Monday, 31 January 2011

The Dilemma of a former day Obi Wan Kenobi

Well I've spent a good couple of hour googling and I simply can't find it anywhere. I've typed in 'University of Salford' and the word 'Xenophobia'... nothing. Putting together the words 'sexual', 'attack' and University of Salford brought no luck either. I even waded through the ratcatchersofthesewers postings courtesy of the University's lawyers Heatons and interpret as I may, I could find no posting that could be remotely described as 'Xenophobic' or an 'attack' of a 'sexual' nature in any shape or form whatsoever. I have therefore come to one simple and inexorable conclusion - they don't exist. I would add that I'm happy to be proved wrong. If Professor Hall would like to send me the hyperlinks demonstrating clear examples of the "postings" that "are peppered with defamatory attacks on individuals which may be xenophobic , sexual or just downright nasty" I shall feature them so we can all judge for ourselves. I can't say fairer than that can I?

A Literary Device or merely pandering to the lazer lobby?

Yet despite the lack of real detail (ie. the names of the "disaffected individuals with personal grievances") his recent posting regarding "cyber-bullying" seems to have sparked some debate which we'd like to continue. Although a little sensationalist in its overall tone, and putting to one side the rather unsophisticated references to Star Wars or half a Pink Floyd album, it is clear that he's a little worked up over something. At this juncture, this writer would hazard extreme caution as we must be careful of seeing a potential cyber-bully around every corner. Along this road lies the very real possibility of imbuing within the wider public a collective neurosis that may ultimately only be satisfied by the arming of each citizen with a toy light sabre.

Now any form of bullying is wrong. However, shouldn't we adopt a more cautious approach to phraseology as I'm of the opinion that the use of terms such as 'cyber-harassment', 'cyber-bullies' and the 'dark side' are little more than literary mechanisms, and in this context are heavily value-laden. Hall's postings on these matters undoubtedly contain more than a hint of a good old fashioned moral panic. Moreover, it would be silly to state that by using the internet as a medium to elevate issues that question institutional practices (in a public body), corporate policies (in a public body), delve into issues concerning appointments (in a public body), adherence to statutory obligations as well as looking into issues concerning bullying and harassment (in a public body), should itself equate to bullying or harassment or indeed to "criminal harassment". The problem that I have with the thrust of this posting on his blog is that I've been here before.

Myths, misinformation and "toxic shards"

I note from the Vice Chancellor's posting that he argues that "...accepted rights of freedom of speech come with the duty to behave responsibly. This is in our own University Charter. Acting irresponsibility – through defamation or deliberate misinformation – qualifies the right to freedom of expression. This is recognised in law through, for example, legislation against hate speech."

During my suspension in 2009, the Vice Chancellor Michael Harloe and the University thought it wise to release internal and external press releases that I had produced a series of 'posters' that 'viciously' attacked a female student. They also thought it pertinent to mention the fact that she was from 'an ethnic minority'. At the time it was not clear why the UoS would seek to raise the issue of this student/member of staff's ethnicity with regard to the newsletters. Anyone who had read the satirical Vice Consul's Newsletters (apparently many of you did) would be very hard-pressed to detect a neutron of racism within them. Neither did they mention Ms Li's ethnicity. Oddly enough, I didn't consider myself a racist. I still don't. I opposed the BNP's Tony Wentworth when he studied and tried to recruit students at UoS. I cut my teeth in anti fascist work in Oldham and Burnley at the height of the riots, trudging streets leafleting every weekend. I even lectured at UoS to politics masters students on anti-fascism and the growth of the Far Right in the UK. I was (am) an active member of Unite Against Fascism and coincidentally, I'd spent the two weekends prior to my suspension leafleting against the BNP in an area adjacent to the University of Salford where they were standing in the local elections.

A particularly nasty shard
Anger from below and the "moderation" of a Registrar

Rather ironically I taught solely international students. On hearing of my suspension, on their own initiative, the students drew up a petition in my support comprehensively rejecting the insinuation that I was racist. This was handed to the Head of the School of Languages one Dr Paul Rowlett. The University clearly had to respond to the anger of these students who believed I was being portrayed by the University as attacking a female student (no mention was made that this female student was also a member of staff) on the basis of her ethnicity. A statement was put together by management (see below).(1) However prior to this statement being sent to students, it was altered to include a further section that appeared to heavily underscore the issue of the woman's ethnicity (see below).(2)

Before I go any further I wish to avoid any accusation from Professor Hall of producing a "toxic shard" or of abusing individuals within the University. I shall deal therefore with specific evidence supplied to me by the University.

Things became a great deal clearer several months later after I'd received a large box of documents under a SAR*. Buried within the vast amount of documentation was an email. It was from the Registrar Dr Adrian Graves addressed to Executive Director of HR Keith Watkinson, the then Dean of Faculty (now Pro-Vice Chancellor) Brian Longhurst and my own Head of School Dr Paul Rowlett. It was sent with regard to the amending of a statement that was to be sent to the students I taught, many of whom had organised the petition. In his email of 21st May 2009, Dr Graves stated:

"This is and [sic] orchestrated event and the soto voce way forward you have adopted is appropriate. I was tempted to suggest as part of your briefing you might slip in the fact that the allegations include the harassment of a female student of Chinese ethnic origin - but I guess that would be departing from the moderation you are proposing..."(3) 

The amended statement was emailed to my students within the International Foundation Year.

