Lecturer suing National College of Ireland called 10% reduction from reassessement 'unbelievable'

A lecturer told the High Court it was "unbelievable" that grades on eight dissertations for a Masters programme in his college would be marked down by 10% across the board, writes Ann O'Loughlin.

Keith Maycock, a lecturer in computer science at the National College of Ireland (NCI) at the IFSC in Dublin, agreed concerns about the dissertations went through the college's normal quality control processes and were eventually regraded with each result reduced by around 10% in a reassessment of them.

Mr Maycock, who is suing the NCI over a February 2013 email letter to students which he says defamed him, did not believe however the papers had actually been reassessed because of there was a ten per cent across the board "docking" of grades.

The court heard Mr Maycock's raising of his concerns over this alleged "grade inflation" began a break down in his relations with the college authorities.

They came to a head in February 2015 when a letter was written by the college to around 100 students which he says undermined him and meant he could not do his job.

He sued the NCI which denies the letter was defamatory and says it was written in good faith.

Under cross-examination by Eoin McCullough SC, for the NCI, Mr Maycock said it was unbelievable that across eight dissertations it just happened that they were each docked by 10%.

The court heard that subsequent to this alleged "grade inflation controversy", Mr Maycock says that his relations in the college became toxic, his health suffered and he threatened to use "external options" to resolve matters.

He agreed he had brought separate personal injury proceedings for alleged bullying and harassment by two senior staff members and had threatened more defamation proceedings, other than those currently before the court.

He disagreed with Mr McCullough he was wrong to say he was "a victim of some sort of persecution on behalf of NCI".

Among his proposals for internally ending the dispute was compensation for him, payment towards health expenses and measures to prevent a recurrence of what happened to him.

Mr McCullough put it to him two eminent professors who inquired into the management at the college found found no fundamental difficulties in the school of computing, Mr Maycock's department.

Mr Maycock said he tried to give the professors a report of a complaint he had given to the Labour Relations Commission but they declined to accept it.

By January 2015, the problems which gave rise to the alleged defamatory letter were surfacing.

A module of the "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence", as part of the Bachelor of Science projects, designed by Mr Maycock, resulted in many students getting poor grades for it. The module, the court heard, only accounted for two credits out of a total of 30 over the year.

As a result of the college writing to students saying the module was inappropriate, Mr Maycock said he was "devastated" and it made it difficult for him to do a job he loved.

Mr McCullough said by agreeing that the students could redo that assessment, it meant there was "something wrong" with the module in the first place.

Mr Maycock disagreed and said it was because these third year students had not got sufficient grounding in a computer language called Java in their previous years.

His proposal was that they would be allowed do the assignment again once the proper supports and structures were put in place for them.

He disagreed the external examiner had a different point of view about the terms of the opportunity given to students to resit the assessment.

Mr McCullough said if somebody in the college disagreed with him about this, he accused them of lying. He replied that his pleas to consult with the external examiner before the letter went out were "just ignored".

Asked was he not suggesting the reason for low marks was because "incompetent people" had taught the students in previous years, he said "incompetent may be a bit strong" but it was clear the students did not have the skills they should have had at that point in their education.

The case continues before a jury and Mr Justice Bernard Barton.


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