Party cracker!

Paul Rowland the Editor of WalesOnline – one who threatened to sue us

Today is our birthday – we have made it to four years old!

In that time we have survived letters of injunction, legal threats, and complaints.

The Eye have been accused on social media (wrongly) of being “mysogonistic” (sic) and (wrongly) of pursuing a “vendetta” against one politician.

Our Editor, Phil Parry, has been described by a right-wing blogger as “a lying bastard” (wrong on both counts).

The Editor of WalesOnline Paul Rowland took exception to a satirical article exposing the number of times it has reported on the Coyote Ugly bar in Cardiff which features women dancing for customers.

Women at Coyote Ugly go through their paces as reported by WalesOnline

In an email to us in December, he said: “I am placing it (the satirical article) in the hands of our lawyers”.

We have upset those with power by publishing information some have not wanted to be seen.

But our small team has also broken major stories which have been followed up in the mainstream UK media.

We have exposed the lengthy prison sentences of a crooked property ‘expert’ operating in Wales, revealed major questions about an ‘academic’ who suddenly quit his post at a Welsh university and who shared a name with a convicted fraudster, uncovered details of police investigations into the election expenses of an important politician while the environmental credentials of another have been questioned, and revealed the extensive police inquiry which was underway into alleged abuse of elderly patients in a Welsh hospital.

They were stories which have been largely ignored by the media in Wales.

The ‘ladies’ of Coyote Ugly – as reported by WalesOnline

Apart from articles about bars we showed how controversial WalesOnline promoted a beauty contest on the eve of International Women’s Day, published a feature on the “gorgeous” wives and girlfriends of Welsh rugby stars, offered “live updates” on Pippa Middleton’s wedding, and been accused of ‘clickbait’ journalism by its own readers.

Yet Mr Rowland sees items about lists of foods to be obtained in Wales as a sure-fire way of getting into journalism.

On his website he told one reader who was anxious to break into journalism:  “You might not be interested in ’19 mouth watering street food dishes and where to find them in Wales’, and you might believe it’s not something we should be writing (I wouldn’t agree, but that’s fine).

“That doesn’t mean it’s clickbait.

“The content does exactly what it promises in the headline – clickbait doesn’t.”

The holiday island of Mauritius – a good place for a new campus created by a university in crisis?

We have also turned our attention to the higher education sector.

The controversial former Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth university, April McMahon, finally departed after we predicted she may be forced out.

With her at the helm a new campus had been opened on the holiday island of Mauritius which a previous Vice-Chancellor had described as “madness”.

She had presided over a disastrous slide in the institution’s rankings in the UK, yet had received a huge pay rise of over nine per cent to more than £200,0000 a year which was “performance-related”.

It’s a hard life for an AM

Politics too have been the subject of our inquiries.

We showed how the media man in Wales supporting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, is a convicted armed bank robber who admitted on social media “we all make mistakes”, we disclosed how one Welsh Labour Assembly Member caused fury within her party, and among her own constituents in a poor area of South Wales by posting pictures of her feet on a sun lounger in Italy.

A constituent who voted for Dawn Bowden, the AM for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney told The Eye at the time: “She should have more consideration for the people in Merthyr who are using food banks and are living well below the bread line”.

Several of our requests under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) have been refused on the grounds we are “vexatious”.

But we have continued to ask awkward questions.

Our satirical writer Edwin Phillips has poked fun at major institutions and important figures with influence over our lives

Yet we have always adhered to our five golden rules which were published on Facebook:

April McMahon thinks about legacy exposed by The Eye

Every story must be –

  1. Factually accurate.
  2. Legally safe.
  3. Not sexist.
  4. Not racist.
  5. Not homophobic.

Despite the legal threats and complaints, we are heartened by the support of many ordinary people.

But The Eye are a non-profit organisation and all our investigations cost money.

Our libel lawyer charges over £200 (plus VAT) an hour to check stories before publication.

If you want to see them continue please donate.

Thank you.

Tomorrow – with the General Election three days away, sources inside Welsh Labour tell The Eye they have to avoid using Jeremy Corbyn’s name on the doorstep. 

Try our interactive quiz – the first one’s easy!

 

 

Cash cow

Hats off to more money

Senior sources at universities in Wales have raised major questions about the huge sums of money raised in ‘donations’ from past students, The Eye can reveal.

One university celebrated with champagne after pledges were made of £100,000.

Another tells visitors to its website to “Raise (money) as you shop” and instructs them how to “Create fundraising page”.

Still another urges wealthy benefactors to “Donate” and “Give now”.