The result of this particular "toxic shard"

I assert that the coupling of the issue of the woman's ethnicity to the Vice Consul's Newletters by the University had very real consequences particularly the press releases sent by the University to the press. I was on one occasion subjected to abuse in the street in Manchester being referred to by one chap as a racist as I exited a restaurant with my partner and a friend. Although upsetting, I'm reasonably thick-skinned and I can quite take care of myself. What I found more upsetting was that my youngest son was also subjected to abuse and threats from a group of young people who knew both of us, threatening to come to our home and in their terms, 'kick the shit' out of me. Never one to back away from threats of violence or intimidation, I told him to mention to them that I would at their convenience, be happy to welcome any representations from their feet in order to put matters straight one way or another.

Your views count 

Clearly, Vice Chancellor Hall has strong views on the issue of misinformation, "toxic shards" and the role information technology plays in their dissemination. I have two questions for him:

  • Can he explain why the Deputy Vice Chancellor and Registrar Dr Graves would so casually seek to introduce an issue of a student's/member of staff's ethnicity where none existed?
  • Does he feel that this is the best use of the University's IT systems by senior managers?

If Vice Chancellor Hall would like to exercise his right to freedom of speech, I'm delighted to provide a forum on this website so that he may take the opportunity to comment on the above issues. Alternatively, he can contact me directly at

* Subject Access Request under provisions of the Data Protection Act made November 2009

(1) "Dear IFY student. You may be aware that Mr Gary Duke has been suspended from his post at the University. A number of you have in fact signed a petition in support of Gary, which I have forwarded to relevant senior managers within the University. I am sure that you will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the details of Gary's suspension; however, I can assure you that the University is dealing with the situation in an appropriate way through legal processes to ensure that Gary's rights are protected appropriately..." sent to A Barakat and D Lloyd 21 May 2009 timed 19:54 subject 'Email message for IFY students following the sociology and international studies modules'

(2) ""Dear IFY student. You may be aware that Mr Gary Duke has been suspended from his post at the University. A number of you have in fact signed a petition in support of Gary, which I have forwarded to relevant senior managers within the University. The situation is that there has recently been a series of posters appearing in the Salford Business School, but also elsewhere across the campus, that viciously attack a female student of an ethnic minority and a head of school. The content of these posters is sexist, deeply offensive and defamatory. Mr Duke has been suspended owing to allegations that he is responsible for the production and dissemination of these posters. I am sure that you will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the details of Gary's suspension; however, I can assure you that the University is dealing with the situation in an appopriate way through legal processes to ensure that Gary's rights are protected appropriately..." sent via University email system to IFY students 22nd May 2009

(3) Portion of an email from Dr A Graves to K Watkinson, B Longhurst, P Rowlett, 21 May 2009 timed 17:47

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Thursday, 27 January 2011

A donkey, a pin and a tale...

Well folks, my inbox overfloweth to some fine tune.

Instead of dealing with the usual torrent of queries, quips quibbles and quandaries, yesterday I abandoned electronica choosing instead to immerse my diminishing bodily calculus into the pit - or should I say, the rather ethereal world of the Employment Tribunal - Manchester Employment Tribunal to be precise. The case, a hearing, involved the University of Salford (Respondent) and of course a former employee (The Claimant and not this writer). I will not dwell on the detail here other than to say it was both agreeable and painful... agreeable in that I'm of the opinion that a small victory was scored and it's essential to support a colleague against the machine. Painful in that one can only spend a limited period of time in a hot room and in proximity to a particularly oleaginous type before nausea imparts itself like a random piss-protein into one's thigh marrow.

The Devil's Draft - Fresh Coffee and Ibuprofen

I also didn't deal with my morning caffeine addiction which is only exorcised by a torrent of coffee which is now running to around five large-ish cups of Aldi's finest fresh which at £1.69 a pack is excellent value for money. It would be a gross underestimation of the most hideous kind to say that the concomitant withdrawal headache was a bit of a screamer. It would not be an understatement to suggest that the decision to cycle home on a vintage 1950s Raleigh Superbe at full wallop had the resultant effect of raising the unadulterated temple-oriented agony to the power of ten. However a handful of Aldi Ibuprofen at a very reasonable thirty (30) pence a pack is also excellent value and well worth the investment.

The Devil's Footprints but with no Springs Attached

However, my decision to eschew my nearly steam-driven Mark I for the comings and goings of the Tribunal has led to a rather sizeable backlog of correspondence which I nearly subjected myself to. A gander was taken and one rather brief email did leap out like a liquid crystal Spring-heel'd Jack but not as diabolical. I'd like to share some of the contents of this with you as I'm always one for a little satirical muscle-flexing or jape-fuelled journalistic pull-ups which I'm reliably informed cannot be construed as criminal harassment. Besides, it helps in some small way to while away the fag-end of a compulsory obsessive evensong. The originator of the email shall remain firmly anonymous as I subscribe to the journalists' dictum (yes the dodgy one's also subscribe) that sources should always be protected.

