An extraordinary civil war has engulfed scandal-hit Swansea University as senior officials jockey for position to take over from the Vice-Chancellor (VC), emails trashing the reputations of leading contenders are sent anonymously, the suspended VC says it is a “flawed investigation” and that he has been ‘pressurised’ to agree a deal, and staff members tell us the institution is ‘in meltdown‘, The Eye reveal.
One staff member told us: “Nobody outside has any idea what is going on here – all my colleagues say the place is in complete meltdown”.
Another academic has told us the university may be heading for “catastrophe” and the days of a leading candidate to take over the top job could be “numbered”.
The disturbing events inside the institution have been largely ignored by the mainstream media, but can now be reported by our journalists.
The VC, Richard Davies, and the Dean of his contentious School of Management Marc Clement as well as two others have all been suspended while the unprecedented investigation is underway. It has also been disclosed that Sir Roger Jones, who is Chairman of the governing body at the university, has resigned from a company where Professor Clement was also a director, although we are told by a spokeswoman this is “wholly unconnected” with the current scandal.
We have been alone in reporting that the suspensions and probe are linked to a huge £200 million regeneration scheme called the Delta Lakes (Llanelli Wellness Village) City Deal. The university has not officially confirmed the news, although the project has been put on hold.
Andrew Rhodes, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, has taken over temporarily and launched the major inquiry.
Meanwhile The Eye have exclusively disclosed that staff at the contentious university have been sent several scurrilous internal emails from “Your Friend” undermining the background of Mr Rhodes. The emails libellously allege that he has ‘failed’ elsewhere and possesses a worrying track record.
Part of one defamatory internal communication reads: “The Registrar of your
University is using the most expensive London law firm and deploying them
using student fees to crush four individuals, each having to deploy their
own resources to defend themselves”. The email adds: “This is clearly a David and Goliath situation.… one of my friends in a Welsh law firm estimated that the fees to the London law firm would have already exceeded GBP 100,000. University money (is being used) to defend the Registrar’s career.”
The ‘friend’ clearly supports Professor Davies – calling for his reinstatement, and stresses that an internal ‘vote’ should be held to back him, saying: “P.S.: I remind you of the plea for Professor Richard B Davies’ reinstatement in time for the Graduation Ceremony – do not forget to vote (it is completely anonymous!)”.
We have also been told that the controversial Pro-Vice Chancellor (PVC) Hilary Lappin-Scott (HLS) is a front runner to replace Professor Davies permanently even though it appears many staff do not want her.
One of the ‘friend’ emails states: “… the wonderful work of Professor Hillary (sic) Lappin-Scott and its global recognition (has) been negated by (recent) events”
But one academic said to The Eye: “The fear is that HLS becomes VC by default. The consensus in my college is that such a move would be a complete catastrophe for the university. If Rhodes gets a clean bill of health over this fiasco HLS’ days are hopefully numbered”. Professor Lappin-Scott has already angered staff by sending tweets of her expensive travels around the world on university ‘business’, and receiving an OBE for her ‘work’.
She also says she ‘promotes’ the role of women on her trips.
Yet neither senior officials at Swansea nor its management school have been strangers to controversies in the past. We have exposed Steve Chan, a so-called academic who had been jailed for many years in the USA after a massive fraud yet was employed by Swansea University, before moving on to another company, and went to live with his mother in Poughkeepsie, New York.
The university has, though, been reluctant to give information about him or his employment.
We lodged a series of questions with Swansea through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, but the information was refused on the grounds the queries were “vexatious”. Four of the questions we asked in the FOIA were:
- What was the exact date that Professor Steve Chan of the School of Management registered for his Ph.D at Swansea University?
- What was the exact date that he undertook his viva voce examination for his Ph.D?
- Who were the members of his Ph.D viva committee (including external examiners)?
- Who approved the appointment of the supervisors for his Ph.D?
The scandalous school itself has also made the news for all the wrong reasons.
The former Dean, Nigel Piercy, left under a cloud after two turbulent years in charge, and contrary to convention, his death (which we first revealed) was not marked in traditional fashion by Swansea.
Professor Piercy quit more than three and a half years ago, after relentless pressure from The Eye, when he clashed repeatedly with staff, warned them the school was “not a rest home for refugees from the 1960s with their ponytails and tie-dyed T-shirts”, and described trade unionists as “unpleasant and grubby little people…usually distinguished only by their sad haircuts, grubby, chewed fingernails and failed careers”.
Professor Lappin-Scott did not give a eulogy to Professor Piercy to commemorate his death and as she was, initially, his line manager, this was thought to be highly unusual.
In his ‘grievance’, Professor Davies says the project under investigation takes up 75 per cent of the “column centimetres” in the suspension letter he received with the rest detailing allegations that he “failed to assure appropriate due diligence, governance and systems of control around major projects and commercial activities of the university”.
With all this controversy swirling around in the background Swansea University staff have told us they are amazed by the university’s ranking in recent tables, and that Professor Davies offers ‘good value for money’.
They have reacted to us by pouring scorn on some of his comments which have been reported in the mainstream media, in particular Professor Davies’ remarks about Mr Rhodes and Sir Roger.
We have received observations such as “this is TV police drama stuff”.
Among Professor Davies’ statements in the grievance letter which was published, include the lines that after the meeting at which he was suspended, he was followed by Sir Roger and another member of the University Council to his room, “Sir Roger Jones acted as the ‘soft cop’ and (the other member of the council) as the ‘tough cop’.
“When in my room, both put pressure on me to agree to a deal.
“I resisted resolutely and made it clear that the accusations were without substance and that I would fight to clear my name. There is a clear inference here that the only reason Sir Roger … followed me to my room to offer me a deal was because they knew that these allegations were unfounded and disingenuous and simply wanted to avoid a full investigation through which they knew I would be exonerated.”
The BBC reported that: “Swansea University’s suspended vice-chancellor says he has been ‘left out to dry,’ in a letter of grievance.”
But apart from attacking the mainstream media’s reporting of the unfolding drama, Professor Davies’ sense of his own importance was also questioned by staff.
It was reported that he had said in his grievance letter: “Given my position, the authority of the council should have been sought prior to any decision being made.
“It cannot be right that a more junior university employee can of their own volition suspend the vice chancellor without first accounting to the council and seeking their authority and advice.”
The crisis at Swansea University also cannot be right.
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