Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A Cautionary Tale: the Diligence of an Investigating Manager

"I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their 
scabbards to avenge even a look that 
threatened her with insult." 
Edmund Burke

Lincoln Green: I believe I am justified in making an official complaint of bullying and harassment through 
your illustrious Code of Practice in Dealing with Harassment and Bullying
Baron Beardo: Quite possibly but you'll be putting Jack shit in writing with that hand

What an interesting week that was....

Readers will know of course that we refer to the Employment Tribunal that consumed three days of a busy week. Two University managers were to take the stand as was a certain tweed-wearer of some disrepute. University witnesses Philip Hopwood and Simon Attwell had previously given evidence in March 2011. But on this Monday 15th August, Mr Scott Mulholland was first to take the oath and render his witness statement to the public record. Mr Mulholland was the Investigating Manager during the disciplinary process instigated by the University against me. The second witness was a Mr Keith Watkinson. You will hear a great deal more of Mr Keith Watkinson over the coming weeks. (It's worth stating at this point that links to relevant documents have been provided which readers view themselves taken from the joint bundles included in the ET. Accuracy is after all an important. To access such documents, click on the orange highlighted words)

Investigating things is important

Only an absurd and unreconstructed clodpate could suggest that being an Investigating Manager isn't an important role. Any manager worth his or her chlorium sodide would surely wish to bring to this role a level of perseverance and perlustration not known on our shores since a puritanical clique of English Stove-Pipers boarded ship and set sail to the Americas sometime around 1620. Yes any manager vested with this commission would carry out their role diligently and to the best of their abilities. At the outset and during the investigation, they would want to:

'...[n]ot draw any conclusions at this stage: just set out the evidence for and against. You are not just looking for evidence that supports the allegations. In fact, a fair investigation should also look for evidence that disproves an allegation.'(1)

With this authority conferred upon him by the University, Mr Scott Mulholland's remit was to conduct a thorough and fair investigation into the allegations that in writing the Vice Consul's Newsletters, I had produced and distributed the Newsletters and that the 'malicious contents' constituted 'bullying, harassment and victimisation and also bring the University into disrepute.' Quite simple really. For clarity, the two staff members I was said to have bullied were part-time member of staff (now full time lecturer) Xiang Li and Head of School Professor John Wilson (now not at Salford any longer). The selection of words you may wish to lock into your collective conscia is that according to the allegation it was the malicious contents which constituted bullying, harassment and victimsation and also brought the University into disrepute. But first things first.

Definitely a poster and not a newsletter.
But are the contents malicious or satanical?
A brief summary of events

When I was first invited to attend a meeting on the 14th May 2009 with the Dean of Faculty Professor Brian Longhurst who is a specialist in media studies and an academic, it was to discuss 'information that had come to light regarding your conduct in the University'. Not much detail there. A certain be-tweeded fella could never be accused of not seeking clarification and more illumination from Professor Longhurst with regard to the specifics of this 'information'. Yet despite several requests, none was forthcoming from him or his office. Things became a little less opaque once I'd been suspended by the aforesaid professor on the 18th May 2009. It appears that he knew all along the reasons for the meeting. I was suspended for producing and distributing 'posters'. Even a person with the intellectual absorbency of a piece of six inch armour plate could not deny that the allegations were now pretty clear.

The artistic endeavours of a certain type...

Now I thought my artistic endeavours might have ruffled a few feathers. Having been the principal poster designer for the campaign group Salford University Defend Education (SUDE), over a period of three or so months, I and others had produced and distributed many hundreds of official SUDE posters around the University. SUDE opposed the loss of 150 academic and teaching staff at the University under the tastefully named Project Headroom. I undertook this role with a fervour akin to that of a self-flagellator on amphetamines performing it openly in full view of managers and staff in my own time. Indeed the UCU branch provided the funding for these posters and other materials. I thought they had some aesthetic merit and hardly warranted being described as weapons of mass harassment. But it definitely said 'posters'. Indeed the letter inviting me to the first investigation meeting also carried the words 'posters'.

Suspensions, complaints, sexual harassment and suchlike...

A series of posters on a
shit-house wall
I was also aware that one of the official SUDE posters had been doctored in a rather non-satirical manner by an unknown person sometime in February 2009. I presume this was carried out in order to raise issues concerning the not particularly private relationship between Ms Xiang Li and Professor Wilson. This altered poster had created a bit of a stir among the campus union as they had presumed that it was an official poster sanctioned by SUDE. It wasn't. Moreover in late 2008 early 2009, two staff members had been suspended - Dean of Faculty Professor Cynthia Pine's PA and a member of staff in the Salford Business School Alex Belgorodsky. Rumours abounded. Some suggested that Xiang Li had accused Alex Belgorodsky of sexual harassment and of harassing her and that the doctored SUDE poster was central to her complaint. Having been informed by Longhurst that I'd been suspended for producing posters, it was an entirely rational presumption to deduce that my own suspension had something to do with posters and possibly this poster. Indeed at the beginning of the first investigation meeting Mr Scott Mulholland almost gave the game away by stating that he would be investigating the 'publication and distribution of the posters'. Keen to establish that I was not responsible for the doctored poster, I stated this at the outset of the meeting.

Precision - is it a good thing?

Although keen to avoid being categorised as an 'astringent precisian', as a fully trained political scientist I admit to being quite punctilious when it comes to the appliance of a specific technique that's oft used and encouraged within academia. It's clever little device more commonly referred to within rarefied academic circles as 'precision'. Personally I find it particularly relevant in the field of language. Now I have a little confession to make at this point. You see I was under the distinct impression that the necessary attributes for an investigating manager might be assiduousness, doggedness, meticulousness and as the literary contents of  a poster(s) was being investigated, I would have thought at least an adherence to an elemental model of etymological commonality.

It's a poster...

