Peter Ridd has been sacked by James Cook University for speaking to The Australian and breaking a gag order to expose disciplinary action being taken against him after he criticised the quality of Great Barrier Reef science.
He was also found to have broken an order that he “not directly or indirectly trivialise, satirise or parody the university” after he sent an email to a former student with the subject line “for your amusement”.
Suspending him from duty last month, JCU deputy vice-chancellor Tricia Brand said Professor Ridd had engaged in serious misconduct, including denigrating the university and its employees.
Terminating his employment, Vice-Chancellor Sandra Harding said he had “engaged in a pattern of conduct that misrepresents the nature and conduct of the disciplinary process through publications online and in the media”.
“You have repeatedly and knowingly breached your obligations to maintain the confidentiality of disciplinary processes,” Professor Harding wrote in a letter to Professor Ridd. “You have repeatedly and wilfully denigrated the university and your colleagues, and in doing so damaged the reputation of the university.”
In taking the decision to sack him, Professor Harding said she had not been influenced by Federal Court proceedings taken by Professor Ridd against JCU.
Professor Ridd responded by lodging new legal documents with the Federal Court. He said he would fight the sacking alongside 25 charges behind JCU’s “final censure” of him last year.
After already raising $100,000 from international donors in one day, Professor Ridd has turned again to the public for support.
“JCU appears to be willing to spend their near unlimited legal resources fighting me,” he said.
Professor Ridd claims he had been censured because he had “questioned the reliability of science coming from some of our most prestigious organisations who are claiming that the GBR is badly damaged”.
“All I am saying is we need to check this ‘science’,” he said.
JCU told Professor Ridd the allegations against him did not relate to academic freedom or free speech. “The university has made it clear to you that it is not concerned that you have expressed a scientific view that is different to the view of the university or its stakeholders.
“The allegations relate to your alleged conduct which appears to demonstrate disregard and disrespect for the university, for its employees, your co-workers and appears to be contrary to lawful and reasonable directions provided to you by the university.”