U. of Saskatchewan Lets Fired Dean Keep Tenured Job

May 16, 2014

The University of Saskatchewan, facing widespread criticism for firing a dean who disagreed on the university's strategy, has announced that he can hold on to a tenured faculty job. Many academics were outraged that the dean lost not only his administrator's job but his faculty job as well. Now the university says that was never the intent.

The university's president, Ilene Busch-Vishniac, issued this statement: "Dr. Robert Buckingham, who was terminated from his position on May 14, will not return to that leadership position. He will, however, be offered a tenured faculty position. The confusion on this issue stems from differing interpretations based on his contract. Because we hold tenure in high regard, we will immediately reverse that part of our initial decision. Another point of confusion is with respect to an interpretation that Dr. Buckingham was banned from the university. Let me set the record straight — that was never the case.... The debate that is raging confuses Dr. Buckingham’s former role as executive director of the School of Public Health with the academic freedom associated with that of a tenured faculty member. In his role as an administrator at a level that removes him from the faculty association, Dr. Buckingham is not only permitted but encouraged to have opinions that might disagree with those developed by top administrators. However, once a decision is made at the institutional level, all senior leaders must publicly conform to that decision or resign their leadership role."

Not everyone agrees with those distinctions. Via email, James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said: "The action of removing him as head of public health says that deans have no right to publicly advocate for their faculties, schools or colleges. If that is the case, universities will be impoverished as their existence is premised on the value of vigorous and open debate leading to the best outcomes. There is no place in any legitimate university for the notion that deans have a duty of loyalty to the president that overrides their right and obligation to speak publicly on behalf of their faculties, schools or colleges."


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