March 23, 2011

Bullied Macquarie University staff demand an apology

Six former Macquarie University staff have demanded an official apology from vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz for the university's failure to act on claims of victimisation and bullying subsequently found to be justified by an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry.

In an open letter sent yesterday, they also called for further action on other recommendations in the ICAC report, including addressing a chaotic staffing regime at the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism headed by former NSW police minister Peter Anderson.

The university says it has dealt with these issues, including accepting merit selection as the basis for appointments.

The letter reflects the frustration of former staff that their complaints have been largely ignored, even after the scathing findings of the ICAC-commissioned inquiry and their publication in The Australian a fortnight ago.

The report found nine of the centre's 12 staff made legitimate complaints of victimisation, marginalisation, bullying and harassment. They include the six who signed the letter. Although they pursued the complaints all the way up the university hierarchy to Professor Schwartz, the report says the university took no action to resolve them. Eight of the staff resigned and one did not have her contract renewed.

The report criticised Professor Anderson for contributing to the bullying and victimisation, as well as for appointing people with Labor connections without meeting selection criteria, for claiming inappropriate expenses and for being less than frank in his explanations to the inquiry. The report found no direct evidence of corruption but concluded there were "justifiable perceptions that the processes of recruitment and selection are corrupt".

It said the university should consider providing an apology "for the apparent failure in responding to [the complainants'] workplace grievances and taking appropriate action".

Yesterday's letter says deputy vice-chancellor Judyth Sachs "violated our trust" by forwarding the second complaint sent to her and Professor Schwartz to Professor Anderson, even though it was marked in confidence and contained their names. The former staff who signed the letter are Elton Bien, Alfred Gerstl, Belinda Helmke, Greg Pemberton, David Santoro and Alan Watson.

A university spokesman said yesterday the letter reiterated selected parts of the report, "which contains many serious flaws".

No apology to former staff was warranted as the only formal complaint lodged with the university had been found to be without merit, the spokesman said. Professor Sachs had acted "in an entirely appropriate way and consistently with normal management processes". He also provided a resolution carried by PICT staff last week affirming support for Professor Anderson and asking the university to lodge formal complaints with the Internal Audit Bureau, which conducted the investigation for ICAC, with ICAC itself and with the NSW Ombudsman regarding the "unfair processes and erroneous outcome of their investigation, giving rise to recent adverse publicity".


March 15, 2011

Wikipedia: Bullying in academia

Bullying in academia is workplace bullying of scholars and staff in academia, especially places of higher education such as colleges. It is believed to be common, although has not received as much attention from researchers as bullying in some other contexts...

Wikipedia entry:

March 11, 2011

UniLeaks is a news organisation

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It’s not news if it has been publicly available elsewhere first, and we are a news organisation.

However, from time to time, the editors may re-publish material that has been made public previously elsewhere if the information is in the public interest but did not have proper news analysis when first released.

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March 07, 2011

Channel 4 is making a documentary

Channel 4 is making a documentary about the commercialisation of higher education. One of the areas the programme will explore is the conflict between university managements' desire to increase revenue and the necessity to maintain academic standards.

We are looking to speak on or off the record to academics who feel that standards are being compromised, for example by inflating grades and overlooking poor standards in English, as their institutions seek to maximise income from tuition fees from both UK and overseas students.

If you are willing to speak to me off the record and in confidence, please do get in touch in the strictest confidence.

Gurbir Dhillon - Assistant Producer - Vera Productions
Tel: 0207-292-1480 / 07768-725121