Scoop News: Paul Buchanan To Challenge Auckland University Dismissal
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop co-editor
Security and intelligence pracademic Paul Buchanan has been dismissed from his senior lecturer role in the political studies department of Auckland University.
Paul Buchanan is a regular commentator for Scoop Media on intelligence and security matters and recently wrote the book: With Distance Comes Perspective
Former graduate and post-graduate students have rallied to his defence, stating the University has lost a gifted and honourable lecturer.
Scoop understands the University of Auckland decided to dismiss Paul Buchanan on Wednesday July 25 2007 citing a complaint made by a student after failing to complete her assignment on time.
In an email in late May 2007, Paul Buchanan spoke bluntly to the student of her very weak academic performance, lack of aptitude for graduate study, and how he did not believe her excuse for not delivering the final assignment on the due date.
Scoop understands the student was a United Arab Emirates national and in New Zealand on a student education visa. Scoop also understands the University of Auckland had received a degree of pressure from the student's family's networks that warned: should the University not act on the complaint then the UAE would send fewer students to New Zealand.
Scoop sought and received a response from the University of Auckland. It reads: Dr Paul Buchanan is no longer employed at The University of Auckland. This is an employment matter and we have no further comment.
Former students of Paul Buchanan's have rallied to his support. Many say the complaint was unjustified. One former student told Scoop Paul Buchanan is the best lecturer one could have hoped for: "He possesses a high intellect, and has vast hands on experience."
Another former post-graduate student told Scoop: "Having studied with Dr. Paul Buchanan at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, I am extremely surprised and disappointed to hear that he has been summarily dismissed.
"He has always been welcoming to students, ready to answer questions in his own time and even to lend books from his personal collection. Beyond regular teaching duties, Dr. Buchanan ran the Working Group on Alternative Security Perspectives, which was a unique opportunity for postgraduate students.
"Given the investment he makes in his students, Dr. Buchanan also expects a lot in return - rightly. Academic standards determine a department's standings on an international level. While I'm not familiar in any detail with the grounds for his dismissal, I am not surprised to hear he was disappointed in a student for not taking their studies as seriously as he does.
"This is hardly a reason for such a dedicated and respected member of the department to lose his job.
"Because of bad staffing decisions, the department has already lost some of its most popular and challenging papers in recent years, notably including a study abroad programme at the Russian Diplomatic Academy in Moscow that had been running for several years. I feel sorry for current and future students of the Political Studies Department. A few notable exceptions excluded, students are increasingly limited to the fields of politics and the media, and public policy. In firing Dr. Buchanan, they've made another big mistake," the former post-graduate student said.
The day after the initial email was sent Paul Buchanan apologised for any intemperate tone and offered to accept the assignment late. That offer was initially accepted by the student. However, a few days later a complaint was laid by the student through the International office. The late assignment was accepted eight days late and she was awarded a C- grade. Scoop understands the student failed to pass any of her courses at the University of Auckland, nor did she present documentation to support her claim that she had suffered a family bereavement.
Scoop understands Paul Buchanan is taking an unjustified dismissal case to the employment court with the counsel and support of his union.
Scoop will welcome a response from the University of Auckland on this matter.
FORMER STUDENTS RESPOND:
Sarah, a former student writes: "Paul Buchanan is one of the best lecturers that I had at the University of Auckland. He brings a real enthusiasm to his teaching and while he does demand high standards, students are thoroughly prepared to meet the challenge. Given that the student failed all her other papers, it looks like the University of Auckland is bending over backwards to preserve an income stream, ahead of academic rigour and integrity."
Scott Mansell, MA (Hons) Political Studies, University of Auckland.
I first met Dr Paul Buchanan as an undergraduate student in 2002. Since that time I have had the privilege of being supervised by him at graduate level. Paul uniquely combines an academic background with real world experience, giving him an integrity in the classroom that is seldom seen. Paul has a distinctive ability to present material in a challenging but entertaining manner, and his highly sort after as a lecturer and supervisor. In all my dealings with Paul, he has consistently maintained the highest personal and academic standards and expected the same of his students. Such a stance has stood me in good stead as I entered a managerial career. I remain indebted to Paul for the education and guidance he provided me, and now feel proud to call him a friend.
Aaron Bhatnagar, MA (Hons), University of Auckland, 2000
I thought Paul was a great lecturer, and while he was often quirky and cheeky, I never thought he was cruel or unkind to anyone. He worked his students hard with exacting standards, and I found him someone illuminating and interesting. Along with Dr Rouben Azizian, he was one of my favourite lecturers during my years at Political Studies 1996-1999. Occasionally I even argued with him because our political ideologies were not close - but he was always professional. Without a doubt, Paul has a style that does not compare easily to many other lecturers. This is because he is challenging and provocative, but most importantly, because he often made us smile in classes with anecdotes and examples of how challenge and provocation were important to thinking. I'd be delighted to go on the record supporting Paul as a great teacher, and a challenger of his students.
