Keble College has paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds after a tribunal ruled an ex-employee had been unfairly dismissed and racially discriminated against.
In April 2005 an employment tribunal concluded that Keble College Bursar Roger Boden had pursued a “personal vendetta” against college accountant Diamond Versi on the basis of his ethnicity, launching a “sham” investigation, cutting him out of decision-making and eventually making his position redundant.
Versi’s evidence cited an Asian employee to whom he claimed Boden had paid a higher wage to prevent her transferring from the college’s hall to the account’s department.
Versi also claimed that Boden had refused to authorise a loan of £4,000 for a Pakistani employee because of her ethnic origin.
At the time Boden “utterly refuted the allegations” and argued that Versi’s post was made redundant as part of the College’s restructuring of the accounts department, aiming to make it “more cost effective” by reducing its salary bill and creating a single position.
Professor Averil Cameron, the college’s Warden, stood by Boden, saying that they “did not accept the findings of the tribunal” and said, “I think that we can all say we’re absolutely shocked.”
Former JCR President Moshin Zaidi repeatedly showed his support for Boden, writing letters to various national newspapers and saying, “I can 100 per cent say there was no racism involved.”
“Roger Boden is genuinely one of the nicest people at Keble. I know him well enough to know that racism is not what he’s about.”
A joint appeal between Keble College and Boden was then launched in July.
The court immediately dismissed the appeal in relation to unfair dismissal but did allow the college to proceed with a hearing on the grounds of race discrimination. Keble, however, then decided to make an out-of-court settlement.
Tim Jenkinson, Keble’s Acting Warden, said: “Keble is glad that Mr. Versi’s claim could be resolved without the need for further hearings.
“Keble was pleased that College was given permission to appeal at the preliminary hearing of the Employment Appeal Tribunal – but it is in the interests of all parties to draw a line under this dispute and move forward.”
Jenkinson maintained that Boden would not be forced to resign his position as Bursar: “Keble does not agree with the inferences drawn by the Employment Tribunal – that is why we appealed, and that is why the Governing Body continue to support Mr Boden.”
He added, “We have over the summer completely revised our equal opportunities policies, and published these on our website. We commissioned an independent review of our human resources practices, and are currently implementing all the recommendations.
“For example, one of these recommendations was to appoint a Human Resources Manager, and we will be interviewing for this post in the next few weeks. The person appointed will have responsibility for driving the equality agenda within the College.”
Although both Jenkinson and Versi refused to comment on the details of the financial settlement owing to a confidentially agreement, speaking to Cherwell Versi said that he had received a “six figure sum” in compensation and estimated that the total bill for the tribunal and appeal could have cost Keble “up to £500,000”.
He said, “It is bizarre how they simply think that they have done nothing wrong, although there is not exactly very much they can say now they have been found guilty.
“The only person that won this case for me was Roger Boden – he has made me a rich man.”
Roger Boden refused to comment.ARCHIVE: 0th week MT 2005