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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

Boyne Under Fire: Students And Staff Debate Fate Of UoA Chief

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

The University Principal and Vice Chancellor has faced calls to resign after controversial comments


By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Photo Credit: University of Aberdeen


Days after a Gaudie investigation uncovered controversial WhatsApp messages from University Principal George Boyne, the embattled chief executive has faced calls for his resignation.


On 10 May, Professor Boyne told colleagues he wanted earlier pay deductions for staff participating in the marking and assessment boycott, quipping he'd 'prefer pain along the way.'


Now, a poll conducted by The Gaudie has found that nearly 70% of Aberdeen staff and students believe Professor Boyne should step down.


Survey says... Boyne must go?


Our polling has found that while just under half of students (47%) support the marking boycott, 80% disagree with Professor Boyne's comments and 69% believe he should resign.


One student who believes Professor Boyne should step down told us: 'While I don’t support the boycott due to the negative impacts on students and their futures, I don’t agree with his comments. They are extremely unprofessional and shows he is not even willing to negotiate with hardworking staff who make the university so great. He should be sticking up for his staff. Very disappointing as a student.'


Another told us: 'Such distasteful degrading statements from those at the very top of a university power structure should never be tolerated; what George Boyne has said feels more like he's trying to break in horses than come to an agreement with staff.'


A third student added:

'UoA should not be ran by a bully. He should resign.'

'An underlying disrespect for UoA staff':


Similarly, 93% of University staff who participated in the survey said they took issue with Professor Boyne's remarks, and 69% said he should quit.


One staff member, who does not support the MAB, said: 'How can he continue to lead and support people who he wants to inflict pain on? Surely all his authority will be gone over academic staff. The message shows callousness and contempt for hard working people who are struggling financially, and are legally protesting that through their union. Was his desire to dock all union members pay and wouldn’t that be a breach of process?


We’re all deeply concerned for students but he has to be concerned to support and manage the whole university—even those lecturers he disagrees with. Where’s his concern for staff in a cost of living crisis?'


A second staffer added: 'I am not a Union member but this comment shows an underlying disrespect for UoA staff. I don’t see how the principal could continue to lead the institution after that.'


'He protected students': Boyne is not without defenders


One student, who supports Professor Boyne's comments, said: 'He should not resign, he protected students. This university is for students! We were paying 20k a year for what? For the professors to be on strike for 5 years about their 40-60k pay they take home anyway. It's unfathomable how anyone can support that. Get a better job if you hate it. If you don't work, you earn no money. That's how the world works. End of story. It's disrespectful to strike while others are homeless, forced to prostitute themselves or are exploited while they go home to their warm cushy lives and still moan about it. Talk about first world problems.'


Another student added:

'They chose to strike, they chose to go without pay.'

One member of staff believes senior management hasn't gone far enough.


They said: 'Genuinely don't understand why there is outrage at the perfectly reasonable stance where if I don't perform my contractual duties I don't get paid......in reality Boyne and co are mollycoddling UCU'


Another staff member, who supports the MAB, commented: 'The last thing Aberdeen Uni needs right now is for George to resign. I don't agree with what he said but I also don't agree with the way the Gaudie has encouraged a Twitter pile on. We are entitled to take industrial action and management are entitled to try and prevent that action.'


Staff: University Leaders promised 'new form of management':


One staff member told us: '... The senior leadership entered Aberdeen promising a new form of management distinct from the Diamond era - more agreeable, kinder, and caring. These comments by George show this to be a lie: not only does he want to end the strike action, but he is actively looking for ways to inflict pain and harm on those working at the university. This could hardly be more bullying and divisive.'


Similarly, a second added:

'His comments are appalling ... and shocking because staff were generally happy with him, compared with what went before.'

A third staffer commented: 'Boyne’s perspective is a vile, thuggish approach to labor relations and fosters a toxic environment across all levels of the university. Absolutely embarrassing for the institution.'


UCEA: Pay deductions ensure student 'protection':


Employeers' association UCEA defended Professor Boyne's comments, telling The Gaudie:


'The context of Professor Boyne’s remarks make clear his reference to the financial pain associated with pay deductions falling in a single month, in order to avoid the negative consequences for students and staff from the marking and assessment boycott. Withholding pay is an incredibly difficult decision and process with clearly communicated, financially painful repercussions. But not withholding pay would be far more difficult.'


'It is wrong for UCU to inflict stress and anxiety on students and not withholding pay would allow UCU's partaking members to target students without challenge or protection. Boycotting marking and assessment is a choice made by UCU and then by only some individual members. Students have no such choice and need protection. This is why our HE institutions reluctantly withhold pay from those staff targeting students.'

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