Questions On Notice -- 11 August 1994

Hon Mark Nevill to the Minister for Education:

The Answers given here were eventually provided to Hon Mark Nevill directly by the University of Western Australia, but were NOT given in the forum of the West Australian Parliament. Regarding this matter, see the Minister's Comments on why he was unable to provide answers to the Member's questions. It also might be relevant to note that under Western Australian law, providing misleading statements to Parliament is a criminal offence and can, and has, resulted in jail sentences.

Parliamentary Question 720 Parts 1, 2 and 3

Parliamentary Question 720 Parts 1 - 5

Parliamentary Question 722 Parts 1 and 2

  • Question 722 (1): Has the disappearance of documents supporting Dr Rindos' case from University of Western Australia files been investigated?
  • Question 722 (2): If so, by whom?
  • Answer 722 (1-2): The University has done everything possible to trace all documents relating to the case of Dr Rindos.
  • The FOI Commissioner's office have visited the Campus to examine record keeping systems and to talk to staff involved in generating and keeping documentation. A recent report from the Commissioner confirmed that she was satisfied both with the University's systems and its efforts to trace all relevant document.
  • Reply to 722 (1-2)

    Parliamentary Question 724

  • Question 724: Is the Minister aware of the existence of University of Western Australia documents that support the allegation that the decision to deny Dr Rindos tenure was made before formal procedures relating to the matter were commenced?
  • Answer 724: The review of Dr Rindos' tenure was begun and concluded without any predetermined views of what the outcome should be. It was carried out in accordance with the University's established tenure review processes in a fair and objective manner.
  • Reply to 724

    Parliamentary Question 724

  • Question 725: Did the Vice-Chancellor ignore the advice provided via normal channels regarding Dr Rindos' tenurability?
  • Answer 725: The Vice-Chancellor took and considered all advice provided through channels normally used in the tenure review process.
  • Reply to 725

    Parliamentary Question 726

  • Question 726: Why was Dr Rindos denied the ability to translate to the University of Western Australia department that wished to employ him whilst very favourable arrangements were made to transfer archaeologists to the Anthropology department?
  • Answer 726: Dr Rindos was considered for tenure and subsequently denied it as a member of the academic staff of the University, in accordance with established procedures for tenure review which apply to all academic staff. The possibility that other departments may have been willing to provide him with a home, and transfer arrangements which may have been previously made for other staff were deemed to be irrelevant. The focus of the Tenure Review process was whether Dr Rindos had performed during his probationary period of appointment at a level which justified the granting of tenure to him as a member of academic staff of the University.
  • Reply to 726

    Parliamentary Question 727 and 728

  • Question 727: Why were charges such as sexual harassment, plagiarism and "pornography mongering" made against Dr Rindos by members of the Archaeology Department followed up by the University of Western Australia while at the same time the clear recommendations of two official University of Western Australia committees regarding the conditions in Archaeology were not fully and openly pursued?
  • Answer 727: All formal complaints arising from the review of Archaeology and subsequent enquiries were fully investigated and appropriate actions taken in accordance with established University procedures.
  • Question 728: Is the Minister aware that the results of internal University of Western Australia investigations revealing evidence of academic and sexual impropriety, earlier reported by Dr Rindos, were suppressed, and not supplied to the University of Western Australia Senate?
  • Answer: Same answer as for question 727.
  • Reply to 727/728

    Parliamentary Question 729

  • Question 729: Is the Minister satisfied, in light of the Vice-Chancellor's assurances, that the procedures followed by the University of Western Australia in dealing with Dr Rindos' tenure were fair and objective?
  • Answer 729: The University is satisfied that its tenure review procedures are fair and objective and that they were properly applied in the case of Dr Rindos.
  • Very brief reply to 729

    Reply to 720 (1)

    University documents prove that complaints, neither seen by nor made known to Dr Rindos, provided the basis for the denial of his tenure. Many references are made to damaging allegations made about Dr Rindos, and documents stress the relevance of these complaints to his tenurability as well as the need to ensure they remain hidden from him. Official documents calling for his sacking including the two recommendations to deny tenure written by Dr Michael Partis, the Recommendation written by the Tenure Review Committee, and the Vice-Chancellor's letter of dismissal make reference to alleged problems between Dr Rindos and other members of Archaeology Staff, with Dr Partis going so far as actively soliciting additional negative comments from some of these people.

    These matters had to be discussed solely in camera else the existence and nature of the complaints would have become known to Dr Rindos and his representatives. Dr Rindos was never presented with the charges on which he was being judged.

    Reply to 720 (2)

    In establishing the framework to govern the Tenure Review Committee, Dr Partis gave as a condition "that neither Dr Rindos nor his representatives be given the opportunity to appear". Dr Partis wrote the Vice-Chancellor, The Head of Personnel, and Professors Wood, Robson and Jory, all of whom were to sit on the Review Committee, confirming that "the tenure review committee will be constituted as recommended in my letter to the Vice-Chancellor of 2nd November." The condition of non-appearance and non-representation was honoured. Dr Rindos was neither allowed to appear nor make his case to members of the Committee. His representatives were excluded from meetings of the Committee. Dr Rindos was prohibited from presenting a defence.

    Reply to 720 (3)

    In advice provided Government in June 1992 the Vice-Chancellor wrote "After an initial review of his work, the Tenure Review Committee wrote to Dr Rindos and presented him with a list of questions. . . . The Committee accepted Dr Rindos' explanation on all issues raised." Given that Dr Rindos was nevertheless denied tenure, the Committee had to base it decision on grounds other than those it was willing to raise with him.

    Despite written requests that he be provided with any negative evidence, Dr Rindos became aware of the charges laid against him only after he was sacked. He obtained numerous documents containing false and defamatory claims solely by means of Freedom of Information proceedings.

    Dr Rindos was subjected to the most abject denial of natural justice possible in that he was not permitted the opportunity to view and reply to charges brought against him. The University was warned by its own Personnel Division and by its own Industrial Organisation about the clear dangers in pursuing this scandalously improper course of action.

    Reply to 721 (1-3)

    Internal communications of the University conclusively prove that false charges made against Dr Rindos were wilfully placed into a special file which was then held secret from Dr Rindos and his Union. This file was created for the sole purpose of ensuring that false and defamatory complaints would remain hidden from Dr Rindos and his representatives.

    On 11 April 1991, Professor Sandra Bowdler of the Archaeology Department forwarded to the Head of the University Personnel Service three letters which contained numerous false and highly damaging allegations about Dr Rindos. This action was in complete violation of University regulations and operating procedures which hold that any and all negative comments regarding the performance of staff members must be shown to them for reply. The cover letter written by Professor Bowdler says that the writers of the letters would not permit Dr Rindos to view the letters because they feared his alleged "vindictiveness." These letters were never shown Dr Rindos, and instead were placed into a special file, held secret from him and his representatives.

    As time went by, more documents containing false and defamatory complaints were added to the file. All academic members of the Tenure Review Committee received documents such as contained in this file. University administrators told members of University Staff and others outside of the University that Dr Rindos would be denied tenure on the basis of such complaints. Copies of several letters of complaint from the file were also held by Mr Robin Slater of Personnel. The written recommendations to deny tenure made clear reference to these complaints.

    The secret file is clearly referenced in University documents. On 31 October 1991, Professor Bowdler wrote to the Vice-Chancellor: "[Professor Oxnard] implies that Dr Rindos is no longer a member of this Department because I, personally, am unable to work with him. As I have pointed out elsewhere, every other member of this Department has complained about Dr Rindos's academic deficiencies." "You [the Vice-Chancellor] will find extensive documentation on this matter in Personnel's file."

