Dear Vice Chancellor,
Thank you for the copy of Professor Bowdler's comments on our Draft of the "Review of the Department of Archaeology" to be submitted to the Planning and Resources Committee on February 20th 1992.
I note that she comments on the accuracy of some details in the report. These details will be examined further and changed before the final report is presented if the evidence supports an amendment .
But of far greater importance is what appears to be Professor Bowdler's attempt to obscure the vital recommendations, numbers 1-3, that we made in the report. [see: the link to these recommendations]
We regard these recommendations as the crux of the report since they relate directly to the academic health of the Department of Archaeology as presently constituted. Professor Bowdler has raised a number of general criticisims about the conduct or findings of the Review Committee that appear to be motivated by a wish to have these recommendations moderated.
1) She presents her view that the major problem within the Department of Archaeology relates to a particular academic staff member, namely Dr Rindos, and a group of students currently working with him. She has referred to this as the "Rindos affair" and claims that he and his cohorts have conducted a campaign to bring discredit to the Department and to Professor Bowdler personally. Further she claims "there are clear indications in the draft report that this campaign did indeed bear fruit".
We reject this interpretation unreservedly. As we have written to you, the number, and gravity of the allegations concerning abuse of academic power and the wide range of their source, impelled us to concentrate much of our attention to these matters since if the allegations were found to have foundation, clearly they would have a major impact on the academic health of the Department. In so doing, we had to be very sure that the allegations were not just part of a campaign from an isolated disgruntled group. We recognise that there has been a number of groups making disparaging and serious remarks about each other, within the Department of Archaeology and within the wider community of Archaeologists. We are convinced however, that the body of allegations we received did not just emanate from one group. There was a clear indication of serious problems within the Department of Archaeology that began well before Dr Rindos was appointed to the position of Senior Lecturer in the Department.
2) Professor Bowdler has made disparaging remarks about one of the members on our committee, Professor Moulden. I can only think that her remarks were motivated by an attempt to question the credibility of the Committee. At no time did I, as Convenor, ever have any doubt that the actions of all members of the committee were entirely appropriate to the allocated task. I would like it recorded that I had total confidence in and appreciation of the dedication, wisdom and sensitivity that the other two members and the secretary of the committee brought to the extremely difficult and sensitive task we were given. I believe that the University of Western Australia and the discipline of Archaeology have been well served by their endeavours and so I object most strongly to any attempt to disparage them.
3) Professor Bowdler claims that the various allegations referred to in the draft report were not fully discussed with her during the review process. Under normal clrcumstances, this would seem to be a justifiable complaint in that the Head of Department should have the right of reply to any criticisms of the department before any review is finalised. But these were not normal circumstances in that most of the serious allegations related to the Head of Department herself. As stated in the Draft version of our review, the allegations included claims of victimisation and favouritism towards staff and students. Given this, we could not take the risk of revealing details of any allegations to the Head of Department, or to anyone else including other staff members and students, unless we could guarantee that such revelations would not lead to victimisation. When we invited the head of department to comment on any matters of concern, we received no intimation of any major problems other than that of the Dr Rindos situation. The same was true when we invited general comments from some post graduate students and staff members from other departments in the University. Given that allegations of abuse of power appeared to be common knowledge, certainly amongst archaeologists, we felt we had to make at least an initial probe into their significance or truth. When we sensed that people we interviewed either did not know of any important issues or did not wish to talk about them, we very carefully desisted from further questioning along those lines.
4) Professor Bowdler claims that the report lacks factual detail on some of the criticisms and allegations referred to in the report. Again, under normal circumstances this wculd be a reasonable claim. However, much of the information that we received was of such gravity that we did not believe it to be appropriate to detail it in public or in our report without obtaining the authors express permission to do so.
As you know, we have now asked the authors to relay to you some of the evidence that they presented to us together with permission for you to use the information publically if needed. We believe, however, that gathering and validating such evidence and coming up with more specific recommendations based on any evidence so obtained is beyond the scope of this review committee which is why our Recommendations 1-3 were framed as they were.
Since the committee collectively met together during the week beginning 18 Nvember 1991, it has become increasingly obvious to the two internal members of the committee that the allegations that we were presented with should be properly validated or unreservedly withdrawn and discounted publicly by the university. We note that Professor Bowdler claims that she would welcome an open and specific enquiry but seems to want to limit it to the Rindos affair. We are firmly of the belief that an enquiry must examime all allegations received that have any bearing on the academic health of the Department of Archaeology.
If I could take Professor Bowdler's response in overview and put some perspective on it, I would be tempted to conclude that she does not appreciate the nature, gravity and extent of the allegations made against her. If this is so then I think that she should be fully appraised of them without revealing names etc.
Then she should be asked whether she accepts them or rejects them. If she accepts them she should be expected to accept disciplinary action. If she rejects them then I believe that she has every right to demand a full investigation so that her name can be properly cleared. I am sure that she would realise that to stop at this stage would only leave her subject to damaging yet unsubstantiated rumours of her conduct as head of department and I believe that it would be most unjust to leave her in this invidious position.
If you wish us to prepare a synopsis of the important allegations and issues that were revealed to us, or if there is anything else that we can do to help resolve this very unfortunate situation, we are of course willing to do so.
5 February, 1992 (ARCHVEV4.A92)