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Gerard Wrixon: A legacy of bullying, destruction and bitterness at University College Cork

category national | worker & community struggles and protests | news report author Monday October 02, 2006 13:23author by Miriam Cotton Report this post to the editors

An academic Enron waiting to happen

Professor Gerry Wrixon is entering his last term at University College Cork, having inexplicably tendered his resignation after winning a bitterly divisive contest to extend his tenure. He has presided over one of the most acrimonious and difficult periods of UCC’s history. Persistent allegations of financial and other impropriety at the university have dogged him, not least of which are those referred to in an article in the Irish Examiner last week and echoed by the former President Michael Mortell this week. They claim:

* Appointments were made corruptly
* Breaches of the law, of university statutes and regulations
* Intimidation and bullying of staff
* A general failure of governance
* Concerns about the use of public monies
* Unsustainable levels of debt were being accumulated under Prof Wrixon’s tenure

But the Examiner reports are only the half of it.

More:http://www.indymedia.ie/article/78472 - Original article
President Gerard Wrixon
President Gerard Wrixon

http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/09/15/story13...2.asp - Examiner, Prof Desmond Clarke
http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/09/29/story14...1.asp - Examiner, Prof Michael Mortell
http://www.indymedia.ie/article/78472#comment169183 - Open letter to Wrixon
http://www.geocities.com/stuartdneilson/ - Stuart Neilson's website
http://bb.ucc.ie/viewtopic.php?t=9114 - FUCC, the UCC Forum

As I wrote my original article I knew that UCC were likely to repeat their history of legally hounding any critic of the administration. However, only three weeks after Dr Stuart Neilson, a respected academic who was a victim of UCC's culture of bullying was threatened with legal action for making UCC's own investigation into his complaint public, an unprecedented open letter to all staff has blown open the institutionalised mismanagement, lies, bullying and harassment in one of Ireland's biggest colleges.

I should declare an interest immediately. A close member of my family attempted a so far unsuccessful challenge to UCC as a consequence of a refusal to cooperate with what he believes were inappropriate and possibly corrupt practices within the Department of Applied Social Studies at UCC. That issue is not the subject of this article.

Given the newly public material that has been appended as comments to the original Indymedia article and the volume of correspondence on UCC's own discussion forum FUCC this article will concentrate on the core, unaddressed issues in this long-running dispute. No media organisation and no public body has to date taken the issues raised to conclusion, referring only to non-specific allegations, innuendo and UCC's character assassination of its critics.

http://www.indymedia.ie/article/78472#comments - Comments
http://bb.ucc.ie/viewtopic.php?t=9114 - FUCC, the UCC Forum

Bullying at UCC

Stuart Neilson's case is illustrative of UCC's methods of handling complaints. He alleged bullying and unethical conduct which UCC purported to have addressed in an internal investigation. Despite the plain fact that most of his allegations were ignored by the investigators, they deemed that no further action was necessary and proceeded to terminate his employment - having had the foresight to advertise the availability of his post before his complaint was heard. Dr Neilson was denied any appeal to what he believed to be an extremely unfair outcome and UCC have refused to enter into any discussion, negotiation or mediation process since, although he has been invited to sue. When he publicly divulged the details of his complaint and treatment he received a threat of legal action if he did not immediately cease making public statements.

http://www.geocities.com/stuartdneilson/Complaint_Cease.htm - legal thrat

Neilson's experience at UCC is by no means unique, other than in the public exposure. Most employees who are bullied leave the university or are driven into acrimonious departures. Long-term stress-related sickness due to anxiety and depression are widespread and some targets of bullying take their own lives. UCC's own Employee Assistance Programme provider, Dovedale Counselling Services, conducted a survey of staff attitudes which revealed widespread concerns about exploitation, intimidation, bullying and "a culture of fear" promoted by a sick administration. From the most junior temporary lecturer to the tenured professorial governor, people have been afraid to express their concerns during Wrixon's term as President. The atmosphere has prevented many people from reporting their experiences, although they may begin to do so once they feel it is safe.

http://www.ucc.ie/eap/EAPSurvey.htm - UCC staff survey

Why is bullying endemic at UCC? Put simply, almost every case of bullying has at its core a shortage of resources and clash of ethical standards over how to achieve within tight constraints. Within each case of alleged bullying at UCC there are strongly related issues of impropriety and misconduct. There is nothing wrong with the will to succeed and UCC under Wrixon's tenure has achieved a great many notable successes, but the consequences of enforcing outcomes without adequate resources and without regard to quality, standards or ethical conduct are coming to the fore.

A systematic abuse of process

President Wrixon, Vice-President Noel Keeley and other officers of the university have repeatedly claimed that any staff member with a valid grievance can take legal action through the courts - indeed Noel Keeley expressed this view to Neilson even before agreeing to investigate his complaint of bullying and harassment, boasting that he was "no stranger to the inside of a courtroom". They have manipulated internal policies and procedures to their own ends whilst encouraging litigation, safe in the knowledge that they will not have to bear any cost themselves. They have also felt safe that many litigants will not proceed to court due to the intense psychological pressure such proceedings create, the immense cost of High Court appearances and the tedious consumption of time required to pursue a case. Not least of these is the implied threat that past life experiences will be dredged up and examined by all and sundry as potential causative factors for depression or other psychiatric illness resulting from workplace bullying.

According to Professor Clarke, the acknowledged legal costs of actions that involved UCC between 2000 and 2005 amounted to 3.338 million euro. It is hard to reconcile this with Professor Wrixon's testimony to the Public Accounts Committee that legal costs were 125 thousand euro per year, or with the fact that the Irish Public Bodies Mutual Insurance Ltd has withdrawn insurance cover from UCC. It has been suggested that the settlement of legal actions initiated by Professor Mary Howard alone were in excess of 1 million euro, the ongoing appeals to an original Rights Commissioner hearing upholding equal pay for some SIPTU employees are also projected to cost well over 1 million euro and the multiple legal cases involving Professor Connell Fanning are far in excess of either of these. UCC is a frequent visitor to the courts:

http://debates.oireachtas.ie/DDebate.aspx?F=ACC20051201...age=1 - PAC hearing

Court judgements
http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IEHC/2005/H264.html - Fanning v. University College Cork [2005] IEHC 264 (24 June 2005)
http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IESC/2005/S40.html - National University of Ireland Cork -v- Ahern & Ors [2005] IESC 40 (10 June2005)
http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IEHC/2003/70.html - Fanning v. University College Cork [2003] IEHC 70 (22 October 2003)
http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IEIC/2003/7.html - X and University College Cork [2003] IEIC 7 (4 March 2003)
http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IESC/2002/53.html - Barlow v. Fanning [2002] IESC 53 (02 July 2002)
http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IEHC/2002/85.html - Fanning v. University College Cork [2002] IEHC 85 (25 July 2002)
http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IEHC/2000/70.html - Sweeney v. National University of Ireland Cork t/a Cork University Press [2000] IEHC 70; [2001] 2 IR 6; [2001] 1 ILRM 310 (9th October, 2000)
http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IEHC/2000/138.html - Howard v. University College Cork [2000] IEHC 138 (25th July, 2000)
http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IEHC/1999/236.html - Fanning v. University College Cork [1999] IEHC 236 (7th July, 1999)

Scheduled cases
Bannon -V- University College Cork
Bannon -V- University College Cork (Supreme Court)
Barlow, Kenneally and O'Suilleabhain -V- University College Cork and Fanning
Corcoran -V- University College Cork
Fanning -V- University College Cork (231)
Fanning -V- University College Cork (260)
Fanning -V- University College Cork (2003)
Fanning -V- University College Cork (3114)
Fanning -V- University College Cork (5115)
Fanning -V- University College Cork (12971)
Fanning -V- University College Cork (15653)
Fanning -V- University College Cork (Supreme Court)
Fernando -V- National University of Ireland Cork
Hayes -V- University College Cork
Howard -V- University College Cork
Linehan -V- University College Cork & Ors
McCarthy -V- University College Cork
McDermott -V- University College Cork
NUI Cork -v- Ahern & Ors
NUI Cork -v- Ahern & Ors (Supreme Court)
O'Brien -V- University College Cork
O'Hanrahan -V- NUI Cork
O' Higgins -V- University College Cork
O' Higgins -V- University College Cork (Supreme Court)
O'Mahony -V- University College Cork
O'Neill -V- University College Cork
Schewe -V- University College Cork
Sweeney -V- National University of Ireland Cork t/a Cork University Press
University College Cork -V- Commissioner of Valuations
University College Cork -V- Cross Refrigeration Ltd
University College Cork -V- Revenue Commissioners
University College Cork -V- Revenue Commissioners (Supreme Court)

Labour court
http://www.labourcourt.ie/labour/labcourtweb.nsf/0/8025...ument - University College Cork -and- Services International Professional Technical Union
http://www.labourcourt.ie/labour/labcourtweb.nsf/cfcbbe...ument - University College Cork -and- Services International Professional Technical Union
http://www.labourcourt.ie/labour/labcourtweb.nsf/185190...ument - University College Cork -and- Mary Keohane
http://www.labourcourt.ie/labour/labcourtweb.nsf/cfcbbe...ument - University College Cork -and- JH - it is worth noting that the alleged bully in this case, settled in confidence, is one of UCC's leading investigators of bullying complaints

Editor (Dec 2013): The above links do not seem to work any longer
(and 24 other cases brought by UCC against employees)


A culture of "corruption"

Concerns about the climate of corruption at UCC were most notably expressed by Professor Des Clarke in an extraordinary open letter to all staff at UCC, this week. Covering some 32 separate points of concern, Clarke’s letter provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the issues that have arisen within UCC in respect of Wrixon’s management of the college. Despite the breadth of issues discussed in the letter, Professor Clarke also says that the list is ‘merely a sample list’ of the issues. He also slates the UCC tactic of spinning inaccurately and anonymously to the press and of questioning the credibility of any or all of the critics who bring urgent matters to press attention. The burning question for concerned academics, students and governors alike now is whether or not Wrixon is attempting to secure the rushed appointment before he leaves, and outside of the proper process, of a successor in his own image and likeness – possibly thereby ensuring continued influence over events within UCC. That would truly be a vista too appalling to contemplate for many people. At this stage, onlookers must surely be wondering how Professor Wrixon can have created the debacle that is unfolding daily in front of their eyes. Something has surely gone very wrong at UCC and Professor Clarke’s letter.

http://www.indymedia.ie/article/78472#comment169183

Following on from this letter, UCC fired back its own salvo in the Wrixon-friendly Irish Times yesterday but were unable to shed any meaningful light on the issues raised by Clarke. Other than to reiterate the same tired old points (Professor Clarke is not personally credible - yawn), we have looked into these issues and found nothing wanting (UCC/Wrixon are their own judge and jury) and there is no evidence for any of what is said (when patently there is tons of it) – nothing helpful came of the IT article. From this current position, it seems clear that UCC and President Wrixon have a lot of questions to answer.

University College Cork
University College Cork

Professor Aine Hyland
Professor Aine Hyland

Mr Noel Keeley
Mr Noel Keeley

author by Jerry Corneliuspublication date Mon Oct 02, 2006 16:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is a tidied up version of the letter from Prof Clarke to Wrixon which hopefully makes it more accessible.

JC
*** Start ***


27 September 2006

Dear Dr Wrixon,

Governance in UCC

As you begin your final term as President of UCC, having announced your decision to resign prematurely from that post, I accept the invitation to reply to the Press Releases that one must assume were issued in your name by UCC in recent days. I do so in an open letter, that I hope you agree should be shared with staff.

The primary reason for doing so is that the Governing Body has decided to rush the appointment of a new President, before you leave office, and that those who were most closely associated with your term of office have appointed themselves to choose the next President. The ‘worldwide’ search is being concluded in one month, the same time it takes to advertise for junior staff. Academics in UCC have been completely excluded from selecting their own representatives on the Selection Committee, while two of your vice-presidents are choosing their own future boss.

