Lecturer settles action against college over alleged defamation

Keith Maycock was suing the National College of Ireland over 2015 letter

The settlement came on the third day of the case on Wednesday, midway through cross-examination of a witness for Keith Maycock

The settlement came on the third day of the case on Wednesday, midway through cross-examination of a witness for Keith Maycock

 

A lecturer who claimed he was defamed in a letter sent by his college authorities to about 100 students has settled his High Court action.

Keith Maycock, a computer science lecturer, sued the National College of Ireland (NCI), International Financial Services Centre, Dublin.

He claimed the February 2015 letter, which stated a course module he had designed was inappropriate, was defamatory because if effectively meant he could not do his job.

The NCI denied his claims and said the letter was written in good faith.

The settlement came on the third day of the case on Wednesday, midway through cross-examination of a witness for Mr Maycock.

Following talks after lunchtime, John O’Donnell SC, with Declan Doyle SC, for Mr Maycock, told Mr Justice Bernard Barton he was happy to say the time given for talks had been put to very good use and the case had been resolved. The terms were confidential save for an order in terms of costs.

Mr Justice Barton discharged the jury.

Controversy

Just before the settlement talks, Brian Gillespie, a lecturer in a number of colleges who worked for the NCI between 2011 and 2015, told the court he had marked a paper, at Mr Maycock’s request, in the run-up to what the court heard became the “grade-inflation controversy” in 2013.

This controversy, Mr Maycock said, led to him being sidelined by the college management which culminated in the allegedly defamatory letter 14 months later.

Mr Maycock had concerns in 2013 that eight dissertations in a master’s programme had achieved very high marks that were not deserved. The college decided to impose a 10 per cent across the board cut to all the papers that Mr Maycock saw as grade inflation.

Mr Gillespie told the court that he had graded the paper given to him by Mr Maycock as 26 per cent, “a clear fail”. He learned later it had been graded by the actual examiner at 73 per cent, a first class honours.

Under cross-examination by Shane English, for the NCI, Mr Gillespie said he did not know this was an industry-based dissertation as distinct from a research-based paper. The industry-based paper usually meant it was subject to non-disclosure.

‘Third reading’

Mr Gillespie said he could not recall any detailed discussion with Mr Maycock about the paper he was being asked to grade but it was not necessary to know the background when one is asked to do a “third reading” of a paper. He agreed it was unusual for someone outside a course to be asked to do so.

Earlier, another NCI lecturer told the court he saw Mr Maycock as “very brave” and “standing up for his academic beliefs”.

Jonathan Lambert, NCI mathematics support and development officer and a Siptu representative in the college, said Mr Maycock is held in very high regard by colleagues and students.

Mr Maycock believed in high standards and quality and was highly motivated, Mr Lambert told Mr O’Donnell.

While Mr Maycock worked very well in the collaborative college environment, his relationship with management had however become toxic and, as a result of standing up for his beliefs, things had become very hard for him, Mr Lambert said.