Economists lose offices to lawyers

August 15, 2003

Three academics at University College Cork are considering legal action after they turned up to work to find that the management had changed the locks on their office doors and hired a removals firm to shift their professional and personal belongings.

Three of four evictees, based at the college's economics department, have taken legal advice after their belongings were moved to a lecture theatre and the locks were changed. The move came in the midst of a row over office space.

An open letter was sent electronically to all staff at the college, signed by 24 members of the economics department, including the evictees and department head Connell Fanning.

It says: "This is an unprecedented action of the utmost gravity and it is the intention of this department to take whatever action is available to have this situation remedied. We wish to record in the strongest possible terms our revulsion at the nature of this action."

The letter claims that the staff were evicted during a dispute between the department and college principal Gerry Wrixon about the allocation of office space. According to the letter, the college's governing body decided, after initially agreeing to allocate four offices for staff in the economics department, to instead allocate them to the law department.

It says that exam papers for autumn re-sits, complete with answers, were among the belongings removed. The questions will now have to be re-set to avoid compromising the exam process.

One member of the department who signed the letter but did not want to be named, said: "It is outrageous. These colleagues were treated like squatters. Four weeks on and they still have no office space, and the college does not seem to be doing anything."

None of the evictees was prepared to comment this week. The university also declined to comment.

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