Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Enduring Appeal of Rock Family Trees and their like

Wasn't Hades the drummer in the death metal cult band Cerberus Head-Fuck?

It's a little known fact I have a deep fondness for flow charts. How often I sat awestruck eagerly consuming the intricate family trees produced by a long time friend Pete Frame in the British rock magazine ZigZag in the 1970s. Pete could with apparent nonchalance draw together the disparate threads of our common music heritage, making sense of the ebb and flow of band formulations and re-formulations, producing from this the essence of the dialectical processes behind the emergence of some of the most innovative bands of our shared popular ethnology. Those diagrams could often appear labyrinthine and anarchic yet at the same time elementary and disciplined. This fascination has never left me. I've recently become rather attracted to the current flow chart that accompanies the University of Salford Student Disciplinary Procedure with its sheer simplicity and functionality. It's very nearly as good as the organisational  chart located on Martin Hall's blog which is of course always an interesting read.

Avoiding the pitfalls

Over the last couple of years, I've been exposed to my fair share of the attentions of lawyers, barristers, investigatory managers, disciplinary panels and such like. It's a necessary concomitant of standing up for things like jobs and education and against other things like cuts, bullies and one or two actualitĂ© economists. This means a necessary investment of much time pouring over a variety of case law, tribunal rules, civil procedure rules, procedures and Codes of Conduct that exist in the ether of matters both civil and disciplinary. In reality this only has any real value if I can pass on some of this knowledge. With the second installment of my Employment Tribunal on the August horizon, I feel it is time I shared one or two examples of what passed for acceptable practice among managers and senior managers at the University of Salford regarding my student disciplining which was eventually abandoned by the University. I do this in the hope that any students who fall foul of the UoS internal disciplinary procedures might avoid some obvious and not-so-obvious pitfalls.

The complete rebuild

Now to suggest that the current UoS Student Disciplinary Procedure has received a slight makeover would be akin to suggesting that Pharaoh Khufu enjoyed a spot of DIY. There's little utility in dwelling here on the particulars of the current Student Disciplinary Procedure as it would take several articles which might induce a widespread and potentially lethal form of soporifism with known side effects. I'm of the personal opinion that this 'tightening up' is due in no small part to inadequacies raised by my own travels through the 2008 student procedure. So my apologies to anyone currently being 'processed' under the new procedure. It's really not my fault guv! I intend therefore to deal with aspects of my own case within the parameters of the 2008 student procedure that I was partially processed through between 2009-2010 (to view the 2008 Code press here)

The Data Protection Act 1998 - a very useful piece of legislation

I raise the issue now because a rather pertinent email string has fallen into my hands courtesy of a Subject Access Review. Under the 2008 procedure, if a student was alleged to have committed misconduct, the manner in which they're disciplined and the penalties that might have been awarded against them depended largely on the severity of the alleged misconduct. I shall deal herein with a procedural nugget known as 'Misconduct Referred to the Deputy Chair of Senate' which deal with allegations of a more serious type of misconduct. According to Deputy Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Secretary and Second-in-Command  Dr Graves, it was this aspect of the procedure that I was being processed under.

Student suspension... not an elixir for chronic wind

The Harloe letter of suspension on 12th June 2009, delivered with a nod to reducing the University's overall carbon footprint - in one of the University limos - after a fashion laid out one or two allegations against me:

'Dear Mr Duke

As a postgraduate research student currently registered with the University, you will be aware that you are subject to the provisions of the University's Student Code of Conduct. I have attached a copy of the Code for your information.

I have been informed that you have now admitted to officers of the University, at a formal investigation meeting under the Staff Disciplinary Procedure, that you were the author and publisher of pamphlets published in early 2009 containing content relating to employees of the University. We regard the content of these pamphlets as
malicious, defamatory, unlawful and an obvious attempt to damage the reputation of the University and those individuals [author's emphasis]. I understand that our view of the gravity of your conduct was made plain to you during that formal investigation meeting and, in particular, that your actions are subject also to the Student Code of Conduct.

