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AUS Tertiary Update

Buchanan case goes into second day
A personal grievance hearing, challenging the dismissal of high-profile academic, Dr Paul Buchanan, continues in the Employment Relations Authority in Auckland today. In the case, which started yesterday before Authority member, Vicki Campbell, Dr Buchanan is seeking reinstatement to his position as a Political Science senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, damages for loss of income and compensation.
Dr Buchanan was summarily dismissed in late July last year on the grounds of serious misconduct after sending what was described in the media as an angry email to a student, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) national. In the email, which was widely reprinted, Dr Buchanan spoke bluntly of the student’s very weak academic performance and lack of aptitude for graduate study and said that he did not believe her excuse for not delivering the final assignment on the due date.
Under questioning at yesterday’s hearing, Dr Buchanan told the Authority that he was recovering from serious ill-health at the time the email was sent and that he had had what amounted to a “brain explosion”. He said the email was a one-off mistake and he had immediately apologised to the student.
Despite that apology, however, the University had determined that Dr Buchanan’s actions constituted serious misconduct rather than some less serious form of misdemeanour and proceeded to dismiss.
Dr Buchanan said that, after the email was leaked to the media, he had been labelled a racist and added that a teaching contract in Singapore had been suspended until after the outcome of this case.
Lawyers acting for the University of Auckland say that there are issues of trust and confidence at the heart of the reason for dismissal.
It is not known at this stage when a decision will be made by the Authority.

Also in Tertiary Update this week
1. Departing VC subject to hostile Council
2. REAP staff face grim prospect of indefinite strike
3. Students oppose Arts staff cuts
4. No more, say Law students
5. Otago year off to fiery start
6. TEC recruiting for Māori Strategy Director
7. Editorship change
8. UCU hits out at employer interference
9. Maths funding just doesn’t count
10. REF will topple RAE stars, report warns
11. Website beyond the pale

Departing VC subject to hostile Council
Tension between Massey University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Judith Kinnear, and its Chancellor, Nigel Gould, appears to still be simmering, despite the imminent retirement of the former, with a recent report that the appointment processes for two senior staff members were halted in December after what were described as “hectoring, accusatory and derogatory” remarks made by Mr Gould at the University’s Council meeting in December.
Education Review says that a leaked letter from Professor Kinnear to Mr Gould alleges that the Vice-Chancellor was subject to some hostile questioning by a Council member because of concern that the incoming Vice-Chancellor, Steve Maharey, should be involved in the recruitment process. The letter says that Professor Kinnear was too upset to return to the meeting after a midday break and she later stopped the recruitment processes, even though they had originally involved Mr Maharey.
Professor Kinnear says that the Council had earlier attempted to limit her powers by requiring that she consult Gould on senior appointments and changes to the employment agreements of senior managers.
Mr Gould has confirmed to Education Review that the recruitment processes were on hold and would not resume until Professor Kinnear was replaced by an acting vice-chancellor. Gould is reported as denying that the questioning of Kinnear by some Council members was hectoring, describing it as just normal debate.
Late last year, a widening rift was reported between Massey’s senior management and governing Council, with the Council overturning a senior management decision to close the University’s Engineering courses at its Wellington campus. Documents leaked to Education Review at the time described a “war” developing between some Council members and the Vice-Chancellor.
Earlier, Mr Gould publicly announced the retirement of the Vice-Chancellor in a move that was variously reported to have distressed, saddened and dismayed Professor Kinnear. At the time, Professor Kinnear said she had only informally discussed the possibility of her retirement, and had asked the Chancellor not to make any statement.
In response, Mr Gould told the Manawatu Standard that the appointment of a vice-chancellor was for a fixed term, much like a senior civil servant.
The full story can be found on the subscriber-based Education Review website:
www.educationreview.co.nz

REAP staff face grim prospect of indefinite strike
Union members at the EastBay REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) walked off the job yesterday, saying they are taking indefinite strike action in protest at their employer’s failure to shift significantly its position in bargaining over a new collective employment agreement. The unprecedented action comes after mediation failed to resolve differences between the parties and follows two-and-a-half days of strike action before Christmas last year. The Eastbay REAP is based in Whakatāne, with branches in Ōpotiki and Kawerau.
Twelve members of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education (ASTE) have been in negotiations for the past eighteen months after their employer withdrew from a national multi-employer collective employment agreement covering REAPs, forcing them into single-employer bargaining. Since then the parties have been unable to reach agreement.
At issue is Eastbay’s desire to treat staff working on contracts funded from different sources less favourably than their counterparts at other REAPs across the country doing exactly the same work.
ASTE Regional Organiser, Jenny Chapman, said that Eastbay REAP had built up cash reserves of $1.6 million over the last few years, and it now appeared that maintaining cash reserves had become more important than maintaining competitive and fair salary rates for staff. “Let’s not forget that this is public money which has been provided through government departments for the delivery of quality education and community development in the Eastbay region,” she said. “The REAP has a responsibility to both deliver to the community and to act as a good employer to its employees. Many of the staff employed by Eastbay REAP are on very low wages and are the very same staff which Eastbay REAP seeks to exclude from access to the same employment conditions that others doing the same work have.”
Ms Chapman added that staff members were particularly riled that the Chief Executive enjoys some of the very terms and conditions of employment that she is now trying to deny other staff.

