Swindon College - Part 2

I am very worried by this case. I have worked at Bath and Swindon College, where Dr Butts is (or was) a govenor and Robert Rowe remains Director of HR. The fact that unsupported rumour could lead to an otherwise explempary academic career being ruined in what Justice Denyer castigated as a "slap-dash" manner remains a real threat as long as such make-weights hold power and their "might makes right".

It is out of the question for any of us to start a "Rowe Must Go" campaign. An iron gate would shut between us and management and it would amount to professional suicide. We already live in a climate of fear and cuts...more so now that the College will have to pay compensation for his incompetence.

An example of how he has affected us follows. When I joined Swindon College some years ago a collegue warned me out of the blue not to expect much from the HR Dept, and that advice has come to seem the prevailing feeling in the college ever since.

E.G. 'Focus' groups have been introduced by H.R. to solicit the opinions of teenaged students on how their lecturers are performing. Some of the latter may well hold petulant grudges after being told to turn off their mobile phones or Facebook and get to work, or at having been reprimanded for not completing projects on time, being late, etc. But this never comes into the equation as their comments are used to urgently confront staff with "concerns" as though these were "facts". With no objective assessment, staff are read the complaints and offered the chance to comment without having terms defined as in reasonable discourse. The assumption is that they should not need to defend themselves, as such trivial discord should never occur in a classroom. I was told recently, "You have to ask yourself, What would their parents say?" Well, most sentient parents know that their offspring may well say disparaging things about their tutors out of pique or simply because they can. Just as I can here, without the benefit of cross-questioning. However, these comments will not go onto Mr Rowe or Dr Butts's official record.

It follows that to some this "proceedure" may recall the MacCarthy trials as one is never told who said what in whatever context. The assumption is that staff are culpable if not actually guilty. Justification is that this system is beneficial to all concerned as "its good to talk", but it is actually dangerously absurd and demoralising to staff as the there is no question of an open forum. We are tainted by "loud whispers", and these - considering the slap-dash standards criticised by Justice Denyer - may well be used against us in the future by Mr Rowe and his minions.

As Voltaire said "Those who believe absurdities are likely to commit atrocities", and this is what one fears from Mr Rowe, who has a very unclear and emotive view of 'Safegurding", employng as he does, an ex-social worker who has passionately stated to us in our compulsory training sessions that all press reports of social workers mishandling of clients are myths produced by journalistic hacks! Is this the standard one expects from educationalists?

As for Dr Butts, her handling of the aspects of Bath's Centers of Lifelong Learning led to their being closed before others in the country with very similar demographics. Her committment was undeniable, but passion was no substitute for what was actually needed - vision and management skills. At least she has been "kicked upstairs" , or has she?