I am satisfied that your actions constitute serious misconduct under any or all of clauses
2.1a)1, 2.1a)2 and 2.1b)12 of the Student Code of Conduct and, given your admission of these acts and their extremely serious nature, I am suspending you as a student of the University with immediate effect, pending your student disciplinary hearing or the outcome of any appeal you may make...'(1)

Like the Queen the Gods are above all that nonsense

Clearly Harloe et al had a problem with my writing things which is a little odd given I was employed in a university. But to include such allegations of 'defamation' and 'unlawfulness' was just plain silly, as Professor Harloe wasn't a part-time High Court judge and the University hadn't been transformed by Dr Graves into a Civil or Criminal Court with reclaimed Stuart oak panelling. It's the damaging the reputation of the University which is the issue in hand here. What does it mean? Well pretty much whatever you like as it is of course a singularly general term open to a multitude of interpretations by any assortment of bigwigs and their legal advisers. It is also one of those terms and allegations that quite peculiarly works in one direction only. This can of course be tested empirically:  try writing to the Vice Chancellor providing evidence to show that Deputy Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Secretary and Second-in-Command has deliberately misinformed an Information Commissioner and see what sort of response you get. You'll get my drift.

The student disciplinary process

If the allegation(s) is deemed serious by the University, the student may be suspended. If this is the case, the Deputy Chair of Senate (DCoS) calls for all the evidence and information in order to prove or indeed if it is to be fair, to disprove such allegations. After collecting such evidence the student is required as part of this process to attend an interview with the DCoS. The student can take a representative along. At the conclusion of the meeting the DCoS may ask for a further investigation and further evidence. Alternatively s/he may decide that your 'crime' is so heinous that short of flogging with cat 'o'nine tails steeped in vintage Ebola, that the matter is referred to a Discipline Committee. If the student admits the misconduct, the DCoS may decide upon particular penalties (the same penalties that can be awarded by the Discipline Committee below). 

Monsieur your suspension is of course a neutral act and does not imply guilt
you innately heinous  feck-er... 

The Discipline Committee

The Discipline Committee has the power to award a series of sanctions or penalties against the student including expulsion from the University for a period of ten years. It's likely that at this point many of you are weighing up the pros and cons of a camping trip at a place known colloquially as Ilium under the overall auspices of a King Agamemnon or suchlike. The Discipline Committee might also decide to recommend that credits are not awarded (degree not gained) or/and that an award already made by the university be withdrawn. It's quite serious stuff and can have a colossal impact on a student's future career prospects. There are two things to remember here: firstly according to the 2008 procedure only the Deputy Chair of Senate can undertake the above, secondly, it is the deputy Chair of Senate who after reviewing the evidence alone makes the decision to ask for the matter to be referred to a Discipline Committee. Keep this little gem at the forefront of your minds.

A long train coming

For the uninformed, I was un-suspended on 6th May 2010 in a letter from Graves that stated that all proceedings had been terminated by Martin Hall. I was awarded my PhD but in what is in my opinion a rather petty and vindictive move, I was informed that I would not be allowed to attend my graduation ceremony, would not be given an Alumni Card nor like thousands of other graduates and former alumni be entitled to access to UoS library facilities and archives. In contrast my PhD thesis was entitled to unrestrained access to UoS archives. Now some of you might be asking "Dear Doctor, why if the University dropped proceedings are sanctions being applied against you by the University?" and "why did it take around 11 months to progress and finally terminate the student disciplinary process whereas it took only 11 weeks to suspend, investigate and dismiss you as a member of staff?" Part of the answer lies below.

What did happen...

Around one month after my student suspension on the 17th July 2009, I was informed by another letter from Harloe that the Deputy chair of Senate Professor Martin Bull would be stepping down from this role as he was located within the same School as I which presented the University with somewhat of a potential conflict of interest. A Dean of Faculty (now Pro Vice Chancellor) Professor Cynthia Pine was appointed by Harloe to take his place. All well and good one might think. Well not quite... the problem for the University was that there was no provision within the 2008 Code of Conduct for Student (CoCfS 2008) for the University to make this appointment. This was recognised by the UoS solicitor Lindsay Harris in an email to Mr Mark Rollinson (below).
Yes it does say 'departure from the procedure'. Ms Harris' email was in response to an earlier correspondence from this Rollinson chap to the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Secretary and Second-in-Command  Dr Graves.

Who is this chap Rollinson?