Now I've had a few surprises in my time and the evidence presented was no exception. You see having not been provided with any evidence prior to this first meeting, I was keen to disassociate myself from the doctored non-satirical poster at the outset of the meeting. This I did as I was not particularly keen to take the rap for someone else's non-satirical shenanigans. However, the evidence proffered to me by Mulholland/Jenks was about as far from a poster as one could get and still lay claim to a modicum of credibility or Sherlockian professionalism. At the top of one of the pieces of evidence it stated clearly in quite bold letters VICE CONSUL'S JANUARY NEWSLETTER. On the top of the other it suggested that it might be something exactly akin to the VICE CONSUL'S MARCH NEWSLETTER.

Now it's a Newsletter

You might at this point be thinking that this is of minor importance in the bigger scheme of things. However, there are several important points to raise here: firstly the alarm bells were ringing to such an extent that I believe the estate of Victor Hugo had tried contacting me with claim to significant back-royalty payments. Secondly, the allegations were quite clear - they stated that is was 'posters' that were bullying and harassing not 'the Vice Consul's Newsletters'.

The essentiality of accuracy

It might be little disingenuous to say the least to invite a chap to an investigation meeting to discuss 'posters' and then present him with something entirely different, and then suggest later in the Employment Tribunal that the aforesaid mutton-chop is not being entirely honest with regard to what was being discussed during this meeting and is therefore not entirely an honest character. Remember in cases such as these, the burden of proof is on those making the accusations. What other evidence might they not be sure about? After all, if one was on trial and it was alleged one had shoplifted a tuppeny Fruit Salad chew from the local newsagent's sweetie section, one would not wish to tried and sentenced for receiving a pair 36" waisted Stayprest with associated frontal piss-staining from a looted British Heart Foundation charity shop on Salford Precinct. Particularly in the current hysterical climate. And when a chap's job is at stake accuracy is essential.

That the University sought to maintain this confusion is made clear in the notes of the second investigation meeting in June 2009 and in Mr Mulholland's witness statement to the Tribunal (see section 7). Finally, this rather laissez faire approach to the specifics and finer detail has been the hallmark of the internal disciplinary process and much of the external proceedings. A few more examples might serve to prove the point.

Clitoral Hood:  One has just been appointed a lecturer despite not having completed one's PhD... 
Beast of Burden: Did one's close personal relationship with Maid Marion play a part?
Clitoral Hood: [farts]
Beast of Burden: You vile bastard

The Code of Practice for Dealing with Bullying and Harassment

As a formal investigation had been instigated by the University into the allegation that I had harassed and bullied two members of staff, one would presume that its departure point would be the University's own Code of Practice on dealing with Harassment and Bullying and the 2008 Disciplinary Procedure in this order. Both documents provide a  framework for dealing with any such issues or allegations. These also should provide any alleged harasser/bully with a series safety mechanisms against any malicious allegations, abuse of the system and arbitrary sanctions. Both were provided to me as key documents and evidence by Mr Paul Jenks HR manager for the Disciplinary Hearing in August 2009.

The centrality of the complaint to proceedings

Starting from this principle, any investigation would focus on the original complaints made by Xiang Li and Head of School Wilson. According to the University's own Code of Practice for Dealing with Harassment and Bullying, in the section headed 'Formal Resolution' 'the formal complaint should be made in writing...' and that 'any such formal complaint, and any further written communications will be passed to the alleged harasser.' This would ensure that any staff member accused of harassment or bullying could address the specific issues, and formulate a defence. It's pretty clear and straightforward isn't it?

Formal or informal resolution?

However, before moving towards a formal resolution, and this speaks volumes, readers will note that the Code has a specific section (4) that deals with informal resolution. Yet the University never embarked upon the path of seeking an informal resolution prior to suspension or investigation. Why? I'm of the opinion that in seeking informal resolution, the ultimate sanction - summary dismissal - could not be invoked. As I'd just been elected as a UCU branch official three weeks before my suspension, in leading and helping organise the protests and opposition to the 150 job losses, I was the bridge between the student body and staff. Did this help determine which route was taken by senior University managers such as Watkinson of HR, Registrar Adrian Graves and the Vice Chancellor Harloe? Readers are invited to decide for themselves. Dr Graves makes it abundantly clear what he thinks about my involvement in the campaigns against the job losses in his email to Harloe dated 30 May 2009:

'...isn't it supremely ironic though, that Gary Duke is so sensitive about his own reputation that he has organised a campaign amongst students to defend it  - having carried out a sustained campaign himself over six months aimed expressly at damaging the reputation of six or seven people and the university itself - through the anonymous publication and distribution of three scurrilous pamphlets within and without the university, through speeches at well publicized demonstrations and meetings subsequently published as video on the internet, a sustained press campaign in the local and HE sector press nationally and through lobbying MPs, local government councilors, and other influencers: Sorry - steam coming out of ears.


Avez-vous de la plainte... Non!

Having set sail on the sea of formal resolution, the rather singular pratfall for Mr Scott Mulholland was that neither Xiang Li nor the esteemed Professor Wilson (who the Tribunal heard was a specialist in Employment Law) made any formal complaint against me. Nothing that looked remotely like a complaint was provided to me either before, during or after the Disciplinary Hearing. And before you ask, yes I did request them after the Appeal process had been completed on the 19th November 2009. No complaint made specifically against me (naming me) by Xiang Li and HoS Wilson had been passed to me under document disclosure prior to the Employment Tribunal or through two Subject Access Requests. That no complaint existed was confirmed by the Chair of the Disciplinary Panel Philip Hopwood and the Chair of the Appeal Panel Mr Simon Attwell in their oral evidence to the Tribunal in March 2011. It was even confirmed by Mr Mulholland. Yet during the Disciplinary Hearing on the 4th August 2009, the note of the hearing shows that Mr Scott Mulholland gave contradictory evidence about the existence of a complaint.

