of "bullying," but I'm just tired of hearing this word thrown around willy nilly nowadays, for behavior that does NOT contitute "bullying." He had a right to defend himself, and to point out that the Washington Post did not seek him out for comment when they were writing about him. People everywhere are jumping on the bandwagon labeling everybody they don't like as being a "bully," and labeling all behavior that they don't like as being "bullying." As someobdy who knows what real bullying is, firsthand, I have choice words for people who abuse that term, most of which wouldn't make it past the Hook censors. And which ironically would get *me* labeled as a bully for telling it like it is and calling out b.s.

Yes, there are real bullies out there who prey upon innocent people, but there are also people who can't handle it when somebody even so much as *looks* at them the wrong way. Both sides have some serious psychological issues. Just because somebody is super sensitive, passive and cries if you so much as give them a dirty look doesn't mean they're somehow the better one and are in the right. They need just as much help as the predator bully to become better psychologically adjusted. People need to strike a middle ground balance. Where one has a spine, a thick skin and can stand up for themselves, but where they are also not slipping into the territory of preying upon others.

Awards within many fields of endeavor can be pretty
incestuous and otherwise driven by subjectivity,
who knows who, money etc. Not always that meaningful.

i take back my use of "bullying" for WaPo. I have never thought that "workplace bullying" was the right frame for this case.

the question to ask is: why did Pres. Casteen take no action whatsoever when there were reportedly upwards of 25 phone messages to him affirming that an employee was about to attempt suicide, and directly blaming the conduct of a subordinate against whom administrative action had already been taken (at least, and reportedly more than) once in the past?

in any normal circumstance, fear of legal action (both civil and criminal) would have compelled Casteen to intervene. He did nothing. Why?

And why did Kevin M. kill himself on Pres. Casteen's final day in office?

and why has there been no legal action or even an investigation? it is not hard to develop a civil or criminal theory in which a "prudent person" standard would force inquiry in Pres. Casteen's conduct. I expected the Morrisseys to file a wrongful death lawsuit personally against Casteen and Genoways, & I think they would have done so in other jurisdictions, and I believe that it is UVa's raw power--which is what I meant in the first case by Genoways attempting to "bully" WaPo--that protects it from the kinds of inquiry and investigation to which almost all other institutions, including UVa's peer institutions, are subject.

i cannot come up with a single "reasonable" or "prudent" explanation for Pres. Casteen's actions in the days prior to Morrissey's suicide.

Tried to "Bully" The Washington Post ...Now that is a cockeyed point of view !!!

@ au contraire

I can't answer your questions about UVa's behavior and handling of the case both before and after the suicide, but I'm glad to see you retract your misuse of the term "bullying" in reference to Genoways' letter to the Washington Post.

But I will address this comment here:

"I expected the Morrisseys to file a wrongful death lawsuit personally against Casteen and Genoways...."

In this lawsuit-happy society we find ourselves currently living in, the idea of "personal responsibility" seems to no longer exist.

While Ted Genoways may have stepped over some lines in terms of his managing style (I'm not an employee and I wasn't there, so I can't confirm either way) in the end, the only one accountable for a grown man in his late 40s taking his life over his boss's managing style is the man who resorted to such drastic and permanent measures - Kevin Morrisey. I'm not trying to take anything away from Mr. Morrissey's grieving family and friends, but permanently ending one's life and doing that to their family because of problems with a boss at a - transient - job shows signs of being psychologically unbalanced. No person in their right mind - especially a grown man - kills themselves because their boss is mean. You quit your job and move on. But you don't end your entire life over some guy who doesn't matter. By taking his life, Mr. Morrissey made Ted Genoways the equivelant of a God, giving him way more importance than he deserves. And so far, nobody but me has really stepped forward to say this. Maybe because it comes across as harsh, rude, disrespectful, etc. Again, I don't mean it to be, it's said matter-of-factly.....from somebody who endured some pretty intense bullying of a personality and life altering nature for years. So I've been there, and I know how it is. You never kill yourself over bullies. They don't matter. They're nothing. Instead, you see them for what they are, and then plan and plot to get yourself out of the situation and away from them as soon as you possibly can, where you can move on to somewhere else and shine. There's a whole world out there of endless possibilities and people. One can't be so myopic as to think that their little reality bubble is all there is, and is all that matters.

Anyway, that's my passionate rant for the day.

Authors and posters are jumping to conclusions here . This is not a Code 3 violation by Mr Genoways and he has not ,therefore, overstepped his manager's responsibilities . He has not disclosed any personal confidential information whatsoever regarding an employee . He has only referred to information about himself . He has revealed nothing about McMillin only that which McMillin said about him .Under most Western standards the accused have a right to defend themselves .If i have the story correct McMillin ,on the other hand,has gone to the press about another UVA employee namly Mr Genoways . Mr Genoways then has the right under law to defend himself even on trumpet up half thought out bogus charges.

Frank you're actually "trumpet up" 'ing most of the ka ka here. Jeez man this is major gibberwocky you're spouting here. For good or ill I think UVA will be the one to decide whether or not their employee guidelines have been violated.

But on an unrelated note, what on earth does this guy do at a fluffy little lit journal that's worth $170,000? Especially when "to create a mission statement and business plan for the magazine" are, at least as presented here, tasks that *remain* to be done. I know the salaries are typically very high in Humanities publishing so perhaps this is just to be competitive.

