News in Brief

March 3, 2011

Sexual harassment

'Fruitbatgate' sanctions reduced

An academic who was found guilty of sexual harassment by University College Cork after showing a female colleague a research paper on oral sex among fruit bats has had the sanctions against him reduced following a court ruling. In December, the Irish High Court upheld the findings of Cork's investigation, which concluded that Dylan Evans, a lecturer in behavioural science, was guilty of sexual harassment under the university's "right to dignity" policy. However, it ordered Cork to reconsider the "disproportionate" sanctions it had imposed, including a two-year period of monitoring. Now Michael Murphy, Cork's president, has informed Dr Evans that he has reduced the monitoring period to one year, although he will still have to undergo equality training.

Pedagogic research

Grey matter a teaching matter

Research on the neurological basis of learning should play a greater role in education policy, according to a report from the Royal Society. In Brain Waves Module 2: Neuroscience: Implications for Education and Lifelong Learning, published last week, the society also suggests that brain biology should form part of teacher training. Uta Frith, a developmental psychologist at University College London and chair of the Royal Society working group that produced the report, said: "Education is concerned with enhancing learning and neuroscience is concerned with understanding the mechanisms of learning. It seems only logical that the one should inform the other."

Plagiarism

If he wasn't in enough trouble...

The London School of Economics is investigating allegations of plagiarism in the doctoral thesis of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the embattled Libyan leader Mu'ammer Gaddafi. The allegations emerged last week after the LSE's decision to cut ties with the Libyan regime in light of the bloody uprising in the country. The school vowed not to accept any further instalments of a £1.5 million donation from Dr Gaddafi. It said that £300,000 had been received and had been spent on a North African research programme. The LSE said it takes all allegations of plagiarism "very seriously" and is looking into the matter.

Disability discrimination

Challenge to OIA powers rejected

The legal challenge made by a disabled woman who argues that the Office of the Independent Adjudicator should make rulings on disability discrimination has been unsuccessful. Shelley Maxwell, who suffers from narcolepsy, enrolled at the University of Salford in 2004, but dropped out claiming it failed to make adequate adjustments for her condition. In 2008, the OIA upheld her complaint, but Ms Maxwell was dissatisfied with its inability to make findings on disability discrimination. In the High Court last year, Mr Justice Foskett ruled that the OIA could not make formal legal findings in this area. Last week, Ms Maxwell applied for permission to appeal. The OIA said that Lord Justice Mummery refused the application, but ruled that the public might benefit from a clarification of the OIA's role in disability discrimination cases. Ms Maxwell's application for permission to appeal will now be heard by a panel of three judges, including one with disability discrimination experience.

ONLINE NOW

A column by Tara Brabazon, professor of media studies at the University of Brighton, on "digital incontinence" in the academy provoked debate online.

A reader writes: "I agree that excessive and irrelevant email is a problem. But the suggestion that it's a problem that comes from administrators strikes me as both patronising and inaccurate. Most of the thoroughly worthless email I get comes from other academics.

"Email etiquette remains a problem for many people in academia, so I do think this is an issue worth discussing. But I don't like being invited to have a laugh at the expense of people who work hard but get paid half as much money as academics do."

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