Not worth the whistle

April 16, 1999

The "Whistleblowers" piece on the University of East London ("Department in a mess", THES, April 2) was a sorry piece of reporting.

You seem unable or unwilling to differentiate between genuine whistleblowing - the disclosure in the public interest of some serious malpractice or fraudulent behaviour that others insist on covering up - and simple mischief-making. Anonymous leaks, post office box numbers and "unofficial" newsletters are hard to reconcile with the honourable tradition of the whistleblower coming forward openly as selfless upholder of the truth.

Selective quoting from confidential reports, naming an individual whose case has been heard under disciplinary proceedings and divulging personal harassment details are a betrayal of the high moral ground your column appears to wish to occupy. Can we take it that highly personal matters affecting named members of staff that have been heard under due process are now considered fair game for the Whistleblowers column? How can disclosure in such circumstances be in the public interest?

All organisations experience conflict. Your report admits somewhat grudgingly that "the university has taken steps to sort the matter out" but adds that it has so far "failed to lay it to rest". These things take time. Sadly, the only effect of this column will be to extend the time we shall need.

Alan Ingle

Secretary and registrar

University of East London

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