Court overturns sacking of lecturer who criticised teaching standards

March 28, 2003

An American teacher at a Siberian university who was deported after managers sacked him for criticising the way English was taught has won a court case ordering his reinstatement.

Tomsk district court in western Siberia ruled this month that Tomsk Polytechnical University had no grounds for dismissing retired US army officer David Richardson. The university was ordered to pay him 35,000 roubles (£700) in lost pay. An award for damages will be decided later.

Mr Richardson, who took a job as an assistant at a linguistic institute at the university to spend more time with his Russian fiancee, was vilified and forced to leave Russia in January after he took part in a management assessment exercise.

Mr Richardson, 46, drew up a report detailing shortcomings in the way English was taught. In January he was ordered to return his visa and was sacked for alleged poor time-keeping.

Mr Richardson is a biochemical graduate from California who learnt Russian during his military service more than 20 years ago. He said his report, which was critical of teaching and management practices, proved an embarrassment to university leaders.

He said that during the four months he taught at the university, where he was paid less than £200 a month, lack of coordination and clear teaching instructions were a constant irritation.

"The university asked me to take part in a commission looking into the practices at the institute of language communication because over five years they had spent a large amount and felt they were not getting value for money," Mr Richardson said.

His recommendations, that clearer institutional goals should be set and that teachers and students should have more exposure to native speakers, sparked an aggressive response from the institute. This included, he claimed, a clumsy attempt to force him into a compromising situation with a prostitute.

On the day Mr Richardson left Russia, an article appeared in a local newspaper with critical quotes from anonymous students, racial slurs and allegations that Mr Richardson, an African-American, had spied on Russian forces in Germany, Afghanistan and Indo-China.

Mr Richardson intends to sue the newspaper and university for defamation.

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