Lecturer takes Edinburgh to jobs tribunal

September 18, 1998

A former lecturer in social anthropology at Edinburgh Universityhas claimed he was isolated and slandered by colleagues in a campaign of harassment that ultimately destroyed his career.

Alan Campbell, who took early retirement last year on the grounds of ill-health after 20 years at Edinburgh, has brought a constructive dismissal case against the university.

He told an industrial tribunal he had suffered after being passed over as director of studies and protesting against "almost whimsical" examination marking in 1991. There had been an increased number of first-class honours awards, while a joint honours student he believed was a stronger candidate had been awarded a 2:1.

Dr Campbell said that when he complained, head of department Anthony Cohen had warned him his job was in jeopardy. Before his criticism, he said Professor Cohen had praised him as a valued colleague and an outstanding teacher.

Three years later he described him in a report to a faculty committee as "a serious blight on the life and activity of the department over many years". Professor Cohen had described Dr Campbell's complaints as "a fantastic means of evading responsibility for what may be regarded as a failed career".

Dr Campbell said he had only discovered the report's existence last month. "This is the most shocking document I've ever seen in my life. In my view it is a bundle of slander, damaging innuendoes and lies."

Close to tears, he drew the tribunal's attention to commendations by academics and students, including a petition when he left in 1997. "I will cherish that document. It is the most genuine legacy of my work at Edinburgh University," he said.

After being given 80 students as a seminar class in 1995, he said he had faced disciplinary charges over teaching responsibilities and later found his suspension had been discussed. After endless delays over his appeal, he said, "I signed away my career with a gun to my head."

However this week Tony Good, the head of social anthropology at Edinburgh, has been defending his department's decision to relax its marking criteria to award more first-class degres. Dr Good said: "He (Professor Cohen) felt we had a gifted bunch of students and that perhaps we had been miserly in the marks we had awarded."

The tribunal adjourned on Wednesday until the end of Sepyember

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