Sydney professor sacked after exposing serious misconduct

A former professor at the University of Sydney has been dismissed after he revealed serious misconduct by the university administration and management. Manuel Graeber, a renowned neuropathologist, claims he was targeted for speaking out against alleged criminal activities and cover-ups within the university.

Professor Graeber says he filed a public interest disclosure (PID) in 2021, accusing the university of misusing public funds, falsifying research data, and violating ethical standards. He says he also raised concerns about the mistreatment of patients and staff in the university’s medical facilities.

Sydney professor sacked after exposing serious misconduct
Sydney professor sacked after exposing serious misconduct

He says the university failed to investigate his allegations properly and instead retaliated against him by fabricating misconduct charges and suspending him in August 2023. He was officially terminated on 3 November 2023, after a lengthy legal battle.

Professor Graeber says he was acting as the president of the University of Sydney Association of Professors (Usap), a group of senior academics who advocate for academic freedom and integrity. He says he was representing the interests of his colleagues who were afraid to speak up.

External investigations

Professor Graeber’s case has attracted the attention of several external agencies, including Safework NSW, the NSW Ombudsman, and the federal government.

Safework NSW investigated the claims of systemic bullying and harassment within the Mid-North Coast Local Health District (MNCLHD), where Professor Graeber was based. It found evidence of a “toxic” work culture and put the district on a 12-month “monitoring schedule”.

The NSW Ombudsman also investigated the claims and found that the MNCLHD had “missed opportunities” to focus on the concerns raised by Professor Graeber and other whistleblowers. It recommended that the district improve its policies and procedures for handling PIDs and complaints.

The federal government has announced plans to reform the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which is designed to protect whistleblowers in the public sector. The assistant attorney general, Amanda Stoker, said the government would introduce amendments to the act to make it more effective and user-friendly.

University’s response

The University of Sydney has denied any wrongdoing and rejected the assertion that Professor Graeber was disciplined for speaking out. It says it has a “clear mechanism” for raising concerns about management and protects those who speak up from detriment.

It says it does not take any disciplinary action lightly and follows its policies and procedures in managing such matters. It says it cannot comment on individual cases due to privacy obligations.

The university also says it has taken immediate action to remedy any breaches of conduct that were uncovered by Professor Graeber or other sources. It says it is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic excellence and integrity.

Whistleblowers’ union

Professor Graeber says he is not giving up on his fight for justice and accountability. He says he is raising funds to establish a whistleblowers’ union for academics who face similar situations. He says he wants to provide legal and moral support for those who expose corruption and misconduct in the higher education sector.

He says he has received messages of solidarity and encouragement from colleagues and students across Australia and around the world. He says he hopes his case will inspire others to speak up and demand change.

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