My dear Dr Duke this one is clearly addressed
to you as it begins 'Dear Arsehole...'
A task not a game

Below are some selected excerpts  from a leaked letter that outlined the preliminary findings of a ten-man audit panel in 2008.* The task for you is simple: firstly, read the selected excerpts from the leaked letter and consider its contents carefully. Secondly, try and decide to which university this letter refers. Finally you might like to take a guess as to whom the author of the leaked letter may be. I have of course omitted the name of the educational establishment to make it a little more interesting. If you click on the link at the foot of the page, all will become abundantly clear.

"As you know, I recently chaired the institutional audit of the University of _ _ _ _ ."

“…However, we also noted an extensive and debilitating "climate of hostility" at the university, manifested in adversarial exchanges and the habit of dealing with dissent through disciplinary inquiries and litigation…”

“…We found credible and extensive evidence that this "climate of hostility" is damaging staff morale (and may be causing staff to leave), affecting the university's credibility with employers and other stakeholders and disturbing students. The panel was of the view that, were this approach to dissent to continue, there could be serious damage to the university's continuing viability…”

“…The panel has heard that some aspects of this situation are expressed as lack of academic freedom at the university. In coming to understand this, the panel identified two dimensions of academic freedom that may be inappropriately conflated. One dimension refers to the right to teach, to research and to exercise professional judgment on discipline-related issues without interference. The other dimension refers to the right to engage in debate about matters affecting the university. The panel has found no evidence of interference with the teaching and learning and research activities of staff at _ _ _ _. But the panel has found evidence of stifled debate about institutional matters and of debates conducted in ways which obfuscate rather than elucidate issues…”

“…the panel was heartened by evidence that the human resources division is prioritising measures to take the institution from the habit of litigation to the practice of addressing conflict by means of mediation and conciliation…”

Click here and all will be revealed...

* Courtesy of Michael Savides, The Mercury, January 23 2009 sourced at

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A Question of Anonymity

In Professor Martin Hall's weekly blog, which is always a fascinating read, he asserts that "[a]s a university, we have our own share of cyber-bullies and harassers. They are invariably disaffected individuals with personal grievances who hide behind anonymous blogs and e-mail pseudonyms. As Vice Chancellor Hall has opened a debate and invited commentary, and not wishing to be cast as a dreadful "cyber-bully" or serial "cyber-harasser" it would be remiss not to draw readers attention to a little snippet found on Erin Baldwin's campaigning website. It concerns a comment posted on her website by a chap called Mr Ethical Blogger centring on the provision of Personally Identifying Information such as IP addresses and email addresses to the University of Salford. Provided voluntarily I might add for the sake of clarity, by the CEO of Automattic Inc/Wordpress a Mr Toni Schneider.

Ethical Blogger  * 

Has anyone perchance seen
a loose cobbler
knocking around?
“I don’t know any of the details of the case set out here or the ratcatchers blog (strange name), but I strongly believe that bloggers should act ethically and within the law. Is it possible that WordPress acted ethically, concluding that the material published by Dr. Gary Paul Duke on the strangely named blog, contravened their own guidelines for ethical blogging – and was so evidently defamatory (as apparently determined by the British authorities) – that it would inevitably lead to an order for release of the US courts. They released it therefore in accordance with their own principles of publication - saving themselves further administrative and legal costs in the process?”

Erin Baldwin writes:

"I think it’s interesting how the person writing this comment states at the beginning:
“I don’t know any of the details of the case …” then pontificates very astutely about
the major issues of controversy:

(1) that WordPress ethics have been called into question;
(2) that Dr. Gary Paul Duke allegedly published “defamatory” material;
(3) that WordPress claims that the “defamatory” material was against its guidelines;
(4) that British courts deemed the content “defamatory”;
(5) that United States courts concur (since the trend in the states is to terminate as many blogs as possible that express an opinion contrary to the status quo and/or arrest owners of blogs to at least take the heat off for a while); and…. finally and most importantly to Toni Schneider and Matt Mullenweg:
(6) that the US courts would issue a court order to save WordPress legal and administrative fees because they are actually doing them a favor by being the hatchet men for the government. 
I think the writer of this comment knows quite a bit about this case, don’t you? Like maybe he or she is intimately involved in the litigation?"

Oh dear... how sad... never mind

In light of Professor Hall's obvious antipathy to anonymous commentary via cyber-land, I shall of course reserve my own judgement. You however, can draw your own conclusions. If any readers would like to undertake a little bit of their own investigative work, click here and then click here. The results prove very interesting.

Post Script: The author of this blog would like to stress that he has no problem with the issue of anonymous or pseudonymically centred blogging. Indeed anonymous political leafleting and pamphleteering have played an important historical role in creating an a political dissidence and ideological alternative in periods of ruling class hegemony. However, the University of Salford have made it clear via letters to this writer from their rather over-enthusiastic lawyers (who were incidentally Halliwells at the time until they went bust last year) that they believe this type of blogging to be 'cowardly', a view that cuts against the grain of the opinion of Mr Justice Thomas who in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334 (1995) recognises the 'value' in upholding the right to publish anonymously within the First Amendment of the US Constitution. 

I would also like to say that I would not condone for one minute the UoS seeking to discipline the above anonymous post-er to Ms Baldwin's blog despite the obvious misuse of UoS IT facilities.

