Global outrage over suspension

Chomsky among those decrying the removal of a Manchester Met professor. Jack Grove writes

October 18, 2012

Noam Chomsky has joined an international campaign to reinstate a psychology professor suspended for alleged "gross misconduct".

Professor Chomsky, emeritus professor in the department of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one of 72 academics to sign a letter in support of Ian Parker, professor of psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, whose removal from campus has caused outrage.

The university has refused to reveal why Professor Parker has been suspended but his supporters say he has been "silenced" for raising issues over "secrecy" in his department.

More than 2,700 individuals have signed a petition calling for his reinstatement, and scholars from across the world have written to John Brooks, Manchester Met's vice-chancellor, to register their protest.

The letter signed by Professor Chomsky, one of the world's most cited academics, questions the need for "unusual disciplinary steps against ... an academic with a world-wide reputation".

A separate letter signed by 20 academics from Complutense University of Madrid, where Professor Parker was a visiting professor last year, also criticises his suspension. "Secrecy, control, and abuse of power as we interpret it, have no place in any university which prides itself as a site for knowledge production and debate," it reads.

Colleagues at Manchester Met have expressed their support, branding Professor Parker's treatment as "draconian" and "reprehensible".

A meeting of about 60 members of the University and College Union at Manchester Met's All Saints campus last week voted to support possible strike action in protest against the victimisation of staff.

A UCU spokesman called on the university to explain the charges against Professor Parker, saying academics felt unable to speak freely without fear of disciplinary action.

"The branch is worried about people who are just disappearing from campus. When they speak out about working conditions, they are smeared with this 'gross misconduct' charge," he said.

"Ian's students are wondering where he is but he is not allowed to speak to anyone ... This wall of silence damages Professor Parker and the university itself. It is a reprehensible way to treat an internationally renowned colleague."

A Manchester Met spokesman confirmed that "a professor has been suspended in accordance with the terms of its disciplinary procedure, pending an investigation into allegations of gross misconduct".

"Whilst it can obviously not comment on the exact nature or content of the allegations while they are being investigated, it can confirm that external speculation around the reasons for the suspension is wholly inaccurate," he said.

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