It states:  “Every contribution – no matter the size – makes a lasting impact on our world-leading teaching, learning and research”.

More transparency over university ‘donations’ might give worrying information

But an academic at one of the universities told us:  “This simply isn’t right, and we all know much of the money is actually diverted into officials’ pockets”.

Another said:  “We are tapping past students for a lot of money and much of it is wasted or goes astray”.

But many of the other universities in Wales have controversial records, where finances are tight and students have worried about the degrees, although their academics are not quoted above.

We revealed how fury was sparked among staff at Cardiff university after its credit rating was slashed following the Brexit vote.

Moody’s changed the outlook from stable to negative for Cardiff.

They are one of eight top British universities who have had their credit status downgraded as a result of the Brexit vote amid concerns that any curbs to free movement will hit recruitment of academics and students.

Cardiff university’s debt may be more expensive

Among the others are Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Keele and De Montfort.

The downgrades have threatened to raise borrowing costs for universities at a critical time, when many are seeking to expand campuses so they can attract more students.

One senior academic staff member at Cardiff university told us: “This is terrible.

“There is huge concern about our research grants and now this.”

But Cardiff is not alone.

At Aberystwyth the financial crisis is acute and ‘donations’ may be needed more than ever.

Peter Curran – dealt with ‘significant’ financial crisis

The former director of finance at the university, Peter Curran, said: “The financial implications of under-recruitment have never been so significant”.

Last year we showed how the then ‘acting’ Vice-Chancellor John Grattan, had also outlined the hugely-damaging effect of Brexit, when the university is seeking to bring in students from overseas.

“I won’t hide it from you that Brexit poses a challenge to the university”, he told students during a graduation ceremony.

But the warnings are set against a disturbing backdrop.

The controversial university has opened a costly campus on the tourist island of Mauritius which a previous Vice-Chancellor has described as madness”, yet it is also coming at a time when officials have warned staff of possible redundancies because it is so short of money.

The holiday island of Mauritius – a good place for a new campus with a university facing financial problems?

Professor Morgan, who ran Aberystwyth university for 10 years until 2004, said: “They would be better concentrating resources on high-quality staffing and attracting more domestic students”.

The present Vice-Chancellor, Elizabeth Treasure, has told workers that redundancies are “regrettable” but may be necessary to save money.

In a letter to staff, seen by us, she wrote: “… redundancies are highly likely unless we can identify alternative solutions to resolve the budget deficit”.

In Swansea, a petition was started emblazoned with the words ‘safeguard our degrees’ after a stream of bad headlines about a scandal at the university’s School of Management.

But the petition was begun even as new and worrying details emerged about a £450 million pound campus in Swansea bay, which will also mean donations are more vital than ever.

The campus was “not needed” and “no one wants it, according to an email circulating among staff, which was also viewed by The Eye before being taken down.

It was claimed the bay development may be used to force a merger with a nearby university.

Swansea university’s bay campus – staff say it is ‘desolate’ and with transport problems

The email was headlined: “SWANSEA UNIVERSITY: THE BAY CAMPUS FIASCO GETS WORSE” and revealed the anger of staff at the high cost, which, they believed, would lead to enormous debts and a coerced link-up with the University of Wales Trinity St Davids (UWTSD).

Meanwhile more environmental checks were ruled out at the campus, despite staff fears of ground contamination.

Neath-Port Talbot council, which is responsible for environmental checks, only carried out investigations at the planning stage.

Gareth Nutt, Head of Property and Regeneration told us: “The site has undergone considerable investigation and remediation works before commencing construction of the new campus”.

Another council statement declared: “Regular monitoring of the remediation undertaken has been carried out and as a result further monitoring is no longer considered necessary”.

But it seems monitoring of university ‘donations’ IS necessary…

On Friday our satirical writer hears two academics at Welsh universities warn of the future after revelations by us about those demands.

Also on The Eye – ‘U-bend’ and two Conservative activists in Wales condemn disastrous election campaign. 

 

 

 

Political language

Former Pro-Dean of Swansea University management school Niall Piercy, next to his father Nigel the Dean, with picture of an ex-Prime Minister

A controversial academic who left an embattled Welsh management school under contentious circumstances along with his father, described a former colleague as a “sack of human waste” called mechanics who serviced his luxury car “cowboy scum” and condemned a foreign barmaid who could not “even” speak English, is standing as a Cardiff councillor in next month’s elections, The Eye can reveal.

Niall Piercy was ‘pro-Dean’ at Swansea university management school, but left in the summer of 2015 following a storm of controversy after our disclosure that the Dean, his father Nigel, had described trade union officials as “unpleasant and grubby little people”.

