After years of neglect, Kingston University has recently been trying to improve its very poor record on BAME targets. The VC has been telling his long-suffering Silver Commanders and the Governors and just about anybody else who can tolerate him for more than a few minutes that he wants to see this BAME drive further embedded in KU22, the big master plan the SLT have drawn up for their ‘Strategic Priorities’ over the next three years. All very commendable. But there remains a glaring omission. KU’s record on MeToo and gender issues is equally bad and also in need of urgent attention.
However, Spiersy, the SLT and their Deans seem strangely reluctant to add this to their ‘inclusive’ vision. Its not difficult to see why. Over the summer another embarrassing sex scandal broke out involving a senior member of staff. While many hard-working staff were focusing all their energy and attention on trying to work from home to keep the Uni afloat and functioning, news emerged that yet another Professor, a Prof of film studies in KSA, has been caught engaging in some unprofessional, ahem, ‘extra-curricular’ activities. So far, Spiersy and the SLT have chosen to ignore the looming scandal in the hope that it will quietly go away, a cowardly little stance they have adopted before. They have chosen to dump it in the in-tray of KSA’s ultra-compliant new Dean, Mandy (‘who?’) Ure, whose interim status has now been changed (finally) to permanent.
The victim of the alleged behaviour, who is a feminist academic based in the UK, has written to the Uni and lodged a complaint about the film studies Prof in question. But her letter, sent in June, was ignored, so she has instead chosen to go public on social media with a long and detailed blog post, a moving personal account where she has set out in painful detail what she claims happened: ‘How we talk about survival with no names’. It is not an easy read.
The KU Prof in question, who she met at a conference in America, will be familiar to staff in the former FASS and in KSA. He once persuaded his bosses in FASS that he should be allowed to spend a whole year dressed up as David Bowie, as part of his ‘research’, and proceeded to deliver all his teaching sessions posing as the famously bisexual rock singer, much to the puzzlement of his students (we are not making this up, BTW!). The Prof has also authored studies on the sexuality of Batman and the meaning of Star Wars. But it seems he made full use of his growing, if eccentric, international research reputation to lull her into a relationship in which, she now realises, he held all the power and exploited her ruthlessly. He told her he was ‘queer’ in his gender but only sexually interested in women. During their time together, he told her ‘no one can know’ (you don’t say!). But just a short while later she discovered the Prof concerned had announced on Facebook that he and his wife were expecting their first child. She felt humiliated and used. Too right.
Equally seriously, she has alleged that the exploitative Prof pilfered a large number of her research ideas on Star Wars for his own work and decided to publish a book on this before she could publish her own. Dissenter cannot comment on the truths or untruths of all this, but admires her brave decision to go public. The Prof in question has already been sacked from the editorial board of one well-known film and cultural studies journal, and its all become quite a talking point on social media sites. Quite what action, if any, KU itself has taken is unknown. But KU’s reputation has suffered another bout of damage from its Promiscuous Profs Problem.
As Dissenter’s readers already know, KU’s record on dealing with such scandals is poor. Dean Ure’s predecessor in the KSA Deanship, Colin Rhodes, who was Spier’s big great hope parachuted in from a Uni in Australia, suddenly resigned after just 18 months in the post. There were a number of reasons for this, but one of them was his alleged reputation among his female staff for ‘wandering hands’ syndrome. Profs and power, eh?
But probably the worst KU internal sexual scandal of recent times was the cover-up approved by Spier of the case of former FASS Dean Simon Morgan-Wortham. Moron-Worthless, as his staff nicknamed him, is a Prof of ‘Critical Studies’ who has specialised in ‘Sleepfulness’ and ‘Sleeping Studies’ (we kid you not!). He is also still used by Spier to chair various committees at SLT level. What should be not be forgotten is that the devious Dean engaged in an extramarital affair with his PA, and was once discovered to be using his office in the EM building for some late evening ‘overtime’ with her. However, in a classic cover-up by HR and the VC, while the Prof was allowed to keep his job, his PA was forced to leave. It was a shocking piece of injustice, made all the worse by the fact that Moron been carrying out his liaisons on University property. Mind you, Moron did suffer one consequence. His wife, when she found out the full details, not only threw him out of their Sussex home but also forced him to drop the ‘Morgan’ part of his double-barrelled name.
While he was allowed to take a ‘research sabbatical’ to let things blow over, Simon ‘Wortham’ still has a senior role at KU and appears to be back in favour. The problem is he is distrusted by female colleagues who have to deal with him. His case also raises, Dissenter reckons, a difficult conundrum. If KU takes disciplinary action against the Prof of film studies, it will raise the question of why Wortham’s equally manipulative behaviour was treated so leniently by Spiersy and his close mates. Past experience shows, though, another cover-up is more likely. There are other examples from across the Uni, but we’ll save them for another day. Suffice to say, MeToo has a long way to go at KU. But if you are a woman reading this, you will know that anyway. More soon.