In our post on this web site of May 31st in response to the NUI Galway’s legal threats (University tries to shut down this Web page!) we said we would publish a few small bites from the information we have found out or been sent. This is the first of those bites.
The Equality Tribunal Ruling in favour of Dr Sheehy Skeffington refers to a male candidate who was ineligible even to apply but who was promoted over Dr Sheehy Skeffington, and that NUI Galway (‘the respondent’) had admitted that he was ‘technically ineligible’. NUI Galway explained that this had come about through an ‘administrative error’ because ‘the Associate Secretary in charge of running the competition sent a memorandum to a member of his staff stating that all candidates are eligible who would reach the top of the scale on 1st January 2009 (rather than the closing date of 31st October 2008 as stated in the Circular)’. But was this really an administrative error? This is a valid question as it has been reported that a whistle blower in NUI Galway has recently sent fifteen instances of appointment and promotion malpractice to the Higher Education Authority.
Some time ago the campaign was given the actual memo in question, along with other administrative material relevant to this and other matters mentioned in the ruling. Here is the memo:
The Associate Secretary who sent this memo is now retired. In 2008 he had been in post for a long time, long predating the recently appointed President, Jim Browne. He was a man known for his integrity and fairness. As Associate Secretary he was responsible for the administration of the promotion round in question, thus he also sent out the previous circular announcing the promotion round, with the correct date.
Here is the circular:
Note that there is less than six weeks between the dates on which the two documents were sent out. It seems surprising to us that someone of the experience of the Associate Secretary should forget the correct eligibility date in such a short time. Also surprising is the wording of the memo. According to the Equality Tribunal ruling NUI Galway explained that the Associate Secretary sent a memorandum to a member of his staff stating that all candidates are eligible who would reach the top of the scale on 1st January 2009. But while the circular mentions eligibility the memo does not, instead it reads as if the writer is being very careful to avoid mentioning eligibility.
The Associate Secretary was also responsible for the application forms filled in by each candidate. His name and office is at the end of the form as where to send it when completed. At the start of the form under ‘Eligibility’ it states the following: ‘A Lecturer who has attained the maximum point of the salary scale, above the bar, at the closing date for receipt of applications shall, provided he/she has been confirmed in post, be eligible to apply for promotion.’ As well as this making it even more surprising that the Associate Secretary could have made an error in the memo, it also makes it surprising that anyone ineligible should have applied. They would have received the circular making it clear they were not eligible and then filled in an application form which also made it very clear they were not eligible. Applying for promotion in the academic world is not something done lightly. It is a lot of work: assembling teaching portfolios, CVs, etc., and then, for this round, having to submit seventeen copies.
There is yet another surprising aspect of the memo. This is the date given in error, which was 1st January 2009, which was a Thursday. All examples of application processes on the NUI Galway web site have closing dates, and eligibility dates, at the month end, or at the week end. They are also never on a public holiday. While NUI Galway might choose to make an exception to this for a real date, 1st January 2009 is a surprising date for someone as experienced in these matters as the Associate Secretary to have chosen by mistake.
Then finally there is a surprising coincidence. The campaign knows the name of the ineligible candidate, which can be worked out from minutes of the Academic Council given to the campaign. From his web page it is possible to find out when he became eligible for promotion. It was 1st January 2009.
Other minutes we were given show how within two weeks of his promotion there was a specially convened meeting where the ineligible candidate would be expected to have, at least, the status of a Senior Lecturer. However, we do not want to reveal this information because it means also naming the individual concerned. We feel he has suffered enough.
We are also not accusing anyone in management of having ordered the Associate Secretary to change the date to allow the ineligible candidate to go forward for interview. We are simply pointing out some surprising aspects to the memo.