U of Saskatchewan fires tenured dean for speaking out against cuts

A reader writes, "Robert Buckingham, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan since 2009, was fired last Wednesday for critical comments about the university's restructuring plans. When he showed up for work Wednesday morning, two campus security guards escorted him off campus. The university not only fired him as dean, but also stripped Buckingham of his tenured faculty position. The termination letter signed by Provost and VP Academic Brett Fairbairn said that by speaking out against the school's restructuring plans, Buckingham had 'demonstrated egregious conduct and insubordination' and was in breach of contract."

The next day, university President Ilene Busch-Vishniak reversed the decision to revoke Buckingham's tenure, calling his dismissal "a blunder." But Canadian academics are very concerned. "I'm actually staggered," said Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. "What happened at the University of Saskatchewan is anathema to what a university is and should be. It's unprecedented and, left unchecked, the impact of this could be really chilling."

At Arts Squared, "A Virtual Square for the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta" there is a call for Academics to sign on to an open letter to University of Saskatchewan Board Chair, Ms. Susan Milburn.

Canada’s Academics Invited to Sign On to Open Letter to University of Saskatchewan Board Chair, Ms. Susan Milburn

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  1. Disclaimer: These are my opinions only.

    This is the result of years of mismanagement. The previous president was dead set on 'Leaving a Legacy' and spent willy-nilly on new buildings that they couldn't afford to put people in, then handed the current president a giant shit sandwich to deal with (but not before renaming the oldest, most historically significant building on campus after himself).

    The new president, unfortunately, decided to keep Fairbairn as Provost and relies on him for a lot. He's a petty, vindictive bureaucrat who is well known for flying off the hammer like this, and this situation is almost entirely his making. I especially love how he claimed the prof. was bringing dishonour to the University, when it was really the Provost who has done more harm than anyone else.

    I hope that the Provost gets canned, but I'm not holding my breath.

  2. As the daughter of a retired university prof I never thought I'd see such a national news shit storm over tenure. When this story broke last Wednesday, I fully expected the comments to be 50/50 mix of support for the professor and people complaining about professors having jobs for life. but in fact the comments I saw (on at least 4 different media sites) were split more like 90/10.

  3. JonS says:

    I thought the whole point of tenure was to prevent exactly that kind of knee jerk against people speaking out.


  4. There are about 700 signatures on the open letter on WordPress. In addition, this afternoon the U of Saskatchewan Faculty Association issued a press release and emailed, facebooked, and tweeted about the attack on academic freedom and tenure (this and other issues). And, as of a few minutes ago, the Provost has resigned. Sometimes I wonder about how true the criticisms about Internet activism are, but I think that the worldwide expressions of outrage online had an effect on the outcome.

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