AUS Tertiary Update
University attempts to avoid payment
The University of Auckland is resisting paying dismissed lecturer, Dr Paul Buchanan, the $66,000 recently awarded to him by the Employment Relations Authority in lost remuneration and compensation. In an action described by authority member Vicki Campbell as “unfair and unreasonable”, the university dismissed Dr Buchanan in a highly publicised case last year for serious misconduct after he sent an intemperate email to one of his students. While making the monetary award against the university, however, Ms Campbell declined to order his reinstatement, a decision being challenged by Dr Buchanan and the Association of University Staff.
Now the university has filed papers in the Employment Court, itself challenging the determination of the authority and seeking a stay of its order to make payment to Dr Buchanan pending the hearing of both challenges.
The first ground given by the university is that, should it make payment and a later decision reverse the order, Dr Buchanan will have had the benefit of the sum of money for the interim period. This is followed, somewhat ironically in view of his unjustified dismissal by the university, by concerns about Dr Buchanan’s ability to make repayment in those circumstances because, according to his own evidence, he had been unable to find interim employment and had been entirely without income since his dismissal.
Furthermore, the university expresses concern that Dr Buchanan may use a portion of the sum of money to meet the cost of living expenses while in Singapore, where he currently resides, and that residence in that foreign jurisdiction would make recovery problematic, difficult, and costly should the appeal go against Dr Buchanan. Rather than making payment to Dr Buchanan, the university has offered to deposit the money in its solicitor’s trust account or with the registrar of the Employment Court.
AUS general secretary, Nanette Cormack, said in response to the University of Auckland’s challenge, “It is particularly unfair to Dr Buchanan that, three months after he was awarded a significant sum by the Employment Relations Authority, the university has failed to make any payment to him whatsoever. This is symptomatic of this university’s disregard for good employment practice.”
In another high-profile case, the University of Auckland’s appeal against the reinstatement of dismissed art history lecturer, Dr Rangihiroa Panoho, has been set down for a judicial settlement conference in the Employment Court on 1 September. If a settlement cannot be reached, a six-day hearing has been scheduled to start on 29 September.
in Tertiary Update this week
1. Universities cash in on skills?
2. Unitec trades teachers vulnerable
3. Commemoration of Hone Tūwhare
4. Fake degree earns fine
5. Australian university staff claim 27 percent
6. Unpaid peer review worth billions
7. “Terrorist” of Nottingham held for six days
8. US withdraws Palestinian Fulbright grants
9. Diversity at Disney World
Universities cash in on
While institutes of technology and polytehnics, wānanga, and the workplace literacy fund were the big winners in the budget’s skills-funding spending, the latest issue of Education Review claims that universities are using “skill rhetoric” to cash in on future funding. Of the $165 million over four years in money to support the government’s skills strategy, $50 million goes towards workplace literacy funding with the balance going to further-education providers.
According to a story in Education Review, however, vice-chancellors seem to be trying to position themselves to take advantage of the new focus on workforce skills. Though that focus has so far been on basic literacy and numeracy, the story notes that recent statements by the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC) have emphasised universities’ role in providing skills. For example, the NZVCC’s post-budget statement claimed that universities are “responsible for training virtually the entire professional workforce”.
Another of their documents has said that “universities make a vital contribution to the national skills set through the training of professionals such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, economists, agriculturalists and veterinarians”. The story quotes NZVCC chair, Professor Roger Field, as making the claim that most of the professional workforce is educated in universities. “We are really concerned that we don’t fully recognise that the very highly skilled workforce which is required by the country is educated in our universities,” he is reported to have said.
Unitec trades teachers vulnerable
The government’s recent announcement that it will legislate to ensure that basic rest breaks are an entitlement in every workplace will be greeted with applause in a surprising quarter: the publicly funded tertiary-education sector. Labour minister Trevor Mallard has declared in parliament that it “may surprise many people that no statutory requirement for meal and rest breaks exists .... However, anecdotal evidence has suggested some sectors - the service and manufacturing sectors in particular and sectors where there are a lot of vulnerable workers - may be providing less than optimal breaks.”
It turns out that academic staff at Unitec’s trades school should be counted among the kinds of workers referred to by Trevor Mallard. In some parts of the school, rest breaks are deducted from timetabled teaching hours while, in other parts, rest breaks are excluded from paid duty hours altogether. “This flies in the face of national and international custom and practice and sends disturbing health and safety messages in a work area where the recognition of paid rest breaks should be paramount” said ASTE assistant secretary Chan Dixon.
“The draconian practice will be of interest to students and tertiary-funding providers. Currently, the tea break everywhere else in the sector is accepted as being part of working and teaching hours, and the time away from class is also counted as class time,” added Ms Dixon.
ASTE will be in discussion with New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Tertiary Education Commission and the Students’ Association at Unitec to ensure that, if staff are not having rest breaks counted as part of their working or teaching day, that the time is also being deducted from programme-hour requirements and funding arrangements.
