This letter was sent in response to a memo sent to Professor Bowdler by her supervisor, Head of Division Professor Charles Oxnard.

See below for a Commentary on the sources of this document.

                             The University of Western Australia
   31 October 1991           Department of Archaeology
                             Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia 6009
Professor Fay Gale

RE: Dr David Rindos: Probation

In 1988, the Department of Archaeology advertised a Senior Lectureship, consequent on the retirement of Assoc. Prof. Hallam. The selection committee for the appointment consisted of myself and Professor Michael Scriven and Brian de Garis, neither of who are still with this University.

Dr David Rindos of the United States was the only applicant remotely suitable for the appointment at Senior Lecturer level. He had good teaching references and a highly regarded book on The Origins of Agriculture. His referees did however allude to eccentricities of behaviour. Our selection committee recommended his appointment. The University Standing Selection Committee queried the recommendation on the basis of the referees' observations and convened a meeting (a "teleconference" as it happened, as I was in Newcastle at the time staying with Dr Bill Jones). My position was that I was keen to appoint someone who appeared to be particularly strong as an undergraduate teacher, and that this would be apparent well within the probationary period. The committee finally agreed to approve the appointment, flagging it as a "high risk appointment." Professor Clyde chaired that meeting, I believe.

Dr Rindos took up his appointment mid-way through 1989. We had discussions about teaching and especially the first-year course, which seemed to go well. Dr Rindos then, and indeed prior to taking up the position, always claimed to be prepared to work hard at rounding out his rather specialised knowledge base.

In 1900, Dr Rindos agreed to be Head of Department for one year, to allow me to take up deferred study leave. I was overseas for the first half of the year. Rumblings began to reach me, about Dr Rindos's performance as Head of Department and, perhaps more worryingly, about the first year course. On returning to Australia, I tried not to intervene in the management of the Department. I did however engage with Dr Rindos and other staff in discussions about the first year course. It was going very very badly, and Dr Rindos was seemingly intransigent.

When I resumed the headship early this year, my two priorities were to try and restore the morale of the rest of the staff, and get the first year course on track. It was clear that Dr Rindos was quite unsuitable to the task of first year teaching, and not well suited to teaching archaeology at any undergraduate level. He also appeared to have no grasp whatever of how to do the kind of research we would expect in this institution. His deficiencies as Head of Department I would not wish to hold against him insofar as this was not a necessary basis of his appointment. He did however create immense problems with other staff, and with students.

Early this year I approached the Director of Personnel Services for advice. She suggested I inform Dr Rindos of where I felt he needed to improve with respect to teaching and research and also to notify him in writing This I did. His reaction was to create unlimited and still ongoing trouble at every conceivable opportunity. He enlisted the support of the Head of Division -- successfully it would appear -- to create the impression that he and I were involved in a personal antagonism. I do not believe this to be the case. My only desire was to get Dr Rindos to perform properly as a Senior Lecturer in this University. He has responded by mounting a personal campaign against me of quite incredible scope, culminating in the correspondence you have seen from Mr Quartermain, and recently involving attempts to subvert our forthcoming Review.

Early this year we advertised a tutorship. Dr Rindos intervened in the selection process by somehow convincing the Head of Division that we had not followed appropriate procedures. The Head of Division has, despite being asked several times, not done me the courtesy of explaining what these complaints were, or in what way procedures were not properly observed. The position was re-advertised some months later, and we arrived at the same recommendation, which was accepted this time around.

During the tutorship furore Professor Oxnard transferred Dr Rindos to the Department of Geography. This seemed to be based in part on Professor Oxnard's belief that Dr Rindos was about to do himself an injury. Professor Oxnard actually warned me at some point not to "apply any more pressure" to him (I think I had written him a memo). It does seem to me that if Dr Rindos was transferred on some sort of perceived medical basis, he should have been sent off for counselling and possibly invalided out, if that was the reason for his various incompetencies.

After his transfer to Geography, I took steps to remove Dr Rindos from involvement with the first year course. This led to more drama, public tantrums, misinformation fed to students, and so on. all documented.

