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University of Limerick racism case is thrown out

A STUDENT has failed in a bid to overturn his expulsion from UL after the Equality Tribunal ruled his claims of racial discrimination were baseless.

A STUDENT has failed in a bid to overturn his expulsion from UL after the Equality Tribunal ruled his claims of racial discrimination were baseless.

College authorities had urged the tribunal not to hear Pierce Parker’s case, which they described as “a diatribe”, “vexatious and frivolous”.

Mr Parker, an Asian-American postgraduate student, had made several internal complaints of racial discrimination against fellow students and others between 2009 and 2011 - all of which were dismissed.

He himself became subject of disciplinary proceedings over alleged bullying in February 2012 and was expelled in April of that year for breaching UL’s Code of Conduct.

It was Mr Parker’s case to the tribunal that his alleged misconduct had not merited so grave a sanction and was “retribution for his speaking up against the distressing state of racism” on campus. He complained of “double standards” at UL where he was being expelled and no sanction had been faced by any of the students he had accused of racism.

UL officers responded that Mr Parker’s case had come before a disciplinary committee “on the basis of his own actions alone”.

Equality officer Conor Stokes ruled he had to first establish certain facts to see whether there was a prima facie case to answer.

From consideration of written submissions and oral evidence, he was satisfied that Mr Parker’s housemates and members of staff at UL had made separate complaints of intimidation against him.

Mr Stokes was also satisfied that Mr Parker had referred to a student as a “sex tourist” in a Facebook posting and failed to remove it when asked.

Mr Parker argued the remark was a caption in a private photo album, related to an acquaintance of his and could not possibly be interpreted as malicious. He stated that UL officials had hacked into his Facebook account in 2008 at a time when Facebook’s privacy settings were more relaxed in an effort to find incriminating evidence for disciplinary action against him. UL rejected this at the tribunal.

Mr Stokes went on to state: “Following an incident where a number of students were pelted with eggs from a passing car, the complainant took it upon himself to send out a university-wide email denouncing the incident and calling the university’s commitment to combating racism into question,” Mr Stokes stated.

And Mr Parker had sent out emails with “derogatory comments regarding several individuals including several females who had complained about his behaviour”.

Mr Parker’s said UL’s decision to withdraw his outgoing e-mail function had been done “peremptorily” and he called for its immediate reinstatement.

But college authorities argued the action had been taken over “concerns relating to the potentially defamatory nature of statements made by the complainant by email”.

One complaint of discrimination made to the university advocate concerned a private housing matter over which that officer had no jurisdiction.

On another occasion, Mr Parker had complained over an incident that occurred shortly after the Japanese tsunami in which a fellow student had asked him whether he had any relatives in Japan.

The university advocate had determined in that case that the question did not amount to racism.

In dismissing Mr Parker’s claim, Mr Stokes said “mere speculation or assertions, unsupported by evidence, cannot be elevated to a factual basis upon which an inference of discrimination can be drawn”.

Mr Parker had been treated no differently to the three other students - all white - who had been expelled in the previous two years. All four had been allowed to complete their studies as long as they stayed off campus and not use UL facilities.

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