An open letter to the Vice-Chancellor and all members of the University, 11 June 2010.
As you may know, three members of staff in Philosophy (Christian Kerslake, Peter Osborne and I) are currently suspended from the University. Our hearings are due to take place early next week.
We have been suspended, without any specific allegation, pending an investigation into our involvement in the recent occupations protesting the closure of the Middlesex Philosophy programmes. The terms of our suspension, as set out in a letter from Human Resources of 21 May, command us to ‘refrain from contacting in any way any University employee or student without the prior agreement of the Dean or a member of Executive.’ I was subsequently refused permission e.g. to contact Admissions, or to attend a union meeting.
In a further letter sent late on 28 May, Human Resources reminded me that my unauthorised attendance at an emergency UCU meeting held at Hendon that afternoon, along with my unauthorised attendance at a public rally held outside Hendon the previous day to oppose the closure of Philosophy, violated the terms of my suspension and are thus ‘disciplinary offences in themselves.’
Like the members of our UCU branch, like the UCU national congress, and like many thousands of academics and students in the UK and across the world, I consider our suspensions to be an abuse of managerial power. Like many of my Middlesex colleagues, I consider such abuse a matter of general and growing concern for the University community. Causes for concern appear to be accumulating by the day. Use of our email system is now subject to new restrictions, and this past week several other colleagues, in several different departments, have been ‘cautioned’ or summoned to quasi-disciplinary meetings with their line managers, for daring to raise questions about the suspensions and the way management has tried to justify them. In my opinion such intimidation is profoundly inimical to the spirit of free critical discussion that should animate any university worthy of the name.
Christian Kerslake’s suspension hearing is scheduled for noon on Monday 14 June at Hendon. (Peter Osborne & I have hearings scheduled for 15 June). I hope that colleagues who share concerns about these suspensions, and about the related and ongoing bullying of our colleagues, might gather from 11:00 at Hendon on Monday 14 June to support Christian as he goes into his hearing, and to call on management to reinstate him at once and without conditions or recrimination.
Perhaps such reinstatement might constitute a first step towards re-establishing relations of trust between management and staff.
PL for the Philosophy MA programmes.