Lecturer who made controversial FGM comments wins unfair dismissal case against Trinity

Lecturer who made controversial FGM comments wins unfair dismissal case against Trinity
Dr Ali Selim

A university lecturer at the centre of controversy last year over TV comments he made about female genital mutilation (FGM) has won his unfair dismissal case against Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

In the case, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Penelope McGrath has ordered TCD pay Arabic lecturer, Dr Ali Selim a total of €6,144 after finding that he was unfairly dismissed by the college last September.

Dr Selim is one of the leading figures in the Irish Muslim community and Ms McGrath has ordered TCD to pay Dr Selim €4,000 for his unfair dismissal, €1,644 for non-payment of notice and €500 for not receiving his written terms of employment.

Dr Selim’s unfair dismissal came seven months after comments he made on RTE’s Primetime on female circumcision sparked widespread criticism from students at TCD, doctors and other Islamic leaders.

Dr Selim told Primetime that female circumcision is acceptable in some cases where it is carried out by a doctor and practised in a safe environment.

Days after the Primetime interview, Dr Selim apologised and stated that he condemned female genital mutilation (FGM) in the strongest terms.

He said: “I admit that I caused confusion based on my misunderstanding of the term [circumcision] and I do apologise for this…I was out of my comfort zone and I misunderstood the terms as the medical experts would use them.”

Referring to the controversy in her findings, Ms McGrath stated that Dr Selim "got caught up in a wave of negative publicity" arising from the Primetime comments.

Ms McGrath stated that Dr Selim had subsequently asserted that he had been misinterpreted but “there can be no doubt that the damage had already been done and as his “views” came to be known on the campus there was a significant backlash against him. Students protested and boycotted his classes”.

In the days after Dr Selim’s comments on Primetime, TCD confirmed that a different lecturer would teach Dr Selim's Arabic language students who were offended by his Primetime comments.

TCD confirmed the move in response to complaints “from a large number of Dr Ali Selim’s students”.

In her report on the case, Ms McGrath stated that she accepts fully that the majority of Dr Selim’s existing students did not avail of the alternative lecturer and Dr Selim himself suggests that those that left him may not have known him as well as his 3rd and 4th-year students.

In September 2018, TCD told Dr Selim that his services were no longer required.

Offering its rationale for no longer employing Dr Selim, TCD told the WRC that Dr Selim’s core subjects were not being availed of by the student body.

Lecturer who made controversial FGM comments wins unfair dismissal case against Trinity

The college stated that whether that was because of a general disinterest or an active movement to boycott his classes is unknown to the university.

TCD stated that either way, it could not retain Dr Selim to give classes that no one would attend.

In response, Dr Selim stated that he was never provided by TCD with a cogent reason for letting him go and instead asserted that TCD “lacked the fortitude” to retain him as a lecturer when his retention might have been unpopular with the student body arising out of cultural differences.

In her findings, Ms McGrath has found that Dr Selim has “made an almost irresistible connection” between the public outcry that he admits he himself created, and the subsequent move - as he perceives it - by TCD to drop its association with him.

Ms McGrath found that TCD “emphatically denies there is any nexus between the two and makes the case that the Complainant’s position was made redundant wholly and or mainly by reason of the re-configuration in the department which brought in an Assistant Professor with many talents, one of which was the ability to teach the language which the Complainant had been teaching”.

However, Ms McGrath found that TCD’s actions were “inadequate”.

Ms McGrath concluded: “It cannot have been reasonable for them to present the complainant with a termination of his employment without any notice or any discussion at the end of September 2018. There is no transparency here.”

Ms McGrath also found that “there was no obvious clear and deliberate process for selection for redundancy and even if it had been inevitable the process of getting to the end point should be clear and unambiguous”.

Ms McGrath also stated that what is clear is that Dr Selim was not advised of the drop-off in numbers “and was most certainly not given the opportunity to suggest alternative programmes, nor in any other way asked for proposals which might meet with some approval and which would allow the complainant to continue with his cherished association” with TCD.

Ms McGrath stated that on balance, whilst there may ultimately have been a legitimate redundancy, “the procedures for getting there were inadequate and unfair”.

Ms McGrath stated that she accepted Dr Selim’s argument that the procedures adopted - if any - “seemed to be unreasonably weighted against him”.

Ms McGrath stated that she didn’t think it appropriate that Dr Selim should be re-instated or re-engaged within TCD as a new Asst Professor has legitimately absorbed some of Dr Selim’s hours.

Asked to comment on the outcome of the case, a spokeswoman for TCD stated TOday that as a matter of policy “the University does not comment on individual staff matters”.

Dr Selim was out of the country TOday and could not be reached for comment.

More on this topic

Woman, 49, charged in relation to seizure of guns and drugs in DublinWoman, 49, charged in relation to seizure of guns and drugs in Dublin

Man reversed into junction on wrong side of roadMan reversed into junction on wrong side of road

Oberstown is next for boy if he gets into ‘one more scrap’Oberstown is next for boy if he gets into ‘one more scrap’

Cork man claims man 'laughing away' during court hearing gifted him cash seized during Garda raidCork man claims man 'laughing away' during court hearing gifted him cash seized during Garda raid

More in this Section

Man dies in crash between car and motorbike in Co CorkMan dies in crash between car and motorbike in Co Cork

No winner of Lotto jackpot but someone is €1m richerNo winner of Lotto jackpot but someone is €1m richer

Hundreds protest in Cork city against closure of An Post mail centreHundreds protest in Cork city against closure of An Post mail centre

Loyalist flute band plays in PortrushLoyalist flute band plays in Portrush


Lifestyle

We’ve all had that feeling at some stage as we step off fast amusement park ride, or simply spin around for fun; that feeling of dizziness and disorientation and finding it difficult to stay upright. But why do we feel dizzy when we spin?Appliance Of Science: Why do we feel dizzy when we spin around?

Padraic Killeen reviews Epiphany from the Town Hall Theatre, Galway.Epiphany Review: Not a straightforward adaptation of Joyce’s scenario

More From The Irish Examiner