March 29, 2016

'Professor' David Vaughan...

What allegation was made against 'Professor' David Vaughan, and why did police go to his house?

March 28, 2016

Ersatz professors should be booed off the stage

Senior managers with no scholarly record who claim academic titles are charlatans who harm the sector, argues David Wilson

My research into controversy about the welfare of performing animals in the late 19th century has introduced me to “professors” of the music hall, circus and fairground. These include Professor Woodward, trainer of equilibrist sea lions; Professor Lockhart with his “acting pachyderms”; the animal trainer Professor Chard, supporting Poole’s Myriorama picture show at Hengler’s Circus in Hull; and Professor Devereaux (the son of Professor Peterson, “for fifty years a dog trainer”) at Reynolds’ Exhibition of freaks, waxworks and live acts in Liverpool.

These picturesque characters assumed their spurious titles for commercial effect and perhaps also for reasons of vanity (circus proprietors such as “Lord” George Sanger and “Sir” Robert Fossett took similar liberties). But at least they were experts in their fields, and their audiences were not duped: they accepted such flamboyance as a legitimate device.

Contrast this with some of the UK’s present-day “manager-professors”. Their acquisition of the title has also resulted from vanity and is equally spurious, but in their case it is harmful and reprehensible, and the public is indeed deceived.

A professorial title should be an academic one. And since the definition of an academic must be restricted to someone who is or has been active in research and related teaching, professors should have a strong record in publishing exceptionally high-level, peer-reviewed research, in addition to any contingent management responsibilities or “external partnership” work. Yet a strong research record has not been a prerequisite for becoming a professor in the past 25 years in the UK.

Universities’ published criteria for professorial appointments have increasingly allowed promotion on management-role grounds, regardless of genuine academic credibility, and I wonder how many modern professors offered nothing to their institutions for consideration in the last research excellence framework.

The manager-professor who does not meet strict academic criteria is a dangerous impostor who threatens the reputation of our higher education institutions among the public. And it is not acceptable that when a new vice-chancellor or principal without a professorship is appointed – hey presto! – one appears from nowhere. The adoption by some UK universities of US-style professorial titles in place of traditional designations such as lecturer and reader only adds to the confusion, but at least many of those newly dubbed assistant or associate professors are proper academics (the phoneys grab only “full” professorships).

The problem has worsened in another way. There have been notorious instances of manager-professors blocking the route to a professorship for more worthy candidates. In one case I know of, a college principal (a “professor” with no record in research, and who had not taught for at least 16 years) refused until his retirement to countenance the idea of professorships or even readerships for his staff; now he enjoys an “emeritus” title. One would have thought that for such senior managers, power and remuneration – not to mention the titillating attractions of bureaucracy itself – would have been enough. But he was also apparently determined to maintain an impression of unique academic status.

In another recent case, for the first three years since its creation from “legacy” institutions, a new university (one already replete with manager-professors) denied any accomplished internal academic staff the opportunity to apply for readerships or professorships – while renewing its “Investor in People” status, whatever that actually means in higher education.

What happened to academic leadership? How can we have “academic” line managers – “professors” or otherwise, but often sporting inappropriate titles such as “dean” – who know little about the subjects for which they have overall responsibility, and who are inactive in research and teaching? These are the people against whom the recurring criticism of bureaucratic burdens should be directed, not professional administrative staff. How many millions of pounds have been wasted on managerial bureaucracy and the staffing of it by “academic leaders”? What has been the cost in the time available to devote to disciplines, research and students? How do real professors and real readers, who have earned their titles by hard graft and genuine, continuing academic achievement, feel about the quacks who have undermined their well-deserved status?

To those aware of these trends, encountering a professorial title today invites immediate suspicion rather than respect. The only recourse now is to ask of a UK professorship: “What was it for and where was it awarded?” “Quality assurance” as a management device has not applied to this area, and it is easy to see why. We have allowed the integrity and special meaning of British academic titles to be destroyed. Our audience has become increasingly misled and confused, and the charlatans deserve to be booed off the stage.

March 26, 2016

Leeds Met


I have just found online the information about the resignation of the VC at Leeds Met in 2009 amidst allegations around bullying at that institution. I've read some of the posts from people working there and the bullying culture they were working within.