You're it... pass it on

If there were formal complaints why then did he not pass them to me as the Code stipulates? Why did he not make them available to the Disciplinary Hearing and panel? Indeed, where were the follow up witness statements from these two people? A diligent investigator would have surely interviewed the complainants and taken witness statements? More importantly, given the centrality of a complaint to the University's own Code of Practice, and Mr Mulholland's assertion that Xiang Li had made a complaint when she hadn't, would this not appear to any reasonable person that Mr Scott Mulholland was either incompetent, negligent or had wilfully sought to mislead the Disciplinary Panel? Would it not be reasonable to assume given the Investigating Manager's apparent confusion, this would surely have made the decision of the Disciplinary Panel unsafe? Yet forty eight days later the Appeal Panel knowing there was this confusion - no complaints and no witness statements - upheld the findings of the Disciplinary Panel!

Having no complaint when one is accused of harassment and bullying is awkward. Why? Well for a start one does not know who the accuser is. How can one build any effective defence to such allegations? This presented the University with a rather embarrassing problematic. As if to find a safe route through this little procedural and evidential minefield the University had unwittingly staggered into, lo and behold almost a year and a half later prior to the March hearing in 2011, a complaint emerged. And during the Tribunal the University made much of this complaint.

A complaint emergeth... but it's a complaint against someone elseth...

The problem for the University - and I stated so under questioning by the University barrister Nigel Grundy - was that this complaint wasn't made against me. It was made by Ms Xiang Li on the 3rd of March 2009 and it was a complaint of harassment made against Alex Belgorodsky. The doctored SUDE poster was pivotal to this complaint. It was quite obvious really as Alex Belgorodsky was suspended on the 4th March 2009, the day after her complaint to the police. Alex Belgorodsky was of course exonerated in the internal investigation conducted by Professor Ruth Wright in June 4th 2009. 

The Report on Investigation into a Complaint of Harassment and Threats by Li Xiang against Alex Belgorodsky conducted by Professor Ruth Wright, which had been provided to us anonymously prior to the Tribunal, focussed on the central subject matter the issue of the doctored SUDE posters. (The inclusion of this report was vehemently contested by the University as not being relevant and ruled out of evidence by the Tribunal at the beginning of the week. Similarly in March the University also opposed the entering of a string of emails between Xiang Li and John Wilson as not relevant. Any reasonable person viewing these emails would concur that it indicated a close personal relationship).

Yet if this report had been allowed as evidence, it would have demonstrated two things: firstly that Xiang Li's complaint was against Alex Belgorodsky and that in this case a complaint was deemed necessary to suspend and invoke the complaints procedure; secondly it would have provided to the Tribunal a striking example of how a complaint should be investigated and conducted with a thorough examination of evidence including the collation of witness statements for the investigation hearing.

Out of the mouth of babes... 

Although this report would have helped our case, it didn't affect the rather ridiculous claim by the University that this was a complaint by Xiang Li against my good self. 'Sir! How can you be so damned sure of yourself?' Precisely for this reason. I'd taken the precaution of writing to the University in May 2010. Our old friend Matthew Stephenson confirmed in no uncertain terms that there was no complaint about me of sexual harassment or any other matter to the police. And by any stretch of the imagination, this was a complaint to the police. Moreover, it is beyond physical comprehension that Mr Stephenson as Head of Information Governance would seek to mislead me over such an important matter knowing that his correspondence would almost inevitably comprise part of the joint bundle in Tribunal proceedings.  

The spirit within the contraption

Now there is one person among the footsoldiers of Human Resources who could have sown the seeds of transparency were base opacity prevailed - a certain Mr Paul Jenks. He had after all received the email from Xiang Li on the 4th March 2009 and must have viewed the accompanying documents attached to her email which oddly were never disclosed to us by the University. He was also involved in the investigation of Alex Belgorodsky as his name's on Ruth Wright's investigation report. Given his hands on role in both cases, the question remains as to why Jenks did not clarify this matter with Mulholland and the University lawyers? If Jenks was aware that the complaint was against Belgorodsky, and allowed the University to pass this off as a complaint against me and as a consequence mislead the Employment Tribunal, surely Jenks should be suspended immediately pending a full investigation? It's a thought...*

The suppression of the TCM Group Report

I stated under cross examination by Mr Grundy acting for the University during the Tribunal that Ms Xiang Li had received preferential treatment with regard to her own appointment which had raised questions among staff, and that the wider appointments process within the Salford Business School had been manipulated by Professor John Wilson and other senior managers in that School. As a consequence family members and close friends benefited from this manipulation. I also stated that this was confirmed in the Vice Chancellor's TCM Executive Summary. You can read this summary here. You can't read the full TCM Group report. I thought it also prescient to state during my evidence to the Tribunal that it had been suppressed by Martin Hall and the University. Ms Li's complaint against Alex Belgorodsky which resulted in his suspension also infuriated staff in the Business School and beyond. Mr Longley also thought it wise to raise in the Tribunal the matter that Ms Li was a serial complainer.

Partiality and the 'vulnerability' of Ms Li.

Mr Scott Mulholland had claimed during my Disciplinary Hearing in discussion of Xiang Li that 'she is more vulnerable than others' .  He never explained precisely why Ms Li should be more vulnerable than others. In my opinion this admission inferred that she was being offered a level of protection and privilege above that  enjoyed by other postgraduate students who were also part-time members of staff. How else could it be read? Yet Xiang Li was perfectly capable of making complaints to the police and Human Resources against her former partner of three years Alex Belgorodsky. It was quite possible that Ms Li and HoS Wilson were upset and hurt by the contents of the Vice Consul's Newsletters as stated by Mr Hopwood. But this no more equated to bullying and harassment than Rupert Murdoch could claim because of the recent press coverage around the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World which may have 'hurt' and 'upset' him. It's a valid point and one I thought needed making to the Tribunal. 