Now for the uninitiated, Mark Rollinson according to the UoS website is 'Head of Governance Services and Deputy Secretary'. Mr Rollinson reports to Dr Graves as Governance Services is located squarely within the 'Registrar's Division' which has nothing whatsoever to do with football leagues or a benign yet still active section of a Freikorp catering service. One might expect given his grandiose title that Mr Rollinson would be an authority on matters concerning the processing of students under the 2008 (and subsequent Student Disciplinary Codes). Indeed, such is Mr Rollinson's apparent authority and knowledge on such matters, Vice Chancellor Harloe stated in is suspension letter to me that "...if you have any questions arising from this letter please address them to Mr Mark Rollinson, Deputy Secretary and Head of Governance Services."(2) What was Mr Rollinson's advice to Dr Graves?

Given Mr Rollinson's position would it not seem odd to a reasonable person that he should therefore make the assumption to Dr Graves that he and Dr Graves ie - THE UNIVERSITY - would want to "...stay silent about the Deputy Chair of Senate and the conflict of interest issue?" The inference in Rollinson's letter is that they only raised the 'conflict of interest issue' precisely because I had in my hands a copy of the 2008 Procedure.

One or two questions

It's time for a question or two: is this the sort of behaviour we expect from those in an office of considerable importance particularly when we consider the obvious ramifications such disciplinary action might have on the future academic and career prospects of a postgraduate student? Where is the stern reply email from Graves to Rollinson stating in the most strident language possible without swearing, suggesting that it would be wrong to try and conceal this matter and that he should go on a re-training course immediately? It wasn't with the thousands of other emails sent to me by the University...

Seeking clarification

The upfront explaining that the University's legal adviser Ms Harris spoke of did not stretch to a suggestion in Vice Chancellor Harloe's erudite 17th July letter that Professor Pine's appointment was a 'departure from the procedure under the Code'. I prefer to refer to it by its proper name - an ultra vires appointment and therefore a breach of the Code. Although Harloe was keen to point out to me in his first letter which parts of the Code I'd breached through my alleged misconduct, he chose not to point me in the direction of which precise clause in the 2008 Code allowed him to appoint Pine. Might a reasonable person hold the view that in breaching the Code in such a flagrant manner in making an ultra vires appointment, that Harloe might himself have committed a serious misconduct and through this act could potentially damage the reputation of the University and bring it into disrepute?

Harloe could of course sought clarification as to the extent of his obligations and powers under the Code. It clearly states in section 10, page 11 of the 2008 Code of Conduct that 'Guidance on the Code and on its operation will be provided by...' the 'Governance Services Unit' headed of course by... yes you're damn right... it's indeed the above Mr Rollinson.

In the course of your deliberations you will no doubt have noticed that the pipe-stove 
be-hatted Suffolkian has a recording device secreted in his be-whiskers

Return to the foray

The University, obviously keen to resolve the student issue organised a meeting with Professor Pine a whopping eight (8) months from my suspension on 19th February 2010. Prior to this meeting, that persistent Suffolkian Longley and I garnered for ourselves our own external legal advice with regard to Pine's appointment using the University's own internal legal advice as a point of obvious reference. Our advice concurred. It was ultra vires. We were advised in no uncertain terms not to participate in this meeting . As a matter of courtesy we decided that we would attend simply to state that we could not participate in the meeting and make the legal advice we had been given known to Pine and leave immediately. This we did. The outcome of this brief congregation is itself highly elucidatory and will be aired in the not too distant future. Suffice it to say that one simply cannot overstate the intrinsic value of electronic recording devices.

It's illogical captain...

Despite this, the University sought to proceed with the student disciplinary. The ultra vires nature of Pine's appointment was an issue contested by Deputy Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Secretary and Second-in-Command  Dr Adrian Graves, who wrote in an email to me dated 24th February 2010:

'...In the meantime, the allegation Mr Longley has made that the meeting on 19th February 2010 was “ultra vires”, and that you have repeated in your message of 24th February is without any legal basis and is absolutely refuted. To avoid any actual or perceived bias or partiality that could have been caused by Martin Bull acting under the Code of Conduct for Students, Professor Michael Harloe (the Vice-Chancellor at the time) took the entirely proper and necessary decision to appoint a member of the University’s Senior Leadership Team as a substitute for Martin Bull. You were informed of Professor Pine’s appointment and the reason for it in Professor Harloe’s letter to you dated 17 July 2009. At no point during the 7-month period following that letter did you raise any objection to Professor Pine’s appointment and the first time you did this was at the meeting with her on 19th February. There is no question that the steps taken by Professor Harloe were reasonable, proportionate and did not prejudice you in any way. For this reason it is misconceived to regard Professor Harloe’s necessary decision to depart from the Code of Conduct as having any bearing whatsoever on the validity of the meeting on 19th February or your disciplinary proceedings generally.