I would like to say that although it is many years ago and I have moved onto new work, I am still affected by the bullying I underwent at Liverpool Hope Uni, involving managers and senior people as well as the then Rector as he was before moving to Leeds Met. This ongoing, sustained personal damage lead eventually to my being made redundant and forced out of my job. This has turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me, but the trauma of what I underwent and the effects of the stress I endured for years there are still there. They have also affected my pension as I had to work part time which has affected my final salary. I now work for myself and go into primary schools. In the course of this work I encounter students on placement in school who are training in Liv. Hope; I always feel a shock when I hear the name of the place and it brings instant fear memories into me. Just the mention of the place, even now. As an example of something that is still strong from that time, I can remember looking every time I went into work, to see if my manager's door knob was visible in the corridor (as that meant her door was shut and I could walk past to get to my office) and then not walking down the corridor if it wasn't visible as I would've been stopped and questioned. Despite so much help and therapy the memories are still in my body.

I don't know if it is helpful to others, but my current work and knowledge for my job confirms for me that what I underwent at Liv. Hope WAS trauma. And the fact that I still have these fearful feelings stored in my body, over a decade on, is further evidence that this was a type of trauma. Although when you are in the midst of being bullied it is very easy to doubt yourself totally, and I don't think I would've believed it was trauma back then. But I do now.

This morning, it has shocked me to learn, well over ten years later, that this behaviour and treatment of staff was repeated at Leeds Met Uni when he moved there.

I don't know if it is of help to write this letter, but maybe it will be. It isn't what I thought I'd be doing this morning. But it has been great to discover your website today and to know that such an organisation exists for people like me whose workplace is a place of fear and terror. There was not this kind of support back when I was struggling.

Thanks for reading this.

Best wishes,

U of Ottawa’s Legal Campaign to Strike out Evidence in Academic Freedom Case

Within the protracted legal battle that has been on-going since 2005,1,2,3 the University of Ottawa is now doing everything it can, at any cost, to strike out the professors’ union’s affidavit of evidence in support of the union’s application for judicial review (appeal) of the dismissal of Professor Denis Rancourt.

Rancourt’s union (Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa, APUO) is pursuing a judicial review of an arbitrator’s January 27, 2014 decision to uphold the university’s December 10, 2008 dismissal of the tenured full-professor.

The arbitrator made negative findings in a total absence of evidence, and ignored relevant evidence that contradicted his findings. He also used a “report” obtained by covert surveillance, which was not in evidence.4 These were violations of natural justice, and are grounds in the judicial review.
In order to prove the arbitrator’s errors, the union must bring an affidavit in the judicial review to say what actually happened during the arbitration hearings, because no court transcript of the 28-day hearing is available.

(The hearings were held between May 2, 2011 and June 26, 2013. The university appeared to do everything it could to delay and complexify the process, including a broad and sustained campaign of character assassination of Denis Rancourt.)

Thus, the union’s affidavit about what actually occurred in the arbitration is necessary for the judicial review. Yet, the university is spending tremendous resources in now-repeated attempts to disallow the union’s affidavit.

The university can of course challenge the union’s affidavit and enter its own affidavit in the judicial review itself. But, instead, it seeks to bar the union from even bringing an affidavit.
The first attempt by the university to bar the union’s affidavit was a motion to a judge of the appellate court (Divisional Court for Ontario) to strike out the union’s entire affidavit. This attempt failed entirely. The appellate judge was unambiguous and ordered the university to pay the union’s costs for the motion.4,5,6
That is not good enough for the university. President Allan Rock instructed the university hired lawyers to appeal the appellate judge’s judgement to a full panel of three appellate court judges. This will be a second costly attempt to strike out the union’s needed affidavit so that the evidence cannot be used in the judicial review. Without the affidavit, or any evidence about what actually was said in the hearings, the judicial review is destined to fail.

The union is resisting this second attempt and will request that punitive costs be ordered against the university. The hearing (about the university’s second attempt to strike out the union’s affidavit) is scheduled for April 2016, before a panel of three judges of the Divisional Court.
  1. Ottawa’s Dismissal of Denis Rancourt, Commentary by Kenneth Westhues, University of Waterloo, August 2009.
  2. Dismissing critical pedagogy: Denis Rancourt vs. University of Ottawa, By Jesse Freeston,, January 12, 2009.
  3. Statement By Denis Rancourt Regarding His Dismissal by the University Of Ottawa, April 16, 2009, Znet.
  4. Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO) and University of Ottawa, Superior Court of Justice for Ontario (Divisional Court), dated 2015-10-26, Court File No. 14-2022, Justice Robert Scott.
  5. “Maureen Robinson … went so far as to liken her monitoring of Professor Rancourt as ‘posing as a young girl to catch a pedophile'” —Divisional Court Judge: Union wins interim motion in appeal of the Rancourt dismissal, U of O Watch, November 1, 2015. []
  6. Happenings in the U of O’s “motion to strike”, in the judicial review of the Rancourt dismissal, U of O Watch, October 9, 2015.
Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK. Read other articles by Denis, or visit Denis's website.