An anonymous spokesperson for UCC, apparently speaking on your behalf, was quoted in the Irish Examiner [15 September 2006] as follows: ‘He [i.e. I] was a member of the governing body and if there was corruption, he was a member of that governing body. There isn’t a single instance where any of the allegations he has made have found the university has acted wrongly in any way.’ This spin is obviously false, given the decisions of the High Court [see below, no. 3].

An anonymous spokesman for UCC also told the Evening Echo [15 September, p. 6]: ‘If Professor Clarke has any evidence whatsoever of any corruption in the university, we would hope that he would bring it to the attention of the relevant authorities and that they would vigorously investigate those claims. He has not brought any evidence of corruption to the Governing body, of which he is a member.’

You may wish to endorse these sentiments or, alternatively, you may wish to dissociate yourself publicly from them. Meantime, I am putting on record, for staff who work in UCC, some of the concerns that I have brought or attempted to bring to the attention of the Governing Body. None of these will be new to you, but it is time to inform the staff about them. They are all stakeholders in the institution in which we work.

Confidentiality: it seems obvious that you or UCC cannot have it both ways on this issue — by challenging members of the Governing Body to report their concerns and, at the same time, claiming that everything that they need to reveal is so confidential that its publication is a breach of some code of practice that protects from scrutiny the actions of those who manage publicly-funded bodies. As you know, I have been threatened with removal from the Governing Body three times — in each case, because I brought my concerns to the attention of the Governing Body.

I am glad to see that your spokesperson now agrees with me—that I should bring my concerns to the attention of the ‘relevant authorities’ in expectation of a vigorous investigation. Here is a sample list of my concerns.

1. At the beginning of your term as President, you seemed to ignore apparent conflicts of interest when you intervened in the Department of German. You had an obvious and well-known friendship with Dr. Joachim Beug, and yet you tried to remove Professor Mary Howard from headship of the Department. The High Court rejected the former Registrar’s misinterpretation of the UCC statutes, when he claimed that Professor Howard’s headship had expired by the effluxion of time. When the case was eventually settled in the High Court, with confidentiality clauses, the total costs to UCC were very high, possibly amounting to one million euro.

2. At about the same time, you initiated action against another Professor, i.e. Professor Connell Fanning. This case has been to the High Court, to the Supreme Court [because of Mr. Justice Lavan’s decision without reference to the evidence presented in court], and again to the High Court. The High Court has found, in Fanning v. University College Cork (June 2005), that UCC breached the law and its own statutes in a number of ways, and that you personally had acted ultra vires.

The High Court decided that you and/or the GB had acted unlawfully in a number of ways:

(a) UCC had acted in breach of its statutes by purporting to regulate behaviour that did not fall within the scope of NUI Statute 86, and the disciplinary procedure that you initiated against Professor Fanning was ‘unlawful and ultra vires’;

(b) UCC was also in breach of s. 25 (8) (b) of the Universities Act 1997 by attempting to apply Statute E to a professor who had been appointed prior to 1997, because s. 25 unambiguously protected staff from retrospective changes to their conditions of employment;

(c) The Governing Body of UCC had also breached the law by failing to ‘specify in a statute’ the disciplinary procedures that it wishes to apply to any staff member, and that the Governing Body may not define ‘gross misconduct’ in its own disciplinary procedures, ‘when the very disciplinary procedure itself … should have been set out in Statute E’;

(d) the Disciplinary Procedures do not provide for the appointment of a consultant and ‘the President of UCC/Director of Human Resources should not have allowed themselves to be influenced by Mr. Horgan’s finding;’

(e) your appointment of Mr. Horgan ‘contaminated the whole procedure.’

3. The GB voted, in breach of Statute 147 and your contract of employment with UCC — without having any legal advice [except the informal advice that Mr. Dermot O’Mahony claimed to have received, although he was not the Secretary to the GB] — to extend your term of office as President. This motion was proposed by Mr Dermot O’Mahony. I was not a member of the GB at that time (lest your anonymous spokesperson try to spread the blame about), and Professor Coughlan was outvoted when she objected to the speed with which the decision was made without consulting the Academic Council and without getting official legal advice. UCC failed to advise the Minister for Education & Science or the HEA of this extraordinary decision, so that early in 2003 the Minister had to request the Executive Secretary of the HEA to write to UCC, on his behalf, and to request clarification. Mr. O’Mahony is a member of the Selection Committee for the new President.

4. At the GB meeting of 3.02.04, you invited the GB in breach of its own regulations to defer the appointment of the Finance Committee until the subsequent meeting. Although I informed the meeting of the breach of regulations involved, the GB agreed to breach its own regulations. Mr. Cavanagh was not present on 3.02.02, and was present at the next meeting and was appointed to the Finance Committee [see below under Selection Committee for Office of President].

5. Office of President
The GB discussed the reasons for extending your term of office, at the meeting of 23.03.04 [agenda item 5], and the reasons for amending Statute 147 to provide retrospective validity to its decision of December 2002. I provided a list of issues that I invited the GB to investigate before making a decision on this question [you were absent from the room for this item].

The issues included the following:

a) The circumstances in which you arranged to have advertised a post for a Vice-president for Planning, etc. You appointed all the members of the selection committee for that post, you chaired the committee, and you held a meeting in your office to short-list from among the applicants. Only one applicant was short-listed from among 19 applicants: Mr Michael O’Sullivan, who had worked for many years as your assistant at the NMRC. You arranged for the committee appointed by you to interview Mr. O’Sullivan and he was duly appointed Vice-President of UCC. [You subsequently nominated him for membership of the GB, to which he was appointed]. See below under Selection Committee for the Office of President.

b) You then appointed Mr. O’Sullivan to chair a committee to fill the post of Development Officer. I now invite you to explain publicly all the relevant circumstances of this appointment.
c) I asked the GB to inquire into the letter submitted to you by the former Secretary & Bursar, in which he complained of a ‘tirade of vituperation’ directed towards him and a senior colleague because of their contributions to a meeting that you attended [letter dated 5.03.03]. I was not presuming that Mr. Kelleher’s description of your behaviour as ‘vituperation’ was correct. I merely requested the Governing Body to look into it, and they declined to do so.

d) When I got to this point on the list, I was repeatedly interrupted both by members of the Governing Body and by others in attendance who were not even members, such as Mr. Keeley. Given the obvious breach of GB regulations, which do not permit non-members of the GB to heckle members as they speak, the Chair [Rev. Enda McDonagh] ruled that I was out of order rather than the non-GB members who were preventing me from speaking!

6. When the Vice-President for Human Resources made an appointment to a post in UCC without public advertisement, two members of the GB requested confidential access to the appointment file [since the GB is legally responsible for making appointments of all staff]. You blocked access for 9 months. When access was eventually granted, the two GB members found that Mr. Keeley had appointed someone [not identified here] to a post on a ‘post proposal form’, and that you subsequently appointed the same person to a permanent post in UCC. The GB members in question sent a report to the GB. This item was put on the agenda for the meeting of 8.11.05, in accordance with the regulations. However, the report was from the GB, and you asked the GB to defeat the motion before it was discussed. The GB agreed. Thus a report on this appointment, prepared by two members of the GB, was withheld from the GB meeting and then rejected without having been seen.

7. Having had concerns expressed to me by the former Bursar, I requested the GB [23.03.04] by notice of motion to inquire whether UCC complied with best practice when lodging monies to the University’s account [as required by Statute I, chap. xi]. The GB failed to take any action.

8. I asked, at the same meeting, that the GB inquire whether money that was to be paid to UCC from our 50% share in the University Technology Centre had been lodged to the University’s account or whether the money due to the University had been used without authorization to pay in part for the Glucksman Gallery. Prof. P. Coughlan requested access to the relevant file and it was denied. Mr. Kelleher later confirmed by letter [18.05.05] that 160.000 euro that was due to UCC had been donated to the UCC Art Gallery Project ‘following discussions between the President and Mr. Michael O’Flynn’. I sent Mr. Kelleher’s letter to the Finance Committee, requested clarification, but no appropriate action was taken.

9. At the same meeting I asked the GB to inquire into the financial arrangements for the Victoria Cross student accommodation project. Three reports were then commissioned by UCC, and they confirmed that at a ‘private meeting’ [i.e. when all UCC personnel had been requested to leave the room] you agreed to pay the developer 3 million euro more than the reported unanimous advice of the UCC financial and legal staff, and that you accepted at the same time an offer of 100,000 euro per year for five years [i.e. 0.5 million] for unspecified projects, to be donated to the Cork University Foundation [which is not accountable to the GB]].

10. By notice of motion from a number of governors at the GB [23.03.04], the Office of Human Resources was asked to report whether the Governing Body was/was not compliant with the law in respect of the pension entitlements of all UCC staff [especially part-time]. The GB was informed that UCC was not yet compliant.

11. By notice of motion at the GB [23.03.04] you were requested to ‘inform the Governing Body of the total number of individuals who have been retained as consultants since January 2003 by [your] Office and by all relevant sub-offices, and of the annual costs associated with the employment of these individuals and the purposes for which they have been retained.’
This includes Mr. Sweeney, Mr Dunnion, et. al. This information has never been provided, despite the fact that UCC is a publicly funded institution, that the GB is responsible legally for the employment of all staff, including contract staff, and that our salaries are a matter of public record. The failure to provide this information is in breach of the Universities Act 1997, Fourth Schedule, s. 3 (2).

12. At the GB meeting of 29.06.04, the GB was invited to approve a so-called Protocol to control access to relevant UCC files by members of the GB. The GB got legal opinion in advance from Mr. Gerard Hogan, S.C., following my request, which confirmed the legal entitlement of governors to inspect files that pertain to issues that were specifically assigned to governors by the Universities Act. Despite Mr. Hogan’s unequivocal legal opinion, the GB was requested to approve a so-called Protocol that was described by the University’s Solicitors as ‘almost a refusal to allow a Governor to inspect a file . . .’ The UCC Solicitors went on to say: ‘the restrictions on the Governor getting access to a file would be struck down by the High Court as an interference on the right and indeed the duty of a Governor to carry out his [sic] functions.’

However, you informed the Governing Body meeting that you had received legal advice on this issue, although no record of such legal advice appeared in UCC’s reply to a subsequent Freedom of Information request. Thus, contrary to Senior Counsel opinion and the legal advice subsequently sought from the College Solicitors, you arranged for the GB to approve a Protocol that effectively prevented its members having access to files that they were legally entitled to view.

13. Meeting of GB, 14.12.04: You read a lengthy prepared statement to the GB in which you accused me of saying ‘something which he [i.e. D Clarke] knows to be untrue.’ You had been advised in advance of the meeting by my solicitor that, if you repeated in the Governing Body meeting what you had written in a letter, it would amount to ‘legal malice’. The statement which you claimed I had uttered and was allegedly known by me to be untrue never even appeared in my confidential letter to governors! You continued to claim that it was in my letter, that it was false, and that I knew it was false. Whether this alleged falsehood appeared in my letter can be resolved by giving copies of my letter, and of your extensive comments to the Governing Body, to some independent person or agency. Alternatively, I can arrange to post both documents on the college website.

Do you now accept that this amounted to bullying, by you, of a member of the Governing Body who was attempting to do his duty? You subsequently refused to circulate to members of the GB my reply to your prepared written comments at the meeting of 14.12.04. You offered instead [GB meeting, 1.02.05] that the matter be referred to the Audit Committee, chaired by Mr. Humphrey Murphy [who had a motion on the agenda of the same GB meeting to remove me from the GB]! See below under Selection Committee for Office of President.

14. The University provided an apartment for your use. Was this in breach of public sector guidelines? Who approved it within UCC prior to implementation?

15. Statute I, Ch. iv provides that correspondence on behalf of the University is conducted under the direction of the President. Custom and practice, and the statutes that pertain to the post of the former Secretary & Bursar, required Mr. Kelleher to write officially on behalf of the GB to, for example, the HEA. When Rev. McDonagh and/or Professor Hyland [who since February 2004 was not even a member of the GB] met with the HEA executive and wrote to the HEA on behalf of the GB, did they act under your direction [which would seem like an obvious conflict of interest], or did they write without proper authorization, thereby subverting the statutory role of the Secretary to the GB?

