Statement from Christian Kerslake

Christian Kerslake, one of the three suspended philosophy lecturers at Middlesex University, had his suspension hearing yesterday (Monday 14 June). He read this statement out after his hearing to the demonstration that had gathered in solidarity with him. Christian heard this morning that his suspension has now been lifted.

The demonstrations today and tomorrow are in defence of the right to protest within the university. The term ‘university’ basically means ‘a community of students, scholars and teachers’. It is a place for learning and teaching, and a place for the free exchange of ideas, including political ideas and including ideas about what a university should be, and how it should respond to the economic and social climate it inhabits.

If one cannot protest freely, peacefully and rationally within a university, and if one cannot protest within the university against the decisions made by the management of the university, then this is a sign that something has gone seriously wrong somewhere. What we have seen over recent weeks is the Vice-Chancellor of this University, Michael Driscoll, taking an authoritarian and intimidatory stance towards some of the students of this university. Michael Driscoll and the University Executive arbitrarily singled out seven individuals at the end of the occupation, and the doors of the Mansion Building at Trent Park still bear their names, barring them from the premises. The four students suspended after the library occupation remain barred from the premises, and after years of working hard at their courses, now have to write for permission to visit the University.

I would like to ask the University Executive to do the decent thing and immediately lift all suspensions from all the students involved in the occupations. Take those ugly legal notices from the doors of the Mansion Building at Trent Park and restore that building to its function: as a house for students and free thought. Until those notices come off those doors, the Mansion Building cannot be said to belong to a University.

Much damage has been done, and there are many things that the remaining philosophy students can legitimately demand from the University. What we need to do now is secure the conditions for a truly excellent undergraduate programme in philosophy at Middlesex over the next two years. But also we should not give up on the core goal of the campaign: to reinstate philosophy at Middlesex. We have a concrete goal that is quite achievable: to re-open philosophy at Middlesex in 2011, to start admitting students again, and to re-build the department from there.

For now, I would like to urge everybody here, if they can, to come along on Tuesday to support Peter Hallward and Peter Osborne and defend their right to protest.

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Statement by the Suspended Students

On Friday May 28th four students attended disciplinary hearings at Trent Park campus regarding their alleged participation in the occupations of the Mansion building and the library at Trent Park. These occupations were in response to management’s unjustified proposal to axe the highly successful philosophy programme in its entirety.

The hearings focused around three points: admittance of participation in the occupations, allegations of injury, and agreement not to participate in future occupation of University property or cause further ‘disruption’ of the university.

All students freely admitted their role in both occupations. Facing the threat of expulsion a collective decision was made to agree not to participate in future occupations. This was in no way expressed as a disavowal however, and all students stated explicitly to the panel that they would continue to participate fully in the campaign and be present at future demonstrations, exercising their legal rights to protest and freedom of speech and association.

All students denied allegations of assault or violence. The panel alleged that two members of staff were injured and one hospitalised. No hard evidence was produced however. The students responded that despite police attending on three occasions at no point did they intervene and nor have they questioned any students regarding such allegations. The response from the panel was that police involvement would depend on the ‘severity of the injury’. When asked to elaborate on the severity of alleged injuries, as well as allegations of broken bones made by security and management in the press, the panel declined to comment. The students made it clear that whilst they would not condone injury nevertheless they did not injure anyone.

The students also questioned the nature of the hearing and its adherence to university protocol. It was noted that evidence was not provided beforehand as promised and that insufficient time was given for the students to prepare their case, factors contributing to what the students deemed an unfair hearing. Some statements by security also contained factual inaccuracies and other visual evidence was extremely ambiguous, in some instances it being questionable as comprising evidence.

The university’s scapegoating tactic was also queried by all students, to which no coherent response could be elicited from the panel. Nor could they explain the criteria used to identify particular individuals.

The hearing was brought to a (provisional) conclusion with each student having 3 points (‘grave warning’) marked against their student record, with consequent exclusion from university premises without permission for the period it takes management to investigate the occupations (approx. one month), after which the case will be reviewed.

The students believe the repeated emphasis on misleading, vague and ambiguous questions by the panel to be part of a strategy to predetermine the outcome; confirmation that the hearings were not conducted fairly or without prejudice – this is clear in view of the university’s violation of its own disciplinary protocol. In the Vice-chancellor’s immediate public response, he inaccurately deployed the phrase ‘the regret’ of the students ­ which they strongly refute. Political action is not a regret for those who see it as both their right, and indeed a necessity, to stand up and protect their education; to resist the oppressive stealth tactics of unthinking bureaucrats who try to steep us and the university in a morass of neo-liberal logic.

