I believe it is time that the membership of Anthro-l began to discuss the topic of academic suppression and what can be done to help our colleagues in other parts of the world who are suffering abuse due to the personal convictions of their superiors or government. There have been far too many cases in Latin America of anthropologists being harassed, arrested, or even killed for political reasons. Similar incidents can be cited from other parts of the world, of course, and even in countries where academic life is, let's say, quieter, there still occur cases in which individuals are suppressed merely for what could be objectively called the personal pleasure of those who have power over their careers (i.e. for reasons of racism, sexism, etc, or for no clear reason at all).
A recent, almost unbelieveable, example of such suppression is the harassment and subsequent denial of tenure to David Rindos at the University of Western Australia. Many of you are probably familiar with Dr. Rindos' contributions to our field since he was the founder of the Anthro-Gopher database, and further, the author of *The Origins of Agriculture: An Evolutionary Perspective*, as well as many published papers on topics such as Darwinism and anthropology, and the origins of cultural capacity.
Over the past several years, an incredible series of events have taken him from an outstanding teacher and researcher in the now disbanded Archaeology Department, to a temporary position in Geography, and then ultimately to a cramped space in the campus radio station! Rather than being able to focus on his teaching and research, university officials then began to require him to spend all his time writing a series of progress reports and answering to strange and never substantiated allegations of wrong-doing, none of which were ever proven to have a basis in fact. To give you an idea of the kind charges he has had to endure, these have included plagiarism (totally rejected as being groundless and likely malicious), sexual harassment (this was brought against him by three women and caused quite a stir on campus -- Rindos, as many of you know, is openly gay), and using the network for the "promotion of pornography" (nobody at the university has ever provided any details on this charge and they refuse to discuss it even with Rindos).
A few days ago Rindos was denied tenure and fired with 3 days notice. The claim was that he was not "productive." Yet even a cursory examination of his vitae and teaching record shows that he is far above the norm at his university, and several departments on his campus are enthusiastic at the chance of his joining them permanently. What makes this situation particularly odd, is that tenure review in an Australian university is generally done at the time of hiring. In fact, it appears that Rindos is the FIRST person ever to be denied tenure at the University of Western Australia!
How could a situation arise where a widely known and respected scholar could find himself in a situation like this? In Rindos's case, the troubles all seem to relate to a scandal that began while he was the interim Head of Department. As Head he discovered a number of serious professional and ethical problems in his department and reported them to University officials. These reports led to major complications when when the usual Head returned. Rindos had to be relocated to the Geography department for his own protection. Significantly, most of graduate students followed him. It looked like the problem was at least partially solved. An investigation of the Archaeology Department was undertaken by the University and as a result it was disbanded. However, over the three year period while this took place, changes in the administration of the University occurred. The new administrators apparently thought that getting rid of the "whistle blower" was an easier way of solving the vast range of problems in Archaeology than dealing with the real issues, which included a long standing pattern of sexual involvments between the Professor and her female students, favouritism, and the intellectual harassment and intimidation of students. The whole business is being widely discussed in the Australian press as it ties into many current hot issues such as sexual involvments between faculty and students, and the apparently unlimited power of the university professors in Australia to manipulate members of their departments.
So, here is a real life scenario. What actions can the international community take? Once the details are sorted out, then one course of action that can be taken is a show of concern, such as by writing to all those with power to intercede in the case. Another step that is used on occasion is censure. This is a rather extreme measure, yet it can easily be seen to apply if one adheres to a Solomon style of justice. What do all you think about these methods? Do you feel they can be effective? Can you suggest others? Does anyone with some experience with any of these cases have some first hand knowledge to share?
In Rindos' case, it is not too late to act. Already over thirty international scholars have written on his behalf, including people like Lew Binford, Robert Dunnell, Richard Gould, David Harris, Frank Hole, and Ezra Zubrow. While the VC has made up her mind on his tenure, the press and both university and government officials are are now getting involved. If you would like to hear more about this horrific case, please tell me and I will send you more detailed information. I will also post a second message with addresses of people you should write/fax to. This matter is quite urgent as the UWA Senate meets this month to decide what action, if any, to take.