16. When the GB approved Statute G [to extend your term of office as President to 10 years], members of the UCC executive discussed with the HEA the suggestion that UCC would approve a general statute for all presidents and that the HEA would arrange for the application of that statute to you alone. This is documented in correspondence made available under the Freedom of Information Act. The proposed arrangement was shown to be in breach of Statute I. Four members of the GB sought legal advice [for which the University has refused to pay; see below], and the Minister for Education and Science and the Minister for Finance accepted that legal advice. Statute G, as approved by the GB, simply would not work. The GB was advised of this by the Secretary General of the HEA on 13.12.04, i.e. the day before the relevant GB meeting.

17. The GB approved Statute J, to extend your term of office as President [14.12.04] in breach of the GB’s regulations: the item was not on the agenda; Mr. Cavanagh [as Deputy Chair] did not provide for its consideration in accordance with Regulation No. 7; the relevant documentation was withheld from the meeting for the first two hours, until it was suddenly tabled for immediate approval; it was not proposed or seconded by any GB member; it was approved without getting legal advice; and without knowing, at the time, whether the GB was approving a new statute or amending a former statute. We were invited to approve it and to find out later what we had done!

18. Mr. N. Keeley advised Mr. Kelleher that one GB member, elected by Graduates, had been appointed to a permanent post and that the validity of her membership of the GB was doubtful. Without getting legal advice, Mr. Kelleher informed the GB member in question that her term of office had lapsed. This was mistaken, although the GB member in question was thereby required to seek professional advice as a result of the Secretary’s mistake. This was the first case of seeking to remove an elected member from the GB, in this case by misunderstanding the law and failing to get legal advice before making a faux pas.

19. Following my consultation of the files concerning Victoria Lodge, two GB members, Mr. Humphry Murphy and Mr. Joe Gantly, proposed a motion [meeting of 14.12.04] for my removal from office. Mr. Kelleher advised that this was not in order at the meeting. However, the Deputy Chair, Mr. Cavanagh allowed consideration of the motion. Following discussion, it was then was deferred to the subsequent meeting.

20. Prior to the subsequent meeting [1.02.05] Mr. Kelleher sought legal advice from the college solicitors concerning the motion to remove an elected member from the GB. They advised that the motion had little chance of success because those who proposed it had not established any stated cause. However, the legal advice was withheld from the meeting of the GB for which it had been sought. In these circumstances, I had to get independent legal advice. The GB has refused to pay for this legal advice also – although the need to get it arose from a misguided motion, and from the fact that the Secretary to the GB had obtained the relevant legal advice [paid by UCC] which was withheld from the meeting.

21. I advised the Finance Committee (Chaired by Mr. Dermot O’Mahony, and of which you are a member) of a conflict of interest in the appointment of a director of O’Flynn Construction as a director of UCC company with which it was in competition. The Finance Committee refused to take appropriate action. See below under Selection Committee for Office of President.

22. You chaired the Lecturer Promotions & Establishment Board, which reported to the GB on 14.12.04. When the report of the Promotions Board was brought to the Governing Body, one member of the GB [whom the minutes confirm as in attendance for his own appointment], refused to clarify if he did/did not hold a PhD [which was one criterion for promotion]. There was widespread concern about the decisions on this occasion and some staff appealed to the Appeal Committee. At a subsequent meeting of the GB, the GB was asked to uphold some appeals, but Professor Hyland refused to give the GB the report from the Appeal Committee on the basis of which the GB was making this decision! At a later meeting of the GB – subsequent to your extension in office as President being granted—the Appeal Committee [chaired by Mr. Justice O’Leary] reported that the Promotions Board, which you chaired, had not followed its own regulations.

23. At the GB meeting of 21.06.05, I requested by formal notice of motion that you provide the GB with information concerning any ‘office or position’ you hold apart from the Presidency of UCC. The Universities Act 1997 Fourth Schedule, s. 4, makes it unlawful for you to hold any ‘office or position’ without the approval of the GB. You refused to provide the information sought, but informed the meeting that you had not taken up any new positions since being appointed President of UCC. This is not true. You have been appointed a director of various UCC companies since then. More importantly, the GB could not possibly have approved offices or positions that you held in December 1998, since you were not subject to this provision of the law on that date. You became subject to this provision only in January 1999 after you assumed the Presidency of UCC, and I know of no record of the GB ever approving any ‘offices or positions’ that you may hold. Can you now inform staff of any offices or positions that you hold apart from being President of UCC?

24. Tyndall Institute approval: It is unclear to me whether the GB has formally approved the establishment of the Tyndall Institute and/or the participation of UCC in the Institute. The GB was invited by Mr. Michael O’Sullivan, at its meeting of 8.11.05, to approve the principles of its establishment without having had any report from the Finance Committee. If the GB were approving the expenditure of funds, this decision would be in breach of Regulation No. 60. At the GB of 7.02.06, the Secretary, Mr. R. Graham, introduced a further report on the same Institute, while advising the GB that formal approval was not being sought at that meeting. It is unclear to members of the GB what the likely financial outlays will be for the Tyndall Institute, and/or whether the Finance Committee has provided an estimate of same. Can you clarify (a) if the GB has formally approved UCC’s involvement in the Tyndall Institute, and (b) if so, what will be the financial costs to UCC of its participation?

25. Section. 27 (2) (b) of the Universities Act 1997 requires the governing authority of each university to put in place a statute to protect the tenure of all full-time academic staff. Despite the fact that this requirement has been in place for 9 years, the UCC Governing Body has failed to provide any statutory protection for academic staff, as required by the Act. Thus academic staff appointed after 1997 lack the statutory protection of their tenure that was enjoyed by staff appointed prior to 1997, and that is required by law. Can you explain why UCC has failed to implement the law for 9 years?

26. Appointment of College Heads: the documents approved by the Governing Body and presented [without a vote of approval or otherwise] to the Academic Council made reference to ‘Executive Deans’. When it was pointed out to you, at the meeting of the Academic Council on 16 September 2005 that, according to Statute I, the Deans in UCC are elected by their faculties; that only members of a faculty can be elected Dean; and that Deans are defined as the Secretary and Executive Office of each faculty, you arranged to modify plans so that the people appointed would be called ‘Heads’. However, Deans continue to be elected as before by their respective faculties. It is difficult to see what has been achieved by the appointment of Heads (who have no statutory authority in the University), apart from the extra expenses [not yet revealed to the GB] incurred.

27. Your title: this may seem like a trivial matter, but it is symptomatic of something very fundamental. Universities are involved in accrediting students and validating credentials. It makes a difference whether someone is/is not a professor, does/does not hold a PhD. You always style yourself as a professor, although you must know that you are not a professor.
When it was important, in the context of getting approval for your unprecedented extension, to block any possible knock-on effects for other professors in UCC [see below, no 30], the Chair of the GB [Rev. McDonagh] confirmed to the HEA that you are not a professor [letter dated 08.03.04]. ‘I confirm that President Wrixon does not hold a chair.’ However, you subsequently gave evidence under oath to the High Court on 13.01.05 that you are a professor at UCC and that you were appointed to your current chair before 1997! In case you have forgotten, here is a transcript of the evidence from the official court report.
‘Q. Mr. McCullough [Counsel for UCC]: Professor, you are a Professor of Microelectronics, is that correct?
A. That’s correct.
Q: Mr. Allen [Counsel for Professor Fanning]: Are you – are you an NUI Professor, Professor Wrixon? Are you a National University of Ireland – do you hold your appointment from the Senate of the National University?
A: Yes, I do. I was appointed pre-1997.’

As you know, you are not Professor of Microelectronics at UCC [a chair held by Peter Kennedy], and you hold your current appointment, not from the NUI, but from the Governing Body of UCC.

The significant issue here is whether expediency is the order of the day in the current administration. It is a good example of how a fundamental value, namely truthfulness, that is essential to a University can be eroded by spin and ambiguity. The implications for our standards and therefore for our long-term reputation will be obvious to all. If we cannot get agreement on simple factual matters, what chance is there that we could get reliable figures on the current UCC debt? Can you now confirm that you are not a professor in UCC or elsewhere?

28. University Debts: your spokesman is quoted as saying, in large bold capitals: that the debt claim attributed to me is ‘absolute nonsense.’ The Finance Committee of the GB reported recently that the ‘unfunded’ capital deficit was 41.16 million euro. The same Finance Committee reported that UCC is likely to exceed its overdraft facility of 9 million euro on the current budget.

UCC reported officially to the HEA that our current debts exceed 100 million euro. Within that 100 million, it is claimed that the 10.6 million borrowed for the Medical Building is ‘funded’, because UCC expects [in the future] to earn money from economic fee-paying students in medicine that will help pay off the debt. Likewise, for approximately 60 million of the total debt, it is hoped that specified future earnings will help discharged the debts. None of these expectations of future possible income-streams changes the reality that: (a) UCC is in debt to the tune of approximately 100 million euro; (b) UCC currently pays a significant amount of its current income on interests charges; (c) these debts will be passed on to the next generation and will seriously hinder developments because our future earnings are already committed to paying off debts incurred during your presidency. Can you confirm what UCC pays annually in interest charges on its total debts?

These figures vary from month to month, but the unfunded capital deficit has increased every year since you came into office as President. We now seem to have reached a crisis with the proposed IT Building. Can you confirm, or can you arrange for any of your officials to confirm, that the HEA and/or the Department of Education and Science has agreed to fund the costs [or some of the costs] of this building? If not, is UCC about to add an extra 60 million euro to its ‘unfunded’ capital deficit?

29. The Pension Fund: there is an apparent conflict of interest when the Finance Committee that has authorized the vast debts since you assumed the Presidency is also responsible for the protection of the Pension Fund. This might not be worrying, if the committee in question had not discussed [GB minutes, 20.12.03] ‘the possibility of the Pension Fund divesting its current property portfolio and re-investing in UCC property.’ This matter is so serious, for current staff and those retired on pensions, that I have referred it for independent investigation to the Pensions Ombudsman Office.

30. Extension of Professors in Office: when three Professors of UCC requested an extension in office in accordance with the provisions of Statute 79, you informed the GB [12.06] —apparently without any hint of irony—that UCC has had a policy in place since 1987 of never extending any professor or staff member in office beyond the age of 65. Despite the fact that the GB adopted a policy document against ageism in 2002, which included a proposal to ‘reactivate’ the statute that allowed professors to remain in office after the age of 65, the GB agreed by majority vote to the motion you proposed. The only exception, therefore, to the policy adopted in 1987 is yourself.

31. Legal Advice for Members of the GB: some members incurred expenses while performing their legal obligations as members [under items 13, 16, 17 and 20 above]. The Finance Committee advised the GB not to pay these expenses, if the members in question raised the question at a GB meeting. Accordingly, the GB refused to pay the legal expenses of its own members [meeting of 28.03.06]. However, it would appear that Mr. Dermot O’Mahony – who proposed the original motion to extend your term of office as President – has a conflict of interest in advising the GB not to pay for the legal expenses of governors who showed that the strategy developed to extend you in office was in breach of the statutes.

It also emerged, following a written request, that Mr. Dermot O’Mahony had given instructions to have UCC pay, on his behalf, expenses incurred for legal advice which he has not made available, in any written form, to the GB. The invoice [dated 29.07.03] reads: ‘To meeting with Mr. Dermot O’Mahony in connection with proposal to extend the term of Presidency. . . Noting his instructions … etc.’ A handwritten note clarifies, in reference to ‘his’: ‘Chairperson of FC [i.e. Finance Committee] instruction?’ The GB members involved have referred this matter to the Ombudsman [of the State].

32. The Communications Office under your direction spins for the media. One example: The Irish Examiner [2.02.05] reported that ‘the meeting [of the GB] decided to deal with the issue [of my proposed removal from the GB] through an ethics committee to be set up shortly.’ As you should know, the meeting did not decide that, and the minutes confirm that it didn’t. This might have been a simple mistake by the newspaper. However, I asked Mr. Kelleher to correct the report or to issue a new statement and he failed to do so. The record stands, mistakenly, that the GB decided to deal with my ‘unfitting behaviour’ through an ethics committee.

