Disability row strikes Hallam

August 7, 1998

A row over disability discrimination at Sheffield Hallam University has erupted over an inquiry by MPs into disability rights.

Cedric Pugh, professor of urban and regional studies, who has the muscle-wasting disease dermatomyositis, has been censured by senior managers at Sheffield Hallam over his submission to the Commons Education and Employment Select Committee, which reviewed written evidence to its inquiry into disability this week.

In his evidence Professor Pugh claimed that in 1996, as a result of his disability, he was put on a salary and benefits that are "deliberately and substantially below norms for internationally significant scholars in British universities".

He said Sheffield Hallam was "probably no better or worse than most British universities" with equal rights for the disabled, but he said his experience shows that "managers and bureaucrats" don't understand disability. He wants a Disability Rights Commission.

He said that there were clear guidelines on disability issues, from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the Equal Opportunities Commission but he had found "little evidence of a purposeful Hallam transition broadly following the sorts of recommendations advocated".

Professor Pugh complained that he has had longstanding disputes over access to research funding and "salary justice". He has also pushed for a reform of promotions and grievance procedures.

Sheffield Hallam's director of human resources, Miriam Orton, responded angrily. "You have represented your case in a partial and biased manner," she wrote in a letter to professor Pugh, copied to the committee and secretary of state for education. She said that the professor should have addressed the issues through a formal grievance procedure.

The university strongly disputes professor Pugh's claims that his salary and benefits package reflect his disability. The university is reviewing its career structures. It is policy to regard a professorship as a personal title that does not in itself attract financial reward.

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