Staff demand to know why v-c and chancellor left

Union bemoans lack of ‘transparency’ at Leeds Met as acting chief executive appointed. Melanie Newman reports

January 30, 2009

The University and College Union branch at Leeds Metropolitan University has called for more transparency over the resignations of the vice-chancellor and chancellor this month.

After a six-hour meeting of the board of governors on 28 January, the university announced that Geoff Hitchins has been made acting chief executive and that Simon Lee, the vice-chancellor, will continue in an “ambassadorial” role only until his departure in August.

Leeds Met gave no further information about the reasons for the departure of Professor Lee.

The UCU branch at Leeds Met unanimously passed a motion this week regretting that “no adequate account of the chancellor and v-c’s departures has been given either by the chancellor, v-c or the board of governors”.

It also demanded “transparency as to the reasons for the v-c’s departure”.

The union’s motion also criticised a “bullying culture” at the university and called for a “collegiate culture”.

Speculation over Professor Lee’s exit is mounting. The most recent edition of the university’s student newspaper, The Met, reported his departure with the headline: “Resigned or pushed?”

Professor Lee did not attend the governors’ meeting on Wednesday. The vice-chancellor’s daily “VC Reflects” column on the Leeds Met website was replaced by a statement from the chairman of the board of governors, Ninian Watt, on 29 January.

On 30 January, Dr Hitchins reiterated in a personal statement on the website that “until he leaves the university, [Professor Lee] will focus on an agreed external ambassadorial role and I will concentrate on the executive management of the university”.

Dr Hitchins said his “immediate task” would be to work with colleagues and trade unions “over key issues and ways of working… it will be business as usual, but inevitably reflecting my collegiate style of leadership and management.

“There is no denying that these are challenging times. My focus has to be on taking the university forward in line with the agreed priorities and obligations. The senior team and I must do all we can to ensure that we retain the confidence of students, staff, governors and other stakeholders and business partners, as we move forward to a new era under the leadership of the next vice-chancellor.”

The Yorkshire Post quoted Dr Hitchins as saying: “There may well be some people who have a concern about the culture of the university. All I can tell you is that there will be no bullying on my watch. I have been appointed because my style is my style, which is different, it is very collegiate.”

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