THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY The Research School of Pacific Studies GPO Box 4, Canberra ACT 2601 April 5, 1993 TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERNI write to you about Dr David Rindos. This letter is written in some haste as I am currently on study leave, travelling and lecturing in the US and Canada, and the news that Dr Rindos has been denied tenure at the University of Western Australia reached me only yesterday, from several sources, both here in north America and in Australia.
It seems to me that a serious injury has been done, to Dr Rindos in particular, to the reputation of UWA, and to Australian academic procedures and standards. The effects of these have been transmitted to me in no uncertain terms by north American colleagues who are appalled, as I am, by what appears to be a sequence of unethical and unprofessional actions, by one senior academic in particular, and that Dr Rindos is being made the scapegoat for the conflicts and fallout from this behaviour. It is important that you realise that Dr Rindos is well known in north America, particularly for his Academic Press book on domestication. His papers and books are standard references for courses on the development of settled life in the Americas and an important comparative reference for parallel courses covering Asia and the Fertile Crescent, in Anthropology and Geography Departments right across the US and Canada. Rindos' work in theoretical prehistory has given him a reputation that far outweighs that of his former head of Department. Academic here are aware that Rindos was asked to assume the headship of his department while still untenured and that he had a serious disagreement with the Departmental head subsequently. While his previous work and teaching should have ensured his tenure virtually automatically the problems of acting-headship and the stress of the disagreement with Professor Bowdler should have been sufficient explanation for any reduction of academic output during his pretenured appointment. It is very surprising to me and many others that the University has taken the action it has.
The damage that the decision over Dr Rindos will have on the reputation of the University has only just begun and will have far-reaching effects. In the last week I have been approached din person and by telephone by five academics who want to know "what the hell is going on in this University". These are senior scientists, one a very senior geneticist asked to apply for a UWA position, and other acting as referees for other job applicants. Already the effects of the University's mistake is to reduce the range and skills of applicants for positions at the University and its long and hard-earned reputation is being undermined.
I regard the University's action as a serious mistake and a denial of natural justice. I hope the matter can be resolved internally, before it becomes a scandal of national proportions. As an Australian, it is important to me that our national standards for academic life be maintained. This is a case when a good scholar, placed in a difficult situation by his head of Department, has been poorly supervised by the University during his period of probation, a period when the University should have ensured that he was correctly used and encouraged. This lapse by the University in its professional responsibilities will be very damaging unless the decision is corrected. I register my strong protest at the denial of tenure to Dr Rindos and urge you to correct the error immediately.
Alan G. Thorne
Fellow and Head of Department