This is merely a sample list of some of the issues that I have attempted to bring to the notice of the GB, all of which were already well-known when the UCC spokesperson spoke anonymously to the Press last week. There are many other issues that you may wish should be published, such as the recent purported dismissal of the Publisher of Cork University Press by Mr. O’Sullivan, the circumstances in which staff assigned to your office left the office, etc.

When the Governing Body meets, you arrange to have a significant number of people in attendance who are not GB members, and they participate in its deliberations as if they were members. They include Mr. Sweeney, Mr. O’Sullivan [before he was recently appointed a member on your nomination], Prof. Kennedy, Prof. A. Hyland, Mr. T. O’Leary and Mr. D Collins. This is as if a political party in the Dáil lacked enough TDs to vote through their policies and they invited some civil servants or constituency members to attend, in the Dáil seats, to provide moral support for TDs. I can understand that their presence may provide some security for you, and their mute presence might be tolerable to other genuine members.

However, it breaches the GB regulations, regularly, when those who are not members of the GB interrupt or barrack those who are members, and when they are allowed by the Chair to propose motions for adoption by the GB [in breach of the regulations], including a motion to extend you in office as President [GB meeting, 14.12.04] or the motion proposed by a visiting solicitor to establish a sub-committee to inquire into allegations of bullying [GB meeting, 28.03.06].

Bullying and Intimidation

The international literature on bullying shows that most employees who are bullied leave their posts, if possible. Some have nervous breakdowns, and some even commit suicide. In UCC, many staff members have been afraid to express their concerns during your term as President, and this atmosphere has prevented many people from reporting their experiences.

Evidently, any staff member who believes that they have been treated in breach of the law or the University Statutes may bring their case to the courts. This is extremely expensive for them, and for the University, while it costs you nothing personally. You enjoy the privilege of acting unlawfully (according to the High Court’s judgment) or in breach of the statutes, and passing on the costs incurred to the University. The acknowledged legal costs of actions that involved UCC between 2000 and 2005 amounted to 3.338 million euro. Can you confirm that, as a result, UCC’s insurance against the costs of litigation has been cancelled by our insurers?

On two occasions during your term as President, I have sat in the High Court when it decided that actions taken by you and UCC were in breach of the law and/or the statutes. The personal and financial costs to the staff involved were enormous.

So it’s just not good enough for UCC to say: if any staff member thinks we are acting illegally, take us to court! However, if all staff in UCC – including you, the Director of Human Resources, the Secretary, et al. – had to pay personally the legal costs of unlawful actions, would you and your executive be so bullish about the legality of your joint actions, allegedly on behalf of the University?

One litigant claimed to have found a way around this dilemma, by calling as witness in a court case a UCC appointee whose evidence might be embarrassing. It is now time for all staff at UCC to come out from under alleged threats and intimidation, and to make public the concerns they have about the way in which they have been treated by their employer.

As already indicated, you cannot hide in the shadow of confidentiality to prevent relevant information, which is a matter of public interest, from coming to the notice of staff who may be affected to their detriment, and at the same time arrange for Press Releases that challenge staff to make public their concerns. I am happy to make public all the documents in my possession in which you:

* blocked governors from having access to UCC files;
* approved appointments which seem to corrupt the appointment procedures that are required in the public sector;
* and/or have been found by the High Court to have breached the law and UCC statutes.

One of the most sensitive outstanding issues is the issue of bullying of staff. If anyone makes public the cases that are pending, UCC is likely to claim – falsely, in my view – that the parties involved are thereby deprived of a fair hearing. However, if they are not made public, the University can fail in secret to apply its own procedures and can fail, unlawfully, to satisfy the requirements of Health and Safety legislation by deferring indefinitely an inquiry into allegations. Can you confirm, without prejudice to what may eventually be established, whether any senior members of your administration have been alleged to have bullied staff [apart from the case already reported in public from Mr. Kelleher’s letter]? Can you confirm if any members of the administration have submitted solicitor’s letters to protect their jobs in the University?

Alternatively, since it is too late to carry on any further pretence, can you authorize publication of all relevant files that pertain to

* UCC debts,
* the total number of legal cases taken against UCC during your presidency,
* the lapse of our litigation insurance due to the number of cases taken,
* the reasons why you have authorized the settlement of some cases,
* allegations of bullying that may be outstanding and may not have been investigated in accordance with the policies that you introduced and arranged to have approved by the GB?

Rather than arrange to have anonymous spokespersons speak on your behalf, would you agree to debate with me, publicly, all the concerns that I have tried to raise in the GB and have brought to the attention of the Minister for Education & Science with respect to governance at UCC?

It is impossible any longer to avoid further public discussions of these concerns by briefing journalists about the credibility or otherwise of the messenger.

Selection Committee for Office of President:

Nor will matters disappear by questioning my motives. For what they are worth, the concerns listed above are now urgent because the Governing Body, after a worldwide search scheduled to last only four weeks, has decided to appoint a new President in December [before you leave office], and has decided that the choice of an appointee will be made by the following people chosen exclusively by the current GB:

* Mr. Michael O’Sullivan [a Vice-president appointed by the GB in the manner outlined above]
* Prof. Paul Giller [the Registrar, appointed during your administration]
* Mr Dermot O’Mahony [Chair of the Finance Committee]
* Mr. Humphrey Murphy [a member of the Selection Committee that selected you as President 8 years ago]
* Mr. Tom Cavanagh [a close associate of yours and member of the Finance Committee]
* Dr Norma Ryan [who was not selected for this role by academics]
* Prof. Anita Maguire [who was not selected for this role by academics]
* Mr. Frank Martin [who was not selected for this role by academics]

Trust may seem like an elusive reality. Be assured, however, that academic staff do not trust those who have been appointed to positions of academic leadership when academic staff had no significant input into the decisions. Genuine academic authority is earned, rather than acquired by stealth or favour. One cannot confer the authority required for academic leadership by a flawed appointment process.

If those who are appointed to positions of academic leadership during your administration had failed to be appointed to a chair in their own discipline, can loyalty compensate for lack of achievement? In the case of Mr. Gantly, he was selected by you as chair of the restructuring committee and was subsequently short-listed for appointment as ‘Head’ of the so-called non-statutory College of Law and Commerce. Was this an aberration, or merely a symptom of a general pattern?

Given the current unprecedented debts of the University, and the concerns expressed about the Pension Fund, UCC is an academic ENRON waiting to happen.

Can any independent agency investigate before it is too late?

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Desmond M. Clarke
Elected Member of the Governing Body


*** End ***

author by Miriam Cottonpublication date Tue Oct 03, 2006 13:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It appears UCC have now shut down the discussion that was taking place on FUCC adn which had been linked to articles and information here on Indymedia.

http://bb.ucc.ie/viewtopic.php?t=9114 - FUCC, the UCC Forum

Also, Barry Roche has done a soft interview with Wrixon in Today's Irish Times - page 2. The most striking thing about what Wrixon has to say is his failure to respond to the actual questions Professor Desmond Clarke raised last week - see comment above.

Among other old chestnuts rolled out do service yet again is Professor Wrixon's attempt to explain the extraordinarily litigious nature of his tenure as a necessary part of 'change'. Most if not all of the litigation has had nothing whatever to do with 'change' and everything to do with unfair treatment of staff, failure to follow poper processes etc etc. It is not as if Professor Wrixon had at any time rolled out a specific programme for change under which those who have been forced to resort to the courts were to lose their jobs. The cases are for the main part completely independent of each other, they have arisen from within many departments right across UCC and in so far as they do share common ground it is only in that UCC's own policies and procedures have failed to rationalise those situations and to manage them constructively. A truly innovative organisation does not rely on litigation to implement change in any case. Your staff are your first resource - if you cant carry them with you then you arent going anywhere, anyway. That takes skill and diplomacy...

author by Jerry Corneliuspublication date Tue Oct 03, 2006 15:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dr Wrixon responed to Prof Clarkes original letter. Unfortunately I do not have a copy of that letter. If anyone has it perhaps they would post it here in the interests of fairness. I will continue to seek it myself.

In the meantime here is the latest letter from Prof Clarke to Dr Wrixon.

Jerry Cornelius

******************************************************

Monday 2 October 2006

Dear Dr Wrixon

Your reply to my open letter includes a number of general denials and unconvincing assurances.

My ‘open letter’ was in response to the reported suggestion, by anonymous spokespersons on behalf of UCC, that I had failed to bring my concerns to the attention of the UCC Governing Body. As is now clear, I have documented specific concerns and the dates on which I brought them to the GB’s attention.

Independent Investigation

One reply from UCC is that these are ‘old’ allegations, that they have been aired before and, because they have been raised previously, they can now be ignored. This seems to accept, at least, that I have raised them at the Governing Body. The only issue now is whether the GB investigated adequately the matters that were brought to its attention or, if not, whether earlier inaction excuses in retrospect its apparent negligence.

Your letter indicates that the GB will consider and respond to my open letter. If the GB is as independent as is claimed, how can one be so definite, in advance of the meeting, about what the GB may decide? It may request a full investigation of all the matters that I have raised.

However, it is evident that the GB itself cannot decide impartially whether its members, collectively, have discharged their legal and moral responsibilities with respect to the matters brought to their attention.

Likewise, most observers would think that the HEA cannot provide an independent judgment, since its Executive was alleged to have been closely involved in some of the concerns to which I referred.

Nemo judex in causa sua; no institution or person can be a judge in their own case.
That is why I have asked the Minister to provide for an independent, competent, and urgent investigation. If there is nothing to hide, perhaps the Governing Body would endorse my request for the appointment of a Visitor to UCC.

Financial Matters

My concerns are NOT limited to the current financial situation in UCC [see below]. However, if necessary, I can publish the UCC letter to the HEA in which UCC’s debts are acknowledged to be more than 100 million euro, if this figure is challenged.

The fact that the University’s accounts have been audited obviously does not of itself provide any assurance that the University can develop, function normally in the coming years, and discharge its debts. There are many examples of corporations that were audited and then collapsed. ENRON is just one of the most notorious non-academic cases.

I accept that UCC currently owns much more property than it did five six years ago. However, asset riches never guarantee that we can meet our financial commitments in the future, unless it is proposed to sell off some of the University’s buildings and/or land.

The Integrity or Corruption of the Appointment/Promotion Processes
I am equally concerned about the integrity of the processes used in Recruitment and Promotion. My invitation still remains – in fact, it is now more pressing – that you explain publicly how the appointment of Mr. O’Sullivan complied with the codes of practice that obtain in public sector appointments. Likewise, I invite you again to explain publicly all relevant circumstances in relation to the appointment of an Alumni/Development Officer, following a recommendation from a Selection Board chaired by Mr. O’Sullivan. It seems imperative that you also explain why you asked the Governing Body to reject a report on an appointment made by Mr. Keeley without the Governing Body ever having seen the report that was specifically prepared for its members.

Alleged Intimidation of Staff: Health & Welfare Legislation

Another equally serious question remains unanswered: whether allegations of workplace bullying have been made, officially, against senior administrative staff in UCC. It should be obvious that allegations are only such, and they do not carry any implication that bullying has actually occurred. However, there are procedures in UCC [adopted by the GB] for addressing such allegations, and the procedures vary depending on whether allegations are made against the President or other staff apart from the President. Is this another case in which nothing will be done until public pressure forces the matter into the open, or is it being deferred indefinitely in the hope that public discussion or your imminent retirement will excuse the University from applying its official procedures?

The suggestion that UCC’s record of ‘human resource management issues’ is not out of line attempts to justify breaches of law and statute by saying, roughly: similar breaches of law and statute occur in other universities — an odd argument, surely.

Open Debate

I would accept what is otherwise a very sensible suggestion – that business such as this should not be conducted in open letters – had the Governing Body not blocked discussion of matters brought to its attention, on numerous occasions, and sought instead to ‘shoot the messenger’.