    In a memorandum dated 6 May 1992, from the Principal Industrial Officer to the Acting Director Personnel Services it is written: "University policy on personnel files requires that the member of staff can view their file on application . . . The policy also requires that no statement about a staff member's unsatisfactory work performance (actual or alleged) may be placed on the file without it first being sighted and signed and a copy made to the officer. In this situation it is then understandable that [the various documents] would not be on file since they have not been provided to Dr Rindos. To place [them] . . . on Dr Rindos' file would of course mean that he (Rindos) would have every right to see them. In the particular circumstances I cannot see that doing so will in any way enhance the situation. However, those documents (and others) are relevant to the whole situation and must come into consideration. Dr Partis, in his capacity as Head of the Department, should be aware of all of the correspondence which has been received -- including the 'in confidence' memos . . . (these cannot be put on Dr Rindos' file)." Similar memoranda were sent to other high University Officials to explain why it was necessary to hide, yet still consider, these false and highly damaging letters. Recommendations and other communications make clear that these documents contained the actual reasons used to deny tenure to Dr Rindos.

    A letter from the University Industrial Advisors to the Head of Personnel dated 26 November 1992 is clearly hand-annotated with the words "Rindos file." Material relevant to a Staff Members' tenuring is normally placed in the Personnel file. The comments made in this memorandum are highly relevant, yet it was not placed into Dr Rindos' Personnel file, but went instead into another file bearing his name.

    Reply to 721 (4)

    Following an evening meeting held in Fremantle during autumn 1992, the Vice-Chancellor personally escorted a student representative back to the University. This student was then taken to a basement room in the Vice-Chancellory and allowed to read a confidential archaeology file containing numerous highly damaging allegations against Dr Rindos. As a result of viewing the file, the Student representative withdrew the strong support previously expressed for Dr Rindos' retention at the University.

    Reply to 721 (5)

    The Vice-Chancellor was merely carrying out a threat which had been made to Dr Rindos. The University had said that if he was willing to accept a pay out his departure would be announced in a manner that would not harm his reputation. He did not accept the settlement. Thereafter, the University and the Vice-Chancellor have gone to extraordinary lengths publicly to harm Dr Rindos' reputation. Numerous false and harmful statements were made about him in public statements of the University. These included allegations of improprieties with students, disparaging his abilities and accomplishments, misrepresenting his performance, and making false claims about his alleged inability to get along with his academic colleagues. An open letter containing exceedingly damaging allegations also was sent to all Staff at the University.

    The University have continued this campaign to the present. The lies, evasions, and misrepresentation of events leading to Dr Rindos' sacking as given in the University's replies to Parliamentary questions are totally in keeping with the vendetta they are now pursuing.

    Reply to 722 (1-2)

    The full words of the FoI Commissioner are misrepresented. Its preliminary opinion was directed solely to the matter of whether further searches for documents should be undertaken. Not contesting that the University took steps to supply documents, the large number of missing documents, most of which had been held in the Vice-Chancellory, did raise concern at the Freedom of Information office. The Commissioner wrote regarding this matter: "The review conducted of your agency's records identified certain aspects of the organisation's policies and procedures which it may be suggested require attention to rectify deficiencies."

    While the Commission is powerless to act upon this matter, the judgment was made that sub-standard record keeping at the University could explain why documents could not be found or might have been destroyed without record. The Commissioner noted that no evidence was then at hand to indicate deliberate destruction or concealing of documents.

    Since that time, a case has been made to the Commission that certain documents may have been wilfully hidden or destroyed by the University. This matter, a criminal offence under section 110 of the Act, has been brought before the Commission for formal investigation.

    Finally, it must be noted that the words of the Commissioner referred to here are from a preliminary communication supplied for comments and, in that sense, are not a public document. It is unclear if these words should be referred to publicly, no less apparently misrepresented as if they were a final judgement by the Commissioner.

    Reply to 724

    Overwhelming written evidence proves the decision to deny tenure and sack Dr Rindos was made long before the tenure review process began. It appears likely the decision was made some time during late 1991.

    Likewise, overwhelming evidence exists to prove that the review was unfair and prejudical, and that it was carried out in contravention of all established University procedures.