Disposing of a singularly inconvenient truth

In any world where good sense prevailed, the edict 'there can be no complaint of bullying without a complainant and a complaint' must be the guiding principle. Why? Allegations of 'bullying','harassment' and of 'gross misconduct' are extremely serious. If proven, they can deprive a chap of his/her job, scar a professional standing, and tarnish a chap's reputation at the very least. They can also lead to long periods of unemployment. Without a complainant and complaint, the grievance and disciplinary system could be open to serious abuse. Any member of staff in any workplace perceived of as a thorn in the side of management, could find themselves accused of harassment or bullying. It would be a charter to sack people.

What was the response of the diligent Investigating Manager when confronted with just such an inconvenient truth - a lack of any formal complaint? Mr Scott Mulholland exhibited a streak of almost-brilliance in dealing with this intractable problem: he simply stated that the Newsletters were self-evidently bullying and harassing. As they were self-evidently bullying and harassing, therefore no complaint was necessary.

Unadulterated diligence the Mulholland way

No you've not entered an alternate singularity 137 light years from our nearest star. When the determined Suffolkian Longley referred Mr Scott Mulholland to the University's own document rather wittily entitled Methodology for an Investigation Report which provided the framework for the diligent Investigating Manager's investigation (you'll note SM's scribbled handwritten notes on the document), under the section headed Evidence for and Against the allegations where it stated 'Remember, you are trying to establish the facts, not opinions...' Mr Scott Mulholland confirmed to the hirsute but persistent Longley that it in his opinion the Vice Consul's Newsletters were 'malicious', 'bullying', harassing' a form of 'victimisation' and had 'brought the University into disrepute'.

The Birmingham Six - it was self-evident that
they blew up pubs in Birmingham

Armed with this pro-forma, it was but a simple job for Mr Scott Mulholland to prove the allegations of bullying and harassing upon my confirmation of 'authorship' and 'distribution'. And no need for any further investigation. No need to investigate if Ms Li's contentious appointment was fully in line with University appointment guidelines, no need to look into the expenditure by the University on the regular management retreats to luxury hotels, the expensive glass door of Harloe and Graves, the victimisation, bullying and harassment within the Salford Business School by managers, incidentally none of which have been denied by the University. Mr Scott Mulholland decided that he need not interview either Xiang Li or John Wilson to determine if they found the Newsletters offensive as he alleged. He did however consider interviewing two people who I'd also written about in the Newsletters but I wasn't accused of bullying and harassing; the Registrar Adrian Graves and the Vice Chancellor. How very thoughtful of him.

A valuable lesson in how to investigate an investigator

For any readers who may wish to marvel at the rigour with which Mr Scott Mulholland's investigated matters, press here. This interview, conducted by Deputy Chair of University Council Mr Chris Wells (an ex-Greater Manchester police officer) on 22nd January 2010, was part of an investigation into a grievance I had instigated against Mr Mulholland. This grievance centred on my claim that Mulholland had not conducted a thorough investigation. The interview is most enlightening and demonstrates the finely honed investigatory skills gained by a police officer with many years experience. Readers can guess the outcome...

Malicious content

I stated at the beginning of this article for readers to remember the words malicious content. Given that the allegation stated that the content was deemed 'malicious' and a form of bullying and harassment, any reasonable person may concur with the view that a thorough investigation would seek to explore if the contents were malicious and thus a form of bullying and harassment. Indeed the Chair of the Tribunal sought clarification from Mr Scott Mulholland asking him if he had investigated the content of the Newsletters. In response Mr Scott Mulholland stated that he had not. So how did he conclude they were malicious?

And when opinion takes precedent and facts are seen as irrelevant to an investigation, how does one who stands accused begin to mount a credible defence? It is of course impossible to refute someone's beliefs or opinions as they are entirely subjective. 

The secret meeting - a conspiracy play

It's clear that many of you are now suffering sensory overload. In normal times this author would cease and desist from heaping upon readers further uncanny tales. Yet this cake stands bereft, denied its fine sugary outer-coating. 

Let's indulge in a little role play. Imagine a scenario: it's two days before an important disciplinary hearing. A meeting has been convened. At this meeting is the Chair of the Disciplinary Panel Mr Philip Hopwood and the second panel member Professor Tony Warne. Also in attendance are assistant to the Investigating Manager the recurrent Mr Paul Jenks and another HR manager known as Ms Julie Woosey. Finally, in attendance are the University's external legal advisers.(2) Evidence is discussed. The case is discussed. Extraneous documentary evidence is presented to the two panel members which has not presented to the alleged bullyer and harasser prior to the hearing. This meeting is not part of the official Disciplinary Procedure. No note of this meeting is taken by the external legal advisers or provided under document disclosure. It would be a little odd to say the least. Now if this little scenario had been played out the campus unions would surely be outraged and enraged? The conspiracy theorists would almost certainly be setting up their tents outside Keith Watkinson's office.

The poor memory of Mr Scott Mulholland

Asked under cross examination by the astute and persistent Longley if he was in attendance at this meeting, the assiduous Investigating Manager Mr Scott Mulholland stated that he couldn't remember as it was a long time ago. Oh dear... In submissions, the affable Mr Longley made the rather laudable point to the Tribunal that Mr Scott Mulholland could quite easily remember who had commissioned the investigation in May 2009 but could not remember if he was in attendance at this secret meeting with the disciplinary panel and external legal advisers three months later on August 4th 2009. The only conclusion that the Tribunal could draw he suggested, was that Mr Scott Mulholland had attended this meeting.

M'lud! This vile poster is not at all funny, has upset a Registrar and has all the hallmarks of being authored
and distributed by a mutton chop in tweed. Hang the fucker!