Ali Alizadeh, Nicola Goodchild, Johann Vadseth Hoiby, Hoi Yen Voong

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Demonstration in support of suspended Philosophy staff, Monday 14 June

Christian Kerslake, one of the three members of staff in Philosophy who was suspended a couple of weeks ago pending an investigation into the recent occupations at Trent Park, has a hearing scheduled for noon on Monday 14 June at Hendon.  (The other two hearings will take place on Tuesday). We hope that students and staff who condemn these suspensions as an abuse of managerial power, and as an attempt to stifle legitimate protest and dissent, might gather from 11:15 at Hendon on Monday to support Christian as he goes into his hearing, and to call on management to reinstate all the suspended staff at once and without conditions or recrimination.

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An open letter to the Vice-Chancellor and all members of the University, on staff suspensions

An open letter to the Vice-Chancellor and all members of the University, 11 June 2010.

Dear colleagues,

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.

yours sincerely,

Peter Hallward
PL for the Philosophy MA programmes.

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Announcement (8 June): The CRMEP is moving to Kingston University

Tuesday 8 June 2010

The campaign to save our philosophy programmes has just won a partial but significant victory: Kingston University in south-west London announced today that it will re-establish our Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) at Kingston, by employing the four senior staff in Philosophy at Middlesex (Eric Alliez, Peter Hallward, Peter Osborne and Stella Sandford). Our MA and PhD programmes (full-time and part-time) will be re-launched at Kingston this September, and all current post-graduate students will be invited to move along with the staff. Institutions in France and Germany have also made significant new proposals for collaboration with the CRMEP, which may allow it to expand the European dimensions of its work considerably in the near future.

This remarkable turn of events would never been possible without the extraordinary local and international campaign that began six weeks ago, to save our philosophy programmes.

Like Middlesex, Kingston is a post-1992 university, with a commitment to widening participation in education. Unlike Middlesex, Kingston is expanding rather than cutting back its provision in humanities subjects, and it is investing in research in these areas. In addition to taking on CRMEP staff, Kingston will be making a number of other high-level appointments over the coming months, and is launching its own London Graduate School in conjunction with colleagues from several other Universities internationally.  We believe that Kingston will provide an enthusiastic and supportive base for the activities of the CRMEP.

Although we have not won all the demands made by our campaign, the move to Kingston is a major achievement. We have found a way to keep all of our postgraduate programmes open, and to keep most of the CRMEP staff together in a single unit. We have preserved a place in London for the unique academic community that has built up around the Centre and its distinctive research interests, and this will continue to be a place where the criteria for entry and participation remain as open as possible. The campaign has directly refuted the line that Middlesex managers have repeated for many years now – a variation of the line that ‘there is no alternative’ but to follow the neoliberal way of the world, and to close down small academic departments in favour of large vocational ones. The campaign hasn’t merely proved that ‘another way is possible’: it has helped to indicate what needs to be done to make such a way a reality, and shown that there are universities in the UK and in Europe that are willing to embrace it.

We hope that the campaign will continue, evolving to become one of several contributions from a range of institutions across London and the region to a broader and deeper struggle in support of philosophy, the humanities and public education more generally. Some of the protestors who made the biggest impact in our campaign came from supportive universities such as Sussex, KCL, SOAS, Westminster and Goldsmiths. This emerging network of education activists isn’t going to disperse, and is likely to play an important role in the struggles that will soon affect the entire sector. Although the closure of Philosophy at Middlesex is yet another indication of the ongoing commercialisation of education in the UK, our campaign, along with other recent mobilisations at universities up and down the country, has helped change the balance of power across higher education. The campaign to save philosophy at Middlesex has already made a powerful intervention in the fight for public education in general and for endangered humanities programmes in particular. The future looks challenging but there is now much to build on, at Middlesex, at Kingston and across the UK.

Eric Alliez, Peter Hallward, Peter Osborne and Stella Sandford

*  *  *  *  *

The decision to leave Middlesex University was very difficult. Recently it became clear that some of the steps taken by Middlesex management to shut down Philosophy would be irreversible in the short term. Management have already written to all our current undergraduate applicants, informing them that our BA programme is closed. No new PhD applicants have been able to apply since early March. Belying some apparent suggestions of last-minute compromise from his deputies, on Friday 28 May Middlesex Vice-Chancellor Michael Driscoll reiterated his determination to end Philosophy recruitment and to phase out all Philosophy teaching. Management ignored a UCU motion calling for staff suspensions to be lifted by noon on Wednesday 2 June, and we know that effective UCU action to oppose the closure and suspensions will now take several months to prepare. The national political context is also significant. A first round of severe cuts to the Higher Education budget will be announced on 22 June, with more drastic measures to follow in the autumn. Given the financial pressures that will soon apply to every university in the country, if the door is shut at Middlesex then the time for a group move may be now or never. If programmes are to be validated and new students admitted in good time for the start of the new academic year in September then we need begin the transition immediately.