I have copied Mr Longley in on this message by way of acknowledgement of his message and for his information.

Yours sincerely,

Adrian Graves'

Putting aside the issue of who actually wrote Harloe's letter of the 17th July 2009 or the extraordinary delay recognised by Graves in his statement noting the "7-month period following the letter",  Graves' logic was quite impeccable; that as I had not raised the issue of Prof Pine's ultra vires appointment at the time of her appointment meant that somehow her appointment was therefore not ultra vires several months later. Not bad for a chap who is according to the Code of Conduct, responsible for administration of the Code of Conduct for Members and Senior Officers and provides guidance over issues surrounding the Charter, Statutes and other legislative matters to the University Council. The University had a stark choice: move ahead without my involvement outside the provisions of their own agreed Student Disciplinary Code procedure and then have the very real possibility of any decision reached challenged in the courts.

Why Codes of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures exist

According to the UoS current Student Disciplinary Procedure, a Code of Conduct is:

'A set of rules and guidance, approved by the University, which sets out how people engaged in a particular activity must or should behave.'(3)

Ultra vires means 'beyond the power'. Harloe's appointment of Pine was quite clearly 'beyond the power' or rules approved by the University and enshrined in their own 2008 Code. I do have a bit of a problem with the notion of a flexible approach to interpreting a Code or rules. Besides, if Dr Graves was so sure that the 2008 Code of Conduct could safely be interpreted in the way he had, why redraft this provision for the 2010 Code?

If a Code is found wanting, then that is the fault of those who constructed such a Code, not those who are immediately subject to its provisions. Nor can one be subject to unwritten provisions and loose interpretations. This places the subject of any disciplinary procedure at a serious disadvantage. It would be tantamount to operating by a set arbitrary rules.Which brings me nicely to the finale.

A stitch in time...

In March of this year the Employment Tribunal heard evidence of how Vice Chancellor Martin Hall was sent an email by a Mr Edward Rowan on the 31st July 2009 informing him of the day when my dismissal as a staff member would be announced. It included a single press release stating that I had been dismissed and the reasons for my dismissal. It was copied to the extensively cognominated Deputy Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Secretary Graves and Executive Director of HR Keith Watkinson. The odd thing about this was that my Disciplinary Hearing wasn't scheduled until four days later on 4th August 2009.*

Hall: how could he know the outcome of  Dr Duke's disciplinary hearing four days
before the Disciplinary Panel were due to sit? 
(picture of Hall courtesy of US)
Squaring the circle

I stated at the outset that according to the 2008 Code under which the UoS sought to process the student proceedings against me, it was the Deputy Chair of Senate who had the authority to refer the matter to a Discipline Committee either after an interview or after a further disciplinary investigation. I've double-checked the 2008 Code and it's quite clear in section 4.2 (e). After the interview the:

'...Deputy Chair of Senate may, in light of the information then available, decide to act in accordance with any of the preceding options a) to d) or to refer the matter to the Discipline Committee for consideration in which case he/she shall instruct the Registrar and Secretary to convene a meeting of the Committee in accordance with the following provisions of this Code...'

It's definitely his job and no one else's. I've underlined the word 'or'. The word 'or' suggests that the Deputy Chair of Senate has an option or two to choose from. It doesn't state that the Deputy Chair of Senate 'will' refer to the Discipline Committee does it? So I was mildly surprised when I read the email exchange between current Vice Chancellor Martin Hall and Mr Mark Rollinson below.

Au contraire Mr Rollinson. It wasn't in accordance with the 2008 Code of Conduct. Maybe Mr Rollinson could do with a refresher course in Code interpretation as in this authors' opinion, it all seems a bit... well... worked out beforehand doesn't it... Like me I'll bet you're wondering what the Vice Chancellor had to say on this matter?

