Make no mistake, Academic Freedom and Tenure are Under Attack at the University of Saskatchewan

Notwithstanding the very public and powerful words last week from President Ilene Busch-Vishniac about the importance of tenure and academic freedom after reversing the decision to strip Professor Robert Buckingham of his tenure, there are clear indications that the tenure process at the University of Saskatchewan is under full attack.

Despite assurances by the President that academic freedom and tenure are sacrosanct…and held in as high a value here as any other university in the world,

the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association (USFA) has learned that the President has been singularly delegated by the Board of Governors the responsibility for reviewing and making final decisions on Tenure and promotion and she plans to exercise such powers immediately.

Earlier this week, the President stated:

whenever we make a decision, there are lots of people involved in making a personnel decision, this was not a decision made by one person.

The Board’s decision to delegate veto power to the President on tenure decisions is a direct attack on the extensive collegial decision-making processes for granting tenure. Currently two female faculty members who were successfully recommended for tenure have been singled out and summoned to a “meeting” with the President.

The involvement of the President in the tenure process is contrary to long-standing practice and in conflict with the Collective Agreement between the USFA and the Board of Governors. The Executive Committee of the USFA sees this delegation as administrative interference in collegial decision-making processes at the University of Saskatchewan and believes the atmosphere of fear that such a situation creates will have a chilling effect and quash any dissenting opinion on campus, rendering the principle of academic freedom meaningless.

 This is truly outrageous,

said Doug Chivers, UFSA chair.

We see this as a threat that the President will interfere unilaterally with the long established processes of traditional collegial governance in the award of tenure decisions. Placing a ‘veto’ in the hands of one senior administrative officer, where there are no rules, procedures or standards in place flies in the face of academic freedom and undermines the very foundation of tenure. It is an insult to nearly 40 years of collective bargaining and it has been confirmed by the Court of Queen’s Bench to be unlawful.


The USFA is demanding that the Board of Governors not remain silent and take any and all measures necessary to protect the rights to academic freedom and safeguard the sacrosanct nature of tenure at our university. One of the initial steps in the right direction must be to reverse this ill-considered delegation of authority to the President and immediately reinstate its traditional deference to the recommendations of well-established and lawful collegial university committees.