We are acutely aware of the fact that such a move is only an incomplete victory for the campaign. Despite relentless local and international pressure the central demand of the campaign, to save philosophy at Middlesex itself, has fallen on deaf ears. Vice-chancellor Michael Driscoll and those managers who support his vision of a university purged of critical thinking, research and humanities teaching have amply demonstrated their contempt for the passionately argued priorities of their own students, and for the academic judgement of many highly respected scholars in and around our field, in the UK and the world over.

Kingston University, meanwhile, doesn’t yet have an undergraduate programme in Philosophy, and in order to make this move possible it will have to provide a substantial sum of transitional funding, through to the end of the current research funding cycle (i.e. for a minimum of three years). Given these constraints, Kingston is only able to take four of the six members of staff in Philosophy at Middlesex. We very much regret that we haven’t managed to find a secure base for the CRMEP that includes all Middlesex Philosophy programmes and staff. We hope that Middlesex will now honour its commitment to teach out its under-graduate programmes and that it will retain our colleagues Christian Kerslake and Mark Kelly (if they so choose) to teach them. In the longer term, we hope that Middlesex will offer to retain Christian and Mark to teach philosophy courses for programmes in other areas. In addition to providing a place for current Middlesex undergraduates to pursue an eventual MA or PhD, we hope that Kingston will launch its own undergraduate provision in due course, enabling new appointments in Philosophy.

We know that in leaving Middlesex we are leaving many courageous and embattled colleagues who have supported the campaign and whose own programmes remain vulnerable. We know as well that several of the most urgent issues of the campaign remain unresolved: students and staff are still suspended, our undergraduate programme is slated for termination, the situation of our current undergraduate students is uncertain, the criteria for further ‘sustainability’ decisions remain unclear, and the future of humanities provision is as precarious as ever. Middlesex managers have not changed their position and the union remains in dispute over the staff suspensions and the way in which closure decisions are taken. The mobilisation of Middlesex staff in and beyond our UCU branch is proof of their readiness to fight not only for a radical transformation of these procedures but also for the general principles that have animated this campaign: the defence of universal access to education and the opportunity to pursue independent critical thinking; the defence of teaching and research in terms that challenge the prevailing divisive and hierarchical criteria used to assess ‘performance’ and ‘excellence’; the defence of academic freedom and the right to protest; the defence of collective action by students and staff alike.

We will continue to do everything we can to support our colleagues and our suspended students, and to resist any further intimidation of campaign activists. Christian Kerslake, Peter Osborne, and Peter Hallward have suspension hearings scheduled for this coming week, and we will fight not just to overturn these suspensions but to discourage any future use of such punitive and inappropriate sanctions in the face of peaceful protest and dissent. 

Today our campaign enters into a new phase. It has succeeded in showing that there is indeed an alternative to the narrow corporate priorities championed by Middlesex managers, and that in closing their Philosophy programmes and then persecuting their students and staff, Middlesex management have violated their own procedures, damaged the reputation of the University and lost the confidence of many students and members of academic staff. These students and members of staff will no longer tolerate management incompetence, bullying and unaccountability. Middlesex can no longer be managed in the same old way. As it changes to become part of the broader struggle for public education, our campaign will continue to emphasise collective action and direct confrontation with the forces that are driving the neoliberal assault on our education system.

One phase of this campaign is over; the struggle continues.

Posted in statements | 113 Comments

Campaign update 4 June 2010

1. Middlesex University management never so much as responded to the Middlesex UCU branch ultimatum on the staff suspensions. The deadline came and went on Wednesday 1 June, and at its AGM that afternoon the union branch formally declared its intention to enter into dispute with management. UCU support for the campaign is strong but unfortunately no new clear line of action emerged from the AGM, which left some members frustrated. Union officials confirmed that the timetable for industrial action and eventually for greylisting (academic boycott) would necessarily have to stretch over several months, i.e. into the beginning of the next academic year. The UCU head office recently announced its intention to back the campaign, and we hope the general issues at stake in this dispute – condemnation of the illegitimate suspension of staff and students, and of the way management makes decisions about programme ‘sustainability’ – will be taken up as part of a national UCU campaign that is likely to begin later this summer, with possible industrial action planned for this autumn.