I think I'll start my letter "Dear Professor Hall... you could at least go through the appearance of adhering to your own officially sanctioned Disciplinary Procedures...."

Notes and References

* See The Sham Nature of a Disciplinary Hearing

(1) Letter from Vice Chancellor Michael Harloe to G Duke, Friday 12th June 2009
(2)As above
(3) University of Salford Student Disciplinary Procedure applies from August 2010 sourced at

If you would like a right of reply or to ask for corrections please press here.

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Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Cairoli Effect

Interesting data has been released by the Sutton Trust that shows that four schools and one college have provided more student intake for Oxbridge than 2000 other schools and colleges across the UK. This research should gladden the hearts every believer in the values of meritocracy throughout the country.

Out of interest, who are they?

The four schools and one college are Eton College, Westminster School,  St Pauls School, St Pauls Girls School and one state funded school, Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge. According to the research, they produced 946 Oxford and Cambridge entrants over the period 2007-2009. According to the figures this amounts to one in 20 of all admissions to the two universities compared to a total of 927 Oxbridge entrants a year drawn from 2000 schools and colleges.

What got these chaps there?

The research states that this is driven principally by A-level attainment results. It also notes that 'the tables also reveal large differences in university progression rates for some schools with similar examination results, particularly when considering entry to highly selective universities.'(1) It's comforting to know that it's definitely about what you know.

Nothing to do with money or your influential parents

It is the general view of the author of this blog that only a pre-cankerous broiler high on Marxist ideology and undiluted political activism could suggest that it is not entirely in the realms of reality and not fiction that a family on benefits, or indeed those on low or middle income, would be able to afford Eton's fees which are currently set at around £29,862 per academic year. We all know that state benefits are extremely generous and can thank the previous Labour government for closing the wealth gap and making single mothers some of the highest earners in the UK today. Thus it is not beyond the realms of fantasy to suggest that many of the students represented within these four schools and one college are likely drawn from families of lower paid public sector employees who are known to have a surfeit of disposable income allied to the sheer gold-plated-ness of their very generous public sector pensions. And there is a pay-off at the end for those who have tirelessly worked their way up the academic ladder and secured their deserved place at the tradition-soaked dining tables of Keeble Hall. The annual university fees of £9,000 will seem almost Lilliputian in contrast.

A ruddy good idea!

Now a thought has occurred and that always causes much concern within this Vagrant's household. Yes the cerebral fug is beginning to dissipate as this thought centres on a certain North West higher education institution. It's got something to do with this idea of transformation which in today's political parlance almost always means that things will only get better. Coincidentally, it's known that University of Salford Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Adrian Graves has always been interested in transformation.(2) We're now at that point where we ask readers to bear with us as we think this one's a real goer. Just to put minds at rest, it has nothing to do with the recently 'transformed' post-employment aspect of the University's grievance procedure* or steam engines.

An artist's impression of how the Ole Fire Station's 
entrance might be 'transformed' 
The centrality of words to language

Clearly the general public have suffered for many years with being exposed to the cobblers that ushers forth from the many mouths of national politicians and those referred to in senior management parlance as 'influencers'. Words and phrases such as 'reform' or 'when I said scrap fees I meant cap fees at £9,000' or 'none of it happened when I was the editor' have become almost commonplace. Yet the word 'transformation' has a very real meaning which is confirmed as it's in the dictionary. It can have either negative or positive connotations. For example if your wallet is stolen from you in an altercation with a Victorian street rough, you could find your bank account almost magically transformed from a position of high credit and yourself to one of fiscal wretchedness. The same might be the case if one entrusts their savings to the whims of a city rough or 'financial adviser' who might make the very believable claim to be remarkably adept in calibrating his market forecasts to the long range weather predictions of the UK Meteorlogical Office with roughly the same success rates. The piss-dampness of penury and debtors' gaol most assuredly awaits those who don't look back.

Transformation in nature and religion

But transformation is also good thing for society because it's a perfectly natural phenomena. Take for example the almost miraculous transformation of the humble caterpillar into the bumble bee. Without it there would be no honey. We're told by religious types of a christian hue that a chap called 'God' created the world in all its intricacies from nothing in six days and had a doss on the Sunday. What's this got to do with university education?

