Staff at the University of Salford have been warned that they could face dismissal if they are found to be responsible for a series of spoof pamphlets and posters satirising senior management.
The material emerged at Salford Business School as it became the latest part of the institution to face cuts. The university is engaged in the second phase of Project Headroom, its three-year drive to cut costs by £12.5 million. More than 60 staff departed last year under voluntary severance schemes in Headroom's first phase. The second phase is targeting the business school, where a requirement to cut academic pay by £865,000 has led to 15 staff taking voluntary redundancy.
One pamphlet circulated in January purported to come from the "vice consul". It referred to staff as "plebs", and said: "I hope the threat of the dole queue didn't entirely spoil your Christmas dinner and festivities. Mine certainly exceeded all expectations of luxury."
In a memo to staff on February, Michael Harloe, Salford's vice-chancellor, said: "It is obvious to most colleagues that producing and displaying posters and pamphlets, and sending malicious mail that attacks others, is unprofessional, completely inappropriate and personally damaging to all concerned. Indeed, action of this nature could amount to gross misconduct and lead to dismissal."
The warning came to light last week as it emerged that a business school lecturer had been escorted from the premises after being accused of harassment. The lecturer was marched off campus on 4 March after a PhD student alleged he had harassed her.
A University and College Union official said: "We have no detailed evidence as to the nature of the harassment, and we are awaiting a meeting with the investigating officer. The university's action appears heavy-handed on the basis of the evidence put forward at the time."
A Salford spokesman said: "It is university policy that we do not comment on actual or potential disciplinary action concerning a member of staff."