* I have removed this IP address but this particular IP Address is already in the public domain courtesy of Erin Baldwin at 

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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Respondez s'il vous plait

My dear fellow, they say if you're in one
you should stop digging
The rumours that I am a rather pitifully obsessive individual must be true. How could I resist? Sat in front of me on Christmas morning was a pristine, unopened box of documents courtesy of Mr Matthew Stephenson. Amidst the festinated wrapping paper and cacophonous excitement of younger family members, I surreptitiously donned my professional document waders and splashed around in the shallows of my last Subject Access Request for about an hour. It was worthwhile as in a very short space of time, an interesting email surfaced in a manner not too dissimilar to that of an ace of clubs from a pack of cards in the hands of a Penn or a Teller. I shall come back to the content of this email in due course.

The Witness Statement

This email does however draw me in an almost predestinatory manner on to the subject of claims made by a certain Registrar in a statement provided to the Court in the ongoing libel proceedings on 21st December 2010. Now, thanks to Dr Graves and District Judge Smith, most of this statement is in the public domain. This week I'd like to devote attention to a particular section that refers to an article taken from a ratcatchers post concerning Freedom of Information:

"It would appear that these to [sic] implacable University bosses regard themselves as immune to the whims of a mere legislature in the shape of Parliament, and feel that they can readily cock their metaphorical hind legs at the trifle of the English Law whilst offering the universal one-finger salute again to the Freedom of Information Act (2000) and its human embodiment, the Information Commissioner".

Dr Graves complained that these words were defamatory because:

"By their natural or ordinary meaning and/or by the way of innuendo the words complained of are meant to mean that I and Professor Hall are prepared to ignore the Law, and acted unlawfully and are dismissive of our obligations towards an Officer of the Crown. Again, this is completely untrue and there is no foundation whatsoever to support their contentions. At all times, Professor Hall and myself act lawfully and comply with our obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (2000)."(1)

Now my son... did they not tell you that
an allegation of vexatiousness could result in
prematurely meeting thy maker?
Asking questions is perfectly legitimate

At this point, it might be germane to direct our attention to the whatdotheyknow website, which is a bona fide online platform for making Freedom of Information requests. It is with some interest to note that as of 14th January 2011 there were ninety seven (yes that's a whopping 97) UoS refusals of FOI requests out of one hundred and twenty six (yes that's 126) total requests posted via this site. There are also seven (7) requests that are classed as  'Long Overdue' and nine (that's 9) awaiting an 'Internal Review'. It's this last category that is proving interesting as the ICO's guidance on this matter states quite clearly that:

"...the Commissioner considers that a reasonable time for completing an internal review is 20 working days from the date of the request for review. There may be a small number of cases which involve exceptional circumstances where it may be reasonable to take longer. In those circumstances, the public authority should, as a matter of good practice, notify the requester and explain why more time is needed. In our view, in no case should the total time taken exceed 40 working days. In such cases we would expect a public authority to be able to demonstrate that it had commenced the review procedure promptly following receipt of the request for review and had actively worked on the review throughout that period."

The writer in his
 earlier 'patient' period
The job of patience

Rumour has it that I'm a patient chap. However, FOI Champion Dr Graves* might like to direct his attention to at least one outstanding Internal Review that rests glaringly un-replied-to since the 14th December 2009. As well as being patient, I'm also sensitive to issues of workload-balance. But since my request for an Internal Review didn't even merit a reply from the University, I decided to give Mr Stephenson a second chance and wait another seven months (7 months) for him to reply which he didn't. It was then that I decided to give him a little 'prod' which I thought might move things along:

"Dear Mr Stephenson

It is now over seven (7) months (months) since I requested an internal review regarding your decision in refusing to accede in providing me with the above information. Can you explain to me why you have not processed this request under the provisions laid down by the Freedom of Information Act 2000?

Yours sincerely,

Dr Gary Paul Duke"

Alas, despite my timeous reminder, Mr Stephenson didn't acknowledge my 'prodding'. Now some might be aware that the holding of opinions can get one into trouble. Bearing this in mind I decided to poll a few associates. All concurred with my own opinion that this is generally referred to in FOI circles as a 'breach' of the Freedom of Information Act or more simply put, a breach of the law. Why? Well as a Public Authority, the University are REQUIRED BY LAW to respond within the guidelines laid down by the ICO. I'm also well aware that on the 8th November 2009, Dr Graves in an email to Watkinson and Mr Stephenson asked to be kept informed of "any" Freedom of Information requests made to the University.(2)  I mention Dr Graves here because according to Matthew Stephenson, he has had some sort of involvement in another FOI request with regard to the University's use of Halliwells LLP.

Who makes the initial decisions to reject FOIs at UoS?

Given Dr Graves allegations in his highly original statement to the court, I am keen to discern exactly what form this involvement takes. It is at this point that I should make it clear that the Registrar has corporate responsibility for complying with the FOI Act (2000). A posting by Mr Stephenson on whatdotheyknow dated 8th November 2010 addressed to 'Alison' presumably Alison Mullan (nee Purnell), Dr Graves Chief of Staff, said:

It's near displaced Gooley Street
A wayward knacker

Amusingly, almost immediately after posting this on whatdotheyknow, someone within Information Governance tried to recall the email - unsuccessfully! This action was highly suggestive... highly suggestive of a bollock having been dropped! According to the wording of this wayward knacker, Dr Graves "was involved in the first request" and the first request seemed to have been refused. "Why" I pondered, "was Dr Graves involved in the first request." Might some consider that direct involvement in a specific FOI first request might be taking 'ensuring compliance' a little far? I scratched my head mulling over the question in my mind. "Was this usual procedure?" I asked me. Being a rather naive type, I presumed that this would be Mr Stephenson's job. He is Head of Information Governance after all.

