NUI Galway’s solicitors have written to Automattic Inc., the company that owns WordPress.com, threatening the company with legal proceedings for defamation. They also wrote to the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign, using our e-mail address, threatening the same.
In both letters, they cite content from the piece we posted on 9th May titled ‘Continued delay to the court cases of the five women is not in NUI Galway’s interest’ (https://michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/continuing-delay-to-the-court-cases-of-the-five-women-is-not-in-nui-galways-interest/).
Automattic Inc. told us they are not going to take down our blog as we have not infringed on their terms of service. But still, this is a deeply sinister move on the part of NUI Galway, one that is in line with the recent pressure that, we have been told, they have put on local reporters not to report our activities. It is also typical of the kind of bullying we were highlighting in the piece they challenge.
The obvious question that arises is: Why are they doing all this and why now? The campaign has been running for eighteen months without anything like this from NUI Galway. We have been selling and promoting T-shirts that lampoon the management and the President, criticising them over and again on this Web page and reporting speeches Micheline has made about them, and there has been lots of media coverage. Through all that, there hasn’t been a squeak out of management, but now they are reportedly leaning on the press and have instructed their solicitors to write a letter that cites these five statements as defamatory:
- ”from what we hear, prevention and delay is a standard strategy for NUI Galway management to court cases arising out of staff grievances”;
- “doing the same thing with the five women gives the lie to the President’s statement that the reason he could not simply promote them is that there was no legal basis for their promotion”;
- “…the perception of NUI Galway as misogynist … “;
- “…six months ago, the campaign was sent proof of deliberate interference by management in the promotions of 2008/9 “; and
- “…there is a whistle-blower from senior NUI Galway management who, it is also reported, details fifteen instances of promotion malpractice by NUI Galway”.
The answer, we feel, is in this list. The first three statements are not new; we had already reported Micheline as saying the same, and we have published far worse. Additionally, the whistle-blower mentioned in the last statement has already been mentioned in several news outlets, as we have reported. Consequently, those statements can’t be the real reason for the letter. Thus, that leaves only the statement that we have been sent proof of deliberate interference by management in the promotions of 2008/9. That point has never been mentioned before. So we can only conclude that that must be why they are trying to shut this Web page down and stop the press from reporting our activities.
Management knows what we were sent. We know that because one of them inadvertently told someone they had also received a copy. So why are they panicking like this? Their actions are like a Third World despot who hasn’t caught on yet to how the modern world of the Web and social media works and who doesn’t realise that the Internet can’t be silenced by their usual threats and bullying. So what is it they so desperately don’t want you to know?
The campaign has learnt a lot since it started. Individuals have contacted us, usually via our e-mail address, and shared instances of NUI Galway management interfering with the promotion process and/or bullying. Then there was the piece we were sent for publishing mentioned in the statement which included minutes of university meetings and memos to prove what was asserted. This campaign, however, was set up only to achieve Micheline’s three conditions. It is not our role to force management to resign by exposing their wrongdoing, at least not for its own sake. The way for NUI Galway’s management to shut us up is not through threats but to simply put right the past injustices and promote the five women.
Until they do that, the campaign will continue. And now that NUI Galway’s solicitors have sent threatening letters, we feel we should reconsider our policy and reveal some of the things we know. With bullying, you need to demonstrate to the bully that it will not work. We want them to realise that the more they do it to us, then the more we will reveal. The details we post cannot include any information that Micheline found out from her Equality Tribunal case, or from the court cases now being undertaken by the five – neither of which the campaign is privy to. But there is a lot else we could choose to tell you. We intend to release some of this information on this Website, a few bits at a time from everything we have learnt. We do not expect the site to be shut down because of this – but should it be, we will simply continue elsewhere.
To get our posts as soon as they are uploaded, sign up to the Web page by clicking on the small icon with ‘follow’ in the bottom right of this page. If this site should disappear, you can simply write to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where to go next, or go to the Facebook page run by other supporters of the campaign (www.facebook.com/supportformich). You can also use the e-mail address to send us anything which you know management would not like revealed, or that might help the court cases. We can then pass it on but we will never reveal our sources. Watch this space to see what happens next!
Finally, we can’t resist finishing by sharing with you one last aspect of the solicitors’ letters that points again to the surprisingly old-world thinking of a management which has just boasted with their ‘Bricks and Clicks’ European conference about how savvy NUI Galway is about the modern Internet. When prosecuting someone for defamation, to ensure your case is strong you should inform them of the alleged defamation within ten days of finding it out yourself. Our post went up on the 9th of May – we know they monitor this Web page – and the solicitor’s letter is dated the 19th of May, so that all seems OK. However, the letter arrived in our in-box at 16.09 on the 20th May. With modern e-mails, you can’t put the wrong date on your letter’s heading and blame the Postal Service for its delay. If it arrived with us on the 20th, it was sent on the 20th! We are not lawyers, so we don’t know how important that mistake is. But we are certain that you cannot prosecute someone for defamation if everything they have said is true – as Oscar Wilde famously found out. So their solicitor’s letter is just bullying which is meant to scare us.
A recent image which encapsulates everything for us was Jim Browne, our ‘glorious President’, giving his boast-filled speech about NUI Galway and modern technology at the Bricks and Clicks conference with a ‘modern’ conference Twitter feed running beside him. It contained all the tweets of complaint, forwarded by the Students’ Union, about management taking down our Secret Cartoonist exhibition during the previous night for the entire audience of European university management to read. To us, NUI Galway management now feels like some tin pot regime, somehow just hanging on, but about to be swept away by the tide of change. All bluster and bullying but really with little power anymore. We append their solicitor’s letter to the campaign. Note how the second page still has the correct date of 20th May 2016. You couldn’t make it up!
2. Write to the President and the Governing Body. Complain about the bullying and tell them to promote the five instead. https://michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com/write-to-the-university/