University disciplinary procedures

December 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

There has been – and continues to be – frequent questioning of University disciplinary procedures over the past few years.

This was recently highlighted by the University management’s recent defeat in an Employment Tribunal.

The full verdict – including lengthy details of the poorly conducted disciplinary procedure – can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/mv824g5

A Times Higher report can be found here – www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/neuroscientist-thelma-lovick-wins-tribunal-victory-over-birmingham/2009741.article

The judge for the tribunal criticised the University management for being too ready to sack a member of University staff – who had 39 years of unblemished service to the University of Birmingham – and for relying on ‘scanty and inadequately investigated’ evidence. The judge stated that the University disciplinary panel, chaired by Professor Edward Peck, and the dismissal of the staff member, had been unreasonable, unfair and breached natural justice.

This is a truly appalling treatment of a member of University staff and clearly requires a major rethink by the University management regarding how they interpret their role. The response by the University spokesperson – that the decision to dismiss this member of staff was ‘reached after a detailed process’ – comes in the face of an Employment Tribunal ruling that this precisely was not sufficiently the case, and therefore suggests an inability to revise behaviour, even when a legal ruling states that poor practice has taken place.

This is especially alarming as the University management have now begun a series of disciplinary proceedings against students who took part in protests earlier this term. The proceedings were cynically initiated during vacation, making student support for the accused more difficult to mobilise than it would be during term time. This latest round of attacks on our students also includes a complaint made by Lee Sanders, University Registrar, against elected student representative, Guild Vice-President (Education) Hattie Craig. In the complaint Lee Sanders makes a number of exaggerated accusations, including that Hattie disrupted student education, caused health and safety risks, and intimidated and harassed staff. He also claims that Hattie is part of a ‘tiny unrepresentative minority’, whereas the University management represents the interests of 28,000 students. The fact that Hattie is an elected representative – and Lee Sanders is decidedly not – seems to have escaped the University Registrar. BUCU committee support Hattie in entirely rejecting these exaggerated accusations, designed clearly to intimidate students as part of an ill-informed strategy to repress legitimate student dissent. We also note that this is the third elected Guild Vice President in three years to be targeted for disciplinary action by the University.

BUCU will continue to support the right to non-violent legitimate dissent – and to highlight and oppose the intimidatory and heavy-handed responses regularly meted out by the University of Birmingham management.

More updates to follow.

BUCU committee

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