Tribunal upholds Dundee sacking

January 2, 1998

A Dundee University lecturer who directed a student field trip to the wrong site and then casually said "What's in a name?" was not dismissed unfairly, an industrial tribunal has ruled.

The tribunal report said senior staff had warned architecture lecturer Murray McNaught about his behaviour since 1993, when students criticised his poor timekeeping, "destructive criticism" of their work, bad language, rudeness and apparent lack of commitment to and enthusiasm for students.

The tribunal unanimously rejected Mr McNaught's claim that he had been unfairly dismissed and was entitled to a redundancy payment. An internal university tribunal had conducted an inquiry "far beyond what could reasonably have been expected" of an employer and had "reasonable grounds for sustaining their belief of misconduct".

The tribunal found that as well as the misdirected field trip, Mr McNaught had swerved in front of a bus taking students on another trip, causing it to brake sharply, after it had left late when he had not arrived. It did not accept Mr McNaught's evidence that he had arrived on time, had difficulty parking his car and that a colleague must have seen him and set off regardless.

Mr McNaught withdrew from teaching third-year students in 1995 after they told professor of architecture Charles McKean that they feared they would fail their degree. He was assigned various administrative duties, which Professor McKean said were carried out unsatisfactorily. There were more complaints about his teaching, and colleagues said they could no longer work with him.

After an internal tribunal, the university gave him six months' notice on full pay in June 1996, suspending him with immediate effect. His appeal to the university was unsuccessful.

The tribunal report described Mr McNaught as "intransigent" and unconvincing. He had argued that he was not at fault in any way.

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