May 26, 2014 6:58 pm
Updated: May 27, 2014 7:55 am

University of Saskatchewan students call for a stop to TransformUS

Watch above: U of S students sign letter calling for an end to TransformUS

SASKATOON – How can the damage to the University of Saskatchewan be repaired – that’s the central question on the minds of “DefendUS” organizers.

The group began circulating an open letter to U of S acting president Gordon Barnhart on Friday, calling for the TransformUS process to be stopped.

Within two days, the letter had gained more than 850 signatures from students, staff, and faculty.

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“People are hopeful about the new interim president, but not completely convinced yet. He’ll have to show us that he’s willing to work with us,” explained DefendUS organizer Dan LeBlanc.

Former president Ilene Busch-Vishniac was fired last week following outrage over the dismissal of Dr. Robert Buckingham, the dean of the School of Public Health, who spoke out against the TransformUS process.

Busch-Vishniac maintained that students and staff were consulted in the process, but DefendUS organizers said it was just lip service.

“One of the main problems with the way the administration went about consulting us, or allegedly consulting us, is that the dominant framework and methodology had already been set by the time it came to consultation,” said LeBlanc.

“And then we were allowed to make minor recommendations,” he explained.

The letter also calls for the university to engage in more collegial decision making in the future, including a respect for tenure.

“Dr. Robert Buckingham was escorted off campus by police, and of course when Dr. Barnhart came in, he said that practice will never take place again,” explained DefendUS organizer Amanda Guthrie.

DefendUS organizers said they would like to see the university review the nature, scale and cause of the deficit.

“We as students and faculty, we love the University of Saskatchewan, so we want to see it restored to what it was before,” said Guthrie.

The group is asking for a response from Barnhart by June 6.

Global reached out to Barnhart Monday, but he was not available for comment.

DefendUS organizers hope to hold a public meeting with Barnhart so he can hear from the hundreds of people who signed the letter.

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