The chair of governors at the centre of a bitter internal rift at Plymouth University has stepped down as he continues to strenuously deny allegations of sexual harassment.
William Taylor announced today he was leaving his post on Plymouth’s board of governors, stating the “very public focus” on him “potentially distracts” a university sub-committee from its current investigation into the conduct of vice-chancellor Wendy Purcell.
Professor Purcell has been “placed on leave” since July, but Plymouth has declined to state the reason for her absence.
In late August, it was announced that Mr Taylor, a retired crown court judge, was to “step aside” as chairman amid claims that he sexually harassed female staff and student representatives.
According to BBC News online, complaints against Mr Taylor include claims he made lewd jokes and subjected women to unwanted touching in the form of holding hands for minutes at a time and kissing.
In a statement, Mr Taylor said the “allegations are either wholly untrue or are grotesque distortions of the facts”.
“Indeed, my family, friends and those who know me best do not recognise these matters and, like myself, question the motives of those who have made them,” he added.
However, he accepted that his continued presence at Plymouth was now a distraction from its core work.
“I have come to the very reluctant decision that my continued presence on the board whether or not as its chairman may not serve the best interests of the university, as I have always strived to do,” he said.
Acting chair Steve Pearce thanked Mr Taylor for his eight years at the university, saying he had “worked tirelessly”.
“He has worked hard to create partnerships and build relationships with outside organisations to advance the university’s mission and success of our students,” he said.
He added that “concerted media coverage and anonymous leaks at a time when two confidential investigations are taking place have meant that he has been unable to respond”.
The separate investigation into the vice-chancellor’s conduct will also continue and is at an “advanced stage”, according to the university.