An employment tribunal judge has ruled that a physics lecturer at the UK’s University of Loughborough, acted in an “unnecessarily aggressive” and “intimidating” way by putting lots of question marks at the end of messages.
Dr. Binoy Sobnack – who still works as a lecturer – was dismissed from his additional role as the warden of a residence hall last year after several student complaints were made about his text messages, the Daily Mail reported.
Sobnack responded by suing the university, and an employment tribunal has now ruled that the lecturer was unfairly dismissed, awarding him £14,429.22.
Judge Richard Adkinson, however, also ruled that Sobnack’s messages could indeed be considered “brusque, blunt and unnecessarily aggressive in tone,” and that so many question marks “cannot sensibly be read as a genuine question.” The judge also pointed out that Sobnack had ignored others who advised him to stop the practice and “watch his tone” in communications with students.
“The use of multiple exclamation or question marks could well change or influence how a recipient might perceive a text message, and might make an otherwise neutral text appear aggressive, intimidating or suggesting disbelief,” Adkinson ruled, claiming that the question marks “must have been deliberate” and not accidental.
“He must have wanted to convey a particular sub-text because they have no other linguistic function,” Adkinson added.
Examples of Sobnack’s offending messages included, “Why don’t you listen?????? Stick to what has been decided!” and “Do you have to stay for dinner????”
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