As regular readers of this blog know, I have been investigating and publicizing bullying, harassment, and ethical allegations against Alan Cooper, director of the University of Adelaide's ancient DNA center. As part of that investigation, it has become clear that bullying and other mistreatment of students, postdocs, and even faculty are endemic across the university (and perhaps across all of academia.)
Recently, faculty and staff in the School of Education have been trying to get the Adelaide administration to take seriously their complaints against the head of the school, Faye McCallum. Colleagues eventually turned to the local branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), which wrote the following letter to the university administration a year ago. I am told that this did lead to an inquiry (so-called "culture check," as in the case of Alan Cooper, currently underway) but that this inquiry went nowhere and led to no action.
The following is a draft of the letter, written on union letterhead, which was shared among a number of colleagues at Adelaide. I understand the final version was very close to this draft.
It seems long past time for the Adelaide administration to think about students, faculty, and staff first, and to stop protecting bad behavior among the university's leaders. This blog post will be updated regularly.
14 August 2018
Professor Jennie Shaw
Executive Dean: Faculty of Arts
The University of Adelaide
Adelaide, SA 5005
Head of School, School of Education – Lack of confidence by the majority of Academic Staff
The NTEU represents the majority of Academic Staff in the School of Education in relation to ongoing concerns regarding the Head of School, Professor Faye McCallum. These staff have a lack of confidence in the Head of School’s ability to manage the school in a fair, transparent, and equitable manner. The NTEU has met with the staff collectively and individually and the pattern of behaviour is not commensurate with the expectations of a HoS.
Lack of transparency in recruitment
Of particular concern are two recent appointments from St. Peters College (One is a direct appointment and the other at Associate Professor level.) We understand that neither have strong research track records or quality publications. Both have limited experience in university teaching and no leadership experience at school principal level. These staff have been given leadership responsibilities such as program and course reviews and tasked with the initiation of new programs, specialisations, and courses. The rationale and staffing models supporting these developments have not been clarified. The two new appointments have also been tasked to lead consultancy projects without detailing the staffing implications or contribution of the projects to advancing research outputs. The staff believe that these appointments and their associated responsibilities must be reviewed in light of these matters, and concerns about gender representation and cultural diversity in the school.
Micromanagement, inconsistent decision making, bullying and harassment, favouritism and preferential treatment
The NTEU has been informed and provided with many explicit examples from individuals of recurring incidents of micromanagement, inconsistent decision-making, bullying and harassment by the HoS.
The staff also complain of favouritism and the preferential treatment consistently shown toward four staff members who are consulted on matters such as enrichment days and professional development workshops when considerable expertise on such matters resides elsewhere in the school.
Below are examples of behaviours and incidents experienced by the members of staff who have:
1. been prevented or discouraged from pursuing their research (e.g. through slow and/or inconsistent responses from the HoS, and/or lack of flexibility negotiating teaching commitments and/or conference attendance). This has occurred despite the fact that the school returned unspent research money to the Faculty in 2017;
2. received inadequate or inappropriate professional development support from the HoS (e.g. discouraged from pursuing research, applying for promotion or SSP);
3. been prevented from teaching or supervising in fields directly related to their research and/or required to teach in areas outside their expertise and/or replaced by casual staff;
4. had decisions (including those made during PDR) overturned later;
5. been expected to fulfil unreasonable demands and/or meet unrealistic deadlines;
6. been insulted, ignored or treated with hostility for disagreeing with the HoS;
7. received curt and rude emails from the HoS;
8. received curt and rude emails from the HoS after hours and at weekends demanding an immediate response;
9. had decisions made for them made by the HoS without consultation, and
10. been challenged about entitlements to leave, with some having to seek support from HR and/or the NTEU.
The above can be verified but the individual staff are concerned about further recriminations from the HoS if details reveal their identities.
The NTEU requests that a process be initiated with a view to resolving these issues. It is paramount that staff feel safe in their place of work and the NTEU seeks your assurance that the matter will be treated sensitively and discreetly, to avoid an escalation in both tensions and inappropriate management practices.
SA Division Industrial Officer
Cc Nick Warner, NTEU Branch President