November 23, 2010
The University of St Andrews spent more than £200,000 on legal fees successfully defending itself against a claim brought by a former lecturer - around 10 times the amount that it might have expected to pay in compensation had it lost the case.
The claim was lodged by Declan Quigley, who alleged that in 2002 he had been forced out of his job as a lecturer in social anthropology by a culture of bullying in his department.
He lost his claim for constructive dismissal in 2004, as well as a subsequent appeal.
A Freedom of Information request has now revealed that the university spent £204,000 on the case - far more than the lecturer could have expected to win.
Dr Quigley, who now practises alternative medicine in Barcelona, claimed that the university and its principal at the time, Brian Lang, had failed in their duty to protect him from what he said were intolerable working conditions.
However, the tribunal dismissed his case after hearing evidence that Dr Quigley had been determined to leave. He later brought an appeal on various points of law but these were thrown out by the Employment Appeals Tribunal following a hearing in 2006.
A spokeswoman for St Andrews said the university had "no option" but to defend the allegations made by Dr Quigley.
She said: "We have a commitment to act fairly with respect to all employees and to publicly establish the facts, especially where the reputation of an academic department is being attacked. In this instance, that responsibility came at considerable cost.
"We regret the cost. As a default, the university seeks to ensure that all its resources are focused on teaching and research. But in this case we are vindicated by the result."
Dr Quigley said that, had he won the case, the employment tribunal would have been unlikely to award him more than £20,000.
November 21, 2010
November 20, 2010
In presenting their annual report to the Faculty Council on Tuesday, two ombudsmen said 22 percent of their office’s visitors in 2009-10 came with complaints about disrespectful behavior. That’s up from 17 percent in 2008-09, 12 percent in 2007-08 and 8 percent in 2006-07.
That follows an alarming national trend showing workplaces in general are becoming more disrespectful, with incidents of bullying, yelling, swearing and shunning, staff ombudsman Cynthia Joyce said.
“It is a real concern to us,” she said.
Two years ago, the university office started tracking complaints of bullying, which falls under the category of disrespectful behavior. Explicit complaints about workplace bullying were made by 10 percent of visitors in both 2008-09 and 2009-10.
“The consequences can be very severe ... so we’re worried about that as well,” Joyce said.
Such behavior is a departmental culture issue that must be addressed at the level of each department, said Susan Johnson, the faculty ombudsman.
The office served an all-time high of 517 visitors in 2009-10, a 6 percent increase from the previous year. University staff make up the bulk of the visitors, at 48 percent, followed by 30 percent students and 17 percent faculty.
The increase in visitors could be because of better visibility of the office on campus, along with the belief that early intervention in conflicts is of value, officials said.
The largest area of concern and complaint for all visitor groups to the office stems from a supervisory relationship, such as with a boss or dean — or a faculty member, in the case of students.
The office also is seeing an growing number of situations in which information is posted on Facebook or some other social media site that begins or worsens a conflict. Some people have been fired after inappropriate Facebook postings, Johnson said.
November 17, 2010
The Business Development Manager at the University was asked by the University’s former Deputy Vice Chancellor, Paul Bowler, to look into the finances in June 2009. He had been hired to put together a financial recovery plan for the university, which is on the Higher Education and Funding Council for England’s “at risk” list.
After Mr Bowler left the university in November, the attitude of senior staff, including the Vice Chancellor, Head of Finance, Dean of the Business School and Director of Marketing within the university changed towards Mrs Merrigan.
She told the Tribunal that they had colluded against her to was move her off the work she was doing - the recovery plan and financial investigation were effectively suspended.
Bristol Employment Tribunal found yesterday (30 September) that the Dean of the Business School, who was implicated in Mrs Merrigan’s disclosures, influenced the University to take action against Mrs Merrigan.
As a result, the Business Development Manager had suffered at the hands of the University for disclosing information on financial problems and she was awarded compensation of £6,000 for injury to feelings.
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