Without a direct tram link, Eton types take in the splendours of  Langworthy en route  to 
the new branch of Salford University Next to the BBC (SUNBBC)
Transforming debt from a little bit to a big bit

It's likely that if God hadn't retired from public service, he would have made university education free for all instead of the current free-for-all. Another public servant, the current Vice Chancellor Martin Hall, recently announced a transformation in University of Salford's fees from £3,290 per annum to a figure of around £8,400. For this princely sum, students are assured that their needs are catered for at UoS through an ongoing program of wider transformation, particularly in areas such as buildings, ICT and libraries as well as those prickly areas such as staffing levels among other things. Education will also play a part.

This process of transformation may have already produced results. In 2008-2009 the University saw around 150 academic and teaching staff transformed through the highly popular Project Headroom into around 150 not-academic and not-teaching staff. As an added bonus there was a concomitant transformation in the staff-student ratios in an upward trajectory as noted on this blog. Recently the University have embarked upon another round of 'role transformations' which will affect in the region of another 200 or so staff although we've not received any indication of what many of these staff  might yet be transformed into. However the question reamains. Are these job metamorphoses part of a wider plan of such Baldrickean cunningicity that like a game of tri-dimensional chess means they could well operate on two levels?

Is this it?

It's a matter of public record that Graves and Hall share with this author and God a fondness for facial hair. Both like this author largely migrated northwards in geographical terms. It is not known if the Coriolis Effect(3) had any influence on their decisions. Unlike this author, both were educated at Oxbridge and this could be the clever part. Might 'transforming' Salford's fees into something just a sheath's thickness lower than Oxford's or Cambridge's'es'es'es'ssss, produce a heady policy of 'differentiation' that may well entice young aristocrats meritocrats northwards in their just under a thousand? If so it wouldn't necessarily have to end there.

'Differentiation'... a word that goes quite well with 'transformation'

Another area that is garnering the attention of the transformers is a collection of letters assembled in a particular order that spells M.A.N.C.H.E.S.T.E.R. The University of Salford US website notes how:

'The new brand will support our transformation and create a distinct presence in the higher education marketplace and provide a greater awareness and understanding of the University, whilst providing a clearer differentiation from our competitor universities.'

What does this 'differentiation' comprise? According to the Salford Star (see below) it involves including the word 'Manchester' on the new University of Salford 'brand' logo. Time to recap: to 'differentiate' between the University of Salford and say two other Manchester universities with the word 'Manchester' in their names, University chiefs are planning to add the word 'Manchester'? Does this suggest that a combination of psychology and geography - geology - has  found favour within senior circles? Will this prove appealing? Will it increase the chances of ascending the University League tables in 2011-2012 to the heady heights of a place in the top ten in teaching? Will it power research to the fore and secure more Research Assessment Funding in the coming years? Will it cost lots of money? It's too soon to tell.

As the UoS clearly resides in a geographical location known as 'Salford' and not Manchester, it is not clear if this revamp will bring university bosses into collision with trades description legislation. Nor have we been able to yet confirm if the University of Manchester will follow suit, jump aboard the caravan and 'differentiate' itself from the University of Salford by including the word 'Salford' on its logo under the word 'Manchester'. Yet it doesn't have to end here either.

Charles Cairoli: such an ardent exponent of and
believer in the Cairoli Effect that
he named it after himself

From hockey sticks to slapstick

Recent cutting edge research undertaken by Daily Mail's showbiz research department shows that a whopping sixty percent (60%) of top pop chart dwellers have been privately educated.(4) Moving on from the much trumpeted 'Cappuccino Effect' that is said by Professor Hall to power MediaCity, we could well see the flowering of a latent 'Cairoli Effect' which might just help power the University of Salford Manchester into the future. What is this Cairoli Effect? It's quite simple. Given that the pop charts are now awash with artists clutching their GCSEs, A Levels and gold records, could it be that University bosses are metaphorically speaking dangling their crown jewels in the guise of Salford University Next to the BBC (SUNBBC)** in front of their topper-wearing young starstruck eyes in order to attract the next generation of X-Factoristas: highly educated light entertainists with a collective penchant for unicycles, exploding cars and mass toilet seat warming? It does make some sense.

Notes and References

The inevitable disclaimer: this is intended as a work of satire. For those thin-skinned enough to take offence or feel that corrections may be necessary, please contact before embarking upon an expensive and potentially embarrassing claims for libel. In the grand tradition of freedom of speech, we also operate a right of reply. 

