An Oxford Professor is currently facing accusations of trying to block the promotion of a leading academic because she had previously sued the University for sexual discrimination, a tribunal heard on Tuesday.
Dr Cecile Deer told the Reading Employment Tribunal that her former doctorate supervisor Professor Geoffrey Walford, formely a fellow of Green Templeton College unlawfully hacked into her email account. She also claims he refused to provide a reference for a job application.
Dr Deer, an education specialist, 41, failed to get the position she applied for. She claims the refusal to provide a reference was influenced by her suing the University for sexual discrimination in 2008.
In that year, Deer won an out-of-court settlement for sex discrimination, having been sidelined by the university’s ladies’ football team.
She claimed that she was excluded from the team due to the fact that having three young children made her an “unreliable” player.
Deer took up the position of French lecturer at Balliol College, having completed a PhD.
In December 2008, she applied for a three-year posting as a junior research fellow at Merton College.
She claims that when she asked Walford, her former doctorate supervisor, for a reference he refused claiming she had published insufficient research.
Deer said, “I was devastated by his letter and his behaviour towards me. He was either got at by others within the university or formed his own adverse view.”
She also accused the Chancellors, Masters and Scholars of Oxford University of “potential collusion” with Walford, as a response to the sex discrimination charges of 2008.
The tribunal heard that shortly after the 2008 settlement, Deer began experiencing problems with her computer, while technical queries to the university’s engineers went unanswered.
“I was devastated by his behaviour towards me”
Deer said that she believed her Balliol email account had been hacked into to access information that would help Walford answer a questionnaire about her suitability for the Merton post.
She described the refusal to provide a reference as a “particularly hostile” and “thinly veiled attack.”
Dr Deer said,”The lack of reference was retaliation from the university for my having brought a claim against it.”
The tribunal heard that “Patronage can be vital to a career. My career prospects have been systematically shut down.”
The University claims that Professor Walford, who is now retired, asked for a list of Deer’s post-doctorate academic publications.
It is on this evidence, they claim, that Walford decided Deer was unsuitable for the position and subsequently refused to provide a reference.
Walford claims that he knew very little about Deer’s 2008 sex discrimination complaints and refused to provide a reference based on genuine concerns of Deer’s suitability for the job.
Professor Walford, the Chancellors, Masters and Scholars of Oxford University deny victimisation. The hearing continues.