2. On Thursday Middlesex managers apparently ‘cautioned’ a couple of members of staff for ‘inappropriate use of the university email system’ (or words to that effect), i.e. for copying ‘inappropriate’ replies to Vice-Chancellor Michael Driscoll’s message to large numbers of academic staff. They have now disabled the group email addresses that used to make it possible to reach all the staff members of a particular school. Apparently managers are considering further investigation into alleged ‘abuses’ of the University’s email system, claiming that Michael Driscoll has been ‘bullied’ by a mass of unwelcome emails in recent days.

3. This past week only one additional student has been suspended and summoned to a disciplinary hearing, scheduled for 10am on Tuesday 8 June. Staff suspension hearings for Kerslake, Osborne, Hallward are scheduled for Wednesday 9 June.

4. A powerful new group letter of support for the campaign, signed by some of the most prominent philosophers and academics working in North America, was sent this morning to the New York Review of Books. It is hard to think of a precedent for such a letter.

5. Last night several dozen campaigners protested outside the Middlesex art show at the Truman Brewery (photos below). Inside the show protestors handed out a number of suitably artful fliers to members of the University and the general public — many thanks to the design students who put these together. Although they were careful to do nothing that might disrupt the show or upstage the art students themselves, a dozen or so campaigners wearing white anti-management t-shirts found and then shadowed a couple of Middlesex managers who were in attendance, lest they forget the consequences of their decision to close our programmes.

Middlesex management has done nothing this week to qualify Driscoll’s confirmation, last Friday, of his decision to persist with the unqualified closure of Philosophy and the ongoing intimidation of Philosophy students and staff. In recent years, management has often taken unpopular decisions over the summer break. Summer is coming on, Middlesex students will soon begin to disperse, and if it hasn’t vanished already the time for compromise is rapidly running out.

Posted in photographs, statements | 4 Comments

Balibar et al: open letter to the Board of Governors (for NYRB)

The following letter has been sent to the New York Review of Books for publication:

June 4, 2010

Board of Governors
Middlesex University in London
The Burroughs
London NW4 4BT

An Open Letter to the Board of Governors

We, the undersigned, have been following with increasing consternation the events that have unfolded at Middlesex University since the announcement of the elimination of the philosophy program on April 26.   If this course of events, which is indicative of recent trends in academia, is not reversed, we fear that difficult times lie ahead for the university as a space of reasoned discussion and scholarly inquiry.

First, the decision to eliminate a program that was among the most highly ranked departments in the UK is extremely worrying.   In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), a periodic exercise conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which determines disbursement of government funds for research, Middlesex Philosophy had 65 percent of its research activity rated “world-leading” or “internationally renowned.”  The idea that such a well-respected philosophy program could be eliminated suggests that the managers of Middlesex do not value even the highest levels of philosophical research.  If this is the case, then what are we to imagine is the future of philosophy elsewhere in the UK?  What of philosophy outside the UK?

Second, the manner in which the elimination occurred reflects a corporatization of decision-making that is disturbing to all who value faculty input into university decision-making processes.  All efforts of the Middlesex faculty at finding an equitable solution to a small temporary shortfall in monies returned from the program to the central administration were rebuffed. What is most worrying is that the administration’s justification for the elimination of the program is not that it is losing money.  In fact, the program is making money.  Rather, the reason offered was that more money could be made by investing funds elsewhere.

Finally, the suspension of three professors and several students –prior to any investigation– for their role in protesting the program’s elimination is inimical to university life.  A university is not a corporation, to be run solely on principles of maximal efficiency and requiring strict obedience from its “employees” or “consumers.”  Reasoned argument and peaceable dissent are the very life blood of a university.  To resort to raw disciplinary power and suspend the affected  professors and students for challenging the managers’ decision is to exhibit an authoritarianism that has no place in higher education.

We therefore call upon the Board of Governors at Middlesex University to rescind the decision eliminating the program in philosophy and to reinstate the suspended professors and students.  The discipline of philosophy and the character of university life are too important to be treated as they have been over the last several weeks at Middlesex.