* According to the University of Salford Grievance Procedure, there is no 'statute of limitations' (ie a time limit on taking out a grievance). As such, there is no validity as some have suggested in the wild and frankly silly speculation that only physicists are able to access this part of the post-employee procedure as the window of opportunity for instigating any grievance on leaving the employ of the university exists principally at a sub-atomic level .
** It is not known if leaders at the University of Salford are planning a new brand logo for MediaCity such as University of Salford with the italicised word ORDSALL  underneath.

(1) The Sutton Trust, 8 July 2011, sourced at
(2) Dr A Graves interview with  R Conway sourced at
(3) The Coriolis Effect, D Van Domelen, 1996 sourced at
(4) Liz Thomas, 5th December 2010, the Daily Mail sourced at

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Friday, 1 July 2011

Joyeux Anniversaire you Vagrant blighters...

Happy birthday to us...

Well readers, we're still here. One year on and this week will mark the first birthday of Vagrants in the Casual Ward of a Workhouse. And what a week to have our first anniversary amidst the trade union banners and placards announcing the official response from below to the British Tory government's austerity program of impoverishment from above. When all is considered it has been an interesting and riotous year.

And we're not ones to shy from any drop-of-the-hat type of celebration. Due to a certain mental and pecuniorial elasticity - a self-imposed Quixotic streak allied to a strict yet fair policy of getting hammered quite convincingly on methylated spirits alfresco - we took the opportunity of putting the bitter laments to one side and cracked open a rather distinguished bottle of gut rot and raised our imaginary glasses to the devout: those who follow our weekly alliterative aggregations. It is you after all who make the products of our fragrant pen-centric shenanigans worthwhile. And it appears that every week more of you are dipping into our neo-Mayhewian nether regions.

The Vagrantal Schematic

From its inception, we adopted what we've come to term as the Vagrantal Schematic which is not in any sense related to feminine discreet deoderants. The Vagrantal Schematic was (is) premised upon the two-pronged strategy of analysing issues within the wider political sphere as well as providing an insight into a series of legal disputes we find ourselves contesting at the moment. This we do so that we might help others avoid some obvious pitfalls and less discernible allegorical (wo)mantraps. We hope these writings have provided a glimpse into the manner in which we have over the months, immersed ourselves within that arcane realm populated by senior types as well as those who implement institutional policies, codes and procedures and such like. Coffee shops, Employment Tribunals and Civil Courts have provided the stage upon which we have sought to temper our arguments, aired our evidence and countered often what are in our view quite ridiculous allegations. We have been constantly surprised by the extensivity of the assistance provided to us by wishers of well both near and afar as well as the information and documentary evidence that has been supplied to us by readers and individuals some of whom for obvious reasons, have chosen to remain in the shadows. Thank you all.

The weapon of choice - the quill

The author's most recent
passport likeness
Having availed ourselves of the dual-core quill, we are of the opinion that we have already exposed many of the remarkable allegations and abrogations of procedure to public scrutiny which has gone down well with a majority but not with a minority. In order to appeal to as wide an audience as possible we resolved to eschew the use of technical terminology (jargon) for a lexicography based firmly upon pre-1910 forms of syntax and the wilder regions of the imagination. Never ones to constrain ourselves when it came to the less than liberal appliance of sulphurous language, we rejected pithness for an excursive style, pipe tobacco and a wardrobe composed entirely of attire exclusively manufactured in the Outer Hebrides with brogues. An important part of our manifesto was a firm rejection of the internal combustion engine for a singular reliance on trouser clips and two-wheeled leg-driven perambulators.

Busy bees and Rhodal Collossi

Like members of the Bee-Borg collective we have been industrious, assiduously servicing the Queen (hereafter referred to as the legal and tribunals system). We've seen an Employment Tribunal postponed and rescheduled. We've sat in wonderment at the lengths to which the University of Salford have gone in avoiding spending vast sums of money in the civil courts. Press here to see just how little a libel claim costs these days. We've appeared in the Civil Courts twice in front of a District Judge as the University have fought tooth and nail to preserve the right to criticise freely and the right to anonymity by seeking a Norwich Pharmacal order that required of blogging hosts Wordpress to release among other things to them the:

"[u]ser access log records and writings (or a copy of the information contained therein) which evidence and identify each IP address (including date and time of the use of said IP address) associated with and/or used at any time by any person in relation to creating or modifying or posting to the Account.