Is this entire article based on the two-word phrase in the email "tape available"? To me, that hardly qualifies as Genoways either claiming that he has the tape or that he personally will deliver it to anyone. It could simply be that he is pointing out that the statement in question was recorded, if people doubted his word.

Another fishing expedition by this paper, and another empty Hook.

Frank Speaker: I fail to see how a tape made during a supposedly confidential internal review constitutes information that Genoways is at liberty to disseminate--or, come to that, make distasteful insinuations about (see paragraph 5, above). Further, I find it rather surprising that one would not able to secure a copy of a tape of one's own statements.

Well the idea that a code 3 violation has been made by Mr Genoways is just that . An idea amounting to a rush to judgement . Firstly he didn't release the tape but only referred to a minute portion of it that adressed solely and specifically himself . No amount of nit picking could find that against the code especially when the speaker was one of the Gang of Three Slackers trying to bully him at UVA,in the press and in the courts . If the article above is correct then she is clearly speaking with a forked toungue .

All of you Ted defenders may bleat and squawk as much as you want. If anyone is rushing to judgment you are. I don't believe the article says that Genoways has been accused of anything in a formal way. Whether Genoways has violated any rules is not up to you to decide. And since none of us readers knows all of the facts involved, what the tapes record, whether Genoways's account of them to the WaPo writer are accurate, whether he had the right to "quote" portions of them, your speculations and snarky comments about the Gang of Three Slackers is just another attempt to smear any one who doesn't bow down before the God of Ted Genoways.
Time will tell. Time will tell.

Actually there were five slackers who worked for Ted.
Oops-Alana Levinson-Labrosse couldn't have been a slacker because Ted handpicked and hired her.
Oops--he handpicked and hired the other staff/slackers too. But I bet they just sat around playing solitaire and had NOTHING to do with the many awards and nominations that VQR has received in the past few years, because Ted, so modest and willing to share the spotlight, would certainly have acknowledged any contribution they made. It's just so sad that his genius was hobbled by such inferior, lazy dolts. Thank goodness he was able to offload all of them.

Ms. Shelia McMillen needs to file a formal complaint. Under the new complaint procedures that U Va said it would implement after the Morrissey debacle exposed how an employee can send multiple pleas for help to the President's office, and a subsequent report conclude that he had never "officially" complained. Oh, wait there are no new procedures (as promised to the Board of Visitors)? Just as there is no VQR oversight board (as promised to the Board of Visitors)? And Genoways is once again looting U Va funds to overstaff a little magazine that he can successfully put out all by himself. It is no longer just Genoways' job on the line:" it is President Sullivan's. She blew it the fierst time by not firing him. The Board of Visitors will take notice of this compounded failure as enough alumni (like me) refuse to give money to an institution that wastes it prodigiously on the likes of Genoways. Time to send a letter to the Capital Campaign Committee: Include Me Out.

"1,156 paid subscribers"


Not firing Genoways and then as a 'punishment' giving him extra cookies and ice cream was President Sullivan's early public failure of leadership. Tested too early, she was not prepared for it and she understandably failed. A correctable mistake but what is troubling is it has not been corrected, and so begins to seem symptomatic of a deeper problem. On her arrival President Sullivan was so thoroughly imbued with the idea of tradition, warned U Va is full of traditions, tread carefully because you might step on a tradition--that she is now keenly afraid as the first woman President of putting a foot wrong. The Virginia Quarterly Review is a liability rather than an asset so long as it is Genoways' money coining and empire-building machine. Like the Kenyon Review which got too expensive, it could go away for ten years and nobody would notice. And it should have. But it sounded to her like a tradition. That is a major shortcoming. She is proving to lack independence of thought, self-confidence, toughness. She's timid, fearful of disturbing the status quo even when the good of the University demands it. That is not the stuff out of which leaders are made.

Or, she has more important things to worry about and is showing leadership by attending to them and not bothering with this. Establishing priorities is essential to leadership.

I don't see VQR as much of an asset or a liability. It could double or even quadruple its readership, be the pariah of the tiny incestuous literary blog sphere, or both and that would have very little impact on anything that matters in running the university. There will still be a glut of academics who would jump at a chance to work at UVA, the kids will keep applying, the research money will keep flowing.

Sullivan is an interim president with only a few years
at UVA. It's doubtful she's calling the shots. It looks
good to put a woman there for a short time.

We are the interim denizens of the planet. We're all gonna die!

lets get this right, a budget of $800K, plus extras (office space?), for a sub base of possibly 1500 declining subscribers? This is UVa fantasy land. I do not, cannot judge if Genoways is a bully or if his awards are valid or merely new mode old boy back rubbing.What seems obvious, the mag has not succeeded under his leadership but UVa /Sullivan would prefer to do nothing than something.I've been in academia for 4 decades-and "do nothing" is the normal.

This is getting a little tiresome. UVA obviously has a problem on their hands and his name is Genoways.

Bullying or not; hiring young wealthy women with no experience or not; sharing internal/private information or not...there is one common theme...Genoways.

UVA ought to fire him. And if they can't, they ought to make him a janitor and let VQR become a respectable publication once again.