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31st October 2014

Bad “vibes” from professor leads to suspension

Thomas Docherty, a staunch opponent of the marketisation of education, was reprimanded for negative body language and sarcasm during interviews for faculty positions.

A professor from the University of Warwick accused of “inappropriate sighing” and “making ironic comments” is to be cleared of all allegations against him, after a nine-month suspension for this behaviour came to an end last month.

Thomas Docherty, a professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies, was alleged to be undermining the authority of the former head of his department, Catherine Bates.

He was suspended in January, and last month the suspension was lifted and he could return to work.

During this time he was banned from the campus and forbidden from writing students references, returning students’ work and providing guidance on Ph.D.s.

Docherty is a strong critic of the perceived marketisation of education and describes the Russell Group as a “self-declared elite.”

The University of Warwick earlier in the year denied that Professor Docherty’s suspension was a result of his outspoken objections to reforms of the university system.

The “negative” behaviour of Professor Docherty during interviews, including body language, sarcasm and sighing, was seen to be disrespectful to candidates for a departmental position.

A Facebook page set up by students expressing their disbelief and outrage at the professor’s suspension has gained over 1000 likes.

On this page Professor Docherty expressed his appreciation for the support, saying he was “deeply moved and touched by the level of support that [he has] received.

“Thanks again to you all—and, with luck, I’ll see some of you in class.”

Anne O’Sullivan from the University and College Union, said, “It beggars belief that an academic can be suspended with no contact with students or colleagues for almost a year while charges are finalised.”

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