We also compared and contrasted this with Martin Hall's claim that:

"...the University of Salford has not sought, nor will seek, the identity of all people posting to any site. We have rather requested through the courts the minimum information necessary to identify those responsible for specific postings for which there is a prima facie case of defamation.(1)

We've imagined the almost Herculean efforts to which the CEO of Automattic Inc (owners of Wordpress who are a blog hosting site of some renown) a Mr Toni Schneider went in defending his own company's Privacy Policy and the right to privacy of his customers by waiting to be served with a valid subpoena by a US court. To view a copy of Mr Schneider's signed affidavit press here. This one is likely to run and run...

Lack of understanding of the Civil Procedure Rules combined with this 
type of mast-based activity can play havoc with your bridge work
Twas, on day one of the rescheduled Employment Tribunal, that we received the libel claim form from the University of Salford's lawyers alleging that the University had suffered damage by 'false and defamatory words' on a blog called the Rat Catchers of the Sewers. With witness statements provided by Registrar Adrian Graves and blogger Vice Chancellor Martin Hall, the UoS retained the legal services of a chap called Ian Austin in these matters. Mr Austin bestraddles both the University of Salford and the law firm Halliwells Heatons like the venerable Colossus of Rhodes.*

Can a claim for unfair dismissal be reclassed as the eighth wonder of the world?

We sat slack-jawed like banjo playing extras from Deliverance during the rescheduled Employment Tribunal in March 2011 whilst two senior managers (a Mr Hopwood and a Mr Attwell) on behalf of the University  gave evidence, admitting under the skilled cross-examination of that Suffolk chap E S Longley that the University dismissed a certain bewhiskered fellow for bullying two members of staff despite the fact that no official complaint (as per the UoS' own Code of Conduct for Bullying and Harassment) from the two staff members could be produced! The services of two lower mandible relocators was very nearly deemed necessary by the Clerk of the Court as the two managers failed to demonstrate to the Tribunal panel just how the author had brought the University into disrepute nor indeed could they quantify to the Tribunal precisely the damage caused to the University through his authorship of the satirical Vice Consul's Newsletters (to view the dismissal letter click here).

A simple Freedom of Information request.. oh the pain... the pain
Born free...

And the coming months look like they are  going to provide even more grist to our quill. We have an appeal being heard in July by the First Tier Appeals Tribunal into the decision of the Information Commissioner to uphold the University's refusal to release information to a certain hirsute doctor (on the grounds that the UoS allege such requests were part of a wider vexatious campaign against the University). The evidence and witness testimony provided to the Appeal Tribunal by all parties can only be described as quite 'stunning'. We will of course by exploring this one in greater detail over the coming weeks as well as the evidence provided to the Commissioner by a certain Deputy Vice Chancellor in 2010 which in the opinion of this author is a bit of an eye opener.

But officer, a consequence of my prolonged exposure to a disciplinary procedure is form of 
pernicious piss derangement with an associated need to urinate directly 
down this drain without removing my trouser
We also have the second part of the Employment Tribunal claim into unfair dismissal in mid August where over three days, the manager in charge of investigating the University's allegations against me  -  a Mr Scott Mulholland - will be cross-examined by that staunch and dauntless Suffolkian. We also expect to see there a certain Executive Director of Human Resources - a Mr Keith Watkinson - who is known on occasions to wear pinstripe suits and to have partaken of our textually-situated efforts.

Yes the coming months promise to be quite explosive (metaphorically speaking of course).

Notes and References

* Austin is currently the Chair of the Audit Committee at the University of Salford as well as a partner for the law firm Heatons. To avoid doubt and further legal action the author's note that the analogy with the Colossus of Rhodes is a literary device and not a literal representation. Mr Austin is patently not massive, made of stone, mythical or indeed ancient. Just for the record, neither could a full size ocean going vessel from the 5th century BC be sailed comfortably between his legs.

(1) M Hall, Dark Side of the Internet sourced at

Note of caution: before embarking upon expensive civil litigation, contact the author for any necessary corrections at
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