The president of Maynooth University, Philip Nolan, has been accused of acting as “judge, jury and executioner” in dealing with a row between two senior academics, which has left one professor on an annual salary of €154,000 without work for almost five years.
Prof Robert Galavan told the Labour Court on Thursday that Prof Nolan – who is also chair of Nphet’s modelling group – decided the dispute would be resolved by moving him into an area of academia where he had no expertise and did not support his suggestion for mediation between the parties.
Prof Galavan, who holds the Chair in Strategic Management in the college’s School of Business, claims he has had no effective work since 2016 after being placed on secondment by the president to the Kennedy Institute for Conflict Intervention, despite having no expertise in mediation.
He told a resumed hearing in the case that he was “dragged through a process that only the president had control of” and was subject to an unfair process.
The senior academic is appealing a ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission that he had not made a protected disclosure under the terms of the relevant legislation.
Prof Galavan (55) claims he is being penalised for making protected disclosures in 2014 in which he raised concerns with the head of the School of Business, Prof Peter McNamara, about governance and health and safety issues.
The hearing was told that Prof McNamara, who had succeeded Prof Galavan in the role, had made a formal complaint that his predecessor’s combative and intimidating behaviour was undermining the work of the school.
Prof Galavan said he only became aware of the complaint when he received a letter “out of the blue” from Prof Nolan in December 2014 and there had been no attempt to resolve the issues between him and Prof McNamara informally.
He said his colleague had refused to engage in any mediation over the past seven years.
Prof Galavan maintained he was seeking to ensure the university was adopting the correct approach to several issues including changes to the continuous assessment process which he claimed had left students not knowing what was required to pass exams.
At a meeting with the president and Prof McNamara in January 2015, Prof Galavan said the head of the business school insisted the only solution was “a structural separation”, while the only option he was not open to was “being put outside the School of Business in a box”.
He said Prof Nolan had questioned what was wrong with putting him in a box and told him that he should “just do as I’m told”.
Prof Galavan said the president told him in May 2016 he had done nothing wrong but the only way to resolve the dispute was by moving him to the Kennedy Institute for three years.
Although Prof Nolan had subsequently promised to meet him annually to review the situation, Prof Galavan said he had not met him since.
Prof Galavan said a report by an independent examiner appointed by the president had vindicated him as it made no findings of wrongdoing and noted that it said he had not explicitly undermined Prof McNamara.
However, counsel for Maynooth University, Conor Power SC, pointed out that the report found that it was reasonable for Prof McNamara to interpret that he was being undermined by the complainant.
Mr Power said it also concluded that Prof Galavan should have known that his continuing questioning of Prof McNamara after he had made decisions would be seen as affecting Prof McNamara’s standing as head of the business school.
He observed that it was clear that the professional relationship between the two men had broken down.
Mr Power also questioned why the complainant had not made any reference to having made a protected disclosure or being penalised in any of his dealings with the university until he lodged his case with the WRC in February 2017.
He accused the complainant of “chopping and changing” his grievances and said an issue about overcrowding which Prof Galavan was claiming was a protected disclosure had been resolved within two days of it being brought to Prof McNamara’s attention.
The hearing resumes on Friday.