Northland Polytechnic To Retain Lecturer
Media statement Tuesday February 27, 2001
NORTHLAND POLYTECHNIC TO RETAIN LECTURER
Northland Polytechnic will continue to employ Mr Ira Hecht, the lecturer who did not declare a past criminal conviction, but has served him with a final written warning.
His actions represent a serious breach of the polytechnic’s policy, which requires criminal convictions to be disclosed on job applications.
However, Mr Hecht – who teaches business law and electronic commerce in Northland Polytechnic’s Faculty of Business - is regarded by his fellow lecturers as a valued colleague, and the vast majority of feedback from students supported him.
We have therefore decided that any more serious action, such as termination of his contract, would penalise current and future students as much as it would Mr Hecht.
His qualifications to teach are not diminished by the recent revelations about his past, which include a conviction and a prison sentence for money laundering and disbarment as a lawyer, both in the United States.
We have carried out a two-week investigation into those revelations, and have taken further time to consider our position. The decision was ultimately my responsibility as CEO.
Mr Hecht continues to dispute parts of the revelations, and contends that his job application was technically correct. However, he accepts that he did not fill out his job application in the way the polytechnic intended.
In reaching our decision, we have been guided by employment law covering disciplinary actions against employees. We have also brought forward a planned review of our recruitment and appointment policy and procedures.
Northland Polytechnic’s procedures already include the verification of originals of academic qualifications for prospective staff. Nationally and internationally, there is some debate as to the legality and fairness of checking police records – however, that option will be considered as part of our review.
Mr Hecht’s fellow staff in the Faculty of Business made a number of submissions in his favour. They highlighted his contribution to research – he has presented several papers to conferences – to marketing, and to developing curriculum for the polytechnic.
They variously described him as “hard-working, enthusiastic, energetic and innovative.”
When Mr Hecht first started teaching here, the evaluations from his students were below what we would expect, and he was provided with further training. Since then, the feedback has been good.
It has not gone unnoticed that enrolments in his classes continue to grow, and have done so throughout the recent period of media attention. It is evident that the students in his programmes would suffer if he were removed.
Many current students have expressed their support for him, and others have advised that they simply want the polytechnic to make a decision and move on.
Finally, we aware that there is precedent for professionals who have previously been the subject of controversy to successfully teach at tertiary institutions.
We trust that Mr Hecht will continue to do the same.