It must now be obvious to everyone that I have notified the Governing Body, on the dates mentioned, of many breaches of law and statute, some of which have been confirmed by the High Court

I have identified conflicts of interest that were reported but not addressed

None of the specific issues to which I alerted staff has been addressed

As a specific example of issues reported to the GB, I could attach a copy of the letter sent in confidence to members of the GB in December 2004. On this occasion, I invite you to address this matter by issuing my letter to governors and the prepared statement, in response, that you read to the GB on 14 December 2004. Staff could then judge for themselves whether the GB agreed to have the matter investigated then, or whether your statement resulted in a motion [from Mr. Humphrey Murphy and Mr Joe Gantly] to remove me from the GB

I also attach a copy of my Open Letter to the Minister for Education & Science, Ms Mary Hanafin TD.

Report to the ‘Relevant Authorities’

Since I shared my concerns with staff members last week, I have been provided in recent days with further details of the financial governance of UCC, the management of its unfunded capital debt, and the likely impact on that debt of recent commitments made on behalf of UCC. I shall report my concerns about these matters, in the first instance, to the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, and the Department of Education & Science [whom I understand are the ‘relevant authorities’ to which the UCC spokesperson advises that I report concerns of this nature]. I shall inform staff later in the week.

I appreciate that the UCC Governing Body includes forty members, and I cannot be expected to comment on how they understand their responsibilities. Each may speak for him/herself. I also note your reference to the function of an independent Chairperson. I hope to write to Dr. McDonagh, and to the Deputy Chair, Mr. Cavanagh, in advance of the GB meeting on 10 October, concerning the independence of the Chair, and to share my concerns with the staff of UCC.

The future of UCC depends on decisions to be made in the coming weeks; hence the urgency and the only motivation for these communications.

Sincerely,

Desmond M. Clarke

author by Jerry Corneliuspublication date Tue Oct 03, 2006 15:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is a copy of Prof Clarkes open letter to the Minister for Education and Science, Ms Mary Hanafin T.D.

Jerry Cornelius

***************************************************************

Ms Mary Hanafin T.D.
Minister for Education and Science
Department of Education and Science
Dublin 1
21 September 2006

Dear Minister

An Independent Investigation of UCC

It is almost three months since I sent you a detailed file of what appears to be financial mismanagement at UCC, a corruption of appointment procedures, bullying of staff, and documented cases of breaches of law and statute. The breaches of law and statute have been confirmed by decisions of the High Court. Given the lapse of time and the urgency of the issues raised for the University, as the outgoing Governing Body rushes to appoint a new president, I now write an open letter to request an independent investigation by a ‘University Visitor’ appointed by you.

A spokesperson for your Department gave the impression that you had to wait, indefinitely, for the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to report before making a decision, and they referred only to UCC’s unsustainable debt. As you know, this is neither the only issue nor the most important one that has been brought to your attention. Others have reported directly to your office their allegations of having been bullied. While the HEA might oversee our debts, the breaches of law and the bullying of staff will remain an issue for you as Minister. In contrast with the Marino Institute, you have full legal authority to arrange immediately for an independent examination of all the matters raised.

It would be inappropriate for the HEA, which is statutorily charged with oversight of university finances, to investigate and report on its own alleged failures, or those of the institutions which it oversees. In this context, it would allay fears if you confirmed publicly that the HEA and/or your Department has approved the new IT building at UCC, announced in today’s papers, which is reported to cost 60 million euro.

More importantly, the HEA executive was party to an agreement in 2004 to recommend to your Department (a) that it approve a general statute for all presidents of UCC, and (b) that the statute be applied only to Dr. Wrixon. The legal advice submitted by a number of UCC governors —and accepted by your Department —showed that this would have involved a breach of the University’s statutory powers and would have been unlawful. It is not credible now that the HEA would investigate its own recent involvement in arranging for Dr. Wrixon’s unprecedented extension in office.

A function reserved by law to the Minister cannot be properly delegated to another statutory body. While the HEA may report when it wishes, any delay on its part cannot excuse you as Minister for failing to fulfil your obligations. If the universities were limited companies, and if even some of the allegations of which you are aware were shown to be true, the directors would be liable for civil and criminal sanctions.

The only way to avoid conflicts of interest, and for you to avoid the impression of protecting members of the UCC Governing Body appointed by the current Government, is to appoint an independent examiner [i.e. a Visitor]. Any other option will be seen as the virus of political corruption contaminating the university sector. If all else fails, there will be no option but to release all relevant documents to the public [including details of the appointments to which I have specifically referred], and to allow the public to decide.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Desmond M. Clarke
Member of the UCC Governing Body

author by PRSA holderpublication date Tue Oct 03, 2006 22:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

with regard to pensions provision, as of February 2005 UCC had not made provision for PRSA arrangements for fixed-term employers required by law as of September 2003 and there may therefore have been obliged to make an arrears provision to make up the shortfall, as indicated by these extracts of communications from the Pensions Board:

The employer mandatory access provisions of the Pensions Act, 1990, as amended, provides, inter alia, that all employers will be required by 15 September 2003 to have entered a contract with a PRSA provider so that access to at least one Standard PRSA will be available for all 'excluded employees' on and from that date. In summary, this means that an employer who has excluded employees is required to designate a PRSA provider and notify staff of the availability of the PRSA (method of notification is not prescribed).

The employer is also obliged to allow the PRSA provider or intermediary reasonable access to excluded employees at their workplace, allow reasonable paid leave of absence to enable 'excluded employees' to set up a Standard PRSA, subject to work requirements and to make deductions from payroll at employees request.

You further advise that "existing fixed term contract staff known to me have not received a PRSA". Arising from this information, the PRSA Unit will follow up on this matter in accordance with the procedures of our compliance strategy which is publicly available on our website.

the PRSA Unit will monitor UCC's compliance with S.121of the Act as part of its compliance strategy, which is available on the Pensions Board website (www.pensionsboard.ie) under PRSA Information.

author by Stuartpublication date Tue Oct 03, 2006 23:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Irish Times has reported that Professor Clarke's allegations have already been examined and dismissed, in a report on Saturday and again today following President Wrixon's open letter to all staff. Barry Roche, Southern Correpondent, has ignored the fact that Wrixon does not answer the allegations raised by Prof Clarke. Unlike the Irish Examiner, the Irish Times chose not to report Wrixon's statement that 'he would not highlight all the "factual errors" in Prof Clarke's letter' which one might suppose is exactly what Prof Clarke would have hoped for.

Most bizarre in Wrixon's letter is the statement that "All Irish universities are undergoing a period of rapid change and there will be some colleagues who will find this change more difficult than others. It is, however, important to note that the experience within our university is similar to the experience of other Irish universities," in effect saying bullying, harassment and intimidation of staff is fine because everybody does it!

These allegations .... are groundless

The Irish Times 30 September 2006: "A department [of Education] statement said that many of the allegations made by Prof Des Clarke of financial mismanagement at UCC had been made before and it referred them to the HEA which in turn referred them to the UCC's governing body, which had found them to be groundless."

It was one of Professor Clarke's contentions that the GB had not actually seen or addressed the allegations passed to them, specifically Prof Clarke wrote on 28 Sept 2006 "15. Statute I, Ch. iv provides that correspondence on behalf of the University is conducted under the direction of the President. Custom and practice, and the statutes that pertain to the post of the former Secretary & Bursar, required Mr. Kelleher to write officially on behalf of the GB to, for example, the HEA. When Rev. McDonagh and/or Professor Hyland [who since February 2004 was not even a member of the GB] met with the HEA executive and wrote to the HEA on behalf of the GB, did they act under your direction [which would seem like an obvious conflict of interest], or did they write without proper authorization, thereby subverting the statutory role of the Secretary to the GB?"

This is the point raised in the case history in the article above - the allegations are not addressed in UCC's internal investigators' report (to which the complainant was not permitted any appeal) which found that no further action was required prior to terminating the complainant's employment. This point was raised in a Dept of Enterprise, Trade and Employment report by the Expert Advisory Group on Bullying to Minister Fahey on progressing the heartily commendable but completely ineffectual legislation on workplace bullying: "There is no onus to get an outside independent investigator so bullying is never found to have occurred. It is akin to asking sexual harassers to assess themselves when it is obvious they find their behaviour acceptable on their own terms."

Any accused, when asked, will reply "not guilty".

author by UCC observerpublication date Wed Oct 04, 2006 11:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

RTE news on Tuesday featured both Professor Clarke and Wrixon. Wrixon's response is very telling. He offered some general points about UCC finances, unspecified audits and the assertion that some of the issues were examined before (see earlier comments).

I would have thought that if he felt secure in his administration, he would have welcomed an inquiry and the opportunity to put these issues to bed. But this is clearly not the case.

His assertion that the UCC human resources methods are on a par with other institutions is par for the course - we may treat our staff badly m'lud, but hey, others probably do as well, so that's fine!

Unbelievable - I do hope that the minister appoints an independent investigator who can cut through the spin and the character assassination and get through to the facts.

author by Stuartpublication date Wed Oct 04, 2006 20:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

An updated set of links to news reports and discussion about this story and UCC is here:

http://www.geocities.com/stuartdneilson/UCC_Reference.htm

I will maintain this document while this story is current.

author by Dope Genpublication date Wed Oct 04, 2006 21:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

ANd the college are afraid of saying, is that he was a fundamentalist anti-abortionist and this was a problem for his more liberal colleagues that were sick of the carry-on.

His views against abortion are extremist, see e.g. the example below

It's still life

* 24 May 2003
* From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
* Stuart Neilson Cork, Ireland

Sylvia Pagán Westphal writes that parthenogenetically cloned human embryos "die after a few days" and therefore "could never become human beings. So destroying these embryos to obtain stem cells would avoid the ethical concerns that have led to restrictions or bans on embryonic stem cell research in many countries" (26 April, p 17).

I for one am unable to distinguish any ethical difference between the destruction of a human life capable of adulthood and one with an accidental or intentional limitation to its lifespan. As for religious or moral opposition to embryonic research, I am sure that the sanctity of human life does not depend on such limitations in potential lifespan.
University College Cork
From issue 2396 of New Scientist magazine, 24 May 2003, page 26

author by Stuartpublication date Wed Oct 04, 2006 23:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The real reason Neilson was dismissed
ANd the college are afraid of saying, is that he was a fundamentalist anti-abortionist and this was a problem for his more liberal colleagues that were sick of the carry-on.
His views against abortion are extremist


Really? It's still life, New Scientist letters, 24 May 2003 - I made this letter available on my own website at http://www.iol.ie/~stuartneilson/InThePress.htm when it was published in May 2003. I haven't seen this curious interpretation of it before. Dope Fiend should also note that this was after the complaints process.

author by UCC observerpublication date Thu Oct 05, 2006 12:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dope Gen is trolling, and engaging the brain before posting would be good advice in his/her case.

Dr Neilson's writings are on his website - the particular letter does not seem like an anti-abortion comment to me; it points to a philosophical and ethical inconsistency. In addition, none of his other writings refer to the issue, so he is by no means a campaigner.

author by Stuartpublication date Thu Oct 05, 2006 13:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Irish Times has always taken a very gentle approach to UCC, evident in their last two articles responding to this issue. Of course UCC's publicity and marketing guru is Dick Hogan, who is himself a former Irish Times reporter. Also cherry-picking the good news about UCC have been Dr Muiris Houston, Dick Ahlstrom and UCC's own Prof William Reville. On Saturday Barry Roche churned up a limp-wristed rejection of Desmond Clarke's allegations stating that "A department [of Education] statement said that many of the allegations made by Prof Des Clarke of financial mismanagement at UCC had been made before and it referred them to the HEA which in turn referred them to UCC's governing body, which had found them to be groundless" http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2006/0930/1158....html - 2006/09/30: UCC complaints referred to HEA
On Tuesday he repeated the denial that there are any problems at UCC when reporting President Wrixon's open letter responding to Prof Clarke's allegations: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2006/1003/1158....html - 2006/10/03: UCC president insists university's finances are sound. So we know that all the allegations got referred right back to the people the accusations were made against in UCC's administration, and guess what? Well, yes, of course they found themselves entirely innocent of everything!!!

But it isn't just UCC the institution that the Irish Times spin machine has worked up supportive stories for. They have also published extensively on Professor Ivan Perry, against whom I made my complaint of bullying. In Tuesday's Health supplement there is a puff-piece about Prof Perry that fits comments about Prof Perry's expertise around snippets of (British) research with which he played no part (03/10/2006: Minor reductions in daily salt intake could prevent 900 deaths. Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent. A reduction of just 3g a day in salt intake by Irish people could result in a 13 per cent reduction in the incidence of stroke and a 10 per cent reduction in heart attacks, thus preventing 900 deaths a year...).

This would be fine, except that the article printed this week (apparently written by Barry Roche, Southern Correspondent) duplicates an article written by Eithne Donnellan, Health Correspondent, which is over two years old (27/04/2004 Up to 900 lives could be saved by taking less salt. Eithne Donnellan, Health Correspondent. Heart Disease Up to 900 lives could be saved every year if Irish people reduced their salt intake by just 3g per day, a conference in Dublin will be told today...). We should all reduce, recycle, reuse, but this is ridiculously un-newsworthy retreading.

It is remarkable how frequently the Irish Times have aired Prof Perry's views about salt in the diet, casting him in the role of "expert" about the blindingly obvious, for instance on 01/11/2005 (Targeting Salt), 21/09/2004 (Too many pinches of salt), 28/08/2003 (Salt tax called for to reduce intake in food), 09/02/2000 (Kellogg's cuts salt content of some products), 01/12/1999 (Salt in foods), 23/11/1999 (Removal of salt from bread to improve diet advised), 19/11/1999 (Salt In Processed Foods) and 28/09/1998 (Need to shake the salt habit).

The Irish Times have a happy relationship with Prof Perry and have printed his world view of the workplace (27/09/2005 On the Couch: Ivan Perry) and his justifications for accessing personal medical records without consent from the patient (10/09/2004 Stress on 'consent' issue may hamper medical research) - the latter at a time when Prof Perry himself was being investigated by the Data Protection Commission for accessing confidential hospital admission and psychiatric records without patient consent.

The Irish Times also cast him as a hero of the public health system (07/06/2003 Health strategy group head quits), although his "resignation" was a symbolic exercise quickly reversed at the very next meeting of the Strategy Review Group. The only negative note has been Dr Maurice Nelligan's criticism of Professor Perry's academic skills (18/04/2006 Heartbeat), where he described Perry as "transmuting bullshit into airline tickets" and travelling the world to discuss "the myth of everlasting human life available to us if only we would do as we are told".

You might imagine that national journalists would show some interest in the results of Professor Perry's publicly-funded research on the prevalence of autism, specialist stammer services, The Institute for Tobacco Control that he chairs, heart disease and diabetes, suicide and attempted suicide, childhood obesity, the Steering Group that he chairs to develop GP services and the government Health Strategy which he chairs. Where are the results of these important, multi-million euro research endeavours and why is the Irish Times instead exhorting us all to cut down on the salt?

author by Stuartpublication date Tue Oct 10, 2006 11:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The "corruption" allegations at University College Cork make both the Irish Examiner and the Irish Times today (10/10/2006), prompting me to repeat, yet again, that these allegations have not been examined!

The Irish Examiner reports difficulties over a possible 9 million euro shortfall and failure by both the Dept of Education and the Higher Education Authority to approve the new 60 million IT and postgraduate centre on the site of the former greyhound stadium. They also report a last-minute change of design to add an extra 2 stories to a 3-story development. The report continues that "The HEA is probing the mismanagement allegations on behalf of education minister Mary Hanafin, who has the power to order an independent investigation. However, her department has said that most of Prof Clarke’s claims have been previously examined and found to be groundless." This is untrue.

It has already been reported that the Department of Education had "referred [Prof Clarke's allegations] to the HEA which in turn referred them to UCC's governing body, which had found them to be groundless." Apart from the difficulties of asking the accused to investigate allegations made against themselves ("akin to asking sexual harassers to assess themselves") , it is one of Des Clarke's contentions that the governing body was not in fact consulted, but "Rev. McDonagh and/or Professor Hyland [who since February 2004 was not even a member of the GB] met with the HEA executive and wrote to the HEA on behalf of the GB" which was either "an obvious conflict of interest" or "without proper authorization, thereby subverting the statutory role of the Secretary to the GB".

The Irish Times Teacher's Pet column says that "The troubles at UCC are back on the agenda after former president Michael Mortell raised the case for an investigation into allegations made by Prof Des Clarke. It's bad news for the embattled UCC boss Gerry Wrixon, who plans to vacate his post shortly. The Higher Education Authority is investigating the Clarke dossier, but don't expect an result until Wrixon is gone."

Of course Wrixon's unexpectedly premature "resignation" may have been a failed attempt to pre-empt these very allegations (or others) from resurfacing, but equally it is likely that nothing will happen prior to his departure. And once he has resigned, he will no longer be required to testify (like Judge Curtin, Callely, Judge O'Buachalla etc), and that means that there may not be any effective change within UCC, perpetuating the very conditions that allowed these problem to fester so far.

author by Jerry Corneliuspublication date Tue Oct 10, 2006 11:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yet another internal communication from UCC re the shenanigans of Wrixon and his lackeys. It raises gender issues and the timing of an important meeting.

**********************************************************************

Dear Colleagues,

Re: The recruitment process for a new President.

I would like to raise the following questions please in respect of the above topic.

Firstly, it was really bright to have this meeting at 9am Monday Morning when most staff do not officially start work until 9.10am. Surely the Head of Resources knows this? This may account for the low turn out evident at the meeting.

Secondly, I am also aware that the CLOSING DATE for applications for the post of presidency is TODAY. In my opinion, this meeting might be better held in advance of the closing date. However, now that the meeting has taken place, and that the deadline is today, I requested that the recruitment agency take gender into consideration when shortlisting, that due regard be made to the guidelines for semi-state bodies in respect of gender balance (in both employment and recruitment issues).

Thirdly, if there are any internal candidates going for the post, I want to wish you well. I would (and it’s not too late yet, you have until 5pm) particularly encourage any female candidates interested in the post to apply. A female president would be, in my opinion, a pleasant change and might actually signal a significant redress of the gross gender imbalance (especially at the senior level/all top posts) which currently exists in this college. Let us take example from such magnificent leaders as Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. UCC may actually be seen to be progressive in more ways than one.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Rosarii Griffin
Governor

'Go placidly amidst the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence' - Desiderata

From: O'Leary, Tom
Sent: 06 October 2006 13:31
To: All Academic Dept Users; All Admin Dept Users
Subject: FW: Recruitment President UCC

Dear Colleagues,

A quick reminder for Monday.

Best Regards

Tom O’Leary

From: O'Leary, Tom
Sent: 22 September 2006 08:57
To: 'AllExchUserDL@exchsvrs.ucc.ie'
Subject: Recruitment President UCC

Dear Colleague,

The Search Committee appointed to assist with the recruitment process for the next President of UCC is seeking to engage further with the University community with respect to the staffing of this post.

The Committee will host a meeting in the Aula Maxima on Monday 9th of October at 9.00am – All UCC staff are invited to attend.

At this meeting the Search Committee along with the Recruitment Consultants retained to assist with this appointment, Saxton Bampfylde Hever, will update colleagues on the process to date.

Best regards

Tom O’Leary
Director Human Resources

author by Stuartpublication date Sat Oct 14, 2006 13:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There is an article stating that Mary Hanafin will now order an independent investigation into complaints of "corruption" and bullying at University College Cork by Sean Flynn in the Irish Times today (Sat 14 Oct). There is also a critical review of Gerry Wrixon's version of "excellence" by Eddie Holt: I hope that these matters are investigated and that UCC is made to answer these allegations before he retires, and that they are not again swept under the carpet.

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2006/1014/1160....html
Hanafin backs investigation into UCC claims. Minister for Education Mary Hanafin has backed an independent investigation into alleged financial mismanagement and bullying of staff at UCC.

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/newsfeatures/2006/1014....html
Campus politics. Monday was the final day for applications from people hoping to become president of University College Cork (UCC). The college is bitterly divided between opponents and supporters of outgoing president Prof Gerry Wrixon. Last year Prof Wrixon got a four-year extension - despite a 61 to 31 vote against it by UCC's academic council - to continue in the job beyond 65. Now, he is leaving.

author by Stuartpublication date Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Examiner, Letters, 18 October 2006

No set standard for university investigation

AS a former lecturer at University College Cork who has been the victim of its complaints procedures, I am keenly aware of the issues behind Professor Desmond Clarke’s and Professor Michael Mortell’s allegations of financial mismanagement and bullying (Irish Examiner, September 29).

In any internal complaint, the university’s procedures are inevitably prejudiced towards the party considered closest to the corporate identity, usually (but not necessarily) the more senior party. There is no required standard of investigation, no right of appeal and no independent assessment of the handling of complaints.

The other party is vilified, misrepresented and characterised as disloyal to the university’s ethos and, in the last resort, described as mentally unstable.

The complainants are then threatened with legal actions for unspecified calumnies against the university’s reputation should they repeat their complaints outside its walls.

Bullying thrives on secrecy. The lack of accountability and transparency at UCC has evolved a vindictive management culture driven by self-interest, fear and intimidation.

Dr Stuart Neilson

author by Stuartpublication date Sat Oct 21, 2006 18:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No investigation was ever conducted by the HEA
An array of allegations about "corruption" and bullying at University College Cork have been aired recently. Gerry Wrixon, President of UCC, has claimed that these allegations have been made before, that they have been fully investigated and discounted to the satisfaction of UCC's Governing Body, the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education and Science. President Wrixon has also said that "he would not highlight all the 'factual errors' in Prof Clarke's letter".

It is, however, not true that these allegations have been investigated. Although no official has troubled to correct the public misperception that these allegations have been shown to be unfounded, the head of the HEA has privately confirmed this to be the case. Other statements emanating from UCC may be equally unsound and all require thorough investigation.

Among the allegations made by Prof Clarke are:

* Corruption in making appointments;
* Breaches of the law, of university statutes and regulations.
* Intimidation and bullying of staff.
* Concerns about the use of public monies and the university’s “unsustainable” debts.
* A general failure of governance.

15/09/2006: Professor calls for inquiry into UCC affairs http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/09/15/story13...2.asp
23/09/2006: Professor’s charges merit serious consideration http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/09/23/story14...4.asp
29/09/2006: Ex-UCC president calls for mismanagement claim probe http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/09/29/story14...1.asp
03/10/2006: UCC mismanagement claims rejected http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/03/story14...9.asp
10/10/2006: Funding fears over UCC construction http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/10/story15...5.asp
14/10/2006: Hanafin to ‘clear up’ UCC debt allegations http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/14/story15...3.asp
17/10/2006: No set standard for university investigation http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/18/story16...8.asp
20/10/2006: Inquiry into UCC mismanagement claims expected http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/20/story16...2.asp
21/10/2006: Wave of corporate bullying sweeps universities
UPDATED HISTORY: http://www.geocities.com/stuartdneilson/UCC_Reference.htm

The claim has been widely disseminated that allegations of "corruption" and bullying at University College Cork have been examined and discounted by the Governing Body, the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education and Science. This claim has been promulgated by unnamed spokespeople within UCC, from the HEA and in the Education Minister's office.

For instance:

"A department [of Education] statement said that many of the allegations
made by Prof Des Clarke of financial mismanagement at UCC had been made
before and it referred them to the HEA which in turn referred them to the
UCC's governing body, which had found them to be groundless."
[The Irish Times, 30 September 2006]

Yet now it is apparent that no such inquiry was ever undertaken by any of the Governing Body, the HEA or the Department of Education.

The HEA has previously examined some of these allegations but acknowledged
to Prof Clarke it had never conducted an inquiry in relation to them.

“I can confirm that the HEA has not carried out an inquiry into the
allegations and any reports to the contrary are incorrect,” HEA chief
executive Tom Boland wrote in an email to Prof Clarke a fortnight ago.

The Department of Education and UCC management have said recently that the
HEA has previously found no merit in the allegations.
[The Irish Examiner, 20 October 2006]

It is, in fact, one of Professor Clarke's contentions that the Governing Body of UCC had not actually seen or addressed the allegations passed to them, specifically:

"15. Statute I, Ch. iv provides that correspondence on behalf of the
University is conducted under the direction of the President. Custom
and practice, and the statutes that pertain to the post of the former
Secretary & Bursar, required Mr. Kelleher to write officially on behalf
of the GB to, for example, the HEA. When Rev. McDonagh and/or Professor
Hyland [who since February 2004 was not even a member of the GB] met with
the HEA executive and wrote to the HEA on behalf of the GB, did they act
under your direction [which would seem like an obvious conflict of
interest], or did they write without proper authorization, thereby
subverting the statutory role of the Secretary to the GB?"
[Professor Clarke, 28 Sept 2006]

At best there has been persistent, widespread and misleading incompetence. Given the consistency of the deception over a number of years and across organisations (UCC, the HEA and the DoES), does this deception pass from the grey area of sophistry and into deliberate dishonesty and professional misconduct on the part of any of these individuals?

Precisely which individuals within UCC, the HEA and the Department of Education have put about the false claim that the allegations have been investigated? Why has no official publicly corrected the false perception that an investigation has been conducted?

The history of this ghostly HEA "report" into UCC's affairs is interesting. I wrote to Minister for Education and Science Noel Dempsey on 5 February 2004 asking for an investigation of "widespread abuse of procedures and practice relating to grievances and complaints of bullying and harassment". My enquiry was specifically in relation to bullying and harassment but, wilfully or inadvertently, was attached to unrelated enquiries about "corruption", pension funding and financial mismanagement. These are extracts of correspondence sent to me during the course of my enquiry - an answer to which I am still waiting.

24 February 2004 "Enquiries are being made about this matter" Ronnie Ryan, Private Secretary

27 July 2004 "On foot of various correspondence on the matter I recently requested a comprehensive report from the Higher Education Authority which is now to hand. On the basis of this report and all the available supporting documentation, and having regard to the provisions of the Universities Act, I am satisfied that there is no basis for the appointment of a visitor to UCC" Mr Noel Dempsey T.D., Minister for Education and Science.

7 September 2004 FoI fee of 15 euro required

7 October 2004 "I am enclosing for your information a schedule of the documentation relevant to your request. I am however, refusing access to this documentation under Section 21 of the FOI Act, on the grounds that their release could have a significant, adverse effect on the performance by a public body of any of its functions and/or disclose positions taken, or to be taken, or plans, procedures, criteria or instructions used ot followed, or to be used or followed, for the purposes of any negotiation carried on or being, or to be carried out on by or on behalf of the Government or a public body." Marian White, Higher Education (Policy, Research and SCience), Department of Education and Science.

SCHEDULE
16/07/2004 - To: Mr Kevin McCarthy, Department of Education - From: Mr Tom Boland, Higher Education Authority - Subject: Report re Visitor
19/07/2004 - To: Minister Dempsey - From: Kevin McCarthy - Subject: Note re Appointment of Visitor

29 October 2004 FoI internal review fee of 75 euro required

29 November 2004 "I have examined all the papers afresh, and I wish to confirm decision of Ms. White to refuse access to the records requested under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 1997. In addition to this, I also confirm that access to the records is refused under Sections 27 and 28 of the same Act." Ian McKenna, Assistant Principal, Higher Education (Policy, Research and Science), Department of Education and Science.

6 December 2004 "in relation to your request for access to records held by the Department of Education and Science. This matter is being examined and we will be in touch in the near future." Office of the Information Commissioner.

22 December 2004 Information Commissioner fee of 150 euro required.

15 February 2005 "In the context of a re-examination of your file, I have formed the opinion that your correspondence was incorrectly associated with other requests pertaining to the appointment of a Visitor to UCC. The report of the Higher Education Authority referred to in the letter investigated other issues than those referred to by your goodself. While it is correct to state that this report did not contain any reference to your specific case, the fact remains that the allegations made by you were not investigated.
"I have now referred your papers to the Higher Education Authority, and requested their advice in the matter. As soon as I have a reponse, I will revert to you.
"I would like to apologise for any confusion or inconvenience caused." Ian McKenna, Assistant Principal, Higher Education (Policy, Research and Science), Department of Education and Science.

31 May 2005 "I have recently asked the HEA for an update on your request, and as soon as this is forthcoming, I will revert to you." Ian McKenna, Assistant Principal, Higher Education (Policy, Research and Science), Department of Education and Science.

8 September 2005 "I have been in correspondence with the Higher Education Authority on your case, and they have indicated that they should be coming back to me shortly.
"As soon as this material is available, I will be in touch with you again." Ian McKenna, Assistant Principal, Higher Education (Policy, Research and Science), Department of Education and Science.

27 October 2005 "I am to refer to previous correspondence regarding your request to appoint a visitor, and I am to state that the Higher Education Authority has submitted a report on the matter.
"Their report is being considered at the moment, and I shall come back to you as soon as possible. I anticipate that this will be towards the end of November 2005." Ian McKenna, Assistant Principal, Higher Education (Policy, Research and Science), Department of Education and Science.

12 December 2005 "your request for records relating to the Minister's decision not to address your complaints of bullying and harassment at Univrsity College Cork.
"The Department [of Education] has now confirmed to this Office that the following is a correct description of how it dealt with your correspondence:
"You wrote to the Minister in February 2004 requesting that he appoint a visitor to UCC in connection with your allegations of harassment and bullying. Your request was inappropriately associated with other representations which were calling for the appointment of a visitor to UCC for different reasons, viz. in connection with (i) an ammendment to UCC pension statute and (ii) allegations of financial misconduct. The Minister requested the HEA to advise him of the appropriateness of appointing a visitor in the light of the allegations made in connection with (i) and (ii) above. Based on the advice in the report prepared by the HEA, the Minister declined to appoint a visitor and all those who sought such an appointment, including yourself, were advised accordingly." Stephen Rafferty, Investigator, Office of the Information Commissioner.

25 January 2006 "It is regrettable that the Department's response to your original letter of February 2004 was inaccurate and that it resulted, understandably, in you believeing that certain records existed. It is reasonable to assume that the Department should have identified this error in responding to your FOI request. In a separate letter I have drawn the Department's attention to the need to ensure that this does not occur again in relation to the administration of the provisions of the FOI Act." Séan Garvey, Senior Investigator, Office of the Information Commissioner.

So where is the HEA report from Tom Boland to Kevin McCarthy dated 16 July 2004 and listed in my FoI schedule of 7 October 2004, referred to on several subsequent occasions both verbally and in writing, most specifically by Stephen Rafferty, Office of the Information Commissioner, on 12 December 2005? Where is the entirely separate report by the HEA into bullying and harassment that was sent to Ian McKenna between 8 September and 27 October 2005?

Of course this is not the only departure from reality employed by President Wrixon or anonymous spokespeople in UCC. The Irish Times on 30 September 2006 stated that The UCC spokesman strongly rejected any suggestions that the university was "bullish" in its approach to disputes and inviting legal action, but he did confirm that the university had cancelled its insurance against litigation in 2004 after assessing the cost implications.

The claim that UCC cancelled its policy is contrary to evidence given by President Wrixon to the Public Accounts Committee in December 2005 stating that the Irish Public Bodies Mutual Insurances Ltd refused further cover to the University:

Deputy Burton: What amount is involved? If there were significantly high numbers of such cases, would they affect subsequent attempts to take out insurance for legal cases?
Professor Wrixon: Insurance cover is no longer available to us.
Deputy Burton: Why has such cover been refused? Was it because the level of claims against the university was deemed to be high?
Professor Wrixon: Yes.
http://debates.oireachtas.ie/DDebate.aspx?F=ACC20051201...age=3

According to Professor Clarke, the acknowledged legal costs of actions that involved UCC between 2000 and 2005 amounted to 3.338 million euro. It is hard to reconcile this with Professor Wrixon's testimony to the Public Accounts Committee that legal costs were 125 thousand euro per year.

What other statements made by President Wrixon and other spokespeople are misleading?

author by Stuartpublication date Sun Oct 22, 2006 18:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No investigation was ever conducted by the HEA

An array of allegations about "corruption" and bullying at University College Cork have been aired recently. Gerry Wrixon, President of UCC, has claimed that these allegations have been made before, fully investigated and discounted to the satisfaction of UCC's Governing Body, the Higher Education Authority and the Department for Education and Science. President Wrixon has also said that "he would not highlight all the 'factual errors' in Prof Clarke's letter".

It is, however, not true that these allegations have been investigated. Although no official has troubled to correct the public misperception that these allegations have been shown to be unfounded, the head of the HEA has privately confirmed this to be the case. Other statements emanating from UCC may be equally unsound.

Among the allegations made by Prof Clarke are:

* Corruption in making appointments;
* Breaches of the law, of university statutes and regulations.
* Intimidation and bullying of staff.
* Concerns about the use of public monies and the university’s “unsustainable” debts.
* A general failure of governance.


15/09/2006: Professor calls for inquiry into UCC affairs http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/09/15/story13...2.asp
23/09/2006: Professor’s charges merit serious consideration http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/09/23/story14...4.asp
29/09/2006: Ex-UCC president calls for mismanagement claim probe http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/09/29/story14...1.asp
03/10/2006: UCC mismanagement claims rejected http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/03/story14...9.asp
10/10/2006: Funding fears over UCC construction http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/10/story15...5.asp
14/10/2006: Hanafin to ‘clear up’ UCC debt allegations http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/14/story15...3.asp
17/10/2006: No set standard for university investigation http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/18/story16...8.asp
20/10/2006: Inquiry into UCC mismanagement claims expected http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/20/story16...2.asp
21/10/2006: Wave of corporate bullying sweeps universities http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2006/10/21/story16...2.asp
UPDATED HISTORY: http://www.geocities.com/stuartdneilson/UCC_Reference.htm

The claim has been widely disseminated that allegations of "corruption" and bullying at University College Cork have been examined and discounted by the Governing Body, the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education and Science. This claim has been promulgated by unnamed spokespeople within UCC, from the HEA and in the Education Minister's office.

For instance:

"A department [of Education] statement said that many of the allegations
made by Prof Des Clarke of financial mismanagement at UCC had been made
before and it referred them to the HEA which in turn referred them to the
UCC's governing body, which had found them to be groundless."

[The Irish Times, 30 September 2006]

Yet now it is apparent that no such inquiry was ever undertaken by any of the Governing Body, the HEA or the Department of Education.

The HEA has previously examined some of these allegations but acknowledged
to Prof Clarke it had never conducted an inquiry in relation to them.

“I can confirm that the HEA has not carried out an inquiry into the
allegations and any reports to the contrary are incorrect,” HEA chief
executive Tom Boland wrote in an email to Prof Clarke a fortnight ago.

The Department of Education and UCC management have said recently that the
HEA has previously found no merit in the allegations.

[The Irish Examiner, 20 October 2006]

It is, in fact, one of Professor Clarke's contentions that the Governing Body of UCC had not actually seen or addressed the allegations passed to them, specifically:

"15. Statute I, Ch. iv provides that correspondence on behalf of the
University is conducted under the direction of the President. Custom
and practice, and the statutes that pertain to the post of the former
Secretary & Bursar, required Mr. Kelleher to write officially on behalf
of the GB to, for example, the HEA. When Rev. McDonagh and/or Professor
Hyland [who since February 2004 was not even a member of the GB] met with
the HEA executive and wrote to the HEA on behalf of the GB, did they act
under your direction [which would seem like an obvious conflict of
interest], or did they write without proper authorization, thereby
subverting the statutory role of the Secretary to the GB?"

[Professor Clarke, 28 Sept 2006]

At best there has been persistent, widespread and misleading incompetence. Given the consistency of the deception over a number of years and across organisations (UCC, the HEA and the DoES), does this deception pass from the grey area of sophistry and into deliberate dishonesty and professional misconduct on the part of any of these individuals?