Students oppose Arts staff cuts
More than 80 percent of those participating in an online poll run by the University of Canterbury Students’ Association say they do not support a proposal by the University of Canterbury to restructure its College of Arts. Among a number of measures revealed in a restructuring plan, the University proposes to axe Theatre and Film Studies and American Studies and reduce the number of schools within the College from twelve to eight in a bid to cut more than $2.5 million from the College budget. The debate has also raised the spectre of what University management considers core to the University’s mission, with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roy Sharp, reported as saying the proposed redundancies would allow for growth in other areas.
While the proposal says that the changes are designed to build on the strong heritage of the liberal arts in education at the University of Canterbury, the Association of University Staff Branch President, Associate Professor Jack Heinemann, says that there is nothing to support the suggestion that the money saved would be used to advance other areas. “Converting academic areas into non-academic activities, or into areas that do not both teach and research, will decrease the capacity of the University to respond to future trends in student interests and to the current strategic needs of the nation,” he said. “Illustrating this is the University’s closure of Islamic Studies in 2006 and the current proposal to close American Studies. Both are or were unique to Canterbury and are capacity losses to New Zealand as a whole. If they are to be replaced by something else, those replacements should be fully and openly consulted upon.”
Dr Heinemann also said that the University’s management was conspicuous by its absence from leading a public and political dialogue about the value of the core activities of the University, and especially the unique capacities of Canterbury.
University of Canterbury students will hold a meeting on the proposed cuts at noon on Wednesday 5 March. Their online poll can be located at:
http://www.ucsa.org.nz/

No more, say Law students
Students have voiced their opposition to a proposal by the AUT University to establish a law school at its Auckland campus. The New Zealand Law Students’ Association (NZLSA) says that the interests of Law students are well served by the five existing law schools and that they are firmly opposed to the creation of another law school in New Zealand at AUT. “AUT has not done their homework, and their proposal as it stands does not reflect a serious investigation into New Zealand’s need for a sixth law school,” said Dave Dewar, NZLSA President. The NZLSA is not convinced that there is either market demand, or an educational need, for a sixth law school in New Zealand.”
Mr Dewar said that the New Zealand LLB is a very highly regarded qualification both nationally and internationally but that the job market for law students at the present time is limited and apparently nearing saturation. “The AUT law school could not only jeopardise the current availability of employment for law students, but could directly prejudice the value of the LLB as a qualification,” he said. “AUT’s proposal also specifically aims to recruit students who have failed to achieve the required standard to enter law at other universities; such an approach could only result in a general devaluation of the LLB degree as a whole.”

Otago year off to fiery start
Despite its code of conduct aimed at trying to ensure the good behaviour of students, the University of Otago appears destined for a rocky start to the year, with reports that at least eight fires were lit in the “student area” of town on the first night of orientation and with one woman receiving minor injuries. Five students were arrested.
The Otago Daily Times reports that University of Otago management has declined to comment on whether its code of conduct will be implemented against students responsible for the files. A University spokesperson is reported as saying that the overall trend (of fire-lighting presumably) was down and that the University’s Campus Watch was reporting that they were receiving good cooperation from students.
Meanwhile, Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin is reported as saying that he expects the annual Undie 500 car race between Christchurch and Dunedin, organised by the University of Canterbury Engineering Society, ENSOC, would go ahead this year, while ENSOC President Graeme Walker said his organisation was still considering its options. In what was described as a weekend of drunken disorder followed the Undie-500 last year, sixty-nine people, most of them students, were arrested, with charges including rioting and disorderly behaviour.

TEC recruiting for Māori Strategy Director
The Tertiary Education Commission has advertised a vacancy for a Director of Māori Strategy, a role designed to provide leadership and support to the sector and build the capability and capacity within the Commission to deliver on the educational aspirations of Māori.
The role is advertised as an opportunity for a senior executive with strong leadership experience and credibility with Māori and the tertiary-education sector, to shape, influence and implement the reforms to achieve the best possible educational outcomes for Māori.
TEC Chief Executive Janice Shiner said that the person appointed would play a pivotal role in ensuring that the tertiary-education sector is responsive to Māori education and training needs and aspirations.
More details can be found at:
http://www.tec.govt.nz/templates/vacancyitem.aspx?id=2754

