Continued Suspension of Royal Holloway UCU Equality Officer, Jeff Franks

Natasha Lam reports on the continued suspension of Royal Holloway UCU Equality Officer and Professor of Economics, Jeff Franks, with comment from anonymous sources.

Jeff Franks, a Professor in the Economics Department here at RHUL, has been suspended since April 11 2018 and continues to be restricted from contacting students or coming onto campus.

He has been suspended on the grounds of leaking confidential and sensitive information, violating the recently implemented GDPR and privacy practices, as well as violating the College Grievance Policy. According to a document Orbital Magazine has access to, the college’s suspension of Franks “is deemed appropriate because… continued presence at work may inhibit the investigation in connection with the allegations” against him.

Franks is the Equality Officer for the Royal Holloway branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) and was supportive of the pensions strikes that occurred earlier this year.

However, an anonymous source has said that it is “unusual for the suspension to have gone on for so long” as the college’s HR policy states that any suspension and investigation should be done in as short a time as possible. This source claims that while “gross misconduct is grounds for suspension, over 5 months is not standard practice.”

There is speculation among staff members, who choose to remain anonymous for fear for retribution, that the lengthy suspension is “completely unnecessary” and is a result of HR “fishing for additional charges that would allow his suspension to continue.”

Additionally, our source commented: “The charges against Franks are trivial” especially as “HR already circulated the information that Franks is accused of breaking data protection for.”

Franks has previously been vocal against college management, most notably when he accused them of discrimination against him as he is a gay man. Our source said that, “the situation does not seem to be worth the effort unless they feel they have to victimise him. It is an unusually hard line for them to take, which is not the Royal Holloway way of doing things”

“According to the statutes of RHUL, proceedings against academic and non-academic staff are different procedures. It should be senior academic staff making decisions about how academic staff should behave. But, the investigation is currently being led by HR Director Jill Hemus and Chief Operating Officer David Ashton. Which shows that it is professional services staff in charge of the process and judging the role of an academic and what constitutes academic freedom.”

Orbital Magazine has confirmed that Franks’ case will be going to panel as the investigation against him has now concluded, after an extremely delayed process.