Police in dispute on APU claim

May 15, 1998

Hate-mail against staff who have supported complaints of nepotism and bullying at Anglia Polytechnic University is not being investigated internally, despite an initial assurance that it would be.

A senior university manager has told staff that he had agreed with police, who are conducting a criminal investigation into the matter, not to conduct a simultaneous investigation.

But police this week disputed this. "This is not true at all," said DI Angelika Peters, of St Neots police, who is investigating the hate mail.

"There is no doubt that Itold the university not to hold up its own inquiries because of the police involvement."

The desk-top published "newsletter" was circulated at the university and sent to The THES in March. It slurred six academics who have supported complaints against business school dean Hugh Jenkins, over the permanent appointment and promotion of his son Jonathan, who is a lecturer at the school.

Professor Jenkins and his son were exonerated of any wrongdoing in an inquiry by the university's audit and compliance committee, but the same staff members named in the hate mail have all criticised the findings and have called for an external inquiry.

The staff fear their concerns are now being ignored.

When the hate mail, which includes an invitation to one senior academic to "settle in the farthest reaches of hell" and to "rest in peace", first emerged, APU pro-vice-chancellor Steve Marshall promised that the university would investigate."There have been examples recently of particularly unpleasant material, targeted at individual members of staff, being written and distributed anonymously within the university," he wrote in the staff newsletter Bulletin. "It should be clearly understood by all staff that the university takes a very serious view of such activity. All instances will be investigated... and firm action will be taken within the university's disciplinary procedures."

But late last month, Mr Marshall confirmed that the university would not be investigating, explaining that the university had agreedthis with police.

DI Peters said she would send a formal letter from her legal department to clear up any confusion.

A university spokesman said: "The university feels that a distorted and unbalanced view of the facts has been presented over a considerable period of time. As a result we will not be discussing the matter any further with the press."

The latest problem appears to have led to a complete breakdown of trust and communication at the business school's management development division, where Professor Jenkins's son worked.

Last week vice-chancellor Mike Malone-Lee intervened. In a move condemned by staff as "blanket bullying", Mr Malone-Lee wrote to all 11 staff in the division.

"It is not acceptable for members of staff who do not like or agree with the outcome of (complaints procedures) to seek to pursue the matter further... in ways which damage the good name of the university," he wrote.

He warned them all that they could face gross misconduct charges and dismissal.

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