The diligence of Mr Scott Mulholland

Like an attenuated Miss Marple, Mr Scott Mulholland excelled in his role as investigator. He proved conclusively that I had authored and distributed. He proved nothing else. He substituted his opinion for facts. He did not investigate the allegation that the contents were malicious. He stated that it was self-evident that they were. He chose not to interview the two people I was accused of harassing and bullying. He didn't feel it necessary to determine if the two had made an official complaint against me. When he realised that there was no complaint he sought to mislead the Disciplinary Panel by stating that there was. At no time did he seek to correct this misleading statement.

Fair proceedings and an absolute equality of arms

Under oath Mr Scott Mulholland stated that he couldn't remember if he had attended the meeting two days before the Disciplinary Hearing with Hopwood and Warne. The Tribunal heard that it could only conclude that he had indeed attended this secret meeting with two members of HR, the Disciplinary Panel and external legal advisers.  At this so called 'training' meeting the case and evidence was discussed. New evidence was presented to the Panel. Mr Scott Mulholland and the second Disciplinary Panel member Tony Warne tried to introduce this new evidence during the Disciplinary Hearing itself. This secret meeting with the two panel members was deemed entirely appropriate by the University and the Disciplinary Panel. Yet it was never disclosed to us by the University or Mulholland. It was only through a Subject Access Request that I made this discovery. It raises important questions about the injection of external legal advisers into internal disciplinary procedures. It is the view of this author that it speaks volumes about how the University views the concept of 'equality of arms' and a fair procedure.

Is it any surprise that two days later, this panel of impartials concluded that I'd committed gross misconduct and as a consequence duly relieved of me of my employee status?

Academics beware!

It would appear that 'authorship' and 'distribution' are now a dismissable offence. A precedent has been set. I'm of the opinion that the University having established this precedent, may find that it has unintended consequences as Salford academics researching contentious areas or controversial subject matter, shy away from authoring such work or its distribution for fear they may also be deemed to have committed gross misconduct and find themselves in receipt of the parishes poor rate.

Notes and References

Usual disclaimer: This work is the opinion of the author and is authored to report current events that are of public interest. The reproduction and use of any documents herein is to provide accuracy in order to avoid civil litigation and claims of misquoting. In reporting current events they are used within the context of Fair Dealing. The author is happy to provide further acknowledgement if requested. To make any such request press here.

To read Mr Philip Hopwood's interview with Deputy Chair of University Council Chris Wells press here. Of note in section 5 Mr Hopwood clearly states that they 'were concentrating on authorship, distribution and the content of the newsletter...'

It is clear from Hopwood's statement at section 20, that during the pre-hearing secret meeting (secret as I was not informed of it before the Disciplinary Hearing and because I only found out when this document was provided to me under a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act prior to the beginning of the ET in March and no note is said by the University lawyers Eversheds to exist) the remit was not widened but was narrowed from the above. He states: 'Yes, it was for an hour, lead by Paul Jenks (PJ) and the solicitors and they talked us through the disciplinary hearing specifically, the allegations. What was and waht was not in order so that we could reach a conclusion, also, how to break down the evidence relating to the accusations. To determine whether he was the author and had disseminated the newsletters and whether this constituted gross misconduct...' The issue concerning the malicious 'content of the newsletter' has been removed.

Mr Mulholland's interview with Chris Wells which can be accessed here states reasonably clearly at section 4 that the 'investigation was held to determine whether or not GD: was the author is [sic] the newsletters, had taken part in the distribution of the newsletters...'

* Of note, in the subject heading of Ms Li's complaint to the police it states 'SUBJECT: RE; Documents from Xiang Li', none of these documents from Xiang Li were disclosed to myself or the goodly Suffolkian Longley prior to the ET by the University or their legal advisers. Given that the claim by the University was that the complaint was about me, was it naive to expect the University to provide such documents under the rules of disclosure?

(1) Methodology for an investigation report rumoured to have been used extensively by Mr Scott Mulholland in his thorough investigation of the allegations against the accused one Dr Gary Paul Duke Esq.
(2) In his submission Mr Eric Longley who acted as Dr Duke's lay-representative argued that these external legal representatives were in fact solicitors from Eversheds. Eversheds also acted for the University throughout this case both at the internal and external stages.
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Friday, 12 August 2011

An Employment Tribunal (Part II)

The Author and the highly persistent Suffolkian Mr Longley

Yes readers. It's the time of year once again and it would appear that Part II of our Employment Tribunal (conveniently entitled Dr Gary Duke -v- University of Salford) is upon us. Next week's proceedings follow on from the previous two day hearing in March of this year.

A quick recap

For readers who are new to this case and for those who wish to be updated, you may recall that a certain chap was dismissed by his employer the University of Salford in August 2009 for 'bullying, harassment and victimisation' two members of staff, and for 'bringing the University into disrepute'. The cause of this, according to the disciplinary panel, was through the authorship and distribution of a series of satirical publications called the Vice Consul's Newsletters.

The evidence so far - no complaint

In March, the Tribunal heard how despite the University having a Code of Conduct on Bullying and Harassment that states that a formal complaint must be made of bullying and harassment for the employer to instigate an investigation, that no complaint of bullying had been made against The Author of bullying or harassment by either two staff members. This was confirmed by the witness evidence given under oath by the Chair of the Disciplinary Panel Mr Hopwood and the Finance Director Mr Attwell who sat as Chair of the Appeal Panel. 

The evidence so far - no written statements

When pushed, Mr Attwell also admitted to the Tribunal that no written witness statements from the two alleged to have been bullied and harassed had been sought or provided to this author. Similarly, both members of staff had refused to give witness testimony and attend the disciplinary hearing in August 2009.

The evidence so far - no damage to University

Under cross examination by the persistent Mr Longley, Mr Attwell could not demonstrate any specific evidence of damage caused to the University by the authorship and distribution of the Vice Consul's Newsletters, despite his upholding this allegation in the subsequent Appeal against The Author's dismissal.

The evidence so far - the prejudicing of proceedings?

