UCD ‘a joke university’, under-fire lecturer tells students

Dr Paul Stokes faces several ‘tribunals of inquiry’ after complaints over his teaching

UCD sociology lecturer Dr Paul Stokes cited a ‘self-entitled’ attitude behind the complaints. File image: Collins

UCD sociology lecturer Dr Paul Stokes cited a ‘self-entitled’ attitude behind the complaints. File image: Collins

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A group of final-year students at University College Dublin (UCD) have made a series of complaints about a lecturer who questioned their academic ability in Zoom lectures and accused them of having “ruined” his life.

Dr Paul Stokes, a lecturer in the sociology department, delivered a tirade of criticism against his students during a recent lecture after some of them had complained to college authorities about his teaching.

Videos seen by The Irish Times show Dr Stokes saying he didn’t know how they got into UCD and “I’m embarrassed for your generation”.

Dr Stokes suggested a “self-entitled” attitude was behind the complaints, adding that instead of looking forward to his retirement, having turned 65 last year, he had “three, four tribunals of inquiry to deal with based on student complaints”. Describing the situation as a joke, he can be heard saying: “UCD is a joke, it’s a joke university.”

A number of students told The Irish Times that several complaints had been made to UCD in the past few months, including that a module taught by Dr Stokes had started a number of weeks late.

Students claimed Dr Stokes spent a large part of lectures complaining about issues outside of course content and that by week seven the class was still covering week-two material.

Emails seen by The Irish Times show Dr Stokes saying he had set up a “hotline” for students to call him to discuss the module “given the torrent of complaints that there have been”. He wrote: “The cost of the call will be yours. I have purchased a ‘burner’ phone... to protect myself from further abuse.”

Dr Stokes has been a lecturer in the school of sociology since 1996 and his UCD profile details extensive research experience from a number of European and US institutions.

In a Zoom class earlier this month, Dr Stokes told students who had complained about him: “You are a disgrace. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I don’t know how you ever got into UCD but we all know that, you know, you can’t read or write; a lot of you have difficulties still with reading and writing… after three years in college… difficulties reading an academic text. I mean, come on, you don’t belong here and I pity anybody who actually does want to employ you, they are going to be very disappointed.”

Assessment

Students who spoke to The Irish Times said the lecturer no longer had any interaction with the assessment or grading of the two modules for which he had been responsible.

“I am happy with the resolution but I don’t know why it took so long,” said one student.

Another said: “Since it’s a final-year class, it has put a lot of stress on the students throughout the semester having to deal with this class. UCD has now offered help but it did take a long time. So it has affected some students quite a bit having no clarity for so long.”

In a statement, UCD said: “The school has met with students and taken the steps to ensure they can complete their education effectively this trimester.

“The university cannot comment on staff matters.”

In response to questions from The Irish Times on the allegation, Dr Stokes, wrote in an email: “ I am sick to my stomach upon reading this. After 26 years of teaching at UCD, it has come to this: the hound dogs have been unleashed upon me. This is not journalism, it is an assassination most foul.”

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