On a rainy, windy Wednesday afternoon, a crowd of around 400 gathered to protest ongoing cuts to the Otago University Humanities Division. OUSA Admin VP Jarred Griffiths stood at the foot of the Clocktower addressing the raucous mob through a megaphone declaring “we stand here today surrounded by construction as part of the campus beautification project. I ask you this: Where do the University’s priorities stand? Do they stand in adequately funding the departments which serve as the critic and conscience of society for the benefit of all of us? Or do they stand for pretty pavements and walkways?”
That protest