Plymouth University silent on ‘sexual harassment’ case findings

The conclusions of an inquiry into allegations against William Taylor, the former chair of governors, will not be shared

November 20, 2014

Plymouth University is to keep secret the findings of an inquiry into sexual harassment allegations against its former chair of governors.

Allegations that William Taylor, a retired judge, sexually harassed female students and staff emerged in the media following the suspension of Wendy Purcell, the university’s vice-chancellor. Mr Taylor, who denies the allegations, resigned in September after initiating an independent inquiry into the claims.

Professor Purcell has returned to work as vice-chancellor after her dispute with Mr Taylor – although she will not be chief executive or chief accountable officer and will no longer be running the institution.

The inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations was led by barrister Simon Cheetham and is understood to have now reported.

Times Higher Education asked the university what the findings of the inquiry were. A spokesman said: “All parties have agreed that the report is confidential information, so we are unable to offer comment.”

Asked if the university would relate the findings of the inquiry to the women who made the allegations, the spokesman said: “As previously referred to, all matters pertaining to the Cheetham inquiry are confidential.”

A University and College Union spokesman said that the union – whose members passed a vote of no confidence in Professor Purcell shortly before her return – “has made it quite clear that the current spate of expenses revelations and leaking of stories by warring factions at the top are doing nothing for the university’s reputation. We need full transparency at Plymouth if staff, students and prospective students are to have any confidence going forward.”

Plymouth has also said that it will not answer a series of questions from THE about the deal for Professor Purcell’s return, including whether she has returned on her former £330,000 pay and pensions package, what legal fees have been incurred by the university, and whether she will be leaving the institution at a later date.

The university’s spokesman said that there would be no comment beyond the statement issued on 10 November announcing her return.

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