Bolton student describes aftermath of sackings

An undergraduate taught by the recently dismissed University of Bolton lecturer Damien Markey has described how the decision has affected students.

April 24, 2015

Source: University of Bolton

Mr Markey, a senior lecturer in visual effects for film and television and secretary of the Bolton branch of the University and College Union, and his wife Jennifer Markey, an academic administrator in the health and community studies department, were dismissed last month for allegedly leaking information to the press.

Both deny any involvement in leaking stories. It is understood that a hearing on the case will be held by the university next week.

Katie Bagshaw, a third-year special effects for film and television student, has been taught by Mr Markey throughout her degree. “Even in the short amount of time since his dismissal, this situation has had some horrible and extremely negative effects on us,” she told Times Higher Education.

“We weren’t aware of the dismissal until a week after it happened as the university released no official statement, and even then our only source of information was in the media coverage. This has left a lot of students in a bad situation with their work and upcoming deadlines. Our lecturer was gone, and with him project briefs, his tuition and support.”

Ms Bagshaw described Mr Markey as a lecturer “who I trust” and said that losing “such a caring member of staff has been devastating”. The decision to dismiss the two employees was “shocking”, she added, and “the fear amongst staff is very evident”.

Students, she continued, were “scared for our education, and are worried that already overworked lecturers are now having more pressure put on them”.

Ms Bagshaw is part of a student-led campaign called “We Are Damo”, which has pledged support for the Markeys and has called for their immediate reinstatement.

“[Some students] managed to get a meeting [with senior management], and a lot was promised to us, including a blanket [project deadline] extension [for affected students]…longer studio opening hours to make up for lost time, extra support and also further meetings. This has now backtracked, and extensions have been denied,” she claimed.

“Overall, it’s an extremely worrying and concerning situation, which isn’t being helped by the fact that management still aren’t communicating with us as we had hoped they would.”

A spokesman for the University of Bolton said that students could be “confident that the change in staffing will not adversely affect them” and denied the allegation that contingency measures had been “rescinded” or “backtracked”.

“If a student has any basis for these concerns, they should raise them immediately with the university and what was agreed…will be reinforced. We have been notified of no such concerns,” he said.

“When there is a breakdown in any relationship involving two parties who themselves have responsibilities to others who rely upon them, all efforts should be made to protect the reliant individuals from involvement in the breakdown,” he added.

“The university is committed to and focused operationally on ensuring that students are not affected or involved in such cases; the university remains hopeful that, in the interest of our students, all parties will act in this manner.”

Meanwhile, a petition organised by the University and College Union calling for the Markeys to be reinstated has now attracted about 3,000 signatures, including those of the three Labour general election candidates who were the town’s MPs before Parliament was dissolved.

Julie Hilling, Labour candidate for Bolton West, wrote on the petition: “This appears to be a vindictive move. Every employee should be given the right for a fair process that enables them to answer any charges against them and defend themselves. This clearly did not happen. The workers should be reinstated.”

In addition, 18 university employees from 12 UK institutions have written an open letter to Times Higher Education urging the vice-chancellor and the university governors to “urgently reinstate Damien and Jennifer Markey”.

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