The Data Protection Act and that little old thing called a Subject Access Request

I have written before on the ongoing Homer-poem of the refused Freedom of Information of requests. No doubt I shall be writing about them again in future. Currently the ICO is investigating the University and the manner in which my requests were refused. I'm not holding my breath over this. But I've also had good reason to contact the ICO with regard to the provision (or more correctly the lack of provision) of my personal data under a previous Subject Access Request (SAR) in November 2009. In fact I have had cause to contact Mr Stephenson quite regularly over this issue. In an email to him dated 11 February 2010 I brought to his attention that certain staff including one Dr Graves (see below), had not been as forthcoming with data as they should have under my initial request made in November 2009.(3) Oddly enough, after my letter to Stephenson, Dr Graves found the letters sent by Damien Shannon to him, and they were provided to me forthwith. However, given the delay, some might be of the opinion that this is a breach of the Data Protection Act by the University.

What's the probability of getting a positive response
to an FOI request if your initials are GPD?
Even reasonable types have their limits

Now as I've alleged before, I'm a reasonable chap but even I have limits. So I was a little surprised when Mr Stephenson wrote back that same day and informed me that Vice Chancellor Martin Hall had informed him that he had no "...personal information..." relating to me.(4) I say surprised because I had been supplied with documents (not supplied by Martin Hall) as part of the original SAR in November 2009 which contained an email string and an email sent by a chap called Ed Rowan to... well, Vice Chancellor Martin Hall's University email account (cc'd to Graves and Watkinson). The original email was dated 31st July 2009, four days before my disciplinary hearing. Adjacent to the word 'subject' it said "Email as discussed - OFF THE RECORD." Professor Hall also had email correspondence between myself and him regarding the issue of some serious allegations made in signed statements against Dr Graves by two individuals at his former University Robert Gordon. At the time I wondered why Professor Hall had also omitted to supply any copies of this correspondence.(5) 

A quick refresher course

I thought it was time to refresh my memory on the test for vexatiousness as laid down by the ICO under Section 14 (1) of the FOI Act (2000). It asks that several considerations be taken into account in assessing a request: (i) Can the request fairly be seen as obsessive? (ii) Is the request harassing the authority or causing distress to staff? (iii) Would complying with the request impose a significant burden in terms of expense and distraction? (iv) Is the request designed to cause disruption or annoyance? (v) Does the request lack any serious purpose or value? The guidance was clear. It went further:

"However, you should not automatically refuse a request simply because it is made in the context of a dispute or forms part of a series of requests. You must still ask whether the request is vexatious in that context by considering the questions listed above. An important point is that it is the request, not the requester, that must be vexatious. You should not automatically refuse a request just because the individual has caused problems in the past. You must look at the request itself."(6)

The finale to this little tale, brings me back to the Christmas morning email. It was dated 20th November 2009. It was from Adrian Graves to Watkinson, Hall, Jenks, and Matthew Stephenson. It was sent in response to an email I'd sent to Watkinson in November 2009 asking for copies of all complaints made by HoS John Wilson and Xiang Li against me in support of the claims that I'd bullied and harassed them. Additionally, I thought it best to also ask him for copies of any witness statements made by the two. Graves' email was short and pithy, and stated unambiguously they were considering treating any FOI requests made by me as vexatious, that they believed they had reasonable grounds to do this and would be responding to me in those terms.(7)

Duvet refusals

Search as I may, I couldn't find within the ICO Guidance notes on Vexatious Requests any reference to blanket refusals on any future requests. Might such a policy prove to be in breach of the Freedom of Information legislation I wondered? I'm of the honestly held opinion that it certainly undermines the veracity of some of the allegations made in Dr Graves' witness statement. If any legal types have an opinion on this matter and you'd like to share them, please press here. But there again Mr Stephenson would know wouldn't he? Surely, as Head of Information Governance, he would seek to correct the Registrar with regard to his role as FOI Champion and the University's legal obligations under Freedom of Information legislation?

Funnily enough, I couldn't find that email in the bundle.

*According to the University's Freedom of Information Policy, corporate responsibility for complying with the  Policy lies with the Registrar, Dr Graves.

