[Comments by UWA's Vice-Chancellor Fay Gale, and by Dr Rindos were appended to the end of this posting.] ----------------------------------------------------------------------- The world anthropological community is becoming increasingly distressed by the University of Western Australia's denial of tenure to Dr David Rindos.
The subject has been discussed both on mailing lists and elsewhere on the net, and it has become a major item of concern at professional meetings in the US and abroad. As each new piece of information comes to light in this sorry story, one thing has become totally clear: the PUBLIC reasons for denial of tenure and firing are simply unbelievable. This recognition is leading a growing number of people to suspect that another, hidden, agenda is really at stake.
Since I first posted a summary of events in the Rindos Affair, I have received many requests for more information and updates on events. Below I discuss a few of the more striking, and odd, developments of the past six months or so. I asked both the Vice Chancellor's office at the University of Western Australia and Dr. Rindos for their comments or clarifications on this posting. Their replies appear at the very end.
As I noted in my original posting (Wed, 23 Jun 1993 14:02:46 EDT):
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.It has been discovered, by means of data posted here on the Net and elsewhere, that the University had attached impossible financial conditions to "offers" made to other Departments which wished to provide a home to Dr Rindos. Hence, it appears that UWA claims that other Departments were not "willing" to "accept" him are based upon mis-representation of the true facts of the case.
The University keeps saying that Dr Rindos was never fired, and that his contract was merely "allowed to expire" on the grounds that he was not up to UWA's "high standards." Dr Rindos is now in the process of taking action in the Industrial Court of Western Australia seeking to prove this claim is false. He is maintaining (as everybody in academic life already knows) that denial of tenure on illegitimate or unsubstantiated grounds, in fact, constitutes an unfair firing.
Scholars working in Australian Archaeology, unconnected to UWA, have also noted to me the existance of certain academic disagreements between the Professor of Archaeology, Sandra Bowdler, and Dr Rindos, especially regarding Rindos' recent work on the colonization of Australia. Serious concern is being expressed by some that issues of Academic Freedom also might be involved in this case. I have also heard very troubling reports that certain UWA Archaeology faculty and students, and others have contacted scholars in the US and elsewhere spreading false rumors about Dr Rindos, as well as circulating material written by him without his knowledge or permission, and depicting this material in a negative and misleading fashion.
I also noted in my original posting:
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.A great deal of information has begun to emerge on these matters. An article in Australia's leading newspaper, *The Australian,* quotes a Tasmanian scholar, Casandra Pybus, who recently wrote a book on the so-called "Orr Case" of the 1950's (which until now was likely the biggest academic scandal in Australian history). Dr Pybus noted that she is "concerned that women who might be screaming for scalps if a heterosexual man was allegedly having serial relationships with female students are now very quiescent in this case where the female staff member was allegedly involved with female students."
Even more damning, confidential memoranda from members of the Archaeology Review Committee to high UWA administrators, including the Vice-Chancellor, have come to light since Dr Rindos was fired. These memos warned the University about the serious sexual and professional problems in the Archaeology Department and were put in the strongest of terms imaginable:
January 1992: "The allegations themselves are sufficiently grave, sufficiently numerous, sufficiently consistent and potentially sufficient damaging to the ideals and the reputatation of this University . . . that there are sufficient grounds for concern to suggest that the allegations be investigated by a properly constituted body of enquiry.Especially troubling, however, it now seems certain that the decision to deny Dr Rindos tenure was made *ONE* *YEAR* before the deed was done!
"It was alleged that a number of graduate and undergraduate students had had sexual relations with a member of staff and that this had been followed by favoured treatment of some (for example, in terms of grants and jobs within the Department) and apparent victimisation of others (including public ridicule and denial of fair opportunity).
"It was alleged that an environment had been fostered in which cynicism and ridicule were used to promote certain theoretic approaches and denigrate others, and that this stultified free academic exchange, damaged academic reputations and integrity, and ultimatly severely retarded academic growth, particlarly of some promising [PhD] students."
June 1992: "I am very worried that the situation has gone from bad to worse. . . . I am worried that the second review did not investigate in sufficent depth, the allegations mentioned in the first report. As far as I know, the second committee did not contact any members of the first review committee nor interview some of the key people involved. Thus it would not surprise me if they failed to obtain legally valid evidence to either confirm or deny the allegations. . . . very damaging activites are still being carried out. I do not believe that these will cease until much stronger action is taken."
"As convenor of the Archaeology Review Committe, it is clear to me that Dr Rindos and others have received most unfortunate and unfair treatment at this university.. . . he and others appear to have been subjected to a concerted campaiging of denigration that I believe few could have sustained. That he was able to be productive at all is clear testimony of his ability as an academic. . . . I believe this university could be guilty of a grave miscarraige of justice if it does not confirm Dr Rindos in his tenured position."
May 1993: "Events seem to be marching towards what I believe may be a dangerous conclusion for this university."
June 1992: "The more I think about it and the more I hear the more convinced I become that it would be a mistake to try to deny tenure to Rindos. When we discussed it [in May], you based your argument primarily upon managerial grounds, not on grounds of academic principle or natural justice. . . . There now exist some further options [and] . . . I suspect not all avenues had been explored . . . Based upon my current knowledge . .. it would be a mistake to deny tenure."During the following year, several different reports were written which proposed entirely different "reasons" to deny tenure. It seems that negative testimony was solicited, and that malicious charges made against Dr Rindos were followed up by the University, perhaps as part of a much larger attempt to force him out. In his favor, on this score, Dr Rindos has already won one defamation suit and is said to be initiating several others.
