Academic with ‘sense of entitlement’ has claim of racist discrimination against UCD thrown out

Dr Pierce Parker took to bedding down in campus buildings while working on his PhD, WRC hears

Claims of racist discrimination from an academic with a “sense of entitlement”, who took to bedding down in campus buildings at University College Dublin (UCD) while he spent seven years working on his PhD, have been thrown out by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

It heard that UCD authorities turned a “blind eye” after the PhD student’s living arrangements were first discovered in 2018 when some female staff complained, and that he turned down an offer of emergency accommodation.

On one occasion, the WRC heard, the university’s cleaning contractor reported finding the man asleep in his underwear in a break room at 6.30am, although the complainant disputed this.

In complaints under the Equal Status Act 2000 and the Employment Equality Act 1998, Dr Pierce Parker alleged he was discriminated against and harassed because of his race, gender and civil status after he was put through a student disciplinary process over his use of the research building and because of the university’s decision not to appoint him to a postdoctoral fellowship.


Dr Parker told the WRC he was “an American national and is a non-white male, being of Asian origin” who originally came to Ireland in 2007 to complete a PhD at the University of Limerick (UL), only to be expelled in 2012.

The WRC’s predecessor organisation, the Equality Tribunal, threw out a previous racism claim taken by Dr Parker against UL in 2013, it was noted. The following year, he transferred his PhD to a specialist research institute at UCD and got a desk in an office there.

Dr Parker said he became homeless during his studies and “on occasion” would sleep overnight at his desk when he “could not find a hostel, the weather was too bad or it was too late”.

One complaint to college authorities about him sleeping on campus was logged as early as 2018, the tribunal heard, with him sleeping in the building a “regular occurrence” but only logged seven or eight times.

He said he found a house-share during the Covid-19 pandemic, but could not use the kitchen because of “difficulties” with his housemates. He instead kept his kitchen equipment at the research institute.

Dr Parker, who was set to graduate in December 2021, was invited to interview for a postdoctoral research fellowship the previous August. He submitted his thesis that September – meaning he then had to give up his desk space at the research institute.

He said he delayed moving his things out of the institute pending the outcome of the fellowship competition, but learned on September 6th, 2021 that the would not be getting it.

Dr Parker said the head of the institute, identified only as Professor B in the decision, “threatened to call security” when she found him in the building on September 8th, 2021 and wrote to him saying it was “not appropriate” for him to be there.

However, Dr Parker said he continued to go back there daily and did not consider his behaviour inappropriate.

He was referred to a student disciplinary process at the end of that month, the WRC heard. He told the WRC that he admitted accessing the building but claimed a “sighting” of him on October 3rd, 2021 had been “concocted and fabricated” to get him expelled.

The WRC heard Dr Parker “admitted guilt in exchange for a warning” and apologised to UCD Estate Services for “misusing the access” to the building.

He then served Professor B with statutory notice of allegations of discrimination and harassment, claiming that “stickler territoriality” and “excessive reactions” amounted to “opportunistic racism”.

In evidence, Professor B said she first encountered Dr Parker in October 2018, when female staff working at another campus building where she was in a position of responsibility complained he was sleeping there.

Professor B said that although there were disciplinary proceedings, she regarded the matter as a “welfare” issue and organised emergency accommodation, only for Dr Parker to turn down her help.

She said Dr Parker’s PhD supervisor also told her that a cleaner had reported finding the complainant in the research institute’s tea room “sleeping in his underwear at 6.30am” on an unspecified date.

Professor B, who had chaired the fellowship competition Dr Parker was complaining about, said it was “fair and transparent” and denied that race, gender or civil status had “anything” to do with the result.

Under cross-examination by the complainant, she said the successful candidate for the fellowship gave an “excellent performance at interview” but told Dr Parker that his was “rambling”.

In the tribunal’s decision, WRC adjudicator Aideen Collard said that Dr Parker faced the college disciplinary tribunal “because of his own misconduct and blatant disregard” for what he had agreed with UCD. His discrimination claim about the fellowship selection process was made in “bad faith”, she said.

“The complainant has demonstrated a sense of entitlement to special treatment and does not regard the usual rules and norms of social interaction and conduct as applying to him,” she wrote.

She said UCD staff “went above and beyond” by helping him complete and rewrite his PhD thesis after he was expelled from UL, and by finding him alternative housing.

“He took advantage of this goodwill,” she wrote, adding that a “blind eye” was turned to Dr Parker sleeping and cooking at the institute between 2018 to June 2021, when he was finishing his studies.

Ms Collard said unfounded discrimination complaints were a cause of hardship to those accused, who had to spend time and money to defend themselves and their reputations. She found Dr Parker’s complaints were “frivolous and vexatious” and threw them out.

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