University of Nottingham English lecturer Tony Fisher has apologised for comments he made on his public Facebook page, following revelations that he called students 'semi-literate', staff 'absolute arseholes' and revealed the content of private email exchanges.
The comments date back to October 2013 and were exposed on the student publication Impact, last week.
Fisher submitted an official apology to Impact and also apologised to his students in lectures, saying: "There's one idiot in the room, and that's me".
Fisher was found to have disclosed students' personal information, including quotations from exam scripts, the content of personal emails, and references to students' welfare.
In an official statement published by Impact Magazine, Fisher states that he "apologises unconditionally" and that "the comments in question were not intended as criticisms of individual students, or of the student body as a whole".
However concerns were raised by students that individuals could be identified from the comments made by Fisher on his public profile.
In one Facebook status, dated 13th January 2014, Fisher called his student 'an idiot' quoting a phrase from the third year linguistic essay he was marking.
In comments on the status, Fisher then identified the student as female, saying: "she's an idiot, as the rest of her 'essay' (and I use the word advisedly) confirms".
Further comments also identified other aspects of the individual's essay: "She also said something about linguistic theory 'consummating' towards an understanding of interruption".
He commented that the points made in the essay were "the result of semi-literacy", adding: "She's a creative genius!"
In his official apology, Fisher describes the comments as "as a way of letting off steam when under pressure, usually due to marking deadlines". He added: "Of course, this is not how they appear, and the explanation I offer here in no way excuses me from responsibility for my actions. Nor does it erase the distress that my actions have caused".
Anna Herron*, a student at the University of Nottingham who takes Fisher's module said: "It's one thing that lecturers joke about essay marking, but to go one step further and identify their genders and call them idiots is appalling.
"It also means that the student might be able to work out if it is her essay he's talking about".
Fisher denies that he intended to post the comments publicly: "I would like to stress that I had been posting on Facebook in the belief that my profile page and comments were accessible only to friends, and indeed have a recollection of trying to alter my privacy settings in this way some months ago. Clearly, I made a mistake when altering my settings, and my profile page was in fact public all along".
Fisher also stated: "With this one notable exception, always acted with my students' best interests at heart. I have always taken my responsibilities as a tutor very seriously and deeply regret that my relationship with my students has been undermined by Facebook posts and comments that were never intended for a public audience....
"I fully accept that even in a private context, these comments are wholly inappropriate and, with the benefit of hindsight, I deeply regret posting them. However, it was never my intention that these comments should be seen by any other than a handful of personal friends".
Fisher also made references about students' essays, student welfare and labelled the University's Human Resources department 'intransigent, dogmatic... completely unreasonable' and 'absolute arseholes'.
Another email he quoted in a status was in relation to a student's sociolinguistics essay he later complained about marking.
It stated: "Email from one of my undergrads re proposal for essay - "how do I go about the research thing?". How indeed. [sic]".
Another status revealed that Fisher had been "ignoring the 50 odd sociolinguistics essays" he was marking over the Christmas period.
Fisher also posted a status on the 19th January 2014 read: "Today has been a marking day. As a result of this, my bike is sparkling clean and has new tape on the handlebars, and we have not one but two fresh loaves baking in the oven."
Fisher also publicly accused the University's Human Resources department of being "twats" and "absolute arseholes" in "refusing to release [him] from [his] contract at Nottingham a month early".
The School of English at the University of Nottingham responded by saying that Fisher's behaviour was "completely unacceptable and wholly out of character with the teaching ethos of the School".
The official statement released by the School went on to say: "The quality of student experience is our first priority. All student complaints are taken very seriously, and this complaint is currently being addressed".
The School of English has now discharged Fisher of his involvement with assessment procedures in the School; and all assessed work for Fisher's sociolinguistics module will be remarked.
To see Fisher's Facebook statuses and his apology in full, click here.