‘Wolf of Northampton’ Nick Petford defended after criticism

UCU letter calls celebration of ‘laddish’ behaviour ‘disturbing’

April 2, 2014

Students at the University of Northampton have leapt to the defence of vice-chancellor Nick Petford after he was criticised for his antics at a recent university sports awards evening.

On the evening in question, Professor Petford was photographed competing in a “dance off” with students, downing drinks, and crowdsurfing across the room.

His behaviour prompted one student to christen him “the Wolf of Northampton”, in reference to the booze-fuelled lifestyle of Jordan Belfort depicted in the recent film The Wolf of Wall Street.

An open letter from the Northampton branch of the University and College Union said that many staff and students at Northampton found it “disturbing” when the hashtag #WolfOfNorthampton started appearing on Twitter in reference to Professor Petford.

“Some may think laddish behaviour nothing more than harmless high-jinx, worthy of the hashtag #lad adopted by other student revellers,” the letter, from the Northampton UCU branch executive, says.

“However, such behaviour is not victimless. Those of us engaged as personal tutors have dealt with incidents of racial bullying in halls by lads returning late from bars and the academic literature is littered with research showing direct correlations between fraternity style student drinking cultures and complaints of sexual assault.”

It alleges that “behaviour of this type by Senior Managers undermines the hard work that the majority of staff and students at the University put in to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment” at Northampton. Some staff and students, “especially those with particular religious or cultural beliefs or with direct experiences as victims”, will be “deeply offended”, it adds.

However, after coverage of the evening appeared on websites including ITV News and the Huffington Post, Northampton students began defending their vice-chancellor, as the tweets below – which were retweeted by Professor Petford from his personal Twitter account- demonstrate.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

It's a pretty shoddy management style. The message to young people in regards to healthy drinking attitudes and behaviours is less than admirable.
I can think of far worse things a VC can do than have a drink and dance. I agree that that the "laddish" crimes mentioned by the union are inexcusable but this is not what happened here and to associate anyone who drinks and enjoys themselves at a celebration, as a "lad" is wrong. What I see is a VC who connects with his students at a University which offers great standards of education with very supportive staff. Nothing more crazy than a bit of dancing. Let's not strip management of personality.

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