(1) Section 3.1, of the witness statement provided to the Court by Dr A Graves  on 3 Dec 2010, read to the court on 21st December 2010 by District Judge Smith (public domain)

(2) Email from A Graves to K Watkinson, cc'd to M Stephenson, A Purnell, Dated 8th Nov 2009, Subject: FOI request (ref:091103-431)
(3) Letter from G Duke to M Stephenson dated 11 Feb 2010:

"Dear Mr Stephenson

I refer to your letter dated 2nd February 2010 concerning your provision of 'the remaining information' in relation to my recent Subject Access Request made under the Data Protection Act 1998.I note that in the bundle you have sent me, there are no notes or emails from Mr Simon Attwell who was the Chair of the Appeal Panel, which convened in October to hear my case. I also refer to the extensive notes that he took during the Appeal Hearing by Mr Attwell, which were referred to within that hearing. Under my DPA request I would have expected these notes to have been included, as should the notes of Professor Tony Warne and Phillip Hopwood who comprised the panel for the Disciplinary Hearing.I note that you have also not included any email correspondence between HR, senior managers and Professor Cynthia Pine, who has been delegated to chair the student disciplinary procedure.Furthermore, it would appear from the information I have already received from you, that Vice Chancellor Martin Hall was privy to, and involved within the overall process of my suspension, the disciplinary process and the appeal. I have not received any copies of correspondence or emails from Professor Hall. Professor Hall was also involved in the approach made to me via Mr Watkinson of HR the day prior to my Disciplinary Hearing at the UCU offices in Old Trafford on the 3rd August 2009. If there are emails or correspondence which centre around this approach made to me, I would also like to be provided with these. I would also like to be provided with any notes taken by the HR representative who attended this meeting with Mr Watkinson. Although you have furnished me with an email exchange between Damien Shannon and Dr Adrian Graves that took place on 11th August 2009, I have been informed by Mr Shannon that there were at least two emails sent to Dr Graves that concerned me. The title of Mr Shannon's email 'Still Another Update' also suggests that there are other emails that concern me specifically. It might be the case that the reason that Dr Graves has not forwarded this email to you for the bundle is an oversight on his part. Might I suggest that you ask Dr Graves to revisit his email correspondence, and provide your office with the information as required under the 1998 Act? If I find any other omissions, I will of course contact you immediately.Given the imminence of Employment Tribunal in March/April, I hope you can correct these oversights speedily. If you can contact me within five working days, I will refrain from writing to the Information Officer concerning this non-compliance with the 1998 Act. 

Yours Sincerely, Gary Duke"

(4) Email from M Stephenson dated 11 Feb 2010
(5) Email from G Duke to Martin Hall, dated 18th June 2009:

"Dear Professor Hall.

Some information has recently come to my attention concerning the Registrar and Secretary at the University of Salford Dr Adrian Graves. I have been informed that this you have had this information in your possession for several weeks. The substance of this information concerns Dr Graves interaction with two South African students during Mr Graves tenure at Robert Gordon University.

Given my own long-standing and well documented commitment to anti-racism as well as the University's commitment to equal opportunities for all at the University of Salford, and your own past history and principled stand against the racist apartheid system in South Africa, I believe these allegations need to be addressed with utmost urgency before they enter the public domain and generate negative publicity. 

Clearly any publicity of this nature would almost certainly have severe implications on our ability to continue to recruit international students to the University, which must be avoided at all costs.

Given their highly sensitive nature, and in a personal capacity, I would like to arrange an informal meeting on a one to one basis with you to discuss these allegations and some of the points I have raised above.

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Yours sincerely

Gary Duke
Branch Secretary & Casework Coordinator
(Personal Capacity)"

(6) Sourced at
(7) Email from A Graves to Keith Watkinson, Martin Hall, Paul Jenks, Linda Walsh and Matthew Stephenson dated 20th November 2009

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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

You take the high road....

A relaxed John at the helm...*
A flurry of emails and a phone call from a former colleague singing "Happy Birthday to you..." announced the departure. Yes, on a rather sombre January note, this writer has today learned that "Captain of Enterprise"* Head of School (HoS) Professor John Wilson is leaving the University of Salford for pastures anew... Scotland.

Staff are pleased

From the emails, it would appear that many staff within the Salford Business School are said to be pleased about his new post in Scotland. Moreover, it is clear that whoever steps into his shoes will have stepped into a big job. It is widely known that football loving, Preston North End supporting Professor Wilson, in his role of Head of Salford Business School, has sought to forge stronger links with China and has been there at least once.(1)

The visionary Professor Wilson has also been at the forefront of using the word 'niches' in an article (see below). He is also happy to exploit them:

"He has a firm vision of where he wants the school to go. "I think there are certain niche areas we should look at developing," he said. "We have some niche areas of international excellence, including information systems and management, statistics and operational research, gambling studies, marketing and accounting. "But I am looking to step up our expertise with some new areas, such as entrepreneurship, public management and leadership. "There are over 100 business schools in the UK, and we have to differentiate ourselves. I think we can exploit niches..."(2)

This historical and therefore different John Wilson
liked to blow his own trumpet
Hasn't he done a really good job

Vice Chancellor Martin Hall thinks he's done a good job and left the Business School with a reputation:

“This is an excellent promotion for John and I am very pleased for him and wish him every success in his new role. Thanks must go to him for his leadership of the Salford Business School and the energy he has shown in building the School’s reputation. In particular, John led the School in its successful bid to gain the prestigious Association of MBAs (AMBA) accreditation in September 2009. This marked Salford as an esteemed institution at which to study an MBA.”(3)

Professor Wilson who himself is good on TV, is also on record as being a true admirer of people like the business chap and BBC celebrity Alan Sugar who regularly fires people whilst pointing his finger: "I truly admire people like Alan Sugar..."(4) Yet unlike God** who liked to keep the seventh day free for rest and going to church, it's widely known that Professor Wilson preferred to keep the fifth day free - possibly a Friday although the exact name of the day has not been confirmed -  for research: "...I try to keep the fifth day free, mainly so that I can devote time to research..."(5) Professor Wilson has also pursued a policy of promoting "International collaboration" and is again on record as seeing  it as important for opening up "the school's profile" as well as "various opportunities for staff  and student exchanges".(6)  All interesting stuff.

