Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Amateur Administration

Fire a tenured prof because he criticized the administration.  I was thinking along the same lines as Jacob Levy who expressed it well in a tweet:
It seems pretty clear that the administration at the U of Saskatchewan had a bad idea and then got super-defensive when they faced some criticism.  Indeed, this Dean had been warned not to speak up.

I doubt that this will stand as the contract of U of S is pretty specific apparently about freedom of expression including the ability to criticize the administration.  So, Prof. Buckingham is likely to get part of his job back, if I had to guess.

Professors are always going to criticize administration--it is what we do and who we are.  If you want to fire anyone who does that, it might be a good strategy for getting rid of all tenured profs.  But it is a lousy strategy if you want to keep and attract talent.  Who is going to accept a job offer at U of S besides entry level folks who have no choice?  Perhaps they do not want any "rock stars" or "rainmakers" or any other kind of academic that might be trouble despite the grants they bring in, the students they attract, the reputation they help to promote.

In most grant reviews, there is a portion that asks: is the institution sufficiently supportive for this project?  I would be tempted to say that U of S is going to lose out on many grants if outsiders take seriously the environment that now exists there--a hostile one for free inquiry and expression.

Amateur administration is both alliterative and accurate.   If you cannot handle the slings and arrows of outraged professors, you do not belong in the business of administrating an university.


Anonymous said...

But he wasn't just a tenured prof; he was a dean. And if his essay violated any sort of confidentiality agreement, then he could be terminated for cause. We simply know too little of the back story here to draw any definitive conclusions.

R. William Ayres said...

I was going to comment on this story in my blog this morning, but you've done a fine job here (as usual). Although there is a point to which we don't know the whole story, your larger point persists: this gives every appearance of an administration trying to make decisions behind closed doors without input or discussion, and then cram those decisions down the throats of people they're pretty sure are going to object. This is a lousy way to run any business, much less a university, as I've argued before.