May 18, 2007

Staff see red over online policing

Staff face dismissal for criticising their employers in chatrooms and blogs, report Phil Baty and Tony Tysome. [Times Higher Education, 18 May 2007]

Academics' internet activity is increasingly being "spied on" by managers, it was claimed this week after a lecturer at Wolverhampton University was sacked for making a series of allegations online.

Union leaders and academic freedom campaigners argued this week that lecturers and researchers must be free to criticise their managers and to discuss their jobs without fear of reprisal. But university marketing chiefs warned that online activities such as blogs and web forums are increasingly being monitored by universities keen to protect their reputation.

The debate was sparked by the case of Sal Fiore, a senior lecturer in computing at Wolverhampton. An investigation by
The Times Higher has established that he was sacked on grounds of gross misconduct last month following a series of e-mails.

Evidence against him included a posting he had made to a discussion forum in which he named Wolverhampton in association with general bullying allegations. Dr Fiore had also contributed to a blog for bullied academics - - where academics this week complained that they were under surveillance. One said that managers use postings "to 'get' their targets on some violation of university policy". Another said that bosses were "snooping around, looking for 'evidence".

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "Academics should not be made to feel that any comment they make may be picked up by some sort of university spy team and used against them."
[Thank you Sally - such a radical statement!]

Peter Reader, director of marketing and communications at Bath University, said that there was "huge interest" in such websites and that universities were beginning to monitor them.

Wolverhampton confirmed that Dr Fiore's dismissal related to a number of incidents. Geoff Hurd, deputy vice-chancellor, said: "No member of staff has been, or ever will be, dismissed for exercising their right to freedom of speech."
Dear Geoff Hurd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Wolverhampton University,

Of course it is impossible to prove that "No member of staff has been, or ever will be, dismissed for exercising their right to freedom of speech." It is normal routine to 'manufacture' new 'evidence' against the staff member to be eliminated from his/her position.

Regarding allegations of 'spying' we have evidence that on May 18, 2007, at 9.12am somebody from your university - and yes, it could be anyone - visited this blog and then followed the link to the online forum to read 'Pack of Wolves, Part 2'. Now who would have an interest in this story, and if it is not you, is it somebody you know?

How likely is it that a staff member - in full knowledge that online communications are monitored in HEIs - would use their work PC to try to join the online forum? Slim chance.

Hurd you are welcome to visit this blog and the online forum - there is much that we can learn from each other...


Anonymous said...

Universities are welcomed onto this blog - it is a forum for discussion of work place bullying.

I am sure that all academics - particularly after Petra Boynton's research published in 2005 - which suggested that workplace bullying is rife in universities - share our concern about this practice.

We are all working towards eliminating wpb....

HEFCE have I believe instigated a project to explore the process of mediation....?

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

Of course, they didn't report the THES news on the UCU Web-Site.

UCU didn't like it.

Sally, come on! Let's be serious!!!

Didn't you stigmatize the left and the anarchists?

Didn't you wave tha flag of performativity?

My bank statements do not report the line of UCU debit anymore!

Anonymous said...

Dear Caroline,

you surely don't know anything about all this. Do you!?

All presidents and CEOs have said this in court.

Rehars it, Caroline.

Rehars it.