When the University of Salford sacked Professor James Newell in June, for basically not chasing financial targets rather than anything to do with the quality of his work, there was an immediate backlash.
Over 5,000 people have now signed a petition calling for the reinstatement of the lecturer who had 27 years service and a huge professional reputation*, while over 130 academics signed an open letter to The Guardian calling for his reinstatement.
Now Salford University UCU, the trade union that represents lecturers, has passed a motion calling for an indicative ballot "to gauge support for immediate industrial action".
The motion doesn't mince its words, arguing that the University is attacking 'academic freedom', 'corrupting' education and has been 'hijacked by managers'...
The full motion reads:
"This branch believes that the targets Jim Newell is alleged to have failed to meet reflect a business model of the university which is incompatible with academic freedom because it necessarily undermines academics' scope for disinterested criticism and enquiry by removing the security of employment academics must have in order to be able to engage in such criticism and enquiry, without fear or favour, in the first place.
"This branch believes that recent years have seen higher education institutions that were once self-respecting communities of scholars dedicated to teaching and research for their own sakes, gradually hijacked by managers who see them as nothing more than businesses; that once students are treated as customers, placing the accent almost exclusively on the instrumental value of their programmes, their capacity to learn is undermined.
"This branch demands that the University of Salford reinstates Jim Newell with immediate effect...This branch resolves to call upon members to resist the on-going corruption of our profession and to wrest back the control of our institutions that we have lost by...
• redoubling efforts to recruit members to the UCU aware that in the absence of collective action the current situation is likely to get worse; that Jim Newell's situation is by no means an isolated one; that it is severely damaging the health and well-being of University staffs throughout the UK;
• writing to the Vice Chancellor of Salford University to demand Jim Newell's reinstatement;
• joining the hundreds of academics who have written on Jim Newell's behalf to the Guardian, by signing the petition demanding that he be reinstated.
"This branch resolves to conduct an indicative ballot to gauge support for immediate industrial action to secure Jim Newell's reinstatement..."
The motion also notes that...
"On 12 June, the University of Salford suddenly dismissed Jim Newell as professor of politics after 27 years' service allegedly on grounds of a failure to achieve a series of, essentially financial, targets set by the University unilaterally, and applied retroactively in that they were introduced only sometime after his promotion...a fundamental principle of the rule of law is that a person cannot be found guilty by applying laws introduced only after the event...."
Professor Newell has always insisted that his fight is also a national fight against the marketisation of education and the UCU has now also called a national conference on October 13th in London titled 'Resisting the Market, Uniting for: Pay, Pensions, Democracy, Equality, Justice'**…
*To sign the petition calling for Professor Newell's reinstatement – click here
**For details of the UCU Conference see the Facebook event page – click here
For a full background on Professor Newell's case see previous Salford Star articles – click here and click here