A hate-mail campaign against six academics who have supported complaints of bullying and nepotism at Anglia Polytechnic University is to be investigated by the university. A desk-top published "newsletter", circulated to staff and sent to The THES, concludes with an invitation to one senior academic to "settle in the farthest reaches of hell". A box reads: "Rest in Peace".
David Pickles, Natfhe representative at the university, confirmed that the union was taking advice and said legal action was a distinct possibility.
Feuding at the university's business school has been rife since complaints against business school head Hugh Jenkins were revealed in The THES. Centred on the appointment, performance and promotion of Professor Jenkins's son, Jonathan, the complaints were investigated by the university's audit and compliance committee last month.
Professor Jenkins and his son were found innocent of all charges, but last week six members of staff who contacted The THES called for an external inquiry, complaining that the investigation was flawed. All six of these staff members have been attacked in the hate mail. John Watts, head of the management development division, led the complaints. He has now been suspended.
The document, entitled: "John Watts, This is your APU Life", mocks Mr Watts's academic standing and personal life and attacks him for raising the complaints publicly. It says: "This must surely be the end of your APU life ... We hope you and your band will be settled in the farthest reaches of hell. I am sure that you would even turn hell to your own purpose and disgust Satan. He is welcome to deal with you as he sees fit. Read the red book and see what you are really about then take out the poison pen again, John, and fall on it. RIP."
This week, Mr Watts said he was waiting to hear from the union's solicitors to see if he can bring criminal charges. "I am extremely disturbed about the offensive comments," he said. The members of staff subjected to the smears have started an action fund.
A spokesman for the university said that the letter was being taken "very seriously" and that inquiries were under way.