A married fine art professor had sex with a student half his age before he went on to mark her final dissertation, a tribunal has heard.
Dr Jonathan Dronsfield, 54, was sacked by Reading University after it emerged that the pair had sex in a hotel following a boozy night out at a London gallery opening.
Now he is claiming unfair dismissal, and he has also suggested that he would not have been fired for sleeping with a student if he were a female academic.
Dr Jonathan Dronsfield, a fine art lecturer at Reading University, was sacked after it emerged he had slept with a student whose dissertation he later marked
Dr Dronsfield, an associate professor who was teaching art theory, admits sleeping with his 25-year-old pupil, but claims he should not have been sacked because they had sex only once and she had ‘made a pass’ at him.
Their affair emerged when the student’s former boyfriend alerted the university, claiming Dr Dronsfield had ‘multiple sexual relationships’ with students and regularly plied them with alcohol.
It is not against university rules for staff to sleep with students, but it is forbidden if they are teaching them. The hearing, at Watford Employment Tribunal, was told that Dr Dronsfield drank cocktails with the student after a visit to a gallery in London before going back to a hotel for sex in 2011.
A month later the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, texted him saying: ‘You should have some great sex tonight’, adding: ‘I’m being made to drink lots of shots.’
She also messaged Dr Dronsfield asking: ‘Have you ever had sex by a bonfire?’
Later in 2011 she texted him saying: ‘The flashbacks during sex. The flashbacks whilst drinking with art people. The flashbacks of a certain someone… do you get those too sometimes too? x.’
In 2013 her ex-boyfriend emailed the university claiming: ‘He has been having sex with students who he is responsible for tutoring.
‘I do not know how frequently this happens, but I do know he frequently has students come to his office for a late night meeting about their dissertations which usually involves large quantities of alcohol.
‘I think someone in a position of trust and authority is abusing their position on a regular basis to have sex with young girls.’
He added: ‘She was going through a breakdown during her degree. She was in a vulnerable place and he took advantage. He was marking her work and advising on her academic activity. She tells me she had sex with him twice, but that he pushed for more.’
Dr Dronsfield was sacked in 2014 for having a sexual relationship with a vulnerable student, failing to report the relationship and abuse of power leading to a conflict of interest. No evidence of a ‘predatory intent’ was found by university investigators and it was concluded that the affair had no impact on the student’s dissertation, which he marked.
Dr Dronsfield claims they had sex only once in a hotel after exchanging links to erotic film Emmanuelle and that she turned up to his office with alcohol.
Their affair emerged when the student’s former boyfriend alerted the university. Pictured: The Hopkins Building, Reading University
Dr Dronsfield was sacked in 2014 for failing to report the relationship and abuse of power leading to a conflict of interest. Pictured: Reading University campus
In his witness statement, Dr Dronsfield, from Clapham in south London, said: ‘We had a one-off sexual encounter which we had subsequently discussed in a mature and adult way and in a mutual expectation that there would be no more such encounters.
‘I strongly reject any assertion that I abused my power or exerted an influence over her. At no point did I make any advances towards her.
‘She continued to send me unprompted texts and email messages over the summer which were flirtatious. I am appalled at any suggestion I use alcohol to take advantage of students.’
He told the tribunal: ‘I’m not going to buy into this paternalistic projection of a 25-year-old woman that she is vulnerable by virtue of being a woman or a student or subjugated to the power of an academic.’
Dr Dronsfield initially lodged a claim of sex discrimination. He later withdrew it and instead maintained simply that he had been unfairly dismissed. He previously complained to the university: ‘There is also the case of sexual discrimination: were the genders reversed would the outcome have been the same? Answer, No.’
The tribunal will give its decision later.
Judge ‘asked woman’s favourite sex position’
A judge asked a trainee barrister her favourite sex position and invited her for a ‘night cap’, a report on sexual harassment at the Bar has revealed.
It highlights ‘sorry examples’ of sexism in the industry for young women. One woman recalled: ‘A circuit judge asked me if I was too old for him and then asked me what my favourite sex position was.
‘I was also asked if I’d join him for a ‘night cap’. I…had not even embarked on my career. It was horrible.’ In the article for Counsel magazine, it is claimed a woman walked in to discuss a trial and a male barrister said: ‘What a privilege to have such a shapely prosecutor.’
And as their case was called, a male barrister allegedly told a woman colleague: ‘Don’t worry your pretty head over it, you won’t have to say a word, my dear.’
Targets include ‘younger members of our profession who need the most help to speak out’, it concludes.