U of Saskatchewan fires tenured dean for speaking out against cuts


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.

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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.


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



Does egregious have a different meaning in Saskatchewan?

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.


The provost who had sacked the professor for insubordination has now resigned his administrative position.

I think the University is within its rights to fire him from his administrative position for public back-sassing, even if he’s absolutely right and speaking out of concern for the school.

But stripping him of tenure is a whole other animal. The bargain that faculty administrators make with their school, when they retain (or are granted) tenure in their home departments, is this: I will stop doing the thing I’m trained for, and take up this service role, and in exchange, I will be allowed to go back to it when you’re done with me.

When a dean (for example) is hired from another university, the department that would grant tenure has an actual discussion about whether they want the person hanging around on their faculty if things go wrong. It can actually derail a candidate even when the administration really wants to hire someone.

Since he’d never be fired from a tenured position (without a gigantic outcry such as is happening here) for criticizing the administration if he weren’t a dean, this is pretty bad.

There has been a gigantic outcry, elsewhere. The open letter has received 946 replies asking to be added as signatories to the letter; this is ongoing: they’ve submitted “version 1” to the Board but will continue to add names. It’s nearing 1000 now, and I don’t see it slowing down. To make it worse, the faculty association has now sent a letter to the Board of Governors asking for a response on a related issue of the President’s having been delegated with what amounts to “veto power” over tenure decisions that have gone through the normal assessment and approval by collegial processes.

Larry Moran (professor of biochemistry at the University of Toronto) has been providing updates on this:

As someone mentioned above, the provost resigned. The latest news is that the president, Ilene Busch-Vishniac, has been fired by the Board of Governors.

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