The Tribunal further heard how senior managers had introduced in internal releases to staff and students and external releases to the press the issue of a staff member's ethnicity. This went much further when the Registrar (now Deputy Vice Chancellor) Dr Adrian Graves suggested in an email to these managers that they 'might want to slip in the fact that the allegations include the harassment of a female student of Chinese ethnic origin'.(1) Mr Attwell stated that he (Attwell) "cannot not be responsible for the comment of Adrian Graves". (2) Questions were raised with regard to how such actions were prejudicial to the disciplinary procedures and an attempt to poison the well of public opinion. This was refuted by Mr Attwell.* 

You foul b'stard

The evidence so far - a pre-determined outcome to the hearing?

The Tribunal also heard how an external PR consultant employed at the time by the University - Mr Ed Rowan - had sent an email to the Vice Chancellor Martin Hall, Dr Graves and head of HR Keith Watkinson on the 31st July 2009, providing a timeline for the Disciplinary Hearing, stating the exact day when the decision would be announced to this author. 

Mr Rowan also provided for Mr Watkinson's consideration a single press release with the outcome of the Disciplinary Panel - dismissal. Nothing unusual here one might think except this was four days before The Author's disciplinary hearing! No second draft press release was produced by Mr Rowan. No evidence has been presented or submitted to the Tribunal, or provided under document disclosure or two Subject Access Request to suggest Mr Watkinson considered asking for a second press release or that one was prepared in the event that the disciplinary hearing decided in this author's favour.

This three day hearing promises to open many more doors on the disciplinary processes at the University of Salford. You are of course cordially invited.

Employment Tribunal


10:00AM on the 15th, 16th, and 17th August in the year of our Lord 2011


14-22 The PARSONAGE, 


M3 2JA

Notes and References

* The Vagrants have consistently put forward the opinion that this action from the Deputy Vice Chancellor was prejudicial and was also clear encouragement by Dr Graves for his staff to breach the Data Protection Act 1998 in releasing Sensitive Personal Information of a staff member.
(1) Email from A Graves to Keith Watkinson, Professor Brian Longhurst, Dr Paul Rowlett, dated 21st May 2009, timed 17:47, Subject: Petition from Languages Students
(1) From The Author's note of the second day of the Tribunal Hearing, 2nd March 2011

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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The harassment of a generation

"Power never takes a back step - only in the face of more power"
Malcolm X

April 2011 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the first Brixton rising. In the wake of similar risings that spread across the UK that year, the draconian 'sus' laws were scrapped.

Just as then, today, amidst the calls for rubber bullets and troops to be deployed on the streets to quell the disturbances that started with the riots in Tottenham, the usual media culprits are happy to categorise those who have taken to the streets as 'thieves', 'thugs' and simple 'looters'. Yet an important truth has been conveniently relegated to the background: that if you are black, you are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than if you are white.(1)

Harassment on an epic scale

The impact of stop and search on a large swathe of British society cannot be understated. The statistics are staggering and provide a compelling insight into one of the prominent causes of the riots in London. Between the period 2007 to 2008 in England and Wales, there were more than 170,000 stop and searches carried out on black people.(2)  This was an increase on the figures for 2004-05 which show around 118,000 stop and searches carried out against the black population out of a total in England and Wales that year of 840,000.(3) We might wish to dwell here for a few seconds and consider the total figure for stop and searches in one year alone. In the year 2008-09 there were around one million stop and searches conducted under PACE* and around 256,000 under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.

A policy designed to cut crime?

Given the sheer numbers of people stopped by the police one might make what appears to be a logical  jump to the assumption that stop and search is an effective policy in the fight against crime. The statistics show the opposite. It's estimated that stop and search has '... reduced the number of disruptable crimes by 0.2 per cent'.(4) This represents both a huge investment in man-hours and financial resources across England And Wales. It also represents a policy almost designed to alienate wide sections of society on a grand scale and spark the sort of scenes played out on our plasma screens.

Yet the policy continues despite the evidence that shows it has no real utility in cutting crime. The question is why? The Equality and Human Rights Commission is clear with regard to the force that drives a policy that disproportionately targets the the black community - it is simple racial discrimination.(5) There is an eerie historical continuity at play.

The two cases below prove illuminating and expose the beating heart that infuses this policy.

Barry Coy, a professional black ice hockey player, was stopped by the police on more than one hundred separate occasions after purchasing an expensive high performance car yet never charged with any offence. Or the case of special needs assistant 37 year old Anne Roberts who was stopped and searched by the police in London whilst on a bus. On arrival, the police stated that she was holding onto her bag in a suspicious way, wrestled her to the floor and arrested her. She was informed that she was being arrested on suspicion of fraud, later accused by the police at Tottenham police station of being a class A dealer in drugs. All charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence but she still received a caution for obstruction of the police. (6) 

Barry's case hails from 1982, Anne's case from 2010.

Echoes of the past

Two Acts provide police with extensive powers to stop and search: Section 60 of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act and the 1984  Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Together, both provide the legislative framework for the implementation of the institutional harassment of hundreds of thousands of black, Asian and white young people. The former was introduced to extend to the police powers to stop illegal raves in the 1990s against much widespread opposition.