After he left, Niall Piercy’s name appeared for just one week on the website of the business school at Leeds Beckett University (as Director of Research).

Yet now he is standing as a Conservative candidate for councillor in the Gabalfa ward of Cardiff.

It had been reported in June 2015 on the Welsh language BBC programme Newyddion 9 that his email had been seen, in which a fellow teacher was accused of being “useless, lazy and a sack of human waste”.

According to reports circulating within the school he may have been suspended before he finally left in the weeks that followed.

Another email had also been seen by The Eye  in which Niall Piercy described his staff at the time in belittling terms, but cannot be shown for legal reasons.

Nial Piercy condemned a foreign barmaid who couldn’t ‘even’ speak English

In a post on Facebook, controversial views were given after an evening at a Weatherspoon pub in Cardiff.

Niall Piercy said: “I just got change off a 10 on 20 from foreign barmaid who couldn’t even speak English in central cardiff.

“They did a till check ON THE WRONG TILL and told me to sod off.

“You people are common scum”.

In another, Niall Piercy complained in insulting terms about the service he received at a well-known luxury car showroom and garage in Cardiff.

“Absolutely useless con men cowboy scum,” he wrote.

 

 

Nikala Lane, the Dean’s wife, did not leave when the scandal erupted

Apart from being ‘Pro-Dean’ Niall Piercy also held the ‘Chair of Entrepreneurship’ at Swansea’s School Of Management.

But after the extraordinary outburst on Facebook about the way his car was serviced, a top-level meeting of senior officials at the beleaguered school was held.

The Eye also disclosed details of an astonishing sequence of events, when the students’ union formally asked for CCTV footage after reports that a senior official had secretly scooped up bundles of the student newspaper The Waterfront because another article had been printed which was critical of Professor Niall Piercy’s school.

The school itself had made the news earlier for all the wrong reasons after it emerged that as well as his father being appointed Dean, his father’s wife, Nikala Lane, had been named ‘Associate Professor’ and was even promoted to be his deputy.

She remains at the school.

Her husband has a controversial history too.

On the Dean’s blog, Nigel, Niall Piercy’s father, had said his critics were: “Usually distinguished only by their sad haircuts, grubby, chewed fingernails and failed careers, (they are) undistinguished individuals (who) feel entitled to censor what others say and write…”.

More problems for controversial Swansea university

The Eye revealed how an investigation was then undertaken by the leading barrister and judge, Sir Roderick Evans QC, who is a senior figure on the university council.

It came soon after a petition of past and present students at Niall Piercy’s then university was started online demanding urgent action by the authorities.

The petition was called “Safeguard Our Degrees” and stated: “We call on Swansea University to listen and act on student concerns regarding the recent events at the School of Management”.

But Niall Piercy’s knowledge of students may come in handy as he fights the election in Gabalfa.

The local Conservative party website says:  “The ward has a large student population due to some of Cardiff University’s Hall of Residence being located in the ward”.

Let us hope this “large student population” does not cause the same havoc as the one in Swansea we have reported on, with Niall Piercy as their councillor.

The other candidates standing in the Gabalfa ward are:

(LABOUR) Joy Coughlan
(LABOUR) Matthew Hexter
(PLAID CYMRU) Gareth Holden
(PLAID CYMRU) Sioned Treharne
(LIBERAL DEMOCRATS) Rhys Taylor
(LIBERAL DEMOCRATS) Dr. Ashley Wood
(CONSERVATIVE) Margaret Evans

 

 

 

 

Student grant

Swansea university said we were “vexatious” but so too are some of its students

Authorities at a Welsh university should be “ashamed” for allowing local people to be “tormented” because of a growing influx of students who bring much-craved income to the institution, it has emerged.

One living near the centre of Swansea, told The Eye she was laughed at by some of the students, insulted, and told to move out of her home.

“What is happening is awful”, she said.

“Our lives have been made hell.

Residents claim the police did nothing

“We have called the police, yet they do nothing and Swansea university should be ashamed.”

Families have told us that parties have been held until the small hours of the morning, and one student brought a full set of drums into the little terraced house he was renting.

Car lights have been smashed a registration number plate was stolen, tyres punctured and motorbike mirrors stolen.

The noise and anti-social behaviour have been reported to the police, and have become worse in the last two years.

Another resident told us:  “As soon as we turned our bedroom lights off, men started screaming and shouting and causing us distress, and harrassing us.

Life for some families in Swansea is hell

“I reported this to the police, who did nothing.

