Second challenge to v-c suspension

Lay governor says his proposal to reinstate UEL head was rejected, reports Melanie Newman

August 21, 2008

A second lay governor at the University of East London has expressed concerns about the suspension of the vice-chancellor.

Gillian Slater, a former vice-chancellor of Bournemouth University, resigned in July in protest over Martin Everett's suspension.

Now Raj Loomba, who joined the UEL board in March 2008, has disclosed that he asked Jim McKenna, the chairman of governors, to reinstate Professor Everett.

Mr Loomba, a campaigner for widows' rights and vice-president of Barnardo's, said he had attended a meeting on 8 July at which Mr McKenna told the lay governors he had suspended Professor Everett.

Mr Loomba said: "I expressed my unhappiness about the way Martin Everett was suspended. I proposed that the vice-chancellor should be reinstated and the chairman should follow the correct procedure to deal with the matter. My proposal was not accepted by the other attending lay governors and, as I had another engagement for the evening, I left the meeting."

Times Higher Education understands that Mr McKenna told the governors that he suspended the vice-chancellor after complaints from senior managers about poor leadership by Professor Everett. He is understood to have refused governors' requests for more details of the complaint and the names of the complainants.

The University and College Union at UEL has written an open letter to the lay governors asking for a public statement on the circumstances of the vice-chancellor's suspension.

The letter asked whether the governors expected staff to "show confidence in such a limited decision-making process", whether they were sure "dismissal of the senior executive under these circumstances is in the best interests of an academic community" and whether "this episode will not end in the courts with the award of punitive damages against UEL".

Academics also questioned whether the lay governors' combined experience and knowledge of higher education is sufficient for them to fully appreciate the role of a vice-chancellor. Professor Slater was the only governor with an education background and staff governors were excluded from discussions on Professor Everett's future.

A senior academic at UEL said: "The last chair was an academic but we now have no academic governors, which is a matter of great concern. I'm not objective about this: I'm an academic - I care about UEL as a university not just as a business."

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