May 15, 2011

Swindon College - Part 2

I am very worried by this case. I have worked at Bath and Swindon College, where Dr Butts is (or was) a govenor and Robert Rowe remains Director of HR. The fact that unsupported rumour could lead to an otherwise explempary academic career being ruined in what Justice Denyer castigated as a "slap-dash" manner remains a real threat as long as such make-weights hold power and their "might makes right".

It is out of the question for any of us to start a "Rowe Must Go" campaign. An iron gate would shut between us and management and it would amount to professional suicide. We already live in a climate of fear and cuts...more so now that the College will have to pay compensation for his incompetence.

An example of how he has affected us follows. When I joined Swindon College some years ago a collegue warned me out of the blue not to expect much from the HR Dept, and that advice has come to seem the prevailing feeling in the college ever since.

E.G. 'Focus' groups have been introduced by H.R. to solicit the opinions of teenaged students on how their lecturers are performing. Some of the latter may well hold petulant grudges after being told to turn off their mobile phones or Facebook and get to work, or at having been reprimanded for not completing projects on time, being late, etc. But this never comes into the equation as their comments are used to urgently confront staff with "concerns" as though these were "facts". With no objective assessment, staff are read the complaints and offered the chance to comment without having terms defined as in reasonable discourse. The assumption is that they should not need to defend themselves, as such trivial discord should never occur in a classroom. I was told recently, "You have to ask yourself, What would their parents say?" Well, most sentient parents know that their offspring may well say disparaging things about their tutors out of pique or simply because they can. Just as I can here, without the benefit of cross-questioning. However, these comments will not go onto Mr Rowe or Dr Butts's official record.

It follows that to some this "proceedure" may recall the MacCarthy trials as one is never told who said what in whatever context. The assumption is that staff are culpable if not actually guilty. Justification is that this system is beneficial to all concerned as "its good to talk", but it is actually dangerously absurd and demoralising to staff as the there is no question of an open forum. We are tainted by "loud whispers", and these - considering the slap-dash standards criticised by Justice Denyer - may well be used against us in the future by Mr Rowe and his minions.

As Voltaire said "Those who believe absurdities are likely to commit atrocities", and this is what one fears from Mr Rowe, who has a very unclear and emotive view of 'Safegurding", employng as he does, an ex-social worker who has passionately stated to us in our compulsory training sessions that all press reports of social workers mishandling of clients are myths produced by journalistic hacks! Is this the standard one expects from educationalists?

As for Dr Butts, her handling of the aspects of Bath's Centers of Lifelong Learning led to their being closed before others in the country with very similar demographics. Her committment was undeniable, but passion was no substitute for what was actually needed - vision and management skills. At least she has been "kicked upstairs" , or has she?



anilsays said...

Unfortunately, Faith Butt is still at the University of Bath. There are unconfirmed reports that she may be retired early; presumably, on an enhanced package.

She continues to harass staff there and is, by all accounts, unpopular. Unfortunately, given Bath's job situation, people chose to tolerate this rather than follow Robert McKie's lead.

Faith is in good company. Bath's former director of Computing Services, Rod Angood, spent many hours of the day in the uni's bars. He too was aggressive and quick to bully. This seems to be acceptable conduct for senior managers at Bath.

Anonymous said...

I feel the need to add some balance to Anil's comments on Rod Angood. Rather than he being a bully I have always found Rod to be considerate and compassionate. When it has been necessary for him to deal with staff discipline matters, he has done so with marked reluctance and only when no alternative solution was possible. Anil's comment about Rod spending many hours in the uni's bar creates an incorrect impression of him. In fact Rod could only be found in a bar in his own time, either at lunchtime or in the evening.

anilsays said...

Rod Angood may well have spent the some of his own time in the University's bars. Following up one of Rod's co-worker's bullying allegations, I spoke to bar staff at the time. They said Rod was in the bars at least 3 hours per day.

At an event to promote laptops for disabled students, according to outside visitors, Rod appeared disheveled and 'blind drunk'. This was early in the evening. I don't doubt Rod's compassion or being considerate to some staff. When I asked to interview him, those arranging it suggested that I best opt for a morning appointment, as he would be 'worse for wear' after lunch.

Clearly, he had alcohol dependency issues. Also clearly, the university's support systems failed him completely. When I questioned him directly about his alcoholism, he threatened action against me. Emails I obtained following an FOI request to the university,show that he was keen on having me 'disciplined'.

Bath university excels at covering up misdemeanours of its senior management. The best example of this is Robert Mckie's case against Faith Butt, then head of Lifelong Learning, which the high court found in his favour. Yet, Faith was awarded an OBE and remained with the university for several years until she was able to retire with full benefits. Mark Ames, head of student support, was found responsible for bullying staff by an employment tribunal. He remains in his job.