Commemoration of Hone Tūwhare
The late Hone Tūwhare, who died in January this year, was one of New Zealand’s most distinguished Māori poets. Recognition of his talents came in the form of two Robert Burns fellowships at the University of Otago, a University of Auckland literary fellowship, and the second Te Mata poet laureateship.
His contributions, however, also extended to being actively involved in trade unions, including the union at the Otahuhu railway workshops, where he served his time as a boilermaker and, later, working on hydroelectric projects in the Waikato, the Boilermakers’ Union.
It is appropriate, then, that Te Rūnanga o Ngā Kaimahi Māori o Aotearoa (CTU Rūnanga), in collaboration with friends and whānau, are holding a commemoration of Hone’s life and work in Wellington on Saturday 21 June. AUS and ASTE both have representatives on the organising committee and will be making donations to support the event.
AUS vice-president Māori, Dr Fiona Te Momo, has commended the CTU Rūnanga for organising the commemoration. “The event will be a great opportunity to not only celebrate Hone’s life and literary works but also his overall contributions to New Zealand society,” she said.
The memorial, entry to which is free of charge, starts at 2.00 pm in the auditorium of Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, National Library of New Zealand on the corner Molesworth and Aitken Streets. The programme includes performances from Niho Taniwha (singer Ria Hall, actor Olivia Violet Robinson, and dancer Kura Te Ua); poetry readings by Hone’s friends and whānau; screening of a 1996 film on Hone directed by Gaylene Preston and produced by Mark Derby; and guest speakers.
Fake degree earns
A former student of the university has been convicted and fined $750 and ordered to pay $130 costs for using a fake Massey University degree to help him get a job as a netball manager. Hayden Mark Coulton pleaded guilty in Palmerston North District Court to using a document, a fake degree scroll, to gain a pecuniary advantage. He had previously denied the charge.
Police told the court that Mr Coulton had obtained a job as regional manager of Western Netball in Palmerston North in April last year by providing, as part of his curriculum vitae, a copy of what purported to be a bachelor of sports studies degree from Massey. After a news report about his appointment, however, including information about his alleged qualifications, the university began an investigation and found he did not have the qualifications claimed or any degree from Massey. It then lodged a complaint with the police.
The university's deputy vice-chancellor (academic and research), Professor Nigel Long, said Massey would continue to take a firm line against anyone attempting to use fake qualifications or falsely claiming to have qualifications from it. “Massey University takes very seriously any kind of misrepresentation of its qualifications and fraudulent use of its scrolls,” Professor Long said.
“Such actions strike at the integrity of the academic system and the university has no tolerance for any behaviour involving alteration or forgery of a qualification or other official university document with intent to mislead or misrepresent,” he continued. He added that the conferment of degrees and other qualifications is a matter of public record and any prospective employer wishing to obtain verification that a Massey University qualification presented to them is genuine should contact the university.
Australian university staff claim 27 percent
A 27 percent pay increase over three years for Australian university staff members is said to be negotiable, but, according to the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), they deserve it for the contributions they have already made to the booming tertiary sector. In the past twelve years, says the NTEU, university staff numbers have risen by 18 percent, but student numbers have jumped 45 percent.
NTEU general secretary, Grahame McCulloch, told ABC Radio, “The union is seeking a competitive wage rise for Australia’s university staff but we’re also seeking urgent action by universities to relieve the workload pressure on academic and general staff and, very importantly, to improve the career prospects for the very large numbers of casual academic and research staff.”
“The productivity gains in the university sector over the last fifteen years have been truly astounding and so we regard a competitive wage rise as no more than compensation for the substantial productivity efforts that have already been made by staff.”
Mr McCulloch said that academics working overseas and in some scientific research roles in Australia had received significant pay increases and universities must offer competitive wages or risk losing staff. “The claim’s negotiable but the key point here is that university staff have already made very substantial productivity contributions which, for the duration of the Howard government and because of the funding squeeze, went largely unrewarded,” he said.
“Our 27 percent pay claim, though, is not just about productivity gains, it’s also about maintaining an internationally competitive position for our universities.” Mr McCulloch added that a pay increase is also important because academics, like all Australians, are facing inflationary pressures, interest rate rises, and continuing cost-of-living pressures.
From the ABC and The Age
Unpaid peer review worth
The idea of being paid for the time spent assessing colleagues’ research might only fleetingly cross most academics’ minds and the advancement of the academy’s collective body of knowledge has traditionally been held to be reward enough for the time and effort put into peer review.
A new report, however, has attempted to quantify in cash terms exactly what peer reviewers are missing out on. It puts the worldwide unpaid cost of peer review at $NZ4.5 billion a year and estimates that the United Kingdom is among the most altruistic of nations, racking up the equivalent in unpaid time of $393 million a year.
“This is a huge hidden subsidy to the system which no one has ever quantified,” said Michael Jubb, director of the Research Information Network, which commissioned the study, Activities, costs and funding flows in the scholarly communications system in the UK, undertaken by Cambridge Economic Policy Associates.