In June 1991, I was sent Dr Rindos's Activities Report for my comments. I found it to be totally inadequate for a Senior Lecturer, and moreover full of deliberate misinformation. I commented appropriately, trying to maintain the best level of objectivity I could in the circumstances. I should point out that every other member of this Department employed in an academic capacity has complained about Dr Rindos, in writing, to Professor Oxnard and/or myself.

Over the last few months, I have asked Professor Oxnard several times about Dr Rindos's tenure position, since it has staffing implications for this Department. He has always responded by saying it is under consideration.

I have now received a memo from Professor Oxnard dated 18 October 1991, with a copy of a memo of the same date, addressed to Dr Rindos. I enclose copies. You will see that these memos represent a fait accompli. You may also note that Dr Rindos had already been informed of this outcome.

I am amazed that Professor Oxnard can refer to Dr Rindos's activities as "satisfactory." Were this literature, it would be satire worthy of Lodge or Bradbury. It is however the University of W.A. in 1991. So much for excellence.

I believe several disturbing implications arise from this sorry matter. The staffing implications for this Department I will pursue separately. Professor Oxnard describes Professor Taylor as Dr Rindos's "temporary" Head of Department. Where is he to end up? Professor Oxnard has made serious undertakings to me personally and to other members of this Department personally that Dr Rindos will in no circumstances come back to this Department. The following questions deserve consideration.

What is the point of probation if it is not to assess the suitability of an applicant to a position in terms of the criteria on the basis of which they were appointed? What is the point of probation if it does not allow the possibility of non-confirmation?

What are the correct procedures for assessing and regulating the performance of academic staff?

What is the role of the Head of Department in assessing appointments within their department? What is the credibility of the Head of Department in demanding excellence of their staff?

It would seem to me that if an individual can, as in this case, present their deficiencies as the outcome of a personal conflict, and enlist the support of a Head of Division all reviewing procedures are worthless.

This University, while attempting to present itself as an elite research establishment, is now to be permanently saddled with an individual with no competence at teaching or research and an unpleasant set of personal characteristics to boot.

You will find extensive documentation on this matter in Personnel's file. I will seek an opportunity to discuss this personally as soon as possible.

(Professor) Sandra Bowdler

c.c. Professor C. Oxnard

  • Director, Presonnel Services

    Commentary on the sources of documents:

    One copy of this letter was received with a cover letter indicating that it came from the files of the Anthropology Department [which in 1994 included Archaeology]. It is a signed copy, however, and was annotated, by hand (in the same hand as the other 31 October letter to the Vice-Chancellor) "FILE: RINDOS PERSONAL FILE." It had no receipt stamp on it, nor was it annotated.

    As with the other letter of this date, no copy has been recovered which is stamped to indicate receipt by the Vice-Chancellor.

    The second copy, stamped by the Division of Agriculture and Science, has a hand-drawn circle around the words "Department of Archeology" in the return address and beside it is written, apparently in the hand of Charles Oxnard "REVIEW PENDING." Except for the occasional hand-drawn "*" alongside the text, it is unannotated. It is uncertain which file it was in when supplied.

    The original copy sent to the Vice-Chancellor and the CC: copy that should have existed in Personnel Services apparently have both disappeared. No copies were recovered which bore the stamps of either office. This is particularly confusing in that the Vice-Chancellor's (Archaeology relevant) files, as enumerated to Dr Rindos in late March 1994, contains scores of documents on the most mundane of topics, all of which are related to the management of archaeology. These files may, at least in part, represent the ones that were taken from the Division of Agriculture and Science, but again, may come from different sources.

    It may also be the case that a clerical error has been made and the signed copy is the original sent to the Vice-Chancellor. If so, then a special file existed in the Vice-Chancellory dedicated to material about Dr Rindos. This appears likely, especially given the fact that teaching reviews which were claimed, by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the time, to be "missing" were later to be recovered in the files of the Vice-Chancellory itself!