White's rights

May 19, 2000

In claiming that the Caroline White issue is no more than a disciplinary matter ("Barred professor to face disciplinary action", THES, May 12)b the University of Natal, South Africa, is misrepresenting the point in my letter to vice-chancellor Brenda Gourley.

Professor White has been suspended for more than four months. For most of this time, no charges were brought against her. When eventually a statement of complaint was produced it included, as a basis for disciplinary action, the fact that she had complained about the behaviour of others, that she might seek legal representation and that she might sue for defamation.

Only four of the 28 charges relate to misconduct, and these are: misrepresentation of a specific situation (no evidence cited); a disagreement about an email message; a dispute about the re-marking of test scripts; and an arcane point about a criticism of the dean that was placed on a noticeboard.

It is clear to many people that these actions are procedurally unfair and an improper attempt by the University of Natal to restrict Professor White's constitutional and legal rights. This is why the case is of more general interest and about academic freedom.

Martin Hall

Dean of higher education development

University of Cape Town

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