Étienne Balibar, Philosophy, Université de Paris X and University of California, Irvine
Nancy Bauer, Philosophy, Tufts University
Jay Bernstein, Philosophy, New School for Social Research
Richard Bett, Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University
Akeel Bilgrami, Philosophy, Columbia University
Lawrence Blum, Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Boston
Alain de Botton, London
Thom Brooks, Geography, Politics, and Sociology, Newcastle University
Judith Butler, Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley
Edward Casey, Philosophy, SUNY Stony Brook
William Connolly, Political Science, Johns Hopkins University
Simon Critchley, Philosophy, New School for Social Research
Arthur Danto, Philosophy, Columbia University
Maria DiBattista, English, Princeton
Julia Driver, Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis
Frances Ferguson, Humanities Center, Johns Hopkins University
John Fischer, Philosophy, University of California, Riverside
David Harvey, Anthropology, Graduate Center, CUNY
Richard Kraut, Philosophy, Northwestern University
Mark Lance, Philosophy, Georgetown University
Todd May, Philosophy, Clemson University
Colin McGinn, Philosophy, University of Miami
Jeff McMahan, Philosophy, Rutgers University
Richard Moran, Philosophy, Harvard University
Martha Nussbaum, Law and Philosophy, University of Chicago
Anthony Pagden,  Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles
Carole Pateman, Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles
John Protevi, French Studies, Louisiana State University
Paul Rabinow, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
Jesse Prinz, Philosophy, Graduate Center, CUNY
Jacques Rancière, Philosophy, Université de Paris VIII
C.D.C. Reeve, Philosophy, University of North Carolina
Peter Singer, Philosophy, Princeton University
Evan Thompson, Philosophy, University of Toronto
George Toles, English, Film, and Theatre, University of Manitoba
Bruce Wexler, Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine
Susan Wolf, Philosophy, University of North Carolina

Posted in letters of support | 4 Comments

Professor Mine Dack, Reply to Vice-Chancellor Driscoll, 1 June

Dear Professor Driscoll

Thank you for sending us this update regarding the closure of Philosophy programmes and suspension of staff and students following the occupations that took place at Trent Park. As you are well aware, many of us in the University, and many more thousands of academics nationally and internationally, have been expressing concerns about the total lack of accountability and openness on the part of Senior Management and Executives, as well as concerns about the environment of fear and anxiety you have created amongst staff through your recent decisions and actions with regard to the Philosophy programmes and the campaign to Save Philosophy at Middlesex. Since the beginning of this dispute, you have not been able to promote “a working environment where employees can feel safe to raise concerns without fear of being seen as troublemakers and to encourage freedom of speech without workers being subject to any detriment, including victimisation and disciplinary action” (Human Resources Policy Statement HRPS21).

However, I wish to go beyond merely reminding you of your responsibilities here: This latest email you sent all University staff – together with the official University statement on the staff intranet – only adds to and intensifies the doubts we have regarding your accountability and openness as it involves various misleading statements, of which I shall address only one for the time being.

In your letter you state that “In accordance with the University’s Staff disciplinary Procedure, a suspension on full pay may be made where there are allegations of possible misconduct”. Again, according to the official University statement on the intranet “The suspensions are part of standard University policy to enable a thorough internal investigation into alleged misconduct to proceed unhindered”. This is simply not true.

In case you have failed to read the University’s Disciplinary Procedure document produced by Human Resources (October 2009), let me remind you what the standard procedure is:
“Accordingly, when an alleged conduct issue is identified, HR and Dean/Director are to be informed. This is part of the so-called Informal Procedure: During this stage, the staff member in question is to be given five working days notice of an interview with his/her Line Manager, together with a written indication of the complaint(s) to be discussed. In such an interview the member of staff shall have the opportunity to rebut the allegation. Following the written notification, the Line Manager meets with the employee to informally discuss the incident. Then the Line Manager decides if further investigation is required: at this point s/he decides whether the incident potentially constitutes gross misconduct. If s/he decides that the incident does not constitute gross misconduct, then the Line Manager gathers witness statements, submits investigation report and conclusion to Chair, who then decides if a disciplinary hearing is required.”

It is, therefore, NOT standard policy to suspend staff on allegations of misconduct without following the above-outlined procedure. Contrary to what you claim, nowhere in the Disciplinary Procedure document or the Academic Staff Handbook is it stated that staff can be suspended for alleged misconduct. By copying Teresa Kelly into this email, I request information regarding the date the required notifications mentioned above – which are part of the Informal Procedure – were sent to Professors Peter Osborne, Peter Hallward and Dr Christian Kerslake; and the date and time they have met with their Line Managers. I suspect these notifications were never sent, and the meetings have never taken place.

