IMPROPER TENURE PROCEDURES (CIRCA 1977)
I have witnessed many improper and or ineffective appointments to tenure within the University of Wales, notably in the Edward Davies Chemical Labaratories (EDCL) in the era 1968 to 1983. They are improper because there was no fair assessment of ability or consultation of staff, no account of productivity or qualifications. This was one of the major factors for the closure of EDCL. It became uncompetitive.
The most glaring example of mal-administration and misuse of public funds in my experience was due to the late Howard Purnell. In the autumn of 1977, while I was Ramsay Memorial Fellow at the EDCL I was informed by Mansel Davies that Howard Purnell had offered me the post of lecturer at UW Swansea’s chemistry department. I was not interested in the offer because EDCL at the time was a thriving department and I had just returned there from Oxford, where I was elected Junior Research Fellow of Wolfson College. At that time I had already won five distinguished Fellowships: SRC, Canadian NRCC, ICI European, JRF of Wolfson College Oxford, and the British Ramsay Memorial Fellowship. So I was fully entitled to expect tenure at the EDCL, the common sense thing to do. I was greatly disturbed to find that the same job was being advertised in the media, although it had been offered to me via a third party. I was irritated greatly by being told that there was no money at Aberystwyth to appoint me to tenure. I thought that this was deeply hypocritical, because both Mansel Davies and John Thomas were talking about me as the wizz kid of British chemistry. The no money plea was obviously untrue because appointments to tenure without competition were being made all the time, notably by John Thomas, but also in other departments. None of the appointed candidates had my record, even at that time.
Great pressure was brought on me to take up this job, a fact that irritated me even more because I was trying to establish a research group at EDCL, where I wanted to be. Having earned my spurs, why should I suddenly be told to go away? Why should false claims to having no money be made when people were being appointed to tenure all the time simply by being told that they were now tenured? Other people would find out about it after the fact. So I was in no mood to go to Swansea at the command of Purnell. Above all I was being asked to get involved with obvious corruption, which deeply angered me and does so to this day. It is proper to invite a person to tenure provided that person is seen to be highly qualified. It is proper to advertise a position, but it is not proper to advertize a job and also offer it to someone in secret. Candidates turning up at interview have no chance of a job. They are being deceived.
At this time I earned my D. Sc. Thesis and in 1978 I was awarded a SERC Advanced Fellowship in open British competition, being ranked top of my year in chemistry. Again I told John Thomas and Mansel Davies that I wanted to stay at EDCL. Again they failed to respond. I decided to reign from the Swansea job and take up the SERC offer at Aberystwyth, and I was allowed to do this by John Thomas. However, for some obscure reason, Jeremy Jones was appointed Head of Department at EDCL. This was a disaster and led directly to the EDCL closure. Shortly afterwards I won the Harrison Memorial Prize and Meldola Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a unique double even now. Jones immediately appointed Freedman to tenure, again without any competition, then started to apply intense pressure on me to leave EDCL. This pressure went on from 1978 to 1983. He succeeded in forcing Ferrario and Reid to resign but I stuck it out until my contract ended in Sept. 1983. I won two more Fellowships in 1983 and moved to Bangor. In 1986 I was forced to emigrate to the United States. The EDCL was closed at the end of the eighties, and Jones scuttle doff to Swansea by a corrupt process of “tenure transfer” in a smoke filled room. The UW Swansea chemistry department was closed two or three years ago and Jones has disappeared.
10 June 2007