The University of Western Australia Department of Anatomy and Human Biology Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia 600920-Mar-93
A letter to representatives of decision-making bodies and other interested members of The University of Western Australia.
Re. Review of the Department of Archaeology (1991) and its possible outcome including a decision on tenure for Dr D Rindos (Senior Lecturer of the former Department of Archaeology).
As an academic member of this University and from my experience as convenor of the Archaeology Review Committee (1991), I feel that it is my duty to bring to your attention my serious concerns about some of the apparent outcomes of that Review. Although a number of major changes have been made, including disestablishment of the Department of Archaeology, I do not believe that these changes have been sufficient to resolve problems alluded to in our report. I already have made my views known elsewhere. The present letter has been precipitated by a particular outcome, one that to my mind was never intended by the Review Committee: a delay in making a decision on tenure for Dr David Rindos, a senior lecturer in the then Department of Archaeology. I believe that this University has inadvertently behaved unfairly towards Dr Rindos. This may have been due to difficulties in resolving problems within the discipline of Archaeology. It may have been due to a lack of information transfer between various decision-making bodies within the University. But whatever the situation, I believe that common justice and the good name of this University requires rapid and more equitable action than appears to have been the case until now. I appeal to you to help in this regard. I am very willing to provide more detailed information if required.
I have already written a letter of support for Dr Rindos in relation to his tenure (see copy enclosed). From the objective evidence that I have to hand there is no doubt in my mind that he deserves tenure in his own right. Given the additional issue of the unfortunate circumstances that he has had to endure at this University (see below) then I believe that we may be guilty of a grave miscarriage of justice if his tenure is denied. I believe that Dr Rindos should be tenured forthwith.
The issue of tenure for Dr Rindos, the history of the Department of Archaeology and the present activity of Archaeology at this University can not be separated. Necessary amplification of these comments follows:
I should first record that as a member of the Archaeology Review Committee I found the experience deeply disturbing. I heard many serious allegations of inequitable dealing both between staff and between staff and undergraduate and postgraduate students. This was noted in the Review Report. It is my firm belief that the environment of the Department of Archaeology was made deeply stressful for Dr Rindos and some students and that their performance suffered accordingly. There were accusations of campaigns, by groups within the department, against other staff members and students. Indeed, a number of those interviewed claimed that they had been deliberately victimised by staff in one way or another.
The review report requested that the Vice Chancellor, as a matter of urgency, investigate management practices, resolve divisions and investigate purported inequitable behaviour within the Department.
Since the review, a second committee (comprising Professors Clyde and Hotep) was asked to look specifically at problems within the Department of Archaeology. I do not know of their findings, but subsequent to their investigations, the Department of Archaeology no longer exists as an independent entity and its activities seemingly have been taken over by the Department of Anthropology. At the time of the initial review, merging the Department of Archaeology with the Department of Anthropology was mentioned as a possible solution. I had, and voiced, grave misgivings about this solution on the grounds that it would be unlikely to solve inequitable treatment between original departmental members and students. I now believe that my misgivings were correct although I accept that alternative solutions may have been impractical at that time.
Over the past year since the Review Report was handed in, a number of events have prevented me from ignoring the results and distancing myself from the situation.
1) I have received a number of requests for advice or help from disaffected undergraduate and postgraduate students of Archaeology. Many of these students put their faith in our committee in the hope that major problems within the discipline of Archaeology at this University would be resolved. They now believe, with justification, that their faith was to a large extent misplaced. They have stated that some of the deliberately damaging activities described to the Committee during the Review Process are still being indulged in by members of the original department. I can confirm that some of these have been directed at Dr Rindos but equally worrying is that postgraduate students also have been affected. I believe that this University must do more to stop such travesties of academic behaviour.
2) Dr Rindos did not and still has not received fair treatment at this University.
There would be many graduate and postgraduate students and colleagues who would be deeply cynical about this University if Dr Rindos received further unfair treatment. Dr Rindos has made a particularly important contribution to maintaining morale amongst disaffected postgraduate students as well as providing them with normal supervisory support. My support for Dr Rindos would be partly on their behalf.
Finally, I point out that many of those people who made verbal or written depositions to the original Review Committee, did so because they trusted this University to resolve problems within Archaeology. It must have been at considerable cost for some of them to recount their unfortunate experiences with Archaeology. Not all of these problems have been resolved and I would be unfaithful to them if I remained silent now.
Although colleagues at this University and others have offered to cosign this letter, I have elected to present it alone because of my close association with the whole affair. It is with a feeling of regret that I have had to write the letter at all and make sensitive issues relatively public. I had hoped that it would not be necessary. However, if students and staff suffer because decisions made to correct real problems have been less than adequate, all of us who are directly or indirectly involved in those decisions must share the blame and work to redress those problems.
Neville W Bruce
Associate Professor, Anatomy and Human Biology
Deputy Vice Chancellor
Head of Division of Arts and Architecture
Head of Division of Agriculture and Science
Former Heads of Division of Agriculture and Science
Head of Academic Board
Deputy Head of Academic Board
Head of Staffing Committee
Head, Department of Geography
Head, Department of Anthropology
Faculty of Science, Sub-Dean
Secretary, Departmental Review Committee
Head of Personnel Department
Dr David Rindos
Representative, Staff Association
Attachment 1. A letter sent to the then Head of the Division of Agriculture and Science. [Not included here.