It therefore must be the case that the allegations made are of GROSS MISCONDUCT, since according to the Disciplinary Procedure document, “Suspensions may be used where the complaint is of serious or gross misconduct and/or urgent cause relating to the University’s aims and objectives which could potentially amount to gross misconduct” (DP 2009: 2). Furthermore, “where Gross Misconduct is alleged the nature of the misconduct shall be such as would normally justify dismissal. (ASH 1996: 39). In such cases, the so-called Formal Stages of the Disciplinary procedure are to be used, and “the decision to involve the formal stages of the procedure lies with the Senior Manager” (ASH 1996: 38). Note that the Formal Procedure involves 2 stages: during the initial stage the Senior Manager normally gives five days written notice to the member of staff of a formal interview to discuss a disciplinary matter. However, according to the Disciplinary Procedure document, “It may be appropriate to move straight to Stage 2 of the Formal Procedure for alleged gross or serious misconduct, provided that a thorough investigation precedes such a decision. It shall be the first duty of those using the procedure in this way to consider whether such use can be justified and to make a formal written report on this as well as on the substantive issue. (ASH 1996: 39)

Now I ask you: Since you have moved immediately to the second stage of the Formal Procedure after the occupations at Trent Park, did you prepare such a formal report justifying the decision to suspend staff, did you establish the validity of the claims, and if yes, when and by what means? Most importantly, did you talk to Professors Osborne and Hallward and Dr Kerslake as part of your evidence gathering stage? Once again, I request information about this report you should have prepared from Teresa Kelly.

Surely, you are aware of the fact that there is a categorical difference between misconduct and gross misconduct? If there were not, the University Disciplinary Procedure document produced by Human Resources in October 2009 would not have clearly differentiated misconduct and gross misconduct (p.9). Misconduct involves cases such as: breaches of the University’s Code of Conduct, failure to meet performance standards, poor timekeeping, poor attendance record etc., whereas gross misconduct involves the likes of theft, fraud, threatening physical violence, deliberate damage to University property, bullying or harassment of students or colleagues, being under the influence of alcohol, serious breaches of occupational health and safety procedures including endangering others in their work. Can you clarify what the nature of the gross misconduct allegations against the three suspended staff members is?

You are in effect claiming that you have judged, based on no proven evidence, that three very distinguished and respected members of our academic community constitute a risk to the University or to others if they remain at work while the investigation is carried out (DP 2009: 10).

To summarize:

If the allegations are of misconduct, by authorizing the suspension of the three staff members in Philosophy, you have seriously breached the Disciplinary Procedure Codes specified in detail by the University’s own documents.

If, on the other hand, the allegations are of gross misconduct, you have been deliberately and systematically spreading untrue, misleading information to all University staff as nowhere in any of your communications with us did you use the term “gross misconduct”. If gross misconduct “is the kind of act or behaviour that would undermine the trust and confidence which is the basis on which all of our contracts of employment are made” (DP, 2009:9), then you could be accused of allegations of Gross Misconduct yourself for either of these actions.

I invite you to rectify this situation immediately; otherwise, an official Public Interest Disclosure of your mismanagement will be in order.

Prof. Dr. Mine Dogantan Dack
Research Fellow, Music
Department of Performing Arts
School of Arts and Education

DP – Disciplinary Procedure; Produced by Human Resources in October 2009
ASH – Academic Staff Handbook; Produced by Middlesex University in April 1996

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Stella Sandford response to Vice-Chancellor Driscoll’s update, 1 June

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing, as Director of Programmes in Philosophy and Religious Studies, on behalf of the academic staff in Philosophy in reply to the Vice-Chancellor’s message to all university staff of Friday 28 May.

We believe that the message seriously misrepresents both the situation in Philosophy and the process leading up to the decision to close recruitment to its programmes, including MPhil/PhD recruitment.

In order to allow for a transparent discussion at university level of the issues raised by these matters, we would like (i) to make the following ten detailed points, below, and (ii) attach a copy of the Plan sent by Philosophy to Executive on 31 March 2010, in response to its request, conveyed via our Dean, that we produce a plan demonstrating that the Philosophy & Religious Studies subject group can make a 56% contribution to the University from 2010-11 onwards; along with the response by our Dean recommending closure.

We omit the 9 spreadsheets accompanying our Plan, the main points from which are summarized in the other two documents.


1. <“This decision followed six months of detailed consultation with Philosophy staff…”>

Detailed consultation with Philosophy staff began on 8 March 2010 (less than 3 months ago) when they were informed by their Dean – Ed Esche – that the Executive had ordered the suspension of recruitment to all philosophy programmes, including all MA and MPhil/PhD students.