June 1992: "I understand. . . that Dr Rindos is unlikely to have his tenure confirmed. This information surprised me to say the least: it seemed to be a total reversal of what I thought would be the probable outcome of our review [of the Archaeology Department]."
Dr Rindos' tenure review has become a sort of public joke ever since it has become known that the recommendation to deny tenure was based upon a totally subjective judgement of his academic worth by one member of the Committee (none of whom were archaeologists, or even members of a related field). In all fairness to the Committe, however, it must be said that they called for a check of readily available performance statistics to test the validity of the subjective judgement on performance. This check was never done (presumably because it would have vindicated Dr Rindos). The Committee also stressed it had NOT taken possible extenuating circumstances into account in making its recommendation. Yet this matter is now being publicly misrepresented by University claims that the Committee HAD taken such circumstances into account.
A particularly troubling aspect of this case is that UWA totally ignored written advice and recommendations which arrived after the first recommendation was made to deny tenure. Dozens of letters, including ones from the very best known and respected archaeologists in the world (such as Drs Binford, Dunnell, Gould, Harris, Hole, Schiffer, Zimmerman, and Zubrow, to name a few) notified UWA that Rindos clearly deserved tenure for his many contributions to our field (extracts from their comments can be provided by me upon request). Are the very best international professional judgements of scholarly merit worth nothing at UWA?
Since Dr Rindos was fired, UWA has gone out of its way to denigrate his academic abilities, and has even gone so far as to claim that *HE* was having improper relationships with students! In what must be one of the more bizarre twists in an already absurd story, UWA states that it *DIDN'T* deny him tenure for THAT reason. One is led to ask whether UWA feels improper relationships with students would *not* affect one's tenurability, when reporting such relationships means that one's overall performance is not up to UWA's "high standards"?
All in all, it seems obvious that a McCarthyish witch hunt was and is still being conducted against Dr Rindos. Whether this will succeed in the long run is unclear (after all, as in the US, the University of Western Australia has essentially unlimited taxpayer's money to back its fight!). It is also somewhat unclear just who is protecting whom, and for what reasons. But the pattern of cover-up and victimisation of the whistle-blower is one which, regrettably, has been seen before.
What *is* clear, however, is the fact that people around the world now are pretty well convinced that due process at UWA is, just like Rindos' Tenure Review, a huge joke. Procedures may only be judged by their outcome, and the outcome in the Rindos case is clearly unjustified, possibly based upon bias and the need to maintain a cover-up, and is without a doubt totally out of keeping with international academic standards. We are all aware that institutions, like governments, can do ANYTHING and rationalise it by cloaking it in due process. Recall that even the most heinous of crimes known to have been carried out against humanity were accomplished with all the paper work in proper order. Hence, repeated invocation of *process* rather than *results* (or perhaps even *justice*?), of *means* rather than *ends*, will inevitably lead anthropologists to a position of extreme skepticism.
Given the kind of data which has been surfacing about the Rindos Affair over the past six months, it is not surprising that plans for motions of censure and academic bans against UWA are now being widely discussed. In this we may well be seeing the realization of a prediction that was made in another memo by the Head of the Archaeology Review Committee back in May 1993: "The international community of archaeologists is likely to black list this University if Rindos is not tenured."
Where will these events lead? That is hard to predict. It will be very interesting to see what befalls in the court cases now pending. The proposed censure of UWA may have very significant results in the area of bureaucratic honesty, especially at a time when the power of tenure is being eroded. As more occurs on the UWA front, I will endeavour to keep people updated. And for those of you who may desire to get more details regarding what was mentioned above, please feel free to contact me, and I will direct you to the appropriate information sources.
Hugh Jarvis firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your letter and the copy of your summary of recent events. I have little to add save to note that documents recently obtained obtained appear to make the situation even more tragic than could have been imagined.
In place of extended comment, I would prefer to take this opportunity to thank the many scholars who have written letters on my behalf, offered me emotional and financial support over the past year, and who have worked, in so many different ways, to stand up for all that is good and worthy in academic life. For this, all of you have gained my deepest respect.
I would also like to extend my thanks to the students and Staff, both Academic and General, at UWA. My academic experiences there were most rewarding and I retain the fondest of memories for the students and scholars I met, and with whom I had the pleasure to interact. I can only hope that actions now going before the Western Australian Industrial Commission will allow me the opportunity to resume my, sadly interrupted, career at UWA.
While I am saddened about what has happened in, and perhaps even to the University of Western Australia, I would like to stress that I believe no judgement of "collective guilt" should ever be laid upon the faculty of UWA as a result of the actions of a few, isolated, administrators.
I wish you all well, and again wish to thank everybody, both in Australia and overseas, for your continuing support. Cynicism is possibly the worst trait an academic might ever develop, and by your actions you have helped me to avoid it.
[You may from quote the above as you wish.]
As Dr Rindos' case is currently before the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission it is inappropriate to comment on your proposed posting other than to say I believe the article is full of inaccuracies and is refuted. I would also note that I believe some of the comments may be defamatory.
Professor Fay Gale
The University of Western Australia
Nedlands WA 6009
Tel: (09) 380 2806
Fax: (09) 380 1013