Design students who used their multimedia skills to create posters and badges in support of a suspended lecturer have been threatened with disciplinary action.
The Cumbria Institute of Arts students were shocked to read in their local newspaper that Nicos Souleles, the popular head of multimedia and digital animation, had been suspended earlier this year pending an internal disciplinary investigation.
The students' campaign, which criticises the college's handling of the matter, backs Mr Souleles and urges his swift reinstatement. Dozens of student-designed posters have appeared on campus and have been posted on a website under the banner: "Where is Nicos?"
The students created "missing" posters, which read: "Nicos has been missing from CIA, no explanation has been given, his students miss him and want him back. He was last seen wearing a white shirt and black jumper. Where's Nicos?"
They also digitally manipulated well-known film posters to include Mr Souleles's image and have adapted images from the children's book Where's Wally? , renaming it Where's Nicos?
Mr Souleles, who declined to comment this week, has been suspended on full pay since January and will face a disciplinary hearing in autumn, it is understood.
The college previously confirmed: "A lecturer has been suspended on full pay pending the outcome of an internal disciplinary investigation. Details are confidential but the investigation does not involve any relationship with students or academic delivery."
A number of students have contacted The Times Higher about the situation and several are understood to have written to the governing body at the college.
One said that students had assumed that Mr Souleles was ill when he failed to turn up to scheduled classes in January. They did not learn that he had been suspended until a local newspaper report in late February.
Students have complained to the college that they have faced "intimidation" over their poster campaign and that there have been attempts to silence them.
At a meeting of all final-year students in April, registrar Paula Lea warned that the posters and badges were upsetting other students at the institute. She warned that the campaign would be treated as "vandalism" and said that "action" might be necessary.
She also warned that "a number" of abusive e-mails had been posted by students on group discussion lists. She said one e-mail abusing a member of staff was being investigated by the police.
The institute did not respond to The Times Higher 's request for a comment.