Editorship change
The editorship of Tertiary Update will change from next week, with Graeme Whimp to take over from Marty Braithwaite, who has edited the weekly electronic newsletter for the past five years.
Graeme Whimp has been appointed by AUS to undertake several special projects and edit Tertiary Update for the remainder of the year. He can be contacted at graeme.whimp@aus.ac.nz

Worldwatch
UCU hits out at employer interference
The University and College Union in the United Kingdom has hit out at what it describes as an attempt by university heads to interfere in its ballot on the future of pay negotiations. The Union has declared that its members, not university bosses, will be the ones to decide what happens next in pay bargaining and warned employers to stay out of its democratic processes.
In an article in the Times Higher Education a Human Resources manager at Kingston University describes UCU members as “a vocal, militant minority who cannot see the future of modern employee relations”. He also criticises UCU for seeking its members’ views on proposals from the national employers as it looks to protect its members’ interests as they vote on the future of pay negotiations.
UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said the article was indicative of a worrying lack of understanding at a senior level of how trade-union democracy works. “Employers trying to influence UCU’s democratic processes might not be anything new, but describing hard-working UCU members as a militant minority is beyond the pale and all too typical of the modern higher-education employers,” she said. “The predictable nature of the attack doesn't make it any less offensive. It is up to UCU members to decide what happens next in terms of pay negotiations and they should be free to make that decision without outside influence from people who clearly have little understanding either of the contribution our members make to higher education or why they are members of our union.”

Maths funding just doesn’t count
University administrators in Australia appear to have diverted most of the millions of dollars meant to reverse the Mathematics and Statistics skills crisis to other purposes, confidential research has found.
At least 50 percent and as much as 80 percent of new money allocated by the former Coalition Government to the national priority disciplines appears to have been retained for administration, a draft report to the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute suggests.
The report on a national questionnaire of university Mathematics departments found that, despite the $A2,729 in extra funds for each student place in Mathematics and Statistics granted by former Education Minister Julie Bishop last May, there were almost forty fewer Mathematics teaching and research staff at the start of this year compared with 2007.
Professor Hyam Rubinstein, Chair of the National Committee for Mathematical Sciences Chairman, estimated that, based on the survey, about $A25 million nationally had been allocated to universities to support the recruitment of new staff and teaching students in Mathematics and Statistics, but that only 20 percent or less, or about $A4 million to $A5 million of the funding, actually flowed to departments nationally.
Only five of the ten universities contacted responded to queries about how much extra they earned from enrolling Mathematics and Statistics students and how much was passed on to departments.
From The Australian

REF will topple RAE stars, report warns
The established hierarchy of university research excellence in the United Kingdom is set for a massive shake-up under the system set up to replace the Research Assessment Exercise, according to a new study.
Some academic departments with the highest ratings under the current peer-review RAE system, including Chemistry and Engineering departments at Imperial College London, could see themselves plunge down the pecking order under the proposed new Research Excellence Framework.
Lower-rated departments could rise substantially under the REF, which replaces peer-review judgments in science subjects with a system of metrics, including a count of the number of times researchers’ published work is cited by their peers.
A study funded by two research councils and undertaken by Cranfield University has taken all research submitted for the 2001 RAE and determined the citation counts for every single submitted journal article where possible. It then compared RAE 2001 scores with scores that would have been produced had citation counts been used instead of peer review.
The study found that, while there is a good correlation between the RAE results and citation counts in six out of twenty-eight subjects, thirteen have a weak correlation and nine showed no significant correlation at all.
Individual universities’ performance was examined in two science subjects, Chemistry and a branch of Engineering, and large deviations between the systems were found.
From The Times Higher Education Supplement

Website beyond the pale
While students normally take the side of openness and access in campus debates over internet freedom, many have been challenged by the appearance of a new website that urges students to anonymously post “juicy” gossip. JuicyCampus.com, founded by a Duke University graduate, has become over-run, however, by racist and sexist comments leading to a backlash from students who say the site is so poisonous it has to go.
Student leaders, newspaper editorials and postings on the site are fighting back, with some students asking administrators to ban JuicyCampus from university networks. They say it is a kind of plea to save the students, or at least their reputations, from themselves.
College administrators say they are appalled by the site but, since students can see it outside the campus computer network, they have no control over it. They say all they can do is urge students not to post items or troll for malicious gossip.
It is reported that the tactic may be having an effect. At a number of campuses where JuicyCampus was a hot topic even just a few weeks ago, students and administrators say use and complaints have tapered off sharply. Internet tracker comScore Inc. says the site’s visitor numbers now are too low to be counted by its system.
From NewsObserver.com

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AUS Tertiary Update is compiled weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Association of University Staff and others. Back issues are available on the AUS website: www.aus.ac.nz . Direct enquires should be made to Marty Braithwaite, AUS Communications Officer, email: marty.braithwaite@aus.ac.nz

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