    On 13 January 1992 the Dean of Science wrote to Professor Robson, Acting Head of Division, querying a ruling restricting Dr Rindos' supervision of students. Annotations written by Professor Robson state: "Because Dr Rindos holds a position which is currently not tenured and because doubts have been expressed about his performance I do not believe it is appropriate for him to be sole supervisor." The ruling on student supervision put in place was, and remains, unprecedented. The sole reason to propose this ruling was recognition that tenure would be denied. This is clearly noted in Robson's reply of 20 Jan: "If the tenure of Rindos is not confirmed graduates students could be left [without proper supervision]." Given that no person had ever been denied tenure at UWA, to even raise the issue, no less to to plan in terms of its consequences, is clear admission that the decision had been made.

    15 Jan: Dr Rindos' Personnel File annotated "No action to be taken in relation to conversion . . . without reference to the Vice-Principal." The matter of tenure is never handled by this officer, and the Vice-Principle's involvement is improper and unprecedented. It appears to have been put in as a fail-safe mechanism.

    21 Jan: The Director of Personnel writes to Professor Robson noting that Rindos' tenure review processes must be completed by 13 June. The only options provided are (1) denial of tenure by that date, or (2) an extension of the review period for up to one year before denying tenure. The Director then lists "issues upon which the University would be scrutinised" following the denial of tenure to Dr Rindos.

    17 Feb: The Vice-Chancellor and Head of Division of Arts, Professor Jory, secretly met with the History Department to discuss the incorporation of Archaeology into that Department. The Vice-Chancellor suggests a deal in which Professor Bowdler will be protected and in return the History Department will have a free hand to remove all other archaeologists. In holding this meeting the Vice-Chancellor was pre-empting all of the the formal procedures which were to follow the Review of the Archaeology Department.

    4 March: A memorandum from the Faculty of Science to Dr Partis complains that "students are being disadvantaged by the apparent uncertainty over the position of Dr Rindos."

    6 April: Dr Partis writes to Vice-Principal Griffith, "If [Rindos'] appointment is to be terminated I need to know the earliest date on which this can be done. I suspect that the previous handling of this case will make it very difficult to arrive at a proper resolution of Dr Rindos' position." Dr Partis is here making reference to the fact that all official reports on Dr Rindos' performance had been positive and therefore his tenuring should have been inevietable.

    13 April: The Director of Personnel writes to the Principal Industrial Officer noting that Dr Rindos was carrying a "seemingly excessive teaching load" which "could potentially compromise action [the University] may wish to take." He is here making reference to the fact that Dr Rindos was carrying a disproportionately large amount of the teaching load in Archaeology. To deal with this, Dr Rindos' classes were then cancelled.

    6 May: The Principle Industrial Officer notes that an extension to the Review Period can be arranged by obtaining the "Vice-Chancellor's formal approval" and then "formally communicate that decision to Dr Rindos ... (it is not too late to do that and it can be justified on the basis of the change in headship) . . . it will be extremely important that the process of Dr Partis' review of Dr Rindos for tenure be carefully managed." Dr Rindos' period of review was extended solely to give the Administration time to develop the public reasons for denying tenure.

    7 May: Dr Partis writes the Vice-Chancellor: "it is not clear what action can be taken at this stage. [Rindos] was given a clean bill of health . . . despite evidence [of] major problems over his performance. . . . it will be very hard to arrive at an objective assessment of his academic performance now. Nevertheless it is essential that this be done if Dr Rindos is to be denied tenure." Dr Rindos was never made aware of the existance, no less the nature, of the evidence being used against him.

    11 May: The Principle Industrial Officer writes the Vice-Chancellor: "The continuing problems in Archaeology would indicate that there are grounds for questioning Dr Rindos' suitability for tenure." It is totally unknown what problems are here being referred and what relationship these might have had to Dr Rindos. He also notes Dr Rindos' tenure would have to be confirmed on 13 June unless an extension is somehow arranged. He proposed "the reason for the extension is to enable Dr Partis to properly assess Dr Rindos." Two days later Dr Rindos was notified that his probationary period has been extended so that Dr Partis could have "a reasonable period" for review.

