The Continuing Leadership Crisis at the U of S

USFA e-Letter: The Continuing Leadership Crisis at the U of S

There have been more remarkable developments in the ongoing saga at the U of S. At the end of last week in a communication labelled “Confidential – Not for Distribution,” former Provost Brett Fairbairn wrote that no university leader had asked about “who was present in the making of key decisions” concerning the events around the firing of Robert Buckingham on May 14. (see StarPhoenix article of July 12, 2014: “Former U of S president, provost speak about controversy for first time; Respond to confidential letter’s release”) As astounding as it seems, Acting President Barnhart is apparently unwilling to initiate any further review.

There continues to be a crisis in leadership at the University of Saskatchewan and there is a clear inability of leadership to make sound decisions. We are as perplexed as the public by recent developments and have a host of questions:

  • How is information that is “Confidential – Not for Distribution” making its way into newspapers?
  • If it was not the Provost’s idea to strip Dr. Buckingham’s tenure and the decision was the consensus of a group that included university leaders responsible for faculty relations, human resources, communications and internal legal advisors, then who drove that decision?
  • Why did the Provost sign a letter that did exactly what he said should not happen?
  • There is some uncertainty about whether external legal advice was sought prior to the dismissal of Dr. Buckingham. If not, who made the decision not to seek external legal advice?
  • Are people who are not academics making decisions about tenure?
  • How can the Board entrust the President to override collegial decisions regarding the award of tenure when the process respecting Dr. Buckingham, as it played out, was so clearly flawed?
  • If the Board has decided that the President has authority over tenure, how did it come about that the decision to strip Dr. Buckingham of tenure fell to someone else?

It will be the choice of Senior Administrators and the Board of Governors as to whether or not actions will be taken, and what those actions might be. Pervasive contradictions have been swirling around leadership at the University of Saskatchewan and there are more questions than answers.

Faculty, students and taxpayers deserve direct and honest answers to these questions.