The 'sus' laws

Yet there is an historical precedent in the use of an existing legislative framework to harass specific sections of British society. Throughout the 1970s the police made use of the 1824 Vagrancy Act to implement the policy that became known more widely as the 'sus' laws. The 'sus' laws were hated, particularly among the African-Caribbean communities. These laws gave police powers to stop and arrest anyone whom they suspected might commit a crime. In Lewisham London 1977, the Special Patrol Group an elite squad armed with pick axe handles and alsatian dogs, targeted sixty homes in the area in 'Operation PNH' or 'Operation Police Nigger Hunt' as it was known by the police. The Metropolitan Police statistics at the time showed that if you were black you were 15 times more likely to be stopped than a white person.(7) The 'sus' laws combined with the wholesale stopping and searches and the mass arrest of the African-Caribbean community as part of Opeation Swamp 81' in Brixton in 1981 are widely seen as the catalyst for those riots. (8)

Today, this harassment continues apace:

The Metropolitan and City forces in London together generate the large majority of excess stops and searches of black people: over 100,000 compared with around 150,000 in England and Wales... Outside London, large excesses are also seen in the West Midlands, Thames Valley, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Hampshire... While London generates the majority of excess stops and searches, in other areas the powers are used much more disproportionately against black and Asian people. Dorset has persistently stopped and searched black people disproportionately. Leicestershire and Hampshire also have high black/white disproportionality ratios. Some of the highest Asian/white disproportionality ratios over the last five years are seen in the West Midlands, Thames Valley, West Mercia and South Yorkshire. (9)

The above provides a partial explanation as to why these explosions of discontent are erupting across England.

A system heaping opprobrium on the oppressed

In 2010 the Institute for Public Policy Research published statistics that showed that around fifty per cent of young black males were unemployed. (10)  Today in 2011, black men are five times more likely to be unemployed than their white male counterparts. Youth unemployment, high across all groups, impacts more heavily on the young from working class areas.

Lacking any real prospect of secure decently-paid employment in the foreseeable future, these young people also lack the economic cushion enjoyed by their middle class counterparts in the shape of cash-flush parents. Factor in the siren call of the product marketers and advertisers whose 'must-have' message is both difficult to avoid and resist as it's pumped out through our TV screens at ten minute intervals and displayed in a grand style via a multitude of prime location bill boards. In this paradigm, the only way to validation is through ownership of the next generation iPhone. Unable to acquire these luxury items through legitimate means, is it any wonder that this Generation X might decide to use others?

Quoted in the Guardian, criminologist and youth culture expert John Pitts hints at the deeper problems:

"Many of the people involved are likely to have been from low-income, high-unemployment estates, and many, if not most, do not have much of a legitimate future... unlike most people, some of those looting had no stake in conformity. Those things that normally constrain people are not there. Much of this was opportunism but in the middle of it there is a social question to be asked about young people with nothing to lose."

The Cure - more of the same

Since the coming to power of the Conservative-Liberal coalition government, we've witnessed savage cuts to social provision and the welfare system on a scale unknown since the war. This has sharpened the growing anger. Global capitalism in crisis is in the process of wasting a generation of young people cheered on by politicians who want us to swallow more of their savage cuts. The bankers responsible for the crisis all the while continue to fill their own mouths with gold. And the police? True to their historical rationale and form, view this crisis as a further opportunity to exercise a power unique to them and one that affords to them apparent immunity from scrutiny or prosecution.

Thirty years of neo-liberalism has created the tinder. The execution of Mark Duggan by police last Thursday  was the spark that lit this conflagration. But its been a conflagration a long and very predictable time in the coming.

Notes and References

* PACE - 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act

(1) Stop and Think, A Critical Review of the use of Stop and Search Powers in England and Wales, sourced at http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/raceinbritain/ehrc_stop_and_search_report.pdf
(2) The Guardian 2nd June 2010 sourced at http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2010/jun/02/police-stop-search-black-asian?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487
(3)Bowling B and Phillips C, Disproportionate and Discriminatory: Reviewing the Evidence on Police Stop and Search, 2007  The Authors. Journal Compilation, 2007 The Modern Law Review Limited.(2007) pp 942-943
(4) Stop and Think, A Critical Review of the use of Stop and Search Powers in England and Wales, pg 6, sourced at http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/raceinbritain/ehrc_stop_and_search_report.pdf
(5) As above, pg 6
(6)The Guardian 8th July 2011 sourced at http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/jul/08/racist-stop-search-powers-challenge
(7) Stop and Think, A Critical Review of the use of Stop and Search Powers in England and Wales, pg 69
(8)P Morgan, Socialist Review,1999, sourced at http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/sr228/morgan.htm
(9)Race, Crime and Arrests, Home Office Research Studies no 58, London, 1979. Pg 33
(10) Sourced at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8468308.stm and http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2010/1/20/recession-leaves-half-of-uk-s-young-black-peo

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Thursday, 4 August 2011

A Prelude to Privatisation?

There's no mention of it in his blog this week... well not that we can divine and we have made extensive use of the liturgy and the forked willow.

In its salt'n'vinegar strokes a mention is made of a 'rich resource' for the 'University' but we don't think he's talking about the staff who work in the EFL (English as a Foreign Language) department formerly of the School of Languages.

Are they taking the lead or taking something else?

Over the past year or so we've tried to ginger up the Salford UCU leadership so that they might take the initiative in something other than applied fustian grandiloquence. Our attempts have not fallen on deaf ears as the major protests and rolling strikes at Salchester over the last couple of months in defending the 200 or so jobs threatened with exposure at the foot of Mount Taygetos have clearly demonstrated.(1) Thus in keeping with our grand old tradition we invite Salford UCU Presidente Christine Sheehy to consider the plight of the twenty or so teaching staff who work in EFL.

Playing the long game

Now it's the opinion of the vagrants that Salford EFL staff work bloody hard. They are possibly one of the best adverts for students from abroad to come to the North West and study at Salchester. However, we learned last week that so cherished are these staff, that many of these long-service EFL-ers have been providing their teaching services over the course of the academic year without the simple nicety of having a signed contract with their employer. This despite the almost urgent attention devoted to their cause by the UCU branch leadership. At the time of 'going to press' nothing has nearly been secured by the union and nobody's quite sure what this nothing isn't. We've cleverly formed an opinion that this might be an adroit double strategy consisting of on one hand not rocking boats and being extra nice to HR managers, and on the other something to do with two aged snails, a trap and an arboreal primate.(2)

Bitter-sweet laments from Ivorical Towers

Yet there are rumblings. Could it be that others sections of University staff of a more gradualist hue are straining at the leash to follow this route? We haven't heard yet if the Salchester Professoriat, so enamoured with this idea and the obvious long-term security that it potentially offers, are contemplating adopting it wholesale. Possibly, if a clause is inserted for wider palatability back-dating its introduction to the academic period 1878-79.