The gathering clouds

More recently, a few clouds have gathered on the horizon about six miles yonder from the Maxwell Building. These clouds have assumed the shape of the TCM Group Report, which has tested Professor Wilson's natural popularity. This report, instigated at the behest of current Vice Chancellor Martin Hall in 2010, was conducted in response to anger among staff within the SBS into what were at the time recent appointments. According to Professor Hall, the TCM Report flagged up a few minor issues regarding appointments that needed a little tweaking (see previous posting). To date, the TCM Group Report has not been distributed in its entirety to staff in SBS or the wider University and the Executive Summary of this report remains a "read-only" document.

In Court

This Report became the focus of added attention during a recent court hearing on the 21st December concerning libel proceedings instigated in the High Court by the UoS against this author. During proceedings, the representative acting on behalf of this writer made clear to the Court that according to the TCM Executive Summary, Professor Wilson and certain Heads of Directorate in the Business School had been responsible for the lowering of "academic qualifications" for the recruitment to specific positions within the Business School, which was not made widely known to staff. The question was asked in the court as to "how could those close to John Wilson and Reg Lord know to apply for posts?"(7) 

What a tosser!
In reference to the appointments process raised on a ratcatchers blog, Dr Graves in his statement to the Court made the claim that "The University has clear guidelines for the recruitment of staff and evidence can be provided to demonstrate that these guidelines were adhered to in both instances."(8) The representative of this writer asked "why would Adrian Graves and Ian Austin say it (the appointments process in SBS) is all above board" (given the findings of the TCM Report), and if this is the case "why does not Ian Austin or Adrian Graves supply the TCM Report?" Two interesting questions that may be answered by Dr Graves at some stage during any future libel proceedings. However, let's not open ourselves to accusations of churlism and spoil the good news.

It is clear to very many person that the University of Salford's loss is going to be Scotland's gain. I'm sure Professor Wilson's colleagues in the Salford Business School will be having a whip round and raising a not inconsiderable sum for his leaving present. If anyone would like to share their ideas on what sort of present he might be given, please feel free to email this writer at

In closing...

Oh, and as this writer was summarily dismissed for bullying and harassing Professor Wilson and a student/part-time member of staff from the Business School through the authorship of the satirical Vice Consul's Newsletters in August 2009, would the good professor before he leaves, be good enough to back-date an official complaint of bullying and harassment for the purposes of conforming to the University's Code of Conduct on Bullying and Harassment? According to the Code, the accused is after all, allowed to see a copy of the complaint.

If he could also supply a belated witness statement to the same effect and post it via a temporal shift or a convenient space-time dedicated wormhole dated sometime before the 4th August 2009 to Watkinson of HR, that would be great!

*According to the Manchester Evening News sourced at
** Genesis II, sourced at
(1) K Freddy, Manchester Evening News, February 13th 2007 sourced at
(2) K Freddy again, M.E.N. February 13th 2007,
(3) Professor Martin Hall sourced at
(4) K Freddy, M.E.N. February 13th 2007,
(5) Professor John Wilson: head of the Salford Business School: Professor John Wilson, the new head of the Salford Business School, recounts a typical day, April 2007, Copyright Fenman Limited 2007,
(6) Professor John Wilson: head of the Salford Business School: Professor John Wilson, the new head of the Salford Business School, recounts a typical day, April 2007, Copyright Fenman Limited 2007,
(7) From notes taken during the court hearing 21st December 2010, Manchester District Registry, before Judge Smith and therefore public domain.
(8) Witness statement provided by Dr Graves and read to the court by Judge Smith 21 December 2010 (public domain)
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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Dr Graves on Hezbollah

Members of the public and the Court heard on the 21st December 2010 that Dr Graves the University of Salford Deputy Vice Chancellor and Mr Ian Austin the lawyer who sits on the University Council as Chair of Audit have both given witness statements to the Court stating Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. These statements will cause offence to many students and staff at the University. So why have they made such statements and are they true?(1)

Hezbollah are a "terrorist organisation" according to
Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Adrian Graves*

More considered views of Hezbollah

According to the website of the Council on Foreign Relations based in New York, the organisation Hezbollah 'is a Shiite Muslim political group with a militant wing...' It doesn't give much away but it's a start.

Hezbollah has borne huge social responsibilities since its inception in the early 1980s (Lebanon was occupied by Israeli forces for 18 years from 1982-2000) and in particular after Israel's murderous attack on the Southern Lebanese population in 2006. Hezbollah grass roots activists have sought to provide the bombed out civilian population with food and medicine. According to Gulf News  "[a]way from the war front, Hezbollah runs a sophisticated network of schools, clinics and social services in the Shiite community."(2) A report carried out by the UN in 2006 stated that Hezbollah " boasts an extensive social development program. Hezbollah currently operates at least four hospitals, twelve clinics, twelve schools and two agricultural centres that provide farmers with technical assistance and training. It also has an environmental department and an extensive social assistance program. Medical care is also cheaper than in most of the country's private hospitals and free for Hezbollah members."(3) Does this sound like a dyed in the wool terrorist organisation? Or does it reflect a humanitarian social organisation supported by the people it serves?

