July 25, 2013

Aberystwyth University president rejects 'dictatorship' claim by union

Allegations that one of Wales' leading universities is being run "like a dictatorship" have been dismissed by its president, Sir Emyr Jones Parry. The University and College Union (UCU) claims Aberystwyth University managers are behaving like school ground bullies and staff are fearful for their jobs. Sir Emyr said: "I don't believe the views set out are representative and I don't recognise the picture." The union also claims university staff were suspended over trivial matters. The university said it was "perplexed" by the accusations, which it said had not been brought to its attention.

Since new vice chancellor April McMahon took over the role in August 2011, 11 members of staff have been suspended and 13 have had their employment terminated, it has been reported. Martin Wilding, president of UCU at Aberystwyth, said staff were "literally looking over their shoulder," adding there was a sense they were under "constant surveillance".

He claimed there was also no sense of "due process" and "justice" over the suspensions, adding there was a conflict between management and staff that was "a sort of repressive relationship". "If people speak out they feel that they are going to be punished," he said. "There are rumours of people disappearing, and it sounds like a South American state when you say that, but people have sort of disappeared off the radar screen, as it were." He added: "Invariably people are brought into a meeting on a one-to-one basis and suspended and dragged off campus".

BBC Wales spoke to other current and former members of staff who declined to speak publically about their experiences of working at Aberystwyth University for fear of reprisals. But they claimed they were bullied, intimidated and harassed by senior managers.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, university president Sir Emyr Jones Parry said the union, one of four representing staff on the campus, had not formally raised any issue, even as recently as a scheduled meeting with management last week.

Sir Emyr Jones Parry said due process was 'rigorously applied' at Aberystwyth University. He said: "I don't believe the views set out are representative and I don't recognise the picture. "If there was any suggestion this was rampant in the university, believe me, I would have been on the case." "I'm not saying I haven't heard of the problems. They were not raised officially in any meeting." He rebutted the union's claim over a lack of due process in management actions. He said: "No-one has not been subject to due process. I can assure you. "Due process is rigorously applied in Aberystwyth."

The most high profile of the alleged suspensions involved two officers from the Aberystwyth arts centre - director Alan Hewson and operations manager Auriel Martin. Mr Hewson has retired and Ms Martin is the subject of an internal disciplinary investigation. Last month a protest stopped traffic on the campus in support of the pair but the university said it could not comment on matters involving individual members of staff. Councillor Sue Jones Davies claimed the relationship between the university and the town was strained.

More info at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-23301526

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