December 08, 2007

Tribunal rules vice-chancellor is guilty

A tribunal has found the former vice-chancellor of Brunel University, Steven Schwartz, guilty of victimisation after he publicly implied that two former colleagues had behaved dishonestly, writes Melanie Newman. After Brunel staff members Gurdish Webster and Saeed Vaseghi lost claims of race discrimination against the university in 2005, Professor Schwartz sent two circulars around Brunel criticising the pair, whom he did not name.

Bemoaning the expense of defending the cases, he referred to the two as having made "unwarranted demands for money" and described their claims as "unfounded", "unmeritorious" and "futile".

"The cost of the defence exceeded £60,000," wrote Professor Schwartz. "This is money that could have been used for teaching and research." He criticised the then Association of University Teachers for using "members' funds to support futile litigation".

Professor Vaseghi told the tribunal that the message "echoed around the campus" and that as "the high priest of the university", Professor Schwartz's words were accepted without question.

The tribunal concluded that the claimants' sense of grievance was reasonable and justified. "Professor' Schwartz's assertion that the claimants had made unwarranted demands for money was an implicit assertion of dishonesty on their part," it said. The earlier tribunal, while dismissing the cases of discrimination, had accepted that they were made in good faith.

Professor Vaseghi and Ms Webster were awarded £7,500 each as compensation for injury to their feelings. The tribunal said Professor Schwartz and the university were equally responsible, so each should be liable for half of each award.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "The findings of the tribunal are important because members of black and minority ethnic communities often feel intimidated and fearful of making legitimate claims of discrimination against their employer."

A spokesperson for Brunel said: "We are taking time to consider the judgment in detail."

From: by Melanie Newman


Anonymous said...

I know that Steven Schwartz has quite a history in the UK ( or, and the unresolved issues with Di Yerbury at Macquarie university might be worth revisiting in light of this judgement:

Anonymous said...

see Brunel University Harinda Bahra

Anonymous said...

Racist members of staff have spread propaganda claiming cuts in pay rises is a direct result of money spent defending the Webster & Vaseghi case. Not dissimilar to a letters dated April 15th when Steven Schwartz claimed, the Employment Appeal Tribunal had awarded costs to Brunel University in the Webster case, would be strange, since it found in favour of Webster!

Anonymous said...

My name is Jim Thakoordin. I have been a member of the UCU National Executive Committee for 8 years. During this time I have fought with all my commitment to ensure the UCU provides adequate and quality representation for all members, especially Black and Minority Ethnic staff in FE and HE who have historically disproportionately experienced discrimination, victimisation, harassment, bullying. lack of progression and even dismissal. Sadly, the UCU's record is far from satisfactory as far as I have experienced in representing victims of racism. I have supported and represented too many UCU members over the years who have been rejected for legal representation by the UCU. I am currently wrting a paper to put the facts and specific evidence to the NEC by October. I would be grateful for any feedback from colleagues who have reason to express dissatisfaction with representation from the UCU. My email address is You can request that the information you sent me is treated with confidence and I will not include any person details about you or your workplace.

In solidarity


Jim Thakoordin said...


We need unity of purpose between all BME members in order to successfully combat the problems ahead of us. All educational institutions exercise a level of discrimination. BME workers are many more times likely to suffer from institutional and personal racism and abuse than white workers. We cannot sit back and wait for these institutions to change, or for the UCU to suddenly challenge racism in education. Their record so far has been acknowledged by the recent Report published by the UCU. It is called the Waddington Report. Check it out on the UCU website, or email me and I will send you a summary.

The cuts in education will make the situation even worse for us in the coming months and years. We need to create our own network so we can support each other. The UCU claim to have a BME network of some 6,000 members, but will not share this information with the UCU own Black Members Standing Committee which advises the UCU on fighting racism. We need to support each other. We need to become involved in our branch and regional committees. Even though the UCU NEC has a majority of people from the so-called Left. The level of participation, involvement and support for Black members has declined over the last few years.

Sadly, a few BME activists are too busy promoting themselves instead of fighting for equality for all. The Left takes the view that racism is a product of capitalism and this will only end with the overthrow of capitalism. So in the meantime we can only hope and pray for a revolution led by a few white activists within the UCU with the support of a couple BME members. I have been active for over 40 years in the Trade Union movement and will continue to fight at every opportunity against all forms of racism even within the trade union movement.

I look forward to some feedback.

Jim Thakoordin

UCU NEC Member dthakoordin@sky .com

Anonymous said...

All I say is live in peace and harmony amongst all races! No more discrimination!!!