Sussex professor appeals to visitor for senate post

July 21, 1995

A prominent physics professor has called on the visitor of Sussex University to reinstate him to senate after vice chancellor Gordon Conway cut short his term of office.

Norman Dombey, pictured right, was elected in June 1994 for three years but was told a departmental re-organisation in September meant his membership would immediately cease.

Mr Dombey does not dispute the vice chancellor's right to change arrangements for future elections but is adamant the changes should not be used retrospectively.

The vice chancellor's move meant Mr Dombey was unable to seek re-election in last month's senate elections to council so he has also asked the visitor to call a fresh vote.

Following heated exchanges in the Sussex senate and council, both parties have agreed that the Lord President of the Privy Council, acting for the Queen, should have the final say.

Mr Dombey is a former specialist adviser to the Commons select committee on energy who has written extensively on nuclear weapons policy and arms control. His solicitor, Martin Diplock, said: "The vice chancellor has said that as a result of the merger of the two schools they have got too many senate members and they have decided to discontinue his membership. I do not believe that they are entitled to deal with the matter in that way."

Sussex University spokeswoman Sue Yates said: "Professor Dombey is taking his complaint to the Privy Council which will investigate. We just are not able to comment on something under investigation."

She added: "Whatever the outcome of the Privy Council's deliberations we will abide by them."

Asked to respond to Professor Dombey's article (see page 14), vice chancellor Gordon Conway said: " I am not going to comment. It is up to the Privy Council to determine it."

University council member Geoffrey Theobold, a former leader of East Sussex County Council, said: "My experience is that when you fight an election you are in for a given term. I thought it rather strange that someone properly elected for a period suddenly finds his term of office rather arbitrarily taken away.

"At council, the vice chancellor tried to say that this was a new school being set up, therefore it seemed logical to him one should have a new election for which Professor Dombey could have stood. I said, for the sake of one person, he might have well seen his term out when you have got a council as large as we have. There is no intrigue that I am aware of."

Senate member Professor John Murrell said he believed that the matter was a trivial affair within the whole establishment of the university.

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