Dr Vadja is the head of the Social Sciences Department at the Anyshire Technical College. Although it is “only” a technical college, Anyshire has a very good academic reputation and is shortly to be given full university status. Dr Vadja is an internationally regarded sociologist and all of his academic team are very highly qualified. However, although he is an excellent teacher and writer, his social skills are limited and his abrasiveness has not endeared him to either the academics or the administrators in his department.
Ms Evita, who is of Commonwealth origin, applies for the post of senior lecturer in Dr Vadja’s department and is one of three who are shortlisted for a final interview. The interview panel comprises Dr Vadja, the principal of the College, Dr Headman, is and Miss Bland who is Head of Human Resources. Ms Evita’s interview does not go well and another candidate is selected for the post.
Ms Evita is disappointed and angry that she was unsuccessful. She feels that the interview which was dominated by Dr Vadja was rather one-sided. She considers that he was very abrasive and that she was not given an opportunity to respond to questions. Equally, Ms Evita also considers that there was undue emphasis on what Dr Vadja highlighted as her deficiencies and that she was not given the opportunity to explain herself or to focus on any of her attributes. Also having noted that both of the other applicants were middle aged white men who spoke with what appeared to be classic middle class English accents, she is suspicious that the combination of her being female and of Commonwealth origin counted against her. With these considerations in mind, she consults a solicitor who specialises in educational law, Mr. Moneybelt. He advises that on the basis of the limited instructions that she has given, it is arguable that Ms Evita has been discriminated against.
Because she is of limited means, Ms Evita instructs Mr. Moneybelt not to do any more work for her. However, spurred on by his advice, she decides to make a formal complaint claiming that College’s interview process was both unfair and discriminatory. She adheres to the College’s complaints procedure and attends a mediation hearing. However, neither Dr Vadja nor Dr Headman are present and unbeknown to them Miss Bland is appointed as mediator. The complaint is not resolved and Ms Evita is incensed. She renews her complaint and contends that the College’s complaints procedure is loaded in its favour and that the mediation was a sham. She also demands that her travel costs to the UK and incidental accommodation expenses be reimbursed.
Dr Headman is very embarrassed. He is mindful of Dr Vadja’s reputation for abrasiveness and feels that although the decision not to employ Ms Evita was correct, both he and Miss Bland should have ensured that Ms Evita’s interview was better conducted. He particularly regrets not attempting to control Dr Vadja and is concerned that if the facts of Ms Evita’s case become public knowledge, the College will be a laughing stock and that its bid to become a university could stall. He is also mindful that within the College Dr Vadja is not well liked and fears that this might result in detrimental comments being leaked to the press. Additionally, although Ms Evita’s existing college had given her a very favourable reference, Dr Headman now realises that in some respects it is rather vague. He therefore e-mails her current head of department and asks some very searching questions. Accordingly he is belatedly advised that although Ms Evita is quite well regarded, for the most part her students’ results are not very distinguished and that over the past two years she has been very dilatory about both setting and then subsequently marking/evaluating coursework.
With these considerations in mind, Dr Headman agrees to Ms Evita’s request for a further mediation. Mr Neutral, who is completely independent of the College is appointed as mediator. Dr Headman also provides Ms Evita with copies of his recent correspondence with her current head of department and confirms that he will attend the mediation himself. During an initial open session Dr Headman states that although Dr Vadja has many fine qualities, he does have a reputation for being very brusque and emphasises that when he was interviewing the other candidates, he behaved exactly as he did when speaking to Ms Evita. Dr Headman also takes the opportunity to assure Ms Evita that all three candidates were asked the same set of questions and that all three interviews took roughly the same amount of time. In referring to the more recent correspondence Dr Headman concedes that although in hindsight some of the issues raised should have been addressed sooner, it does identify some legitimate concerns which vindicate the original decision not to employ Ms Evita.
Whilst speaking to Mr Neutral during a subsequent private session Ms Evita concedes that the concerns belatedly raised about her are in some respects fair. She reluctantly accepts that given what she has heard during this second mediation, it is likely that an objective outsider would conclude that although her interview process was not perfect, it was not as bad as she had initially alleged. Ms Evita now wonders if in applying to Anyshire she had been a bit overambitious. However, she is still hurt and angry and is very concerned that her professional reputation will be damaged.
Accordingly, Ms Evita instructs Mr Neutral to ask Dr Headman to confirm that he accepts that she has not misled anyone, that her existing head of department’s reference had been written without any reference to her and to remind him of her expenses claim. She also tells Mr Neutral to emphasise to Dr Headman that she expects the College to give her a written apology and to confirm that its staff recruitment and complaints procedures are deficient. She also asks him to make some proposals for “assisting her.”
Although he will not entertain making any form of financial reimbursement Dr Headman indicates that in principle he is willing to make some broad concessions which will address Ms Evita’s concerns about the College’s procedures. He also puts forward some proposals that he thinks might help her further her career.
The outcome is a written agreement. Ms Evita withdraws her complaints and her financial demands. Dr Headman accepts that although it has been agreed that the errors that she has identified were not material, his college’s selection and complaints procedures should be reviewed. Without committing the College to anything, Dr Headman also indicates that any further job applications from Ms Evita will be given due consideration. As part of the agreement she is also offered a half day meeting with a very well renowned senior member of Dr Vadja’s department, Dr Thoroughgood. He has been asked to confidentially discuss Ms Evita’s academic prospects with her and to give her some guidance that may assist her in applying for other academic posts in the UK.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.