Prior to this, Philosophy staff had a single meeting with their Dean, in October 2009, regarding the 2 undergraduate Philosophy programmes only, which had failed to pass through the School APC to university Academic Programme Planning Group ( APPG). Staff proposed a new strategy to increase recruitment to the BAs and requested it be allowed one year to be tested. When programmes were suspended on 8 March, Philosophy undergraduate applications to Middlesex were up by 118% compared with 7.6% nationally.

At the meeting in October, no mention was made of the prospect of closing any of the postgraduate programmes. Indeed, all 3 MAs passed through APPG and were scheduled for a 5-Year Review and Revalidation to be held on 26 February 2010.

This Review and Revalidation event was postponed (now cancelled) on 19 February at 5-working-days notice by David Malpas, the Associate Dean for Resources, as Acting Dean (while the Dean was on leave), without any consultation or explanation to staff.

2.  <“… and ratified initial analysis from the School of Arts and Education.”>

The ‘initial analysis’ presented by the School of Arts & Education to University Executive on the morning of 8 March omitted c.£300,000 per annum of income from Philosophy & Religious Studies – a fact that was immediately apparent to Philosophy staff on being shown the relevant spreadsheet (for the first time) later that day, at the meeting at which they were informed of the suspension of all their programmes.

3. <“… following a process used regularly to assess the viability of courses within the University…>

We assume that ‘courses’ here refers to what the university currently calls ‘programmes’. The ‘regular process’ here is Review via School APC and university APPG. As noted above, the undergraduate Philosophy programmes were held back from APPG by the School APC. However, all 3 Philosophy MA programmes passed through APPG and were scheduled for 5-year Review and Revalidation, prior to the highly ‘irregular’ executive School management decision to postpone and then cancel the Review, without any procedure or consultation.

MPhil/PhD recruitment in Philosophy was subject to review as part of the 5-Year School Review of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy in February 2009, at which a plan for 2009–2013 was agreed by School management. No further reference has ever been made to this plan by the School or University.

Four staff in Philosophy act as Directors of Studies for MPhil/PhDs and 7 PhDs have been submitted within the last 15 months alone. 13 students (10.5 FTE) are continuing their studies.

4. “<… highlighted a decline in undergraduate student numbers (over several years)…”>

This is acknowledged – see Strategy doc to Executive of 30 March, attached; and an effective strategy was in place in increase them (increasing entry requirement by 60 UCAS points)

5. <…” low research funding (a decline in Hefce research funding and a lack of any external research funding at present) and lack of income from other areas.”>

The 2008 RAE sub-panel report for Philosophy at Middlesex noted: “research income and its use are excellent.”

Philosophy is the highest RAE2008-rated unit in the university. The small relative “decline in Hefce research funding” is that of the per capita decline nationally for all humanities subjects.

In September 2009 Philosophy completed a 3-year AHRC project grant of c. £245,000. In March 2010 (as soon as it was eligible given the previous grant) it applied to the AHRC for a further £192,000 fec 2-year project grant – the decision on which is pending.

6. <“This has meant that Philosophy requires significant cross-subsidies from other programmes, which restricts the School’s ability to invest in and develop other areas.”>

There are no cross-subsidies from other progarmmes identifiable on any of the spreadsheets for Philosophy & Religious Studies produced by the School. We presume this refers to the 2% ‘deficit’ involved in the 53% ‘contribution’ for 2009-10, relative to the 55% requirement. On this basis, presumably, the projected 59% contribution for 2010-11 (relative to a 56% requirement) represents a projected 3% subsidy from Philosophy “to other programmes”.

We note that during the RAE funding cycle 2002-9, we were informed by management that part of the university top-slice of the Philosophy QR was used to ‘subsidize’ poorly research-rated areas in the Business School.

7. <” This combination of circumstances led to the proposal to phase out the teaching over two years. This was discussed with the Philosophy team in October 2009…”>

“The proposal to phase out the teaching over two years” was NOT discussed with the Philosophy team in October 2009. The first they hear of it was on 8 March, at which point Executive had ordered a suspension of recruitment to all programmes. It was never “discussed”. We received it as an Executive decision.

8. <“… and the Executive invited them to submit alternative options for addressing the above issues. However, none of the ideas received would resolve the issues identified and ensure the viability of the programmes.”>

Yes, on March 8, the Executive invited Philosophy staff “to submit alternative options for addressing the above issues.” We did so, in the paper of 30 March, attached here.

“However, none of the ideas received would resolve the issues identified and ensure the viability of the programmes.”