“Someone also tried to damage our property.

“A prison officer on his way to work got these students away from our house and rang the police for us.”

Residents are too scared of reprisals to be identified.

 

 

But this is not the first time Swansea university has been in the news for the wrong reasons, with student numbers at the centre of the controversy.

Almost two years ago we revealed how the university’s new £450 million bay campus designed to bring more students to the institution, had been condemned by some who had to work there as a “disaster” and “con trick”.

Sir Roderick Evans QC investigated the school

Key departments have transferred there, but workers worried about safety, believe more investigations by environmental experts should have taken place.

We showed how senior council officials had admitted investigations were only undertaken at the planning stage and further checks were not “considered necessary”.

An email circulating among university staff at the time, and seen by us, was titled:  “SWANSEA UNIVERSITY: THE BAY CAMPUS FIASCO GETS WORSE”.

It said the campus was “not needed” and “no one wants it” adding “fears are that the new campus will be a millstone around the University’s neck for the next 25 years, and it is no more than a disastrously expensive ego-trip…”

The university’s controversial management school was among the departments which have relocated to the new campus.

Officials have already been engulfed by scandal at the school which was investigated by a senior council member, Sir Roderick Evans, QC.

The Dean, Nigel Piercy resigned suddenly in July 2015 “with immediate effect” after calling his critics “grubby little people” on an internal website, as first revealed by The Eye.

Professor Piercy’s son Niall, departed soon afterwards as well, although his wife, Nikala Lane, remains.

We disclosed how another key academic at the school, Stephen Chan, shared an identical name with a convicted fraudster.

A Stephen Chan was imprisoned in Boston for a huge fraud and ordered to pay millions of dollars in compensation.

Our inquiries about Stephen Chan were refused because we were ‘vexatious’

He was sentenced to four years and three months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release after admitting one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of mail fraud.

He was also ordered to pay restitution of $12,596,298.

In 1997 and 1998 Chan and others made false representation to lenders about two companies he was involved in, and more than $20 million was then promised to fund the lease or purchase of computers, furniture as well as related equipment.

This Stephen Chan, a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), oversaw all the leasing activities of the two companies and was largely responsible for drafting and distributing the false leasing packages and providing lenders with misleading materials, to make them believe the two companies were highly successful businesses.

The fraud only ended when the FBI searched one of the companies offices in August 1998, using a warrant.

The contract for the academic Stephen Chan was abruptly terminated after our disclosures and he has moved on. 

But mounting concerns about ‘Professor’ Chan at Swansea have refused to disappear, and The Eye have been alone in reporting them.

An official written question was put to the Welsh Government about the School of Management, naming the Vice-Chancellor of Swansea university, Richard Davies, the school’s then new Dean, Marc Clement and ‘Professor’ Chan.

The Assembly Member for South Wales West at the time, Peter Black, asked the then Welsh Education Minister, Huw Lewis, to make a statement regarding the appointment of senior staff at the university’s school and the qualifications of Stephen Chan, who was advertised by the university as: ‘Chair and Professor of Cyber Analytics/Network Relationship Science’.

Swansea university’s bay campus – staff say it is ‘desolate’ and with transport problems

Professor Richard Davies the Vice-Chancellor, and Marc Clement the Dean of their management school, were also named.

It followed a disturbing sequence of events, where internal sources at the school have given The Eye information questioning the qualifications of ‘Professor’ Chan.

Yet information has been difficult to uncover.

We lodged a series of questions through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request with Swansea university about ‘Professor’ Chan, but the information was refused on the grounds the request was “vexatious”.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the increasing numbers, it seems that students at Swansea university remain unhappy.

They began a petition drawing attention to the effect on their degrees of the scandals at their institution.

With many paying thousands of pounds they are determined to get value for money.

Perhaps pressure on the accommodation is another reason for their disatisfaction.

Next week why a senior Swansea university official has been condemned as a ‘disgrace’.

 

 

 

Trip fantastic part two

Hilary’s ‘good friend’ Princess Anne HRH, KG, KT, GCVO, GCStJ, QSO, GCL, CD

After her ‘tweets’ from around the world which have infuriated staff Edwin Phillips is still at a confrontation between contentious official Hilary Lappin-Scott, Senior Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University (H L-S), and a bored colleague (C), about the results of her paid trips abroad and meetings with famous people. 

C:  (Feigning interest again) and what about your other contributions?

H L-S: (Appearing to jump about) as the world knows, as well as being an expert in entrepreneurship, I am all about gender, equality, and networking.