Precisely which individuals within UCC, the HEA and the Department of Education have put about the false claim that the allegations have been investigated? Why has no official publicly corrected the false perception that an investigation has been conducted?

The history of this ghostly HEA "report" into UCC's affairs is interesting. I wrote to Minister for Education and Science Noel Dempsey on 5 February 2004 asking for an investigation of "widespread abuse of procedures and practice relating to grievances and complaints of bullying and harassment". My enquiry was specifically in relation to bullying and harassment but, wilfully or inadvertently, was attached to unrelated enquiries about "corruption", pension funding and financial mismanagement. These are extracts of correspondence sent to me during the course of my enquiry - an answer to which I am still waiting.


24 February 2004 "Enquiries are being made about this matter" Ronnie Ryan, Private Secretary

27 July 2004 "On foot of various correspondence on the matter I recently requested a comprehensive report from the Higher Education Authority which is now to hand. On the basis of this report and all the available supporting documentation, and having regard to the provisions of the Universities Act, I am satisfied that there is no basis for the appointment of a visitor to UCC" Mr Noel Dempsey T.D., Minister for Education and Science.

7 September 2004 FoI fee of 15 euro required

7 October 2004 "I am enclosing for your information a schedule of the documentation relevant to your request. I am however, refusing access to this documentation under Section 21 of the FOI Act, on the grounds that their release could have a significant, adverse effect on the performance by a public body of any of its functions and/or disclose positions taken, or to be taken, or plans, procedures, criteria or instructions used ot followed, or to be used or followed, for the purposes of any negotiation carried on or being, or to be carried out on by or on behalf of the Government or a public body." Marian White, Higher Education (Policy, Research and SCience), Department of Education and Science.

SCHEDULE
16/07/2004 - To: Mr Kevin McCarthy, Department of Education - From: Mr Tom Boland, Higher Education Authority - Subject: Report re Visitor
19/07/2004 - To: Minister Dempsey - From: Kevin McCarthy - Subject: Note re Appointment of Visitor

29 October 2004 FoI internal review fee of 75 euro required

29 November 2004 "I have examined all the papers afresh, and I wish to confirm decision of Ms. White to refuse access to the records requested under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 1997. In addition to this, I also confirm that access to the records is refused under Sections 27 and 28 of the same Act." Ian McKenna, Assistant Principal, Higher Education (Policy, Research and Science), Department of Education and Science.

6 December 2004 "in relation to your request for access to records held by the Department of Education and Science. This matter is being examined and we will be in touch in the near future." Office of the Information Commissioner.

22 December 2004 Information Commissioner fee of 150 euro required.

15 February 2005 "In the context of a re-examination of your file, I have formed the opinion that your correspondence was incorrectly associated with other requests pertaining to the appointment of a Visitor to UCC. The report of the Higher Education Authority referred to in the letter investigated other issues than those referred to by your goodself. While it is correct to state that this report did not contain any reference to your specific case, the fact remains that the allegations made by you were not investigated.
"I have now referred your papers to the Higher Education Authority, and requested their advice in the matter. As soon as I have a reponse, I will revert to you.
"I would like to apologise for any confusion or inconvenience caused."
Ian McKenna, Assistant Principal, Higher Education (Policy, Research and Science), Department of Education and Science.

31 May 2005 "I have recently asked the HEA for an update on your request, and as soon as this is forthcoming, I will revert to you." Ian McKenna, Assistant Principal, Higher Education (Policy, Research and Science), Department of Education and Science.

8 September 2005 "I have been in correspondence with the Higher Education Authority on your case, and they have indicated that they should be coming back to me shortly.
"As soon as this material is available, I will be in touch with you again."
Ian McKenna, Assistant Principal, Higher Education (Policy, Research and Science), Department of Education and Science.

27 October 2005 "I am to refer to previous correspondence regarding your request to appoint a visitor, and I am to state that the Higher Education Authority has submitted a report on the matter.
"Their report is being considered at the moment, and I shall come back to you as soon as possible. I anticipate that this will be towards the end of November 2005."
Ian McKenna, Assistant Principal, Higher Education (Policy, Research and Science), Department of Education and Science.

12 December 2005 "your request for records relating to the Minister's decision not to address your complaints of bullying and harassment at Univrsity College Cork.
"The Department [of Education] has now confirmed to this Office that the following is a correct description of how it dealt with your correspondence:
"You wrote to the Minister in February 2004 requesting that he appoint a visitor to UCC in connection with your allegations of harassment and bullying. Your request was inappropriately associated with other representations which were calling for the appointment of a visitor to UCC for different reasons, viz. in connection with (i) an ammendment to UCC pension statute and (ii) allegations of financial misconduct. The Minister requested the HEA to advise him of the appropriateness of appointing a visitor in the light of the allegations made in connection with (i) and (ii) above. Based on the advice in the report prepared by the HEA, the Minister declined to appoint a visitor and all those who sought such an appointment, including yourself, were advised accordingly."
Stephen Rafferty, Investigator, Office of the Information Commissioner.

25 January 2006 "It is regrettable that the Department's response to your original letter of February 2004 was inaccurate and that it resulted, understandably, in you believeing that certain records existed. It is reasonable to assume that the Department should have identified this error in responding to your FOI request. In a separate letter I have drawn the Department's attention to the need to ensure that this does not occur again in relation to the administration of the provisions of the FOI Act." Séan Garvey, Senior Investigator, Office of the Information Commissioner.

21 February 2006 "The report from the HEA is still being considered by the Department and I am therefore unable to release it. The Department will be in contact with Dr. Neilson once the report has been fully considered." Tim Cullinane, Department of Education and Science.


So where is the HEA report from Tom Boland to Kevin McCarthy dated 16 July 2004 and listed in my FoI schedule of 7 October 2004, referred to on several subsequent occasions both verbally and in writing, most specifically by Stephen Rafferty, Office of the Information Commissioner, on 12 December 2005? Where is the entirely separate report by the HEA into bullying and harassment that was sent to Ian McKenna between 8 September and 27 October 2005?

Of course this is not the only departure from reality employed by President Wrixon or anonymous spokespeople in UCC. The Irish Times on 30 September 2006 stated that The UCC spokesman strongly rejected any suggestions that the university was "bullish" in its approach to disputes and inviting legal action, but he did confirm that the university had cancelled its insurance against litigation in 2004 after assessing the cost implications.

The claim that UCC cancelled its policy is contrary to evidence given by President Wrixon to the Public Accounts Committee in December 2005 stating that the Irish Public Bodies Mutual Insurances Ltd refused further cover to the University:

Deputy Burton: What amount is involved? If there were significantly high numbers of such cases, would they affect subsequent attempts to take out insurance for legal cases?
Professor Wrixon: Insurance cover is no longer available to us.
Deputy Burton: Why has such cover been refused? Was it because the level of claims against the university was deemed to be high?
Professor Wrixon: Yes.
http://debates.oireachtas.ie/DDebate.aspx?F=ACC20051201...age=3


According to Professor Clarke, the acknowledged legal costs of actions that involved UCC between 2000 and 2005 amounted to 3.338 million euro. It is hard to reconcile this with Professor Wrixon's testimony to the Public Accounts Committee that legal costs were 125 thousand euro per year.

What other statements made by President Wrixon and other spokespeople are misleading?

author by Stuartpublication date Thu Nov 02, 2006 20:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Higher Education Authority and some elements of UCC's governing body have decided to allow UCC to select "an external and independent" reviewer of allegations made against the governing body, and of the governing body's conduct in handling those allegations. Other elements of the governing body have already denounced the review as an inadequate response. Quite how independence and impartiality will be assured to the satisfaction of everyone has yet to be seen.

The announcement was marred somewhat by including tributes to the administration, such as "The governing body welcomes the constructive approach of the HEA and in particular the authority's recognition of the strong performance of the university under the leadership of president Wrixon," the Chairman of the Governing Body said. UCC's student population has increased from 12,000 to 16,000 in eight years, largely through new undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, added the statement.

The review certainly "provides an opportunity to bring closure to these matters" and "reassure Ms Hanafin, the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the university community at UCC and the wider community that the governing body has discharged, and is continuing to discharge, its functions appropriately". Let's hope they don't waste the opportunity.

02/11/2006: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2006/1102/1162....html - UCC hopes review will end controversy
01/11/2006: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2006/1101/1162....html - UCC governance inquiry launched
31/10/2006: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/education/2006/1031/11....html - Embattled UCC president deserves bouquets not brickbats, by president emeritus Ed Walsh of the University of Limerick
31/10/2006: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/education/2006/1031/11....html - Teacher's Pet - inside candidates stand no chance to succeed president

http://bb.ucc.ie/viewtopic.php?t=9114&start=60 - recent FUCC chat

Related Link: http://www.geocities.com/stuartdneilson/UCC_Reference.htm
author by Stuartpublication date Sun Nov 12, 2006 15:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The love-in between the Irish Times and UCC has provoked some fury over the right to reply to accusations within the rambling homily to Gerard Wrixon by the esteemed President Emeritus Professor Edward Walsh of the University of Limerick (31/10/2006 and see also his earlier homage of 13/09/2004, "University reform now critical for economy").

Mortar board or mortar fire?
Furious at the Walsh article, it is believed that Dr Mortell rang up the editor's office demanding a full right of reply. It appears he met initial resistance from senior figures and was told at best he could write a letter to the editor. However, Dr Mortell insisted on a similar slot to answer Dr Walsh's charges.

http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=...14886

author by Cynicpublication date Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is a fascination to see the Irish Times John Downes detail 31 claims of bullying and humiliation against the head (Paul O'Sullivan) of the Faculty of Business at Dublin Institute of Technology. He describes not only the failed investigation process, but lists all the witnesses and protaganists too. And then the Irish Times prints a letter from three of O'Sullivan's mates in Business claiming to be "on behalf" of more than 50 other staff.

Some personal animus is surely at play. The Irish Times has pointedly omitted references to "bullying" from almost all coverage of the mess at University College Cork and written that "accusations of bullying are readily thrown around" and are "invariably a subjective judgment". Most pointed of all is the Irish Times' complete omission of accusations of bullying against UCC's head that have been printed everywhere else.

What has Paul O'Sullivan done to the Irish Times to deserve such exposure? Or what has he NOT done for the Irish Times?

author by Cynicpublication date Mon May 21, 2007 15:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The personal animus at DIT has been "settled", if such is possible. In two separate investigations, by the Rights Commissioner and by DIT management, the dirtector of the business faculty, Mr Paul O'Sullivan, was found to have bullied staff. Even this finding (upholding 6 out of 31 allegations made by Dr James Urquhart) was deemed unacceptably lax by the Teachers' Union of Ireland.

Now the DIT is handing Dr Urquhart a QUARTER OF A MILLION EURO to resign, to pretend it never happened, to withdraw his complaint and to set aside the two judgments that Mr O'Sullivan is a bully. One supposes that substantial legal costs incurred by both Mr O'Sullivan and Dr Urquhart are also coming from the DIT purse.

Was there or was there not bullying at DIT? Whose money is being expended on covering up the truth? Will students and other staff suffer budget cuts? Will Mr O'Sullivan now freely victimise others who haven't secured such a settlement? The DIT has refused to comment, citing "confidentiality".

Related Link: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2007/0521/1179498486830.html
author by Sascha Harrispublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 16:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A humorous but alas very apt treatment of the relation between endemic bullying in third level and the dumbing down caused by the business nonsense can be found at http://www.aiu.name.

author by Miriam Cottonpublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 18:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sascha - its not obvious what the link takes you to. There is a staff only area which refers to the latest AIU whistleblowing policy - is that what you are directing us to? If so, we can't get in. Could you copy relevant extracts?

author by Sascha Harrispublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 18:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dear Miriam,

Just click any of the boxes below on the image field, e.g. "Students", "Staff", "Faculties" etc. It works for me, unless I have a different browser. Else try direct a link like http://www.aiu.name/whistleblowing.html and click other buttons from there.

All the best,
Sascha

author by Miriampublication date Wed Jun 20, 2007 20:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Great fun - thanks for that. Poor old gerbils, though.

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