We dispute this. Indeed, we dispute that the Dean’s response to our paper (also attached here) makes a reasonable case for closure in the light of that paper.

We also note that when, during the deferral of an Executive decision in mid April, we made a request to Margaret House that we use the time for further discussion with the Head of Department of Law about possible future collaborations, we were told that: ‘this would not be helpful’.

9. We will leave it to our suspended students to dispute the veracity of the description of their disciplinary hearings.

10. <” In accordance with the University’s Staff disciplinary Procedure, a suspension on full pay may be made where there are allegations of possible misconduct. “>

This is incorrect. The university has moved immediately to ‘stage 2’ of the formal procedure for GROSS misconduct (a separate category in its procedures from ‘misconduct’). Furthermore, it appears to have failed to fulfill its own requirements for so doing. In this respect, the staff suspensions are a (possibly ‘gross’) violation of the University’s own Staff Disciplinary Procedure.

Dr Stella Sandford
Principal Lecturer in Modern European Philosophy
Director of Philosophy and Religious Studies Programmes
Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy
School of Arts and Education
Middlesex University
Trent Park Campus
Bramley Road
London N14 4YZ

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Vice-Chancellor Michael Driscoll, Update on Philosophy provision (28 May)

From: Urgent Announcement [Vice-Chancellor Michael Driscoll]
Sent: Fri 28/05/2010 17:21
To: All University Staff
Subject: Update on Philosophy provision

Dear colleague,

I am writing to give you the latest information regarding plans to phase out Philosophy programmes and the recent forced occupations of University premises.

As you will know, Middlesex University has taken the decision to phase out the teaching of undergraduate Philosophy programmes over the next two years and not to recruit to its postgraduate research or part-time taught programmes.

This decision followed six months of detailed consultation with Philosophy staff, and ratified initial analysis from the School of Arts and Education. This analysis – following a process used regularly to assess the viability of courses within the University – highlighted a decline in undergraduate student numbers (over several years), low research funding (a decline in Hefce research funding and a lack of any external research funding at present) and lack of income from other areas. This has meant that Philosophy requires significant cross-subsidies from other programmes, which restricts the School’s ability to invest in and develop other areas.

This combination of circumstances led to the proposal to phase out the teaching over two years. This was discussed with the Philosophy team in October 2009, and the Executive invited them to submit alternative options for addressing the above issues. However, none of the ideas received would resolve the issues identified and ensure the viability of the programmes. The decision to phase out teaching was therefore confirmed and announced at the end of April.

There have been a number of protests regarding this decision. We fully support everyone’s right to free speech and peaceful protest. However, the University has to intervene when protests put the health of safety of others at risk and when such protests disrupt other staff and students from pursuing their work. In addition, the forced occupation of two University buildings involved assaults on staff. The occupation of the Library at Trent Park on 20 May also breached a High Court injunction.

Following the occupations, we temporarily suspended four students whom we knew to have been involved in both occupations, pending a hearing. Their hearings took place today. I am pleased that these students acknowledged that the occupations were disruptive to fellow staff and students and that they expressed regrets regarding any injuries that may have been caused. All four students received formal warnings that they must comply with the terms of the High Court injunction and a temporary exclusion from the University. They agreed to this and also to comply in future with the detail of the University student Code of Conduct. The temporary exclusions mean that they may enter any University premises but only with permission (which will not be unreasonably withheld).

We will be writing to other students we believe to have been involved in the occupations to ask them to come in for discussions, following which we will take decisions on any disciplinary steps required. We hope to have completed this process by the end of June. Subject to satisfactory undertakings from the students involved, we hope all students will be able return to normal studies.

Three staff from the Philosophy department have also been issued with temporary suspensions as we believe they may have been involved in forced occupations and associated activities. Following confirmation of the decision to phase out Philosophy programmes, we had hoped to be able to discuss options for the future with the individuals concerned, as we have with staff involved in other programmes which have closed in the past. We also anticipated that they would work with us on the planned transition (as have other staff in similar circumstances).

In accordance with the University’s Staff disciplinary Procedure, a suspension on full pay may be made where there are allegations of possible misconduct. This allows time for investigation of the allegations and to determine whether a disciplinary case is required. The three individuals continue to conduct assessment work and tutorials so that the quality of courses for students is not impacted.

We want to reach a point at which we are able to effectively plan the next steps required for these programmes in discussion with staff and students. We remain committed to helping Philosophy students gain a quality teaching and experience throughout the remainder of their course.

I will keep you informed of progress on this issue.

Yours faithfully

Michael Driscoll

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