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Senior AUT staff silent on shock resignation

June 3, 2020

Senior AUT staff silent on shock resignation

Professor Max Abbott. Photo: AUT

Senior Auckland University of Technology staff have little to say on the shock resignation of the dean of the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, following a story in the Sunday Star-Times and on Stuff.

The story alleged Professor Abbott harassed Dr Marisa Paterson, from the Australian National University.

AUT vice chancellor Derek McCormack told staff this week he had accepted Professor Abbott’s resignation as dean following allegations of sexual harassment by an Australian colleague. He has remained a professor at the university.

Te Waha Nui sought comment from senior staff but Professor Desna Jury, pro vice-chancellor for student success, said she was unable to help.

Professor and pro-vice-chancellor John Raine refused to comment and referred TWN to the university’s head of communications.

Professor Kate Kearins, pro-vice-chancellor and dean of Business, Economics and Law, said it was an employment matter outside her jurisdiction and she would not comment.

Professor Nigel Hemmington, pro-vice-chancellor for research, enterprise and International, referred TWN to the university’s head of communications.

Deputy vice chancellor Kath McPherson and Beth Bundy, the group director for people and culture, both said they were busy.

Meanwhile, the Problem Gambling Foundation has severed its relationship with Professor Abbott, whose research into the effects of problem gambling is renowned.

The foundation said in a statement its decision was based on compelling evidence in the newspaper story

AUT spokesperson Alison Sykora said there was a formal investigation into the complaint that was overseen by the vice chancellor and the university's employment relations director.

She said media reports about the investigation had been inaccurate.

Details of the process for the investigation were not available.

Ms Sykora said its approach was reviewed by Auckland lawyers SBM Legal who “confirmed AUT’s response was appropriate".

She said it was “essential that all staff and students of the university have full confidence in out approaches to preventing and dealing with harassment".

“We want to be certain we are at a place where all of our people feel welcome, safe and able to succeed and be able to raise concerns if that is not the case.”

Both Derek McCormack and Professor Abbott were also approached for comment.

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