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: