19 September 1991
Professor F Gale
Dear Professor Gale
Dr D Rindos -- Tenure Report
I am sorry not to have been more timely with this report. But I am sure that you will understand that I needed to give it especial thought.
Dr Rindos' own report gives a representation of his activities during the period of time. Of course, his own assessment is that he has made contributions. Equally, however, there have been difficulties because of poor interpersonal relationships between him and his Head of Department almost from the beginning.
His new Head of Department, Dr Michael Taylor, has written a short but useful supporting document that indicates that Dr Rindos is settling down well in his new Department.
Professor Sandra Bowdler provides a long commentary that is generally very negative, but certain aspects of it are correct; other are a matter of opinion. It is certainly correct that his period as acting Head of Department did not go well. It is also correct that his research activities have not been extensive during the period when he was in the Department of Archaeology. It is correct that both his undergraduate and postgraduate teaching has met with extreme disapproval from Professor Bowdler. Professor Bowdler had gone so far as to present me with the written beginning of a case for his non-tenure in the Department within a year and a half of his appoint on 13 June 1989. She did not give me a prior letter complaining about him, but documenting the steps he should take to correct matters. Needless to say, he saw this an an attempt to "set him up" for tenure to fail without the chance to take appropriate corrective steps and, indeed, without the evidence of due process.
As you may be aware, this and other matters resulted in there being a breakdown of interpersonal relations between Dr Rindos and Professor Bowdler. It started almost from the beginning of his appointment, but it reached crisis proportions last February when I took emergency action in removing him from that Department and placing him in Geography in March 1991.
My own view includes the following.
First, Professor Bowdler did not, through me, provide Dr Rindos with any written statements as to how he should improve his activities, though I believe that many sharp memos passed between them. Almost from the beginning, her statements were negative and appeared aimed at rebutting his case for tenure, without the chance for correction.
Second, there is his alleged poor performance as Head of Department. I agree that this was quite poor, perhaps even disastrous I personally saw it fairly closely as at least half of it occurred during my early months as Head of Division I believe that few individuals can be expected to do a very job as Head of Department immediately upon appointment. In his case, the poor job was exacerbated by the poor relationships that developed with Professor Bowdler almost immediately. They were further exacerbated by the extreme pressures that there were on all Head of Departments during the early days of divisionalisation. He was not the only Head who found this a difficult time. Nor do I think that anyone from the US should be appointed Head of Department immediately on entry to an Australian university. The two university cultures are just too different. This last point is not, incidentally, a criticism of Professor Bowdler who asked him to do it, nor of the previous central administration who approved her request. The whole group is so small, with one professor and one senior lecturer, that Professor Bowdler virtually had no choice.
Third, his research performance was quite poor. Given his prior record, however, that has to be laid largely at the door of his undertaking the acting headship, and of the breakdown in interpersonal relations that occurred between him and Professor Bowdler. I believe that breakdown was very severe, and that if the two of them had not been separated, there might well have been very serious sequelae. These were among the reasons fro my separating them.
Fourth is his teaching. That matter is not so clear. By Professor Bowdler's estimation his teaching is very poor. But the students seem to have rated him bimodally; that is: there are some who think he was poor, there are other who think him very good. That situation is not unusual for an independent academic making inroads into a discipline in the best kind of university. Certainly, however, the type of contribution that he wishes to make is judged useless by Professor Bowdler.
Fifth, I now need to comment on his research and teaching since his move to Geography. Some of this is borne out by Professor Taylor's remarks. Some I have sussed out for myself.
There is little doubt that his teaching is still bimodal. Some students do not like it. But some are extremely powerfully stimulated by it. And the higher the level (upper level undergraduate, postgraduate) the most positive his contribution seems to be. In fact, his graduate students are now making far better progress than any of them were able to make while they were located in Archaeology (his graduate students were also relocated to Geography). One of his students, M----- C---- has, I believe, truly taken off.
A second very interesting phenomenon has also occurred. Professor Taylor informs me that graduate students are now starting to "come out of the woodwork." It would appear that a number of students, over the years, have been put off by Archaeology and have gone to ground. Now that they see a chance of doing Archaeology research outside the Department, they are resurfacing. Professor Taylor tells me that Dr Rindos may attract as may as six postgrads to the Department (whose total graduate student population otherwise numbers about nine).
Finally, Dr Rindos has started to get on with his own original work and several manuscripts are in process of being written and have been sighted by Professor Taylor. Certainly Dr Rindos' and his students' enjoyment of life has returned, and I see a good relationship among them. The materials of his that I have read (especially his book on the archaeology of agriculture) are, in my opinion, real contributions. But they depend upon the application of applied mathematics and evolutionary biology to archaeological ideas. It is unlikely that either of these matters would be of interest to Professor Bowdler. Indeed, I believe she would say they were not pertinent to [her] archaeology.
I can only conclude from all of this that, following a disastrous start at this university which was clearly only partly his fault, he is now making good progress. My estimation is that he is now working well though, as is usual in academia, the long term sequelae of two individuals who hate each others guts will continue. And that will be so whatever institutions they happen to be at.
There are further problems ahead. But I believe Geography can see its way gradually to make a place for him. And Archaeology has been spared the personality conflict associated with a very small Department with only a single tenured member of staff. Perhaps this year's review will help us here.
I believe the actions we have taken to address the problems are proving successful and, on that basis, I accept Dr Rindos' Activity Report as satisfactory.
I hope this report is helpful to you.
c.c. Mr S Wiles (?)
The c.c. line is added in a hand other than Professor Oxnard's.
The document carries folio-page numbers 165-167. This would seem to indicate that it was originally placed into Dr Rindos' personnel file, and was sent there from the vice-chancellory, rather than directly from Professor Oxnard. If this is true, then from internal evidence, it would have been placed into his file some time after the middle of the year. However, it appears to have been later removed (possibly improperly) from his official personnel file because his file now contains other documents from the end of 1991 and 1992 which bear the same folio numbers.