A YORK St John University lecturer was sacked after sending thousands of text messages and a love letter to a student, whom he wanted to be ‘part of my soul,’ a tribunal was told.

Dr Andrew Merrison, a married senior linguistics lecturer in his 50s, developed ‘intense feelings’ for the 21-year-old student, and turned up uninvited at her house in the Groves late at night.

He held her hand under the table while dining at a city centre restaurant, making her feel very uncomfortable, and when he discovered she had a boyfriend, he sent her a love letter saying he woke up thinking about her and was in love with her, and told her she was getting the ‘Merrisonian attention’.

The employment tribunal in Manchester heard the former student raised concerns in 2019 about Dr Merrison’s behaviour towards her in academic years 2015/16 and 2016/17 and he was sacked for gross misconduct.

She said she felt ‘groomed’ by him as he ‘bombarded her with compliments’, claimed she had been ‘talent spotted’ by him after joining his course, and believed his behaviour was ‘calculated and coercive.’

He denied ‘grooming,’ saying:” ‘While I recognise that some of the things I said/did may have been foolish, I genuinely believed that there was nothing harmful or wrong with them.”

He claimed unfair dismissal, arguing that he had unwittingly broken the rules barring relationships between staff and students, but a judge dismissed his claims, saying his behaviour had been ‘unprofessional and inappropriate’.

In the love letter, which he recorded himself reading, he said: ‘What does it mean for me to wake up and immediately think of you?Does it mean that I don’t love my wife? NO. Does it mean that I’m unfaithful to her? NO. But does it mean that I must be in love with you? I think it probably does..... I’m in love with you, [Student X]. Of that I have no doubt.

‘First off, it’s scary because I’m nearly 51; you are 21 and people (society) will assume that my attraction to you is a physical one.Well it is. I have no doubt that when I know I’m going to see you my mood lifts, my pulse probably quickens and I get nervously excited.”

He also said: “I want you to be part of my soul. And I want you to want me to be part of yours. ‘You are me and I am you’. No boundary. FUSED.’

A university spokesperson said it took action to dismiss a member of staff whose behaviour was unacceptable and breached professional boundaries, and it recognised it took courage to disclose incidents of inappropriate behaviour.

“We have a robust reporting system in place and always take allegations seriously. Our university provides a safe space for students and staff and we agree with the tribunal outcome to reject the case for unfair dismissal.”