We’re gonna ride the gravy train; passion, engagement doesn’t happen top-down at universities; it’s people

My father and uncle always told me, I don’t care what you do, just be really good at it.

For awhile I was going to be a bicycle repair dude; then a carpenter; I found I wasn’t good at either. Then I hit on the writing and professoring thing and at least I don’t suck.

So why are talented university researchers toiling away in the ever growing ranks of administratium, when they are not good at it?

And why are taxpayers continually asked to pay?

The head of the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Public Health (that’s in Canada) was fired a couple of days ago after he spoke out against the school’s TransformUs restructuring plan.

I don’t know what TransformUs is, but suspect it is largely similar to Kansas State University’s 2025 initiative and numerous other marketing duds at numerous other universities, paid for by tax dollars (individual and corporate donations are a form of tax dollars).

Having university professors as administrators is problematic; many seem to go to the same Tony-Robbins-how-to-be-a-great-leader seminar and end up whores for money.

The role of president has been transformed to cheerleader-in-charge.

The provost runs a dictatorial state – it’s not even benevolent – that demands strict adherence to institutional goals.

The University of Saskatchewan confirmed that it fired professor Robert Buckingham, but would not comment further.

When Buckingham showed up to work a few days ago, he said he was met by two police officers. He said they handed him a note, which talked about a letter he released yesterday called ‘The Silence of the Deans.’

Buckingham said the university claimed he breached his contract through the letter, and irrevocably damaged his relationship with the university.

He was escorted off campus by the pair of officers. He was told to stay off university property, but will be allowed to return at a later date to collect his personal belongings.

He said his tenure and benefits have been revoke and cannot comment further until he obtains a lawyer.

In a public letter Buckingham titled “The Silence of the Deans,” he detailed a December 2013 meeting between senior academic leaders at the school. He said deans and vice-presidents were in attendance. Buckingham claims that president Busch-Vishniac told the group not to “publicly disagree with the process or findings of TransformUs.” Buckingham alleges President Busch-Vishniac went on to tell the group that if they did speak out against the cost-cutting process their “tenure would be short.”

Sounds about right.

And it’s a sad state for academic institutions.

An excerpt from an email the US provost sent said, “you are in an especially tough position and are subject to the expectation the president has of all of its leaders, that you will support TransformUs and the university’s messaging.”

The next day, US rehired Buckingham.

But not as Dean.

“Dr. Buckingham, who was terminated from his position (as dean of Public Health) on May 14, will not return to that leadership position,” said Busch-Vishniac. “He will, however, be offered a tenured faculty position. The confusion on this issue stems from differing interpretations based on his contract. Because we hold tenure in high regard, we will immediately reverse that part of our initial decision.”

Why do taxpayers foot the bill for administrative idiocy?

In Kansas, the state board of regents has upheld an idiotic decision that professors better mind their manners on twitter or other social media, or they can be fired.

I have no doubt I was fired because of the things I write that didn’t please university donors, but don’t dwell on conspiracy theories.

Why assume conspiracy when stupidity explains most things?

I’ve benefitted from the university system, as has my family, but when I see the debt my children have acquired with a complete lack of accountability and the growing administrtium org chart with the salaries and benefits, I recommend other alternatives.

The system is broken.

To me, the driving interest is to be curious, ask the right questions, and engage people.

The universities I know gave up on that long ago.

So why should taxpayers pay?

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, barfblog.com retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 dpowell29@gmail.com 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time