LCP in discipline U-turn

February 18, 2000

'Mr Chanan's line manager disciplined him for "walking into his room without knocking", interrupting a phone conversation' The London College of Printing has been forced to withdraw a "specious" disciplinary charge against Michael Chanan, a senior lecturer who staff and students believe is being victimised for criticising senior management.

One formal disciplinary warning against Mr Chanan, now removed from the record, was issued after what lecturers' union Natfhe condemned as a "kangaroo court". A separate disciplinary meeting was also struck from the record.

Earlier this month The THES reported that the college's Natfhe branch had passed a resolution expressing "deep concern" that Mr Chanan, a vociferous critic of management at the college's media school, had been stood down against his will from virtually all his teaching duties and removed as director of an MA course he had set up.

It has now emerged that managers at the media school had made two unsuccessful attempts to discipline Mr Chanan before his recent demotions. In October last year, Mr Chanan's line manager, film and video course director Peter Wyeth, wrote a memo summoning him to a "disciplinary interview" under the college's disciplinary procedures.

Despite a doctor's note indicating that Mr Chanan was suffering from work-related stress, Mr Wyeth levelled ten charges against him. When the disciplinary meeting took place, Mr Wyeth reduced his ten charges to just two - complaining that Mr Chanan "walked into (his) room without knocking", interrupting a phone conversation, and that he used "rows as a mode of discussion". With regard to alleged rudeness, Mr Wyeth said: "Let me make it as clear as I can; I regard it as unprofessional and dysfunctional and it will not be tolerated". Mr Chanan was issued with a formal oral warning under the disciplinary procedures.

Immediately after the meeting, Mr Chanan's union representative, Ron Todd, complained that the meeting was "no less than a kangaroo court". Mr Todd said that the meeting breached college procedures.

In December last year the college received legal advice that "it would be in the best interests of all parties for the oral warning to be withdrawn". The charge was dropped.

The withdrawn warning followed an earlier unsuccessful attempt to discipline Mr Chanan by the media school dean, Sally Feldman. In summer 1999 Ms Feldman alleged that his failure to produce an annual course- monitoring report on time "is a serious lapse in your duties and responsibilities" and a "matter of misconduct".

Mr Chanan argued that the procedures had again been breached, and that the allegations were unjustified, as there were many mitigating circumstances. After discussion with Natfhe, no record of the warning was placed on Mr Chanan's file.

A spokesman for the London Institute said that any alleged victimisation could be raised by Mr Chanan internally, as part of a grievance he has taken out. "We try to give people every chance and to be fair to them, and not to comment in public."

Concern has also been voiced about Ms Feldman's apparent unwillingness to discuss criticisms. There have been numerous complaints from students about the quality of the film and video BA. In November last year one member of the department wrote to colleagues warning: "We are very concerned and worried about the continuing lack of consultation."

Ms Feldman immediately responded: "It has come to my notice that you have circulated to some board of studies colleagues a memo criticising the manner in which the annual course-monitoring report for BA film and video was compiled and approved.

"I must advise you that the board of study is not an appropriate arena for the airing of internal management matters, and I therefore will not accept any debate in the meeting of the issues you raise."

Phil Baty

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