Leicester row escalates

October 15, 1999

'Professor Colley, a protagonist in Dr Colman's dispute, has issued him with a formal disciplinary warning on a charge colleagues claim is trumped up' A whistleblower involved in an acrimonious dispute with Leicester University has been given a disciplinary warning, prompting allegations that he is being victimised.

Andrew Colman, a reader in psychology, has been engaged in a long-running dispute with the university over its procedures for promoting academic staff.

Dr Colman has failed to gain promotion to a chair since he first applied in 1992, when he was told he had a strong chance. He has been denied promotions while candidates of inferior status in the university have been successful, and he has been denied an appeal. His campaign has prompted serious criticisms of the university.

The THES revealed last week that Leicester had incurred the disapproval of the Queen, represented by the Privy Council,who was asked to arbitrate in Dr Colman's dispute, as the university's visitor. Although it deferred judgement, the Privy Council criticised Leicester for taking almost a year to respond to Dr Colman's allegations. Earlier this year, The THES also revealed that the Data Protection Registrar found that Leicester had breached the Data Protection Act when it failed to give Dr Colman proper access to his files. The university also breached data protection rules in passing personal information on Dr Colman to his head of department, Ann Colley.

It emerged this week that Professor Colley, a protagonist in Dr Colman's dispute, has issued him with a formal disciplinary warning on a charge his colleagues claim is "trumped up". She has given him a formal verbal warning for failing to write and deliver a set of resit exam questions "in a timely and appropriate manner", which was "less than the professional standard which the university could reasonably expect from a senior colleague".

Dr Colman did deliver the questions after the deadline. But he had been given just a few days to complete the task and, as an admissions tutor, was in the middle of the admissions process. The original deadline for resit papers was July 29. A level results were published on August 19. On August 18, the examinations officer asked Dr Colman to write some questions by August 23 for an exam scheduled for September 6. The examinations officer wrote: "I am sorry about the short notice. I had overlooked that a couple of students need to take the exam. I know that you are busy with admissions."

Dr Colman replied immediately that he was "absolutely overwhelmed" with admissions and other work and could not meet the deadline. Nevertheless, he did submit the questions on September 3, three days before the exam. Professor Colley called Dr Colman to a formal disciplinary meeting late last month and afterwards gave him the formal warning. In a formal letter, she said: "There was ample time for you to have complied with the examinations officer's request in a timely and appropriate manner. I do not accept that your admissions work during the relevant period was so overwhelming ... I very much hope that you will take this warning seriously ... you should note that this is the first stage of the disciplinary procedure."

University registrar K. J. Julian said this week that the university "rejects the allegation that it has taken disciplinary action against Dr Colman on grounds other than his failure to perform his examination duties in a satisfactory manner".

He said: "Dr Colman has not been victimised, nor has disciplinary action been taken against him because of any other dispute that he may have with the university."

He said there was no conflict of interest

in Professor Colley bringing the charge, despite her involvement in Dr Colman's dispute. "The head of department has responsibility for the good conduct of the examination process. It is proper for the HoD to deal with a straightforward management matter of this nature."

Want to blow the whistle?

Contact Phil Baty Tel 0171 782 3298

Email phil.baty@newsint.co.uk

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