Tom Chodor, BA Political Studies and European Studies (University of Auckland), BA (Hons) International Relations (ANU), Completing PhD, International Relations (ANU)
I have known Paul Buchanan since I took his Regimes and Transitions course at the University of Auckland in 2005. Paul was an outstanding lecturer from day one with a clear passion for the subject he taught and a determination to pass his knowledge on to his students. Not only did I obtain an education from him that was unparalleled at the University of Auckland, I also gained an intellectual colleague with whom I often discussed our studies. Paul was also instrumental in encouraging and supporting my enrolment at the Australian National University and eventually undertaking a doctorate in the very topic in which he first sparked my interest in his classes. I have found Paul to be not only a very intelligent and articulate mind but also a very engaging and open person whom I am proud to count as both a colleague and a friend. I consider the charges made against him by the University as both absurd and unfounded.
Jonathan Gardiner, BA (Hons) Political Studies (University of Auckland)
Paul Buchanan is a popular and engaging lecturer who demands high standards of his students. I always found him very approachable, and willing to direct you, if he felt you were putting the effort in. His 'on the job' experiences differentiated him from most lecturers I have encountered. There has always been little doubt in my mind that there would be a lower take up of post graduate study, in the increasingly crucial areas of international relations and security, if a different lecturer was directing proceedings.
Kris Munday, Master Graduate (University of Auckland)
Having tutored one of his papers, I know that Paul Buchanan is extremely popular with students. He is strict and sets high standards but is also a tremendously entertaining lecturer. Students showed genuine engagement with the course material and his classes were always well attended. As a supervisor he was also very strict and encouraged hard work. This might make him sound unfriendly, but he was also one of the most approachable lecturers I have known. He would be a great asset to any academic department and deserves to be treated as such.
Bella Waugh, BA (Hons), Political Studies and Latin American Studies, University of Auckland
Paul is a very inspiring teacher. He has a wealth of knowledge on a variety of subjects, and is most entertaining and inspiring in the delivery of that information to his students. I know that he attracted many students to his classes for his distinctive style. During my time as his student, I found him to be an excellent class teacher and dissertation supervisor, who was often prepared to go that little bit further for me as a student. Paul was always direct - he didn't sugar-coat things. Although this was at times difficult for me as his student, I always took his criticism in a constructive manner, and I truly believe that my learning processes, knowledge and skills were the better for it. I found Paul to be a joy to learn from, and someone who inspired me a lot. Paul has an great sense of humour and a knack for lecturing (and story-telling!) which helped to make his manner of teaching very attractive. I always found him to be very generous: with his time, dedication, opinion and even things like resources - books, essays and the like. In my opinion, the dismissal of Paul constitutes a significant loss for the University of Auckland, and particularly for the students which form the core of that institution.
Ryan Lang, Graduate Student, University of Auckland
During four years at the University of Auckland, I took several of Dr. Paul Buchanan's courses and worked closely with him on my Honours dissertation. His input into my learning has been invaluable. He pursues excellence in his students, seeking to make the standard of their research, writing and work ethic internationally competitive. He is a man of integrity, an exceptional and dedicated teacher and researcher, and has been my academic mentor and advocate. The faculty has lost one of its greatest assets in Paul and will not easily be able to replace him.
Gerald Piddock - Journalist
Hi, I too am a former student of Paul's. I was at university when Paul came to the politics department in 1998 I think, and I was in his inaugural class. He's a great lecturer and teacher and he quickly became popular with students because of his life experiences and his passion for teaching. It just rubs off on his students and I have fond memories of his classes.
He is also someone that was not afraid to question authority and take on the establishment. For example, I think I recall him supporting a group of University employees - cleaners I think, when they went on strike for better working conditions which did not exactly please the University. So he certainly doesn't fit the stereotype of the cardigan -wearing, pipe-smoking, stuffy university academic, but so what?
I think the university has done students a huge dis-service by dismissing him and it smells of putting profit ahead of academic excellence.
Afifa Chida - 2nd year Bachelor of Graphic Design
Having read the e-mail which this man sent the girl, I am shocked and amazed that so many Kiwi/New Zealanders are citing support for him. This country is known for it's intolerance to racial or prejudicial discrimination, and for that Mr. Buchanan was guilty.
Please do let me know if you would like a copy of the e-mail, I have it sitting in my inbox at this very moment.
The University may look like it is putting profits above this man, but to me it is that they realise that such a person should not and will not teach on their staff.
Although he may be an excellent tutor, he has shown complete and utter disregard to the student involved.
If you had lost your father, and were sick, how would you appeal to the University, I wonder. Ask Paul Buchanan what he said to the girl. Ask him whether he showed any concern whatsoever. Ask him whether he stated that even if she had shown an obituary of her late father he would not have believed her.
What kind of a tutor, lecturer, or basic human nature is that?
He may be exceptional in the teaching zone. But when it comes to being a person, when it comes to having any form of human empathy? I beg to differ.
He deserves to be treated the way he has been. In fact he should never be able to teach again.