The study estimates that the global cost of undertaking and communicating the results of research reported in journal articles is $417 billion a year, made up of $276 billion for the costs of the research itself and $60 billion for publication, distribution, and access to the articles, which includes the hidden costs of peer review, and $81 billion for reading them.
The report says there would be a “significant transfer” of funds to academics if peer reviewers were paid. But such a move would drive up journal prices, with the estimated “breakeven price” of a major discipline journal jumping 43 percent, leaving libraries with a bigger bill.
The report also shows that a move to electronic-only publishing would bring a fall of about $2.4 billion, or 12 percent, in global costs. A move towards author-pays open-access publishing, on top of the cost reductions arising from a move to electronic publishing, could bring global savings of $1323 million.
From Zoë Corbyn in Times Higher Education
Nottingham held for six days
When Nottingham University postgraduate student Rizwaan Sabir was arrested under anti-terror legislation on suspicion of possessing extremist literature, he thought he would be released in a “couple of hours”. After all, his studies were focused on Islamic extremism and the document that had prompted the police reaction, an edited version of the al-Qaeda training manual, is freely available on the internet.
Rather than being held for a matter of hours, however, Mr Sabir, along with a member of the university’s general staff, was held for six days before being released without charge. “I couldn’t believe it,” said Mr Sabir, a politics masters student at the University of Nottingham. “In the next six days, the power of the state hit me as hard as it could. It was sheer psychological torture - particularly in the last 24 hours when they were umming and ahhing about whether to charge me.”
Mr Sabir said he had downloaded the 1,500-page document from a site he had found via the search engine Google, in preparation for a PhD on radical Islamic groups. “If you are doing research for a PhD you need primary sources. I said in my PhD proposal that the strategic approach used by these groups is the most important fundamental area requiring study.”
An al-Qaeda training manual, for which the author credit is “al-Qaeda”, is available from the internet bookseller Amazon at about $NZ18. It is given a rating of one star out of five in a review by an Amazon customer who writes, “The information it contains can be found on the internet.”
Nottingham University called in the police after a copy of the manual was found on the computer of the administrative staff member, to whom Mr Sabir had forwarded it. The university said that “there was no reasonable rationale for this person to have that information”, as he was not an academic or a student. “The police were called in on the basis of reasonable anxiety and concern.”
From Melanie Newman in Times Higher Education
US withdraws Palestinian
The United States State Department has withdrawn all Fulbright grants to Palestinian students in Gaza hoping to pursue advanced degrees at US institutions this autumn because Israel has not granted them permission to leave. Given the US government’s policy towards Hamas, which controls Gaza, the US consulate in Jerusalem said the grant money had been “redirected” to students elsewhere out of concern that it would go to waste if the Palestinian students couldn’t travel.
A letter has been sent by e-mail to the students telling them of the cancellation. Abdulrahman Abdullah, who had been hoping to study for an MBA at one of several US universities on his Fulbright, was in shock when he read it. “If we are talking about peace and mutual understanding, it means investing in people who will later contribute to Palestinian society,” he said. “I am against Hamas. Their acts and policies are wrong. Israel talks about a Palestinian state. But who will build that state if we can get no training?”
Some Israeli lawmakers, who held a hearing on the issue of student movement out of Gaza, expressed anger that their government was failing to promote educational and civil development in a future Palestine. “This could be interpreted as collective punishment,” complained Rabbi Michael Melchior, chairman of parliament’s education committee, during the hearing. “This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules.”
From Ethan Bronner in the New York Times
Diversity at Disney World
The brochures for the 21st annual National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education boasted of its being “the leading and most comprehensive national forum” on the issues it covers. About 2,000 people registered for the event held at the Coronado Springs Resort in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.
In a move befitting this wild locale, one of the nation’s leading proponents of diversity in higher education turned on her audience in a biting speech. Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director of Brown University’s center for the study of race and ethnicity in America, suggested that colleges let people attend this annual conference “typically held in family-friendly tourist destinations” to reward them for not making waves by pushing for more equity and black and Hispanic representation on campus.
Calling herself “a hard-nosed critic from the inside,” Ms Hu-DeHart said, “Let's face it: diversity has created jobs for all of us. It is a career. It is an industry.” She added, “We do what we need to keep our jobs. But as long as we keep doing our job the way we are told to do it, we are covering up for our universities. You all are covering up. You all are complicit in this.”
The problem, she argued, is that those who attend the conferences and work in college offices dealing with diversity and minority issues help their institutions create the impression that they are far more concerned with diversity and equity than is actually the case.
Ms Hu-DeHart was especially hard on chief diversity officers, arguing that their existence within college administrations helps distract attention from the responsibility that presidents and provosts bear for the lack of diversity on campus. “Walk away from your job as it is and renegotiate,” Ms Hu-DeHart urged.
From Peter Schmidt in the Chronicle of Higher Education
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