UCL reserves the right


I posted that absurd comment by the guy who drew up an even more absurd petition to rescue Tim Hunt from the consequences of his own actions, one Stephen Ballentyne, on Facebook. A journalist friend told me the reason people there are angry is that UCL sacked Hunt without hearing his side of the story, a denial of natural justice that I shouldn’t go along with.

Well that’s certainly not the only reason for many people, but leaving that aside – is there any truth in the claim? I don’t know what the normal procedure is with honorary positions, so I crowd-sourced it and a friend found several universities that frankly say they can withdraw honorary positions at will. Knowing this improved my Google-fu so I found the right page at UCL – the page for honorary professorships and similar academic titles.

At the bottom of the page:

Honorary associations of this type are not employment relationships and UCL reserves the right to withdraw honorary status from an individual at any time.

So that’s that issue settled.

Unless, that is, you agree that there’s some issue of “natural justice” here. I don’t. An honorary professorship is an honor given by UCL, and UCL clearly says in writing that it reserves the right to withdraw honorary status from an individual at any time. I think that means what it says.

Comments

  1. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I’m surprised at how many people seemingly believed that universities with honorary positions either a). Had formal hiring and firing committees for them on a par with actual employment practices b). Had a legal *or* ethical obligation to treat honorees as employees with a right to “due process” and a run through the HR department. I’m surprised because that’s not a reasonable expectation on its face, and it’s certainly not an obvious place to default. It seems there’s likely to be . . .motivation behind making that assumption. You don’t just land there.

    Universities, like issue groups and nonprofit campaign groups, use honorary appointments to boards or committees as laurel wreaths. For them, and for the honoree. People are excised and added to such lists all the time, often by a single key member or employee. I’ve done it myself. It’s utterly standard and uncontroversial.

  2. says

    A journalist friend told me the reason people there are angry is that UCL sacked Hunt without hearing his side of the story, a denial of natural justice that I shouldn’t go along with.

    This false claim keeps getting repeated. Can these people not read? From the UCL statement:

    UCL sought on more than one occasion to make contact with Sir Tim to discuss the situation, but his resignation was received before direct contact was established.

    In other words, Hunt resigned BEFORE the UCL could “hear his side”.

  3. deepak shetty says

    UCL reserves the right to withdraw honorary status from an individual at any time.
    I don’t think that’s the point though (just as Hunt has the *right* to make sexist remarks).
    There’s a bit that’s confusing though – Hunt initially said it was be fired or resign (in which case I have a little sympathy to the not getting a hearing part) – But in other places I have read that UCL wanted a hearing but Hunt declined and resigned (in which case whats this petition about?)

  4. says

    MrFP @ 2 – lots of people can’t read (when they have a motive not to), but even aside from that the waters are muddied by the claims of Tim Hunt and his wife Mary Collins, who say he was bounced before he had a chance to talk to UCL.

    But they are being, frankly, absurd. UCL was within its rights to bounce him whenever it wanted to. They must know that perfectly well.

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/13/tim-hunt-hung-out-to-dry-interview-mary-collins

  5. deepak shetty says

    but it is the point for some people
    Ah ok – If thats the case my comment was otiose :)

  6. says

    True, I had forgotten that claim by Hunt & Collins, Ophelia. And you’re right: UCL was within its rights. It really just comes down to that.

  7. Garrett says

    I find the level of entitlement in these people infuriating. Entitlement is the greatest sin of the modern age when it’s done by poor people, minorities, or women demanding equal rights and opportunities. But everyone ignores the fact that old rich white guys are the most entitled people on earth. Poor people get fired in this country for missing work to take care of their sick kid(s) or even their own illnesses. They get fired for voting for the wrong person or liking the wrong page or saying the wrong thing on facebook, and no one bats an eyelash, because THOSE people need to be more responsible. While old rich white guys are entitled to honorary PR positions even when they cause bad PR and embarrass the institution. Women are entitled if they demand bodily autonomy and freedom from harassment, but rich white guys will freak the fuck out if other rich white guys get criticized and lose honorary positions after totally fucking up.

  8. latsot says

    I’ll never have an honorary university position but I’ve had a couple of visiting university positions. I wonder if they’re similar.

    In each case I filled in a form and agreed to do a couple of lectures a year in exchange for my details being on the university website. I did the lectures, but I doubt anyone checked. I mentioned the visiting lectureships in grant applications, but I don’t suppose anyone cared.

    Universities actually have committees that meet to decide whether people can be visiting lecturers or not, despite the accolade being more or less entirely meaningless.

    Of course, my ambition now is to be fired from a visiting lectureship so I can claim a baying witch-hunt. Would accusing Richard Dawkins of pissing scientific tradition up a fucking rope do the trick?

  9. says

    Josh@#1:
    I’m surprised at how many people seemingly believed that universities with honorary positions either […]

    Key word is “seemingly”

  10. says

    David Colquhoun did a public Facebook post yesterday saying he was getting aggressive emails objecting to his position on this…all from senior men. People who aren’t senior men are thanking him.

  11. tmscott says

    In response to Dr. Dawkins, To borrow from John Oliver, “Congratulations on your white penis.”, it appears to be your most valuable asset.

  12. Al Dente says

    latsot @9

    Would accusing Richard Dawkins of pissing scientific tradition up a fucking rope do the trick?

    Probably not. Dawkins tends to ignore insults. You have to say that he’s illogical and too emotional

  13. latsot says

    @Al Dente ~14

    Dawkins absolutely does not ignore insults. He saves them up. Then splurges them out like he’s in charge of a blunderbus but not – for obvious reasons – allowed any gunpowder.

    Dawkins is for some reason incapable of realising that his statements are emotional while all the time condemning other people for having emotions. His arguments are pure logic (despite sucking in about a thousand years of emotional status quo bullshit) but any trace of emotion in a counter-argument is not allowed.

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