    3 June: The Union writes the Vice Chancellor regarding the extension: "This action is not in accordance with the University's own procedures. The period of review can be extended only after submission of a summary of activities and a recommendation by a head of department that this occur. This process has not been followed in the case of Dr Rindos." One year earlier, the Vice-Chancellor had written the same words in relationship to extensions of tenure review periods.

    9 June: In the Minutes of 9 June Annual Meeting of Faculty of Science statements made by Dr Partis led the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Hartmann, to publicly note that Dr Partis was prejudging Rindos' tenure.

    12 June: Professor Moulden writes Dr Partis: "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. . . . you based your argument primarily on managerial grounds, not on grounds of academic principle or natural justice. I am not a blind idealist. I have no difficulty in imagining cases in which I might be prepared to subordinate my high-minded principles and take a managerial action that I judged to serve some higher principle. The position you put to me seemed at first sight to be such a case, given the two stark alternatives you offered, namely either to deny tenure and live with the consequences or to grant tenure and have Rindos rattling around without a department for twenty years. I now think that the matters of principle are again preeminent. . . . my belief is that it would be a mistake to deny tenure to Rindos."

    13 June: Union writes to Partis: "the university has not complied with the tenure regulations and procedures and the process for review in this case departs from the norm."

    16 June: Professor Bruce writes the Vice-Chancellor: "I understand from Mike Partis 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]."

    1 July: The Union writes: University "procedures make specific reference to the regulations under A (iv) when discussing extension of the period of review. While paragraph 6(1) of the regulations allows the Vice-Chancellor to extend the initial period of review, this can only occur in accordance with the guidelines. . . . The university cannot negate the fact that the guidelines have not been followed."

    16 July: The University admits that the extension was based upon the "discretion open to the Vice Chancellor [and] was a proper exercise of authority in the particular circumstances. Clearly this case ought not to be taken as the norm." This makes clear that totally irregular procedures were being followed.

    31 July: The Union replies it "considers it important to preserve the integrity of tenure procedures and reserves it's right to take further action in relation to failure to comply with these."

    15 August: Dr Rindos' Tenure Review officially begins.

    Much more data exists dating from after the beginning of the offical review period including statements by both Dr Partis and Professor Jory, written before the Tenure Review Committee met, that they would not authorise the continued payment of Dr Rindos' salary from their Divisions' funds and complaining that delays in denying him tenure were becoming costly to their Divisions.

    The review procedure itself was totally flawed and directed solely to the end of denying Dr Rindos tenure. Misleading and false information was considered, supportive evidence was ignored or suppressed, and referees were willfully provided with misleading data. No attempt was made to find out if Dr Rindos might have been an innocent victim of a campaign of defamation originating in the Archaeology department. Instead, the campaign was joined in by the Vice-Chancellor and other high University Adminstrators. Prejudice, favourtisim, and the protection of Professor Bowdler seem the only possible explanations for the actions of the University.

    Reply to 725

    The Vice-Chancellor and high administrative staff were repeatedly warned about the procedural and natural justice issues connected to the plan to deny tenure to Dr Rindos, but this advice was never followed. The reason is obvious: had proper advice been followed, Dr Rindos would never have been denied tenure.

    On 20 January 1992 the Head of Personnel warned that in denying tenure the University would be "scrutinised" in these terms: "(1) Was the prescribed PROCESS followed, (2) Was the person treated fairly", and "(3) Did the person know of weakness and did the person have a fair chance to rectify weaknesses?". These warnings did not lead to any actions to ensure fair treatment under proper processes in Dr Rindos' case.

    An attachment to this same letter proves University regulations demand that before denying tenure the Vice-Chancellor "will recommend to Senate that the appointment be annulled on a specific date." This condition was was never met and, instead, Senate was presented with a fait d'accompli.