Outing University Bullies…

Many academics find it hard to believe they could be the victims of bullies at work. They allow departmental heads to walk rings round them. They do endless free over-time. They stay late  and work all weekend. Their reaction to college redundancy  news is to work even harder. Deans set new hoops and they ask “how much higher?”. The VC or College chief sets new tougher targets and the senior managers pass the misery down into the faculties. A psychologist specializing in bullying, harassment and inter-personal relationships, Dr. Pauline Rennie-Peyton, recognizes the possibility of being bullied in all stages of life, and confirms University is no exception.

This bullying expert also believes one of the main reasons bullying is not reported at places of higher and further education is because of distrust in their Uni’s services putting disciplinary procedures into action, and so there are probably a lot more cases than we even know.  She argues “People don’t report their problems because they feel it will blow over by itself or because they lack a sense of confidence in the system,” she says. “They feel nothing would be done about it. I haven’t got any statistics but I can imagine the figures [of those bullied at university] are higher [than we realise].”

It is difficult to find anyone willing to speak of their ordeal, maybe due to embarrassment or inability to self-admit…Dr Rennie-Peyton concludes “But Don’t keep it to yourself. Keep a diary of the events; when, where, who were the witnesses, what time it happened, the impact it had on you and then take it further to members of staff – and if they’re not prepared to do anything about it, take it (further)… All bullying is about impact, not about intention; if someone is upset by it, it is not a joke.”

The distinguished professor of workplace relations, Prof Cary Cooper conducted a land-mark study into bullying in the workplace, which found that it damaged people’s health, mental wellbeing, and productivity and also meant they took more sick days. He could see that people needed a place to go when they couldn’t go to their employers in case it was held against them. This led Prof Cooper to become a patron of the National Bullying Helpline but it is strong evidence of state-level contempt for anti-bullying policies that Cary subsequently resigned because of breaches of the Helpline’s confidentiality over allegations of bullying at No. 10 Downing Street.

Worryingly Cary argues the issue of bullying in the workplace is very important, particularly during times of recession and downturn, because there are fewer people doing more work, for managers who are under more stress than ever before. He argues a “robust” management style is more likely to occur in a recession than at any other time. A manager’s style changes if they feel overloaded and stressed themselves, and can sometimes border on bullying”.

Prof Cooper continues “During a recession people also feel insecure in their jobs, so if they are being bullied they are worried to death about letting anybody know about it, especially their organisation’s human resources department. They need to be able to get legal and other advice, and that’s what a helpline should provide”. When you have a lot of change, job insecurity and too few people – because you are keeping your labour costs down – you’re left with a breeding ground for a more abusive management style. Bulster Uni certainly had such a one with its HR “thug” Mr. Magoo.

 What can be done? We are happy to share with you some good news from Bulster University which has a deeply rooted culture of bullying. Despite the efforts of the unions and high sickness levels, Bulster has been a bullying black-spot even after a series of successful internal grievances and industrial tribunals. Recently staff complaints about two of Bulster’s notorious bullies, HR Director “Mad Bonnie” and former Provost Mal Blunt were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Former instructors, “the unquiet American” Jim Skally and sometime British Army intelligence operative “Dave Oberts” face similar charges.

The dossier of police evidence collated against senior Bulster managers include gross misconduct, perversion of the course of justice, abuse  of telecommunications equipment, abuse of medical protocols, deletion of phone records and inappropriate orders to subordinate staff in connection with such deletion, and related systematic bullying and harassment.

Finally, after years of misery, Bulster lecturers are beginning to fight back with  real impact. Several Bulster senior managers faced police questioning and files have gone through to the Chief Prosecutor. Bullied staff in universities and colleges across the UK should take some comfort in this measure and consider making a complaint to their local police citing harassment or misconduct in public office as grounds for criminal complaint. Even if the Bulster cases do not result in large-scale criminal prosecution, the likelihood of  civil prosecution on the foot of criminal complaints is leaving Bulster lecturers hopeful that a tide may finally be turning.

ADVISORY... This is a work of humorous parody and any similarities with persons or places real or imagined is purely a matter of coincidence. If you’ve been bullied at your F/HE institution don’t hesitate to confidentially contact the Bullied Academics forum. Victims may complain without penalty under their college procedures or consider making a complaint to their local police. Where the police are contacted bullying usually ceases immediately. The e-mail address is