For example, none of the other members of the Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme, Wales (REAP-Wales) team had recently met Princess Anne, so that was one-up for H L-S!

My other recent top contacts included Stephen Kinnock, who has a famous wife (Helle Thorning-Schmidt is a former Prime Minister of Denmark), the well-endowed Ken Skates – the names go on and on.

The well-toned AM Ken Skates was also fortunate enough to meet Hilary

It is a veritable parthenon of Z-listers.

My team was, understandably, very impressed.

C: (Mischievously) but I thought that REAP was about innovation and entrepreneurship.

For instance, the REAP programme says that the participants will “understand key drivers of successful innovation-driven entrepreneurial ecosystems”.

I understand the word ‘innovation’ in there, but what does the rest actually mean?!

H L-S: (Not picking up on the barb) I am so glad you asked that.

Women have clearly been under-represented in science and we need to redress the balance.

Hilary’s world on YouTube

(Coughs) have you seen my acclaimed TEDx talk on YouTube?

As you know, it is my life’s work to get gender equality in Australia, as well as push Swansea up those all-important rankings I tell everyone about.

C:  (Losing patience) do you understand what you are talking about?

What the heck has your answer got to do with REAP, innovation, and entrepreneurship?

H L-S: You clearly don’t understand.

Women have obviously been under-represented in science and we need to redress the balance (to self) er, have I said that before?

Never mind.

C:  (Also to self) I might as well be talking to an automaton.

(Louder) so am I to assume that your contributions to the team discussions were somewhat limited?

No stern talking-to from Richard

H L-S: That’s as true as that absurd petition calling for better degrees at our esteemed institution!

(Triumphantly) ha – did you see what I did there?!

I, um, turned it round to cast aspersions on the petition.

Anyway, all of my REAP team wanted to hear about my life’s work to get gender equality in Australia.

(Quietly) Their eyes appeared to be glazed over but I expect it was in admiration and envy as I recalled last year’s lecturing holiday in Oz.

C: (Shaking head and quietly) we are getting nowhere.

Let’s move on.

(To Hilary) so since returning, what frontiers of knowledge have you pushed back?

H L-S: Er, there have been two key events.

First, I was super-excited to have reached my 10,000th tweet without being sternly talked to by Richard (Davies, Vice Chancellor).

I used the tweet to thank my wonderful colleagues at Swansea University.

I was going to identify them individually but I would have needed nearly my 140 characters just to name all 12 people at the university with whom I remain on good terms (Richard B Davies alone takes up, um, a lot).

Hilary’s tweets are so informative

C: (Gaining confidence) so how would you reply to somebody who says that Twitter is the natural habitat of those that have a desperately pathetic craving for self-publicity and public approval, and that it is simply a vehicle for sad, trivial, lonely, and insecure people who have an irresistible need to tell their followers that they, for example, have had a short night’s sleep?!

H L-S: (Deliberately ignoring question) second, I have written an article and this time I have done it all by myself.

It is what we academics call ‘sole-authored’.

The article is published in a magazine called The Conversation which is a world-famous top-ranking academic journal that comes out weekly.

I also usefully added a link in the article to my TEDx talk on YouTube where I highlighted that very important fact about Swansea having the first female professor (have I mentioned this before?).

(To self) it was typical of that vexatious website The Eye to distort it.

C: (Sarcastically) I have heard that the article is, surprisingly, about gender and equality

The bright lights of Sydney make a change from Swansea

H L-S: Too right, as we say in Australia.

The article is entitled “To get more women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) little girls need better role models” and is likely to be one of the principal papers (if not THE principal paper) which will form the basis, together with my TEDx talk (have I mentioned this before?), of Swansea University’s submission to the next Research Excellence Framework in 2020.

C: (Sighing) I have also heard that the content of the article is identical to your YouTube video.

Is this yet another case of your re-cycling we have heard so much about?

Does Melanoma Trump know?

H L-S: You have to remember that the common people cannot get enough of a good thing.

A few words can make all the difference

And those 800 well-chosen words in my vision, I mean mission, statement will hopefully fob-off those less-than-well-informed members of the University Council who apparently believe that I am a complete waste of space and money.

Remember what my very good friend Nigel Piercy (controversial former head of the university’s management school who wrote about ‘Duckpond University’) said “… there is no such thing as bad publicity”.

Thinking about it, can I be sacked for plagiarising my own work?

C: (Quietly) hopefully.

Tomorrow why a Welsh Assembly Member attacked her former boyfriend in the same party.  

On Friday Edwin Phillips reads a more truthful advertisement by a Welsh property ‘expert’ crook exposed by The Eye.