May 20, 2014 7:49 am

U of S board meets, discusses leadership at the university

University of Saskatchewan board of directors holds emergency meeting, discusses leadership at the university.

File / Global News

SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan board of governors held a closed door emergency meeting Sunday evening in Saskatoon to discuss leadership at the university.

In a statement issued to the media, Susan Milburn, chair of the board, acknowledged they “had a thorough discussion of the issues of the past week.”

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Dr. Robert Buckingham, the head of the school of public health, was fired and escorted off the campus last Wednesday, one day after he published a paper protesting budget cuts under TransformUS.

The firing led to a public outcry over academic freedom.

Ilene Busch-Vishniac, the president of the university, publicly apologised for the firing and offered Buckingham back his tenure position.

The firing also led to an outcry from the University of Saskatchewan faculty association (USFA), who said the tenure process is under full attack.

Watch below: USFA chair Doug Chivers on the Morning News discussing what he calls a “crisis” on the campus

In a letter, the USFA said the board of governors delegated “veto power” to Busch-Vishniac for reviewing and making final decisions on tenure and promotion and said it is in direct conflict with the collective agreement between the board and the association.

The USFA called on the board to take any necessary action “to protect the rights to academic freedom and safeguard the sacrosanct nature of tenure” at the university.

“Board members acknowledge the public response and many letters received by the board,” continued the statement from the board of governors.

“The board is, and has always been, committed to academic freedom and freedom of expressions.

“We discussed the leadership of the university in depth. We do not want to act in haste and therefore we have not made and final decisions, other than to maintain our strong commitment to financial stability and renewal.”

Shortly before the meeting, provost and vice president academic Brett Fairbairn tendered his resignation.

Fairbairn stated “My motive for offering my resignation is my genuine interest in the well-being of the University of Saskatchewan.

“I believe the work I have done as a student, faculty member, and provost has contributed to the growth of our university’s reputation. The same interests lead me to offer stepping aside from the provost role as the best contribution I can now offer under the present circumstances.”

Both the board and Busch-Vishniac acknowledged the contributions Fairbairn has made to the university.

The board will hold further discussions when it meets again on May 26-27.

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