The Independent London Newspaper
1st November 2014

Letters

Outgoing boss of UCL Malcolm Grant is accused of bullying academics as debate on employment rights becomes heated

    Malcolm Grant

    Provost Malcolm Grant admitted he chaired a meeting 'less diplomatically than I would have wished'

    Published: 8 November, 2012
    by TOM FOOT

    THE top boss of University College London has admitted he chaired a meeting “less diplomatically than I would have wished” after being accused of bullying by members of his academic board.

    Provost Malcolm Grant – who is leaving the Gower Street university next year to chair an NHS body responsible for £80billion of government funding – is facing a massive backlash from academics over his performance at an explosive meeting last Wednesday.

    Mr Grant lost his rag during a knife-edge vote on whether to press ahead with plans to tear up its historic employment rights statute, according to the academics’ University and College Union (UCU).

    Its report said: “This was an unpleasant spec­tacle that left attendees shocked and disturbed.

    “The meeting on Wednesday represented senior management beginning to lose control of this discussion and debate and resorting to extreme measures to get their way: ignoring motions, refusing to table items for the agenda and most extraordinarily shouting down members of academic board.”

    The university admits the “Statute 18” change would be “unique within the higher education sector”, but academics say it removes rights to legal representation and will simply make it easier for managers to sack them.

    A petition set up online says the changes will remove “academic oversight over redundancy, dismissal, capability and loss of privileges”.

    Mr Grant is accused by the UCU of “bullying behaviour” after ranting at an elected member of the academic board.

    The board was set up to protect the rights of lecturers and staff employed by UCL.

    Two votes on whether the employment rights changes should be “entirely rejected and never discussed again” and a second – on whether the consultation should be stopped – appeared to split the room.

    But the UCU said Mr Grant refused to count a show of hands because he held a “pre-determined view”.

    In a circular sent out to staff after the meeting, Mr Grant said he had presided over the Statute 18 reforms meeting “less diplomatically than I would have wished”.

    A UCL spokesman said the university was aiming to “strengthen the protection of academic freedom” by “removing ­procedures that are no longer consistent with current employment legislation”.

    He said: “The proposals would set up a dedicated committee of UCL’s council that will advise on academic freedom, in matters relating to redundancy, discipline and grievances.

    “UCL’s academic board is a broadly constituted body and was consulted on the proposals.”

    He said the board member who was shouted at acted “discourteously” by calling a vote without asking Mr Grant first, and added: “Two propositions were then put forward by the chair of the meeting, the first on whether the new proposals should be entirely rejected – which on a show of hands was rejected – and a second on continuation of consultation, which was accepted.”

    Mr Grant was appointed chairman of the NHS Commissioning Board after being recommended for the post by former health secretary Andrew Lansley.

    Comments

    UCL management tactics

    RE: The comment above:
    "The 'consultation of the Academic Board' by the way consisted in releasing the new proposals two working days before the meeting!".

    This rang alarm bells when I read it. I have experienced similar tactis employed by UCL management when they are trying to enact changes which they suspect will be met with significant resistance. They release a 'consultation' document with little time left before the docuement is due to be debated and objections heard, and so opponents have little time to digest the changes and implications. I wonder if this is an unofficial tactic....

    UCL Management Hiding the Facts, again!

    As usual UCL management are trying to pull a fast one on staff and on the public.
    The spokesperson for UCL says that the proposed changes that are so infuriating academics at UCL merely bring the university statutes in line with employment legislation. We wish! That is what staff have been demanding happens (and nothing more).

    Instead the changes come with a loss of rights for staff: rights to legal representation in internal UCL hearings that could lead to dismissal; rights to having the University Council scrutinise any redundancies for potentially undermining academic freedom of inquiry, and rights to appeal a decision that has initially gone against them.

    The special committee being set up which is mentioned above has a purely advisory role and does not even have to be consulted by dismissal panels if they should so choose. In large scale redundancies the Provost can even ignore its findings and go straight to Council.

    The changes are a charter for undermining employment protections, and for the kind of bullying behaviour Grant so graphically demonstrated at the Academic Board meeting: he shouted two people down with continuous screaming!

    The reason the people were asking for a vote is because until then he had refused motions they had tabled on the agenda with numerous signatories, he had also refused votes. Under pressure he went on to invent two motions of his own, clearly designed to split the audience, and have a show of hands on them.

    The 'consultation of the Academic Board' by the way consisted in releasing the new proposals two working days before the meeting!

    A special meeting of Academic Board has been called by a list of signatories to discuss the matter properly. Also, a number of AB members are writing to members of Council to show their disapproval of these procedures, railroading, and bullying.

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