'Person E': Lecturer gets legal advice following University of Limerick report

Maria Flannery

Reporter:

Maria Flannery

Person E is receiving legal counsel after the recent publishing of the report into UL

Person E is receiving legal counsel after the recent publishing of the report into UL

ONE of the people named in the recent Higher Education Authority report into controversies at the University of Limerick is “awaiting legal advice” following the report’s release this November 8.

Person E is receiving legal counsel, after the former lecturer’s case was raised and UL’s HR conduct heavily criticised by Dr Richard Thorn in the report.

Speaking to the Limerick Leader, Person E said: “I welcome the Thorn report and welcome the change of tone in UL’s communication.”

In a letter to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) earlier this year, former UL president Dr Don Barry stated that the lecturer was accused of “inappropriate touching”, after a prior investigation in UL had not come up with any evidence of such.

“The review is of the view that the phrasing of the paragraph in the then President’s letter to the PAC, of 18 April 2017, did not properly describe the circumstances of the case and had the effect of leading the reader to the impression that Person E had had his contract terminated for matters other than those in the findings of the investigation,” stated the Thorn report.

In early December 2013, written complaints were received from three students regarding Person E’s teaching and behaviour, among which were the lecturer’s references to the book Fifty Shades of Grey and a well-known quote by Winston Churchill, “a good speech should be like a woman’s skirt”.

The former lecturer acknowledged, in the recent report, that he had made inappropriate remarks.

After the notice signalling the beginning of an investigation in late 2013, Person E was “in a state of distress” and receiving counselling. The university then moved toward the disciplinary process for ‘gross misconduct’, a category which includes assault, theft and wilful damage. This was despite the fact that the accusations amounted to ‘mild’ and ‘moderate bullying’.

To move from the findings to a gross misconduct hearing, “without exploring alternative ways to deal with Person E”, was “unduly severe”, the report found.

In November of 2014, Person E called to the office of a member of the disciplinary panel, looking for advice about whether to challenge UL or accept a severance offer.

He was subsequently suspended on full pay. In December, a severance agreement was reached and Person E’s employment was terminated.

The HEA document reported that while Person E’s approach of a member of the disciplinary panel was inappropriate, it “should be considered” in light of the “extreme pressure” the lecturer was under.