16 January, 1992

Professor A Robson, Head, Division of Agriculture and Science

Professor J Jory, Head, Division of Arts and Architecture

Copy to the Vice Chancellor for information.

Dear Professor Robson and Professor Jory,

Following our briefing session with you last week we understand that you have read the initial draft of our report on the review of the Department of Archaeology that we expect to present soon to the Planning and Resources Committee. We understand further that the Vice Chancellor is likely to ask you, as heads of the relevant divisions, to help solve any problems that the Department of Archaeology currently has.

In the course of our Academic Review certain matters were forced upon our attention. These consisted of a number of serious allegations. Given that we had only the normal resources available to any Academic Review panel, it will be clear that we had neither the skills nor the time nor the facilities to investigate these allegations in depth, nor to evaluate each one in detail. We therefore emphasise that we cannot adjudicate upon the truth or otherwise of the allegations, and it was not possible in terms of either our schedule or our remit to attempt to prove them or disprove them. Nevertheless, the allegations themselves are sufficiently grave, sufficiently numerous, sufficiently consistent and potentially sufficiently damaging to the ideals and the reputation of this University that we could not as individuals ignore them and feel that the University as an institution likewise cannot afford to ignore them.

The essence of what we are saying is this: we have formed the impression that there are sufficient grounds for concern to suggest that the allegations be investigated by a properly constituted body of enquiry. In our view this is of immediate importance for at least three reasons. First, if any one of them proved to be true then urgent and vigorous action would, we feel, be mandatory. Second, they are of sufficiently wide currency to be in themselves damaging to individuals and the institution; if they are unsustainable they must in all justice be shown to be untrue to protect those falsely accused. Third, the university has to be seen to be capable of responding appropriately to any suggestion of significant problems within its own boundaries.

Given the need to protect those who had presented verbal or written allegations to us as well as those who had been accused of improper conduct but had not been given the right of reply, and given also that, as stated above, we were not in a position to fully investigate the allegations, we had to be highly circumspect in our recommendations. We recognise, however, that it would be extremely difficult for you to act without further and more specific knowledge of the allegations and potential problems within that department.

For these reasons, we include here comments similar to those that we made, in confidence to the Vice Chancellor. In addition, we have attached notes extracted from a survey of recent graduates in Archaeology regarding their views of the course. There were a number of disturbing findings in that survey and we quote here some comments that closely reflect the concerns presented to us in interviews. We received a number of signed depositions from individuals that included highly disturbing and serious allegations of misconduct. Several of the authors have indicated that they would be prepared to repeat their confidential depositions to any bona fide enquiry in a public forum if necessary. A number of staff and students who made depositions to our committee expressed fear of retribution and indicated that other ex students would have made depositions if they could have been assured of protection.

Most of the verbal and written allegations received related to three issues.

  1. ) It was alleged that a number of graduate and undergraduate students had had sexual relations with a member of staff and that this had been followed by favoured treatment of some (for example, in terms of grants and jobs within the Department) and apparent victimisation of others (including public ridicule and denial of fair opportunity).

  2. ) It was alleged that an environment had been fostered in which cynicism and ridicule were used to promote certain theoretical approaches and denigrate others and that this stultified free academic exchange, damaged academic reputations and integrity and ultimately severely retarded academic growth, particularly of some promising postgraduate students.

  3. ) Because the Director of the Centre for Prehistory has an influential position on a number of relevant committees outside the university, there Was alleged to be a conflict of interest regarding the university's involvement in commercial archaeology. We were told that this could damage both the university's reputation and its finances.

In summary, our current and considered view is that it would be potentially very damaging for the university as an institution and for the university community if these allegations were not now fully investigated by a committee or panel properly empowered to do so. Depending on the outcome of that enquiry, we believe that appropriate and decisive action would need to be taken, to ensure that students and staff were no longer at risk, to minimise the possibility that the allegations made did not become public property and to enable the discipline of Archaeology, at this university, to prosper in an appropriate academic environment.

We point out that the report to be presented to the Planning and Resources Committee has been endorsed by the full Review Committee but that this letter, which presents more specific and confidential information is written by the two internal members of the review committee. We have not had the opportunity to confirm that it represents the views of the external member.

For the protection of all parties, we ask that this document remains confidential and is not alluded to directly, although of course we would be prepared to reaffirm the opinions that we have expressed here in the appropriate circumstances.

Yours sincerely,


Neville Bruce (Anatomy and Human Biology)


Bernard Moulden (Psychology)

16 January, 1992



Sixteen replies were received from a total of 24 graduates who completed a major in Archaeology.

The survey was sent out on 29th October 1991 and returns were requested by 8th November 1991. Thus the returns amount to 66% of the total.

The majority of replies indicated that the respondents had been aware of discriminatory practices against certain students.

Of the 16 returns, 9 included additional comments; some of these were typed and some exceeded a page in length. Of the nine, one was very positive, the other eight were very negative. The following excerpts give some idea of their flavour.


After observing behaviour in the Archaeology Department I no longer want to become an academic - certainly not at UWA.

Active hostility ie refusal to receive work and pass/fail markings without comment is very hard to bear and impossible to address when such a power imbalance exists.

There were however, more insidious and widespread problems relating to freedom of thought, fairness of marking the involvement of undergraduates in intra-departmental politics...

Animosity reflected .... to many students and staff pervaded whole course and thus made survival difficult and tainted anything positive about the course.

17b Worst things about the course were witnessing some people's humiliation and ostracism in lectures, tutorials and field trips.

.......this oppressive behaviour is clearly unprofessional and not acceptable in the university community or indeed the wider social community!

At times lecturers and courses were taking on the mantle of propaganda where the ideas of others were not considered in an analytical sense but ridiculed by defaming the individuals who espoused any ideas incongruent to their own.