University of Saskatchewan president terminated after controversy
WATCH: Weeks of controversy at the University of Saskatchewan have led to the president of the institution being fired. Vassy Kapelos explains.
SASKATOON – Two days after holding an emergency meeting to discuss matters troubling the University of Saskatchewan, the board of governors has voted unanimously to terminate its president.
Ilene Busch-Vishniac was terminated without cause on Tuesday evening, effective immediately.
Board chair Susan Milburn swiftly introduced her acting replacement, former Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor Dr. Gordon Barnhart.
A well-known historian, Barnhart attended the university and later taught political studies and history classes in the college of arts and sciences.
Since 2012, he has been an adjunct professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, department of history.
His introduction as acting president was greeted with mainly warm messages of support on social media.
Dr. Gordon Barnhart is an excellent choice as interim President for @usask Thank you to the board for this decision
— Brad Wall (@PremierBradWall) May 22, 2014
I wish Dr. Barnhart all the best as acting #USask president. Now let’s all work together to ensure a strong and vibrant UofS.
— Cam Broten (@cambroten) May 22, 2014
A formal release issued by the university read: “In the wake of an ongoing reputational crisis related to recent leadership decisions, the Board met on May 19th, 2014, and determined that further due diligence was required. The board has since gathered more information and has deliberated again.”
Last week, Dr. Robert Buckingham was promptly dismissed after releasing a letter entitled “Silence of the Deans,” which criticized the TransformUS financial restructuring plan.
It also took aim at school administration – including the then-president – for muzzling senior leadership, preventing them from speaking out against the transformative action plan.
He has since been partially reinstated and is now back on campus as a tenured professor.
While Milburn would not say to what extent the decision to terminate Busch-Vishniac had to do with the termination of Buckingham, she did admit it was a consideration.
Barnhart would not say definitively whether Buckingham would regain his position as dean of the School of Public Health, but he did say his first priority was to meet with the board of governors.
The week was characterized as painful for the university, but Milburn told reporters that the events of a week would not be enough to diminish the accomplishments of the school or its future.
Busch-Vishniac began her five-year term as president and vice-chancellor of the school in July 2012.
Her contract states specifically, in the case of termination without cause prior to the expiry of her term of appointment, Busch-Vishniac will be entitled to return to her post as a tenured professor in the department of mechanical engineering, College of Engineering.
As for the provost position, which was vacated on Monday by Brett Fairbairn, Barnhart said an announcement on an acting replacement should be expected soon.