Saturday, March 16, 2013

London Met: A Morphosis?

LONDON MET PROTEST.  does search for "sustainability" affect whom staff can elect? 

A curious little footnote to the goings-on at London Metropolitan University, where three staff members were reinstated last week after being suspended for reasons that were not made exactly clear.

The three are Jawad Botmeh, a researcher in the Working Lives project, Max Watson an administrator in the same department, who is also Unison branch chair at London Met, and Professor Stephen Jeffery, the head of the department.

The first to be reinstated was Jawad Botmeh, who served a life sentence for "conspiracy to cause explosions", in what many suspect was a frame-up, before coming to London Met. While in prison, Jawad, already an engineering graduate, took degrees in Sociology and Reconciliation, which helped convince Stephen Jeffery that he would be a good person to work in his department.

Jawad had worked at London Met for five years, without any complaints from colleagues or graduate students. It was only after he was elected to be a staff governor that the decision was taken to suspend him. Some media reports said it had "emerged" he was the "Israeli embassy bomber", as though his prison conviction (which had to be for "conspiracy" since he was nowhere near the bombing) was never any secret, and he never concealed it from London Met authorities.

The three suspensions raised a storm of protest not only from London Met staff but from  other universities and trade unionists. "An injury to one is an injury to all" said protesters, and signatures flowed to an online petition proteting against injustice.

Now Jawad has been reinstated, but it seems this was not without conditions. He has stepped down as  a staff governor.

According to an email from University secretary Alison Wells: "The Board and the University had become aware that Jawad Botmeh's membership of the Board would impact adversely on the interests and the future sustainability of the institution".

As Jawad's friends at London Met say, they can understand that he did not want any more hassle, but just to get back to his job. But they are wondering in what way his presence on the board of governors was supposed to threaten the university's interests and "future sustainability".
I have remarked before on the possibility that London Met's problems in recent years have made it vulnerable to outside pressures. 

Now while staff are hoping someone else will come forward as good as Jawad to act as their representative among the governors, the reference to interests and "sustainability" must make them wonder whether their choice of candidate is expected to be acceptable, and to whom? 

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