U of S president issues public apology to Robert Buckingham

Watch above: fallout over decision by the University of Saskatchewan continues

SASKATOON – Dr. Robert Buckingham could soon be back working at the University of Saskatchewan after being fired for speaking out against TransformUS.

On Wednesday morning, Buckingham said he was fired, stripped of his tenure and escorted off campus after raising concerns about an overhaul taking place at the U of S to bring down the university’s operating budget deficit.

On Thursday morning, the university released a statement saying part of a decision it made regarding Buckingham has been reconsidered and reversed.

Global News was there as Dr. Buckingham read the release for the first time in it’s entirety.  He had not been contacted directly by the university.

“I think it’s a great step in the right direction, I look forward to discussions with the Provost and exactly what it means I don’t know yet but certainly I’m glad they’re reconsidering their termination order to me,” said Buckingham.

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Buckingham says it’s too soon to say whether he’ll take the offer but says he is open to the possibility.

“I think it’s reasonable for me to [be] considering that.”

According to Buckingham’s termination letter, the university cited a breach in his employment after he released a document entitled “The Silence of the Deans” and attachments including an internal email.

This was the university’s response yesterday to the matters: “The university doesn’t comment on individual personnel matters, I guess I can say generally that when we hire and assess people we do that on the basis of their job contracts.

“For deans, the job contracts involve expectations of confidentiality and of leadership compliancy so once we hire people we expect them to perform those responsibilities.”

Buckingham says he wrote the document to vent his frustrations after being told in the disclosed email that he was to support TransformUS.

“I just don’t like being told obviously that I can’t speak against something which I believe is wrong,” said Buckingham.

At the time, Buckingham says he thought we would be reprimanded for his actions and was prepared to give his reasons for what he did. He said what he didn’t expect was to be terminated or to be escorted off campus Wednesday morning like he was.

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“I have no ill feelings towards the university, I would love to end my time here on a positive note, maybe we’ve all learned some lessons from this. The most important thing is we continue to talk and make progress.”

If Buckingham accepts the position, it will be for the short-term. His time at the University of Saskatchewan is scheduled to end on July 1, 2014.

Students on campus say this latest move by the university is the right one.

“I think it’s the obvious response to the outcry against the firing in the first place. I guess it’s a safe move to save face or whatever because nobody agreed with it in the first place,” said Kyle Jule.

While others say they can see both sides of the situation but are encouraged by the tenure offer.

“I think it’s a bit harsh to take him just for saying something but then I know there’s certain rules with complying to whole school’s general policies on stuff so I mean, I don’t know as long as he’s given a chance to work through stuff,” said Melissa Cross.

Some say too little too late as the university did damage control on Thursday afternoon.

“I issue a public apology to Dr. Buckingham for putting him in the position where he felt his tenured position was threatened, that was not what we should have done,” said Ilene Busch-Vishniac, president of the University of Saskatchewan.

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Calling the situation a “blunder”, the president admits the optics of this situation don’t look good and that a review on how this matter was handled will be done, people will be held accountable.

“The decision is made by a team and we still managed to come to the wrong conclusion so that is being rectified and we are going to make sure that it never happens again,” said Busch-Vishniac.

The issue has made its way to the provincial Legislature where Premier Brad Wall spoke to the situation following question period.  The Premier is calling on the university to have a board of governors meeting in response to the situation.

The University President says one will be scheduled a soon as possible.


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