    The University has maintained publicly and also in advice provided to Government that the Hotop/Clyde report was solicited to provide advice regarding solutions to the problems in Archaeology. Their advice did not reflect negatively upon Dr Rindos. The University, nevertheless, publicly maintained that Dr Rindos was a cause of the problems in Archaeology.

    On 16 June 1992 Professor Bruce who had chaired the review of the Archaeology Department warned the Vice-Chancellor that her planned denial of tenure to Dr Rindos "seemed to be a total reversal of what I thought would be the probable outcome of our review." He then advised that Dr Rindos be immediately tenured.

    In early November 1992, the University received formal Industrial Advice: "Natural justice would require Rindos be given opportunity to counter any adverse material." Dr Rindos was never made aware of, no less given an opportunity to reply to such adverse material.

    Dr Rindos' Union advised that the Tenure Review Committee must supply a full written enumeration of all material to be considered, terms of reference, procedural guidelines, and minutes. None of this was done.

    The University was given Industrial advice that any recommendation to deny tenure would have to account for "all probationary assessments," "details of counselling of Dr Rindos in relation to perceived deficiencies or problems and the results," "material which details the substance of concerns," and explanation of "the relevance and/or significance of influential material in support of Dr Rindos." None of this was done, again for obvious reasons. All probationary assessments had been positive. No counselling had occurred because there had been no problems with performance. The concerns had to be kept secret from Dr Rindos. The overwhelming support shown for him had to be repressed and ignored.

    The Vice-Chancellor was strongly warned by the Emeritus Foundation Professor of Archaeology at UWA that denying tenure to Dr Rindos would be unfair and unjust. The same advice was provided by many other archaeologists not located at UWA. In early 1993, over 30 internationally renowned scholars wrote in Dr Rindos' defence, supporting his claim to tenure and repudiating the recommendation of the Tenure Review Committee. More than 20 letters of complaint have arrived since that time. The University has been brought into international disrepute for ignoring and dismissing such advice.

    It is understood that Legal advice was provided by the University's solicitors, and that the Director of Personnel, the Head of the PhD Committee, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor all advised the Vice-Chancellor that she not carry out her improper plan to deny Dr Rindos' tenure.

    Reply to 726

    The University was forced to act upon an offer made by the Department of Anatomy and Human Biology, and held discussions about locating Dr Rindos in that Department. Far from being "irrelevant" to Dr Rindos' continuing employment, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Robert Wood made a promise that Dr Rindos' employment would continue if the transfer occurred. However, at the same time, he refused to provide any continuing funding for Dr Rindos' salary thereby rendering the offer of continuing employment meaningless.

    By refusing to provide funding for Dr Rindos' salary to the Department willing to employ him, the University went against all normal procedures which dictate funding if a position is available for a member of staff. This cynical action, clearly contrived to guarantee a specific outcome, also brought the University into contravention of the contract under which Dr Rindos had been hired.

    In denying tenure, the Vice-Chancellor made reference to his lack of employment in a University Department as a reason for denying tenure, and duiring a meeting held with him, she indicated that if a place had existed for him, the situation regarding his tenuring would be different. In numerous public statements the University included claims of his alleged non-acceptablity to other departments as a factor relevant to the denial of Dr Rindos' tenure.

    Dr Rindos was not unacceptable to other departments as has been maintained by the Vice-Chancellor and others. Instead, the Vice-Chancellor herself personally imposed unacceptable and financially disadvantageous conditions upon any department expressing an interest in employing Dr Rindos. Fears were also expressed that offering Dr Rindos support would anger the Vice-Chancellor and thereby lead to political problems which could harm the department. Misuse of power through executive bullying and intimidation is scandalously unethical and totally unacceptable.

    Reply to 727/728

    General assertions which evade rather than reply, such as the ones given here, simply do not provide proper answers to the questions. The Vice-Chancellor has been repeatedly instructed that it is totally unsatisfactory to answer in the general when specific answers are requested from the University. These questions should be returned to the Vice-Chancellor for proper, detailed and documented, answers.

    Very brief reply to 729

    Calling your pig a cow doesn't make it kosher.