Player sent off for crying foul

April 16, 1999

I am pleased that your recent article "Middlesex sacks Clark" ("Whistleblowers", THES, April 9) mentioned in passing that the appeal governors acknowledged that I proved numerous "discrepancies" in the university's version of events.

Regrettably, however, you repeated one of the most tenuous lines from the university's case, that is, that I "clashed frequently" with vice-chancellor Michael Driscoll, and that he had lost trust in me "over a number of years".

Many colleagues at Middlesex can bear witness to the cordial professional relationship I enjoyed with the vice-chancellor and, in fact, I still have a number of handwritten and typewritten notes of congratulation, encouragement and thanks from Professor Driscoll, who was also my personal mentor at the university during the three years I spent in the press office, dating from before he was made vice-chancellor. I believe I even have the cork from the champagne he sent me just two months before the "eruption" of events. During those three exceptionally happy years, I was promoted twice, had two excellent appraisals and at no time received a warning, either verbal or written.

My refusal to be part of a cover-up from the board of governors is the real reason, I believe, that trust and confidence in me "wavered". I ask whether it is reasonable to expect someone to display corporate loyalty when this is personally and professionally unethical and contrary to public interest?

I would also like to know whether an employee who refuses to be party to "censorship by the back door" can be considered a "whistleblower"? If not, then what protection can they expect? None whatsoever, if one looks at the price paid, in terms of career, by the John Pickerings of this world, for having taken a principled stand in the public interest. How much longer will Baroness Blackstone, David Blunkett et al choose to ignore the tide of discontent rising among grass-roots staff in our universities and colleges, and the waste of public money that inevitably ensues when cases either reach tribunal or are "paid off" in return for a letter of reference and a gagging order?

Finally, since when has it been "insubordinate" to offer professional advice that, had it been taken, would have spared the university vast embarrassment and reputational damage?

Punished I may have been, but I believe I have indeed also been truly "educated" as opposed to "trained".

At Middlesex, as it happens.

Suzi Clark

Middlesex University alumna

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