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University of New England Vice-Chancellor resigns amid ‘wiping saliva’ assault allegations

Brigid Heywood has stepped down following pressures from the NTEU, she is due to face court in Armidale on 26 September.

University of New England (UNE) Vice-Chancellor Brigid Heywood has resigned following calls to do so after allegations that she assaulted a 16 year-old school student. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the incident took place at Armidale Ex Services Memorial Club during a panel event celebrating International Women’s Day. The student’s parents alleged that following the panel discussions, the student approached a panellist to further discuss their experiences of racism. 

Then, the parents alleged that Heywood approached the student and “wiped saliva” on her face, remarking on her skin colour: “Oh you’re brown, yes you’re right, it’s not coming off”. 

In the days prior to Heywood’s resignation, the NTEU UNE Branch Vice President (Professional) Craig Johnson condemned the UNE University Council’s inaction. 

“While the charges were made public on Monday, 1 August, and despite reports in the media that Council will make a public statement, you have individually and collectively been silent on this serious matter for almost 3 days.”

Similarly, NTEU NSW division secretary Damien Cahill said that he was “shocked by the charges” and “astounded” by UNE’s muted reaction in the days leading up to Heywood’s resignation. 

In response, UNE Chancellor James Harris released a statement on Friday that the University Council acknowledged Heywood’s resignation.

“The University Council and Professor Heywood acknowledge the criminal charges laid against her on 1 August 2022, and the widespread attention and concern this has garnered within the University and the broader community,” Harris said. 

The statement went on to say that UNE’s University Council will not be making further comments on Heywood’s case and that the former Vice-Chancellor “strenuously denies” the charges.  

“However, both Professor Heywood and the University Council acknowledge the deep hurt felt by many on hearing of the charges, and thank the community for the patience shown as we worked through these matters.”

UNE Deputy Vice-Chancellor Simon Evans has been appointed as Acting Vice-Chancellor in Heywood’s absence.

Brigid Heywood is due to face court in Armidale on 26 September.