Simon Gaskell should reinstate John Allen to his post at Queen Mary. It is the right thing to do after the Employment Tribunal’s findings that John’s dismissal was unfair. The Tribunal found that removing the whole of the John’s pre-sabbatical work was such a serious breach of contract that, taken together with the failure to deal with his grievance in a reasonable time, it would have justified resignation and a constructive dismissal claim.
We read in the founding Charter that Queen Mary University of London (“the College”) exists to promote, for the public benefit, education, research and scholarship and to disseminate the results of such research. The College has power to do any lawful thing in furtherance of its objectives and is committed to the fair and equal treatment of every person. Academic staff has freedom within the law to question accepted ideas and to put forward controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges.
Against this background, I argue here that the College’s current Principal, Simon Gaskell is obliged to reinstate John Allen to his professorship of biochemistry in the College.
Jeremy Kilburn and Matthew Evans were appointed by Simon Gaskell to restructure the Science & Engineering Faculty and, within it, the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, respectively. Both managers have now resigned from their posts severing their affiliation with the College. John Allen and I alleged in a Letter to The Lancet that Matthew Evans failed to meet his own restructuring criteria by which others were declared at risk of redundancy. Sadly, I exhausted the domestic appellate process in my effort to show that the Letter to The Lancet met the legal definition of a protected disclosure: it is very difficult to challenge errors of fact made from an Employment Tribunal Judge, in this case the “findings” that the Faculty Panel was entitled to say that Matthew Evans met the restructuring criteria thresholds and that I had not asked Matthew Evans why he alleged he had done so (but there was written evidence to the contrary).
We now understand how Matthew Evans managed to evade scrutiny during the selection process. He simply scored himself on an anonymous data-sheet as having met the criteria and the Faculty Panel that applied the criteria only concerned itself with checking the data for individuals put at risk. Simon Gaskell never responded to my internal disclosure, HR said data were “private and confidential” and the College only had to ask whether Matthew Evans met the criteria after the scandal was publicly exposed. Jeremy Kilburn initially submitted to The Lancet that John Allen and I were factually wrong, but retracted his response after it had been accepted for publication. Matthew Evans later admitted that one of the publications he relied on to say that he had met the criteria was not eligible according to his metrics.
So even if John and I were not found to be whistleblowers in the complicated legal sense of the term, in practice the “fair and equal treatment” that ensued following the expression of our views led to “the loss of our jobs and privileges”. Matthew Evans removed the whole of John Allen’s pre-sabbatical work and Jeremy Kilburn failed to deal with John Allen’s grievance in a reasonable time. These actions were found to be serious breaches of contract, rendering John Allen’s dismissal unfair. Faced with the Tribunal findings the College’s commitment to the fair treatment of John Allen would be to correct its unlawful action. It follows that Simon Gaskell will be operating in direct contradiction to the College’s founding Charter if he does not reinstate John Allen. No one should be allowed to operate unchecked. Sir Nicholas Montagu?