Plymouth chair of governors to ‘stand aside’

Plymouth University’s chair of governors, William Taylor, is to “stand aside” pending the outcome of an investigation into sexual harassment claims

August 21, 2014

The announcement, made by the university today, is the latest development in a leadership crisis at the university.

In July, the Plymouth vice-chancellor, Wendy Purcell, was “placed on leave” by Mr Taylor and the board of governors.

Mr Taylor said in a statement yesterday that he had started an investigation into allegations against him “submitted” to the governors by Professor Purcell. It is understood the allegations, which he denies, include claims he sexually harassed female staff.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England had already recommended that Plymouth undertake an external, independent review of its governance following the events surrounding Professor Purcell.

Steve Pearce, the deputy chairman of Plymouth’s board of governors, is to take over Mr Taylor’s duties and responsibilities.

Mr Pearce, a former acting assistant chief constable of Devon and Cornwall police, said in a statement: “I can confirm that Judge William Taylor has decided to stand aside from his responsibilities as chairman pending the outcome of an independent investigation into allegations made against him, allegations which he strongly denies.”

He added: “The board has accepted Judge Taylor’s decision, recognising that he has put the interests of the university first in taking this step. 

“The vice-chancellor will remain relieved of her role as chief executive and accountable officer until the board reaches a resolution to the current investigation into the vice-chancellor’s conduct, which it is committed to doing as soon as possible.”

Barbara Bond, Plymouth’s former pro-chancellor and chair of governors, released a statement last week in which she criticised Mr Taylor’s alleged “poor governance practice, the nature of his working relationship with the vice-chancellor” and “his manner when dealing with female members of staff and students”.

She also alleged that he had a “record of inappropriate behaviour”.

Hefce had said in its report on Plymouth that it had received “allegations about the conduct” of Mr Taylor, but that there was “insufficient evidence” for it to investigate.

john.morgan@tesglobal.com

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