College dean under fire

February 4, 2000

Staff and students at the London College of Printing have accused media school dean Sally Feldman of mismanagement and bullying in a row over academic freedom and dumbing down.

Lecturers' union Natfhe has passed a resolution condemning the demotion of MA course director Michael Chanan, a critic of senior management. Angry students have set up an action group to demand his reinstatement to teaching duties, claiming his treatment is "symbolic of the rot that we must fight".

Ms Feldman moved from the BBC where she produced Woman's Hour to head the prestigious media studies department two years ago. By November 1998 a row over her style of management led to the departure of award-winning journalist Chris Horrie, director of studies for journalism.

Mr Chanan is a popular senior lecturer in film and video who has made documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. He has been "stood down" against his will from almost all his teaching duties and removed as director of the MA in documentary research which he set up.

He declined to comment but his supporters claim that he has been victimised for whistleblowing and criticising standards and management. He resigned as acting director of studies for film and video six weeks after Ms Feldman arrived, a move interpreted as a protest at her management style.

He has frequently clashed with management since then. In December 1998 he and ten other staff wrote a "board of studies working party position paper", which reported on "a number of concerns that staff had about developments in the school".

It warned of the dangers of becoming too "servile" towards industry and reminded colleagues "that our project is education and not merely training".

Mr Chanan has received testimonials from at least 18 major international academics. This week, the student journalists' newspaper, the Back Hill Reporter, said that support for him was growing among staff and students.

The action group of his students said in a statement pinned to notice boards that the content of the film and video courses had "taken a decisive lurch towards classical mainstream Hollywood", highlighting "the severe lack of cultural diversity".

They complained that "no explanation has been given", but "it seems that anyone who does not fit (course director) Peter Wyeth's or Sally Feldman's agenda of what the course should be about, or what cinema should be about, is promptly shown the door, or constantly threatened with it".

Natfhe branch officer Ron Todd said: "(Last week) the branch discussed their deep concern over specific issues relating to Michael."

Both Ms Feldman and Will Bridge, head of the LCP, declined to comment. But the London Institute, of which the LCP is a part, said: "We take great care to ensure our dealings with members of staff are fair and equitable and we do not believe that such an objective is well served by entering into public debate about the circumstances of any individual."

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