Natfhe's neutrality

March 26, 1999

Whistleblowers claims backing from Natfhe over the matter of teaching material at Liverpool John Moores University (THES, March 19). That is not the case. Natfhe is neutral on the issue that The THES has targeted - differences of scientific perception as they may affect teaching.

I proposed months ago that the issue should be sorted out through professional mediation. After the vice-chancellor's intervention, something akin to that is on course; but Natfhe, per se, has no policy.

The general issue has two parts. On allegations raised by members and students, representatives of a professional association must express concerns that are raised with them, as I have done with managers of the university.

The other concern is not the debate over scientific opinion but what appears to have been slow managerial response to predicted media interest.

I wrote to and spoke with senior managers several times after November advocating measures not much different from those that the vice-chancellor has put in place. The crucial difference was that I had advocated a joint, low-key statement indicating that the matter was to be dealt with via professional mediation. What happened to those warnings has not been explained.

It remains my view that the matter of what went wrong in this aspect - with which I am primarily concerned - deserves its own investigation.

I have suggested that the independent assistance of ACAS would be appropriate. However, any approach to ACAS must be a joint approach. University managers have declined to have their process considered within that form of independent and confidential scrutiny.

Adrian Jones Universities official North of England Natfhe, Liverpool

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