According to the UK government and the EU

In 2009, the British government recognised the political wing of Hezbollah and according to Rita Daou of AFP, Hezbollah has not been blacklisted by the European Union as a terrorist organisation. So why on earth do Graves and Austin feel compelled to state that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation?

Hungary 1956: a terrorist?
Smoke and mirrors

Graves’ statement equating Hezbollah to a terrorist organisation, is designed to distract from the focus of a Rat Catchers article(4) which compares and contrasts the democratic structures of Hezbollah with those of the University. If the University considers that Hezbollah is neither democratic nor participates in the Lebanese democratic process then the University is badly informed. Similarly if the University think that only western countries can practise democracy then as a form of Orientalism, this will be deeply insulting to students not only from Middle Eastern states but from all non-western democracies. More seriously, it was made clear to the court on the 21st December by this writer's representative that many students might consider Graves' statement on Hezbollah  "to have racist undertones." It will be especially noxious to those who support the humanitarian efforts of Hezbollah. But Graves does not pick up the challenge to the democratic structures at the University of Salford. Instead he makes accusations of terrorism. Why?

The politics of the playground?

Well, it’s easier to refute being called a terrorist than it is to enter a debate about democracy and your part in the leadership of a University slipping down the academic rankings. Let us be clear, no one is accusing the University of Salford of being in any way a terrorist organisation or acting like one. It is Austin and Graves who make this absurd surreal comparison because from the depths of their own instincts they realise that they cannot refute critical comparison of democracy within UoS Strategic Leadership Team to Hezbollah. So they lash out with tabloid stereotypes in order to brand their critics. It is an old trick; label your critics as extremists and you can avoid debating your own policies. Such tricks are essentially anti democratic in that they swap analysis for hyperbolic name calling. It is the politics of the playground. Is this the level to which the University have sunk?

Photographs of Lebanese among bombed houses in Srifa, Lebanon, Aug. 2006**
Why considered analysis matters

This is not place to discuss the intricacies of strategic opposition to Israeli aggression in the Occupied Territories or the ongoing humanitarian disaster that is Gaza today. However, any analysis of Middle Eastern politics or of the development and consolidation of organisations such as Hezbollah must be carefully considered, nuanced and consider a variety of factors including those that are political, economic, social and historical. Yet it is clear that Dr Graves chooses to eschew this type of considered material analysis of Hezbollah. What is clear is that the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Lebanese would be unbearable without the intervention of this popular grass roots social movement.

University of Salford - a place where diversity, dissent and free speech must be valued

Students come to the University of Salford from many countries, cultures and backgrounds. This mix of differences fuels democratic debate not just about world affairs but also about how the University conducts itself. It’s good, indeed vital that so many opinions can be freely debated in open democratic forums within the Students' Union, the trade unions, in lecture theatres, seminars and other places. The statements by Austin and Graves are based on ignorance of Hezbollah and will do little to encourage the furtherance of free speech and democratic debate at the University.

If Graves and Austin cannot see they have made an error of judgement in this case then what hope is there for critical debate at the University of Salford?

(1) Taken from notes made during the Court hearing 21st December 2010 at Manchester District Registry and quoted by District Judge Smith from the witness statement of Dr Adrian Graves, Deputy Vice Chancellor University of Salford in the case of University of Salford v Dr Gary Duke
(2) 'Hezbollah's welfare services ensure grass-roots support', August 12 2006, sourced at
(3)UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (March 29, 2006). "LEBANON: The many hands and faces of Hezbollah" sourced at

(4) "This latest development would seem to confirm a sneaking suspicion that we rats have had for a while now; that Salford University operates as a state within a state, subject to its own laws, whilst administering its own rule through the most draconian measures...." "...However, this view is far from universal, as some staff over a cup of piping hot coffee in Maxwell Cafeteria, have likened the current rule of the Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) to the Majlis al-Shura of Hezbollah (the Majlis al-Shura is a sort of Consultative Assembly), whereas other more cynical types suggest it is more reflective of the Majlis al-Shura al-Karar, which might be likened to a Deciding Assembly. It is clear however, that using extreme powers of analysis in contrasting and comparing, the much vilified Hezbollah might appear to be more democratic, accountable and transparent than the current ruling regime at Salford...." taken from an excerpt of the Rat Catchers blog contained within the witness statement of A Graves and quoted by District Judge Smith to the Court on 21 December 2010 (public domain).

"By their natural and ordinary meaning and/or by way of innuendo the words complained of are meant to mean that the Strategic Leadership Team, led by Professor Hall and of which I am a member, fail to act according to the rules and regulations of the University and in a manner that can be considered as worse than a terrorist organisation. This is completely untrue. The executive team of the University is subject to the rules and regulations of the University and acts in accordance thereto. The University is also run in accordance with highest standards of corporate governance. The executive team is accountable to the University Council and does not act outside its remit or the rules and regulations of the University." section of witness statement provided by Dr A Graves in the case of University of Salford v Mr Gary Duke, this section read aloud to the Court by District Judge Smith 21 December 2010 (Public domain).

*Picture courtesy of University of Salford 
** Picture courtesy of Lefteris Pitarakis at