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Sacked lecturer reinstated

By Edward Gay

A political science lecturer sacked by the University of Auckland for an angry email he sent to a student has been quietly reinstated.

Dr Paul Buchanan was sacked after sending an angry email to a United Arab Emirates student, refusing her an extension in June, 2007. But after a recent meeting between the two parties, the university has confirmed that Dr Buchanan has been reinstated.

In a short statement to the Weekend Herald last night, university spokesman Bill Williams said there'd been an "agreement" reached by both parties.

Mr Williams said Dr Buchanan was on "research and study leave" but declined to comment further.

When asked if Dr Buchanan would be keeping the $66,000 awarded to him by the Employment Relations Authority after a hearing in February, he declined to comment. Mr Williams said he would not be making any further comment on the case.

After being sacked last year, Dr Buchanan took his case to the authority, claiming he had been unfairly dismissed.

Dr Buchanan told the authority that he had undergone surgery shortly before sending the email to the student who had told him her father had died.

In his email, Dr Buchanan said: "I say this reluctantly but not subtly: You are not suitable for a graduate degree. It does not matter if your father died or if you have a medical certificate.

"You are close to failing in any event, so these sort of excuses - culturally driven and preying on some sort of Western liberal guilt - are simply lame."

The University of Auckland considered the email as a case of "serious misconduct" and sacked him.

The authority found in Dr Buchanan's favour and awarded him $51,000 in lost wages and $15,000 for hurt and humiliation. But the authority did not give him his job back.

It said it would not be practical for Dr Buchanan to be reinstated and that he lacked awareness of the impact his conduct had on others.

The authority also said there was no doubt there was misconduct on Dr Buchanan's part but that it was unreasonable for the university to have escalated the matter to one of serious misconduct.

The authority also said a fair and reasonable employer would not have dismissed Dr Buchanan.

Dr Buchanan and the University of Auckland had appealed the case to the Employment court which was due to hear the case in November.

The Association of University Staff declined to comment on the case until Monday.

Dr Buchanan is in New Zealand at present, having travelled from Singapore where he has been living.

The Weekend Herald could not reach him before deadline. His lawyer, Ray Parmenter, declined to comment.

- NZ Herald

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