NUI Galway has responded to the recent damaging revelations made by Dr. Sheehy Skeffington by sending a threatening letter which promised to take “any appropriate action” to ensure that no further personal information of University staff is revealed by the retired lecturer. This follows the publication of a table in the email sent by Micheline to all staff which showed the stark reality of gender discrimination at the university by revealing information surrounding the promotions in the 2009 round. Despite the information already being available through the university’s own website to all staff, a senior member of the university management felt it necessary to warn Dr. Sheehy Skeffington that she had misused the university emailing system, revealed personal information about staff and that she should immediately destroy any further personal information that she might have in her possession or face consequences.
A copy of the letter seen by the campaign suggests the university management is worried about further damaging revelations which have yet to emerge.
“Please confirm…you have destroyed all personal data relating to other individuals and that you will no longer reference personal data relating to other employees of the University in future. Please note that if we do not receive these assurances from you, the University will have no alternative but to consider its position and may take any appropriate action…”
In the email sent by Dr. Sheehy Skeffington (read it here) she criticised the ‘spin’ in the university’s gender equality strategy and outlined several ways which information had been hidden or misrepresented. She also again warned that there were damaging facts revealed in her Equality Tribunal which have not yet been published. These facts concern the 2008/9 round of promotions to senior lecturer and will be part of the case her five female colleagues will be taking to the high court. The university responded by instructing staff who received Dr. Sheehy Skeffington’s email to delete it immediately and subsequently sent its own email for a second time. The severity of the university’s response gives the impression that the management may be nervous that facts will emerge which will point at an abuse of the promotion system by the management itself. It appears that the aim is to bully Dr Sheehy Skeffington and her five colleagues into remaining silent regarding any further information they have in their possession.
Our version of the table has the names of the male academics and their departments removed.
(The table contains only one piece of information that is not available to staff through the university website. That is the ranking of Dr. Sheehy Skeffington and her five colleagues by the interview board. Permission was obtained to use this information. The rest is available either in Academic Council minutes, and/or on the personal sites for each of the individuals and can be accessed easily by the general public)
The university has been heavily criticised for the amount of money that it spends on litigation and legal fees and now seems to be prepared to take legal steps to silence Dr. Sheehy Skeffington in order to prevent any further damaging information reaching the public domain. Many see similarities here with the tactics adopted in fighting Mary Dempsey who took a case to the equality tribunal and won, and which is currently under appeal by the university. While the university continues to put forward an image of a caring considerate employer, the reality for many female employees is quite different. The University has spent large amounts on legal fees and PR while being accused of bullying employees in private.
In a further embarrassment many newspapers picked up on the accusation of spin (read articles here) and while the new gender equality website quotes support from Minister Jan O’Sullivan. The minister herself has recently made comments calling for more transparency in the set up of the university’s task force “it is important that this taskforce has the confidence of both the student body and the staff… I want to repeat my view that having the broadest possible support for the taskforce at the outset is central to its important work, and I would urge NUIG to ensure that every effort is made to achieve that goal.”
In what has been a disastrous few months for the university’s image it seems that they are eager to prevent any further damaging information emerging.