UQ responds to inaccurate media reports

Letter to the Editor

On 9 June 2016 The Guardian published an article in relation to a decision involving Professor Paul Frijters. It is not the University's practice to comment in relation to ongoing staffing matters. However there are a number of inaccuracies in the article which need to be corrected.

Firstly, and most importantly, it is untrue that the Vice-Chancellor 'drove' the disciplinary process, or that there is any truth to the suggestion attributed to Professor Foster that the Vice Chancellor knowingly breached any procedure, or that the University has at any time attempted to 'cover up' evidence of racial prejudice.

The Vice-Chancellor played no part in the decision to investigate allegations of research misconduct by Professor Frijters, and had no involvement in the subsequent disciplinary procedure or the Fair Work Commission proceedings. The University responded to information which was drawn to its attention which suggested the possibility that research misconduct had occurred, and was then compelled to follow its normal procedures to investigate those circumstances.

Secondly, it is also important to understand that the Fair Work Commission has made no finding in relation to the issue of whether or not Professor Frijters has in fact engaged in research misconduct, and he has not in any sense been "cleared" of the allegations by this decision. The decision deals only with procedural issues. The decision allows the University to commence a fresh process so that this issue can be determined.

Thirdly, is not true that Professor Frijters has been demoted at any time. As the decision records, demotion was an outcome proposed in an earlier process which was never implemented.

Fourthly, it is untrue that a letter was sent to the bus company before Professor Frijters became aware of the allegations. As recorded in the decision, the misconduct investigation commenced in 2013 shortly after the research was published. As the decision also records, the letter to the Brisbane City Council was sent in 2014 towards the end of an initial investigation process.

Fifthly, there is no basis in the Fair Work Commission decision or at all for the suggestion attributed to Professor Frijters that the University set out to 'punish' Professor Frijters because it did not like his research. All research, no matter how meritorious, must be carried out in accordance with the applicable ethical standards and approvals. The University followed its disciplinary procedures in good faith based on information that this may not have occurred in this instance. The decision does not suggest there was not a proper basis for the University to do so. The decision deals only with procedural issues in that process.

The University aspires to the highest standards of research ethics. There is nothing in the FWC decision which suggests the University was motivated other than by a desire to maintain these standards.

Otherwise, the University makes no comment in relation to the other reported comments from Professor Foster, except to suggest they are unbalanced and not a fair reflection either of the FWC decision or the motivations of the University in following its processes in relation to Professor Frijters' research.

Guardian readers will have noted from the article that although Associate Professor Foster says it was 'unproven' that the original research did not have appropriate ethical clearance, the article also references Professor Crowden's conclusion that the study should have gone to the Ethics Committee for approval.

Finally, a fair reading of the decision will reveal that although Professor Frijters raised many complaints about the process the University had followed, the majority of them were not made out, and the University remains free to deal with the original allegations of research misconduct in accordance with its applicable procedures.

The decision is publically available on the Fair Work Commission website: www.fwc.gov.au/docume­nts/decisi­onssigned/­html/2016F­WC2746.htm

Professor Peter Høj
Vice-Chancellor and President

Letter to the editor

On 9 June 2016 The Australian published an article in relation to a decision involving Professor Paul Frijters. It is not the University's practice to comment in relation to ongoing staffing matters. However there are a number of inaccuracies in the article which need to be corrected.

First, and most importantly, it is untrue that the Fair Work Commission has 'cleared' Professor Frijters of misconduct charges. To the contrary, the only findings made by the Fair Work Commission relate to procedural issues in the process leading up to the finding of research misconduct against Professor Frijters.

The Fair Work Commission has made no finding in relation to the important issue of whether or not Professor Frijters has in fact engaged in research misconduct. The decision allows the University to commence a fresh process so that this issue can be determined.

Secondly, it is untrue that a former student, Mr Mujcic, has ever been disciplined by the University. No disciplinary proceedings have ever been commenced against Mr Mujcic.

Thirdly, is not true that Professor Frijters has been demoted at any time. As the decision records, demotion was an outcome proposed in an earlier process which was never implemented.

Fourthly, there is no basis in the Fair Work Commission decision for the apparent implication that the University pursued Professor Frijters for 'punitive reasons' without having a reasonable basis. The University followed its disciplinary procedures in good faith based on information drawn to its attention. The decision does not suggest there was not a proper basis for the University to do so. The decision deals only with procedural issues in that process.

The University aspires to the highest standards of research ethics. There is nothing in the FWC decision which suggests the University was motivated other than by a desire to maintain these standards.

Otherwise, the University makes no comment in relation to the reported comments from Professor Ortman, except to suggest they are unbalanced and not a fair reflection either of the FWC decision or the motivations of the University in following its processes in relation to Professor Frijters' research.

Finally, a fair reading of the decision will reveal that although Professor Frijters raised many complaints about the process the University had followed, the majority of them were not made out, and the University remains free to deal with the original allegations of research misconduct in accordance with its applicable procedures.

Yours sincerely

Professor Peter Høj
Vice-Chancellor and President
The University of Queensland

Letter to the editor

On 8 June 2016 the Canberra Times and the Brisbane Times published an article in relation to a decision involving Professor Paul Frijters. It is not the University's practice to comment in relation to ongoing staffing matters. However there are inaccuracies in the articles which need to be corrected.

Firstly, as recorded in the Fair Work Commission decision, the letter to the Brisbane City Council was sent in May 2014 - not within the two week period after the research was published, as is suggested in the article.

Secondly, is not true that Professor Frijters has been demoted at any time. As the decision records, demotion was an outcome proposed in an earlier process which was never implemented.

Finally, a fair reading of the decision will reveal that although Professor Frijters raised many complaints about the process the University had followed, the majority of them were not made out, and the University remains free to deal with the original allegations of research misconduct in accordance with its applicable procedures.

Yours Sincerely,

Professor Peter Høj

Vice-Chancellor and President

The University of Queensland