UCL is standing by its decision to recruit an acclaimed cultural studies scholar to lead its architecture and urban planning school despite him facing accusations of age discrimination at his current university.
Christoph Lindner was named last month as the new dean of the Bartlett, UCL’s highly rated Faculty for the Built Environment, which includes the Bartlett School of Architecture, as it marks its centenary celebrations.
But staff at the Bartlett have questioned his appointment after learning that Professor Lindner and the University of Oregon, where he is dean of its College of Design, are being sued in the US for $4.3 million (£3.3 million) over alleged age discrimination and breach of contract.
Three architecture professors in their seventies and early eighties – who state that they were the college’s oldest academics – claim that it was unfair to ask them to relocate from Portland to the university’s Eugene campus, which is about 125 miles away.
Two architecture faculty members under the age of 60 were not asked to move, according to Oregon’s student newspaper, the Daily Emerald.
UCL’s University and College Union branch has questioned the appointment of Professor Lindner, who was previously professor of media and culture at the University of Amsterdam and whose research has focused on urban landscapes, in light of the age discrimination action, as well as union dissatisfaction at Oregon which resulted from restructuring at his college in 2017.
One Bartlett academic told Times Higher Education that it was unclear whether the university’s governing body had been informed about the lawsuit before signing off Professor Lindner’s appointment. UCL declined to comment on “confidential” discussions of its council, which is chaired by former CIA analyst and World Bank economist Dame DeAnne Julius.
However, the university told THE that “due process was followed throughout Professor Lindner’s recruitment and appointment process” and the university had been alerted to the claims, which Oregon denies.
Similar claims by the same individuals had already been dismissed by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industry, it said.
“Professor Lindner was appointed dean of the Bartlett following a rigorous and highly competitive worldwide recruitment process – which included a robust interview process with a panel of 10 senior individuals from across UCL and two external experts, as well as thorough reference and background checks,” a UCL spokeswoman said.
His “leadership experience as dean of the College of Design at the University of Oregon and his outstanding academic credentials mean that he is the right person to lead the Bartlett at this exciting time for the faculty”, she added.
The appointment is believed to have been endorsed by UCL’s council on the advice of the university’s president, Michael Arthur, who himself was advised by the job search committee. The council agreed approval could be signed off by a chair’s action at a meeting on 13 March. UCL confirmed that the appointment had not been referred back to the council.