SOMEBODIES AND NOBODIES: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank
Fuller, former president of Oberlin College, believes there is an insidious force in America that has heretofore gone unrecognized. This "disorder without a name," which he terms "rankism," is discrimination beyond race, gender or educational background. While Fuller observed rankism in action both at Oberlin and as a physics professor at Columbia University, he was only able to fully identify it when he was no longer affiliated with a university. "Lacking the protection of title and status in the years after Oberlin, I experienced what it's like to be taken for a nobody." Fuller goes on to describe the various forms of rankism: scientists taking credit for the work of assistants, nursing home staff treating elderly patients poorly, priests sexually abusing churchgoers, etc. Rankism is an assault on personal dignity and should not be tolerated, says Fuller. According to the author, the condition exists because "rank is linked to power and power protects those who hold it" and "high rank inhibits protests and shields perpetrators." Fuller provides numerous examples, from family dynamics to corporate settings. Although some may argue rankism is just another form of racism, Fuller makes a persuasive case for recognizing this behavior as an abuse of power that transcends race—or gender. But the book falls short of providing enough concrete steps on how to fight this abuse, including only two brief chapters. (Apr.)
Forecast:A 10-city author tour, advertising campaign and blurbs from Studs Terkel and Betty Friedan should garner some attention and promote discussion of this "new" concept.