As it's been related to this tired tilter, morale among EFL staff is said to be at an all-time high. It's been disclosed that those who are not already members of Salchester UCU are photocopying a registration form desperate to join up and secure any potential benefits on equal terms. Nor is anyone said to be threatening in the slightest to tear up their union membership cards.


Yet it's the more recent policy of re-designation that has added to their intermutual joy. Some are said to have over-urinated in contemplation of the future. Others are said to have developed a form of predysphasic-pedagogery. One or two have likened it to the penultimate stage of Rapture played we're told to within the final inch of its life on an old 'Dansette' in the now defunct staff room on the eight floor by an irked former part-timer, smoking joint-bundles and dropping amphetamines."What's re-designation" you ask? Well it would appear that in this case its a highly attenuated shift from the use of the rather old-fashioned and unrefined bourgeois classification Teaching Staff  for the current crop of EFL staff, to the more exalted and thoroughly modern appellation of S.T.U.D.E.N.T.S.U.P.P.O.R.T.S.T.A.F.F.(in a Daleky voice). It's thought that there may be great kudos in other academic and teaching staff accepting this nouveau appellation and if successful it might well be rolled out across the entire HE sector by a division of  early 19th century Plug-Plotters on piecework rates.

A new approach to teaching?

It's not been confirmed if the re-designation is in response to a manager's claim that there has been a paradigmatic shift among EFL staff from a thoroughly dialectical approach to knowledge impartation to a more empirically based form of educative conveyance known as the R.O.T.E. method named after its Swedish founder Svart Tavla Undervisning Lärarjobb Rote.* Coincidentally the current fiscal climate has led to this intensely modernistic method garnering a recent welcome boost from the doyen of contemporaneity David Willetts. Staff are said to be actively polishing down their hard-earned skills in preparation for next years 'teaching out of a book'. An already visible shrinkage in EFL staff admin hours, historically seen by staff as a vital adjunct to intelligence promulgation among students, might indicate this policy may already be well under way.

Old skool... rather bourgeois
New Skool... rather less bourgeois
If you saw Sid and told him, would he shit himself too?

Yet even these substantive re-adjustments to the fabric of academic space-time in all things English as a Foreign Language related are small fry when considered within the context of an email received last week.

'Subject: Review of EFL Provision

Message sent on behalf of Professor Cynthia Pine

Dear colleagues

I am writing to thank you for engaging in the review; your contributions were very valuable and were incorporated into the report to the Executive. The discussion at Executive confirmed that that [sic] this is an important area for the University; that provision will remain internal to the University in the short to medium term; and will be subject to review as external changes (e.g. UKBA) become clearer. The Executive has decided that EFL provision will be separately managed; that this will be outside of the new School but within the University. The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Dr Adrian Graves is now leading the next stages. His office will be in contact to provide further details.

With best wishes


Professor Cynthia Pine CBE, BDS, MBA, PhD, FDSRCS, FRSA, Pro Vice Chancellor International, Dean of the College of Health and Social Care'

Enter the re-situationists

Apart from the word executive being remarkably like the word execute, we nearly had to rent space in a disused panopticon adjacent to Strangeways to situate Cynthia's modest cognominations. We alighted at the bus stop opposite the sentence that said '...that provision will remain internal to the University in the short to medium term; and will be subject to review...'. The next bus to 'The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Dr Adrian Graves is now leading the next stages. His office will be in contact to provide further details...' was late. 

If EFL is to be relocated from its former position within the School of Languages into the arms of Student Life** without a whimper from the unions, maybe the UCU's Chris Sheehy might want to at least consider applying the full force of her considerable rhetorical powers to extract from one of The Executives - The Chief Executive a certain Martin Hall - a most solemn undertaking in blood or its equivalent. It could for example  secure the long-term future of EFL provision ie, that it will remain 'in-house', not privatised and thus out-housed. To obtain such a promise would almost certainly do her the power of good and will obviate the need for a short or indeed a medium term. It might also save a few bob in the process as it's quite well known in the 'Term' Trade that short terms like ill-founded libel claims can prove rather an unnecessary drain on vital financial resources.

DALEK: Out of my way you bald useless fuck-er?
DALEK LEADER: You will refer to me by my full title which is 
(in a Daleky voice)

Notes and References

*R.O.T.E. Reading Out Teacher's Edicts (readers can do the translation themselves)
** Student Life provides advice and support to students according to the website http://www.advice.salford.ac.uk/
(1) This is an obvious attempt at irony
(2) The Vagrants have been informed that a 'slowly.. slowly... catchy... monkey... strategy' has been invoked by certain union officers concerning this matter. At the time of going to press we were still not quite sure which century they're anticipating getting something negotiated or indeed which genus they are hoping to trap.


As usual, this is a work rooted in the fine old tradition of satire. The contents are the honestly held opinions of the author who is far from anonymous. Being a humorous work, it is not intended to hurt the feelings of senior types or their immediate subordinates who do after all get paid a lot from public funds and suchlike.

If you would like to add to the emergent picture in EFL, please feel free to post comments or email the Vagrants. We will treat any information provided in the utmost confidence. If there are any inaccuracies or if any individuals or institutions feel corrections are necessary, please send an email by pressing here. It is most definitely worth doing this before availing oneself  of the libel laws or sending expensive threatening Pre-Action Protocols demanding we close down the entire blog, as like a company of miniature clowns who perform exclusively on a Venetian blind, it would be silly on a variety of levels. 

We do of course also operate a right of reply and unlike some other blogs, will let you make more than one posting if you feel so inclined under your own name or anonymously as it's a free-ish country.

The Vagrants

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