Sociology lecturer sacked over newsletter

August 13, 2009

A lecturer at the University of Salford has been sacked for producing and distributing newsletters that lampooned the vice-chancellor and accused a senior manager of using his influence to secure a job for a student.

Gary Duke, a part-time sociology lecturer, was suspended on 19 May and dismissed, following a disciplinary hearing, on 6 August.

A student conduct hearing to decide whether he will be allowed to complete his PhD at the university will convene in a few weeks.

The staff disciplinary panel found that the newsletters Mr Duke distributed "contained malicious and personally damaging remarks and included personal attacks on a student and other members of the university".

It ruled that by distributing them he had carried out an act of "harassment and victimisation" that also brought the university into disrepute.

Mr Duke has admitted writing the "Vice-Consul's Newsletter" series but is appealing the decision.

He said: "There is a long, satirical tradition within our university system. Private Eye and other publications emerged from this tradition.

"These newsletters were produced firmly within this tradition ... the decision to dismiss me has serious implications for freedom of speech."

During the hearing, Mr Duke maintained that the university's investigating officer had agreed, during a minuted meeting, that managers were "fair targets" for satire.

However, the officer concerned has denied making the remark.

During negotiations two weeks before the hearing, the university had asked Mr Duke to sign a statement saying: "I understand how my actions may have been interpreted by some as being sexist and racist," Mr Duke added.

He declined to sign the statement, and maintained that the newsletters were in no way racist or sexist.

The university said: "The statement was prepared as part of discussions with Mr Duke that were exploring various scenarios. Mr Duke also prepared statements.

"In the event, no statement was signed by either the university or Mr Duke. A separate student conduct panel will now consider Mr Duke's status as a student."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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