Salford staff unite to protest lecturer’s suspension

March 24, 2009

Petition calls for reinstatement of academic ejected from campus over harassment allegation, writes Melanie Newman

Seventy-four members of staff at the University of Salford Business School have signed a petition in support of a lecturer who was marched off campus earlier this month.

He was escorted from the premises on 4 March after a PhD student alleged that he had bullied and harassed her. His computer was seized and the locks on his office door were changed.

The petition, which has 55 academic signatories, said staff were “deeply concerned” at the lecturer’s treatment, and it calls for his reinstatement.

“His summary suspension, the lack of explanation as to why it was necessary, and the manner in which his suspension was effected, appear to us to be excessive in the extreme. We cannot understand why it was deemed necessary to remove such a mild, friendly, professional and well-respected young man without first conducting an investigation of the charge we assume must have been laid against him,” it stated.

The petition has been sent to Michael Harloe, vice-chancellor of the University of Salford.

The lecturer’s University and College Union representative has accused the university of acting in a “heavy-handed” way, and said the precise details of the allegations had not been made clear.

Salford is believed to have asked a senior member of staff at the business school to investigate the allegations, but she declined to do so.

Times Higher Education understands that the PhD student who made the harassment claim is at the centre of a row over her appointment to a post in the school that was not widely advertised.

A source at Salford, who asked not to be named, said a member of administrative staff had also been marched off campus at the end of 2008 on charges of divulging confidential information, and is still suspended today. A third employee, an academic, was also suspended earlier this year.

The suspensions have taken place since last year’s amendments to the university’s charter and statute, which were resisted by the UCU.

New disciplinary procedures allowing senior managers to order suspensions came into force in November 2008. Under the old provisions, only the vice-chancellor was able to suspend academics.

John Dobson, UCU branch president, said: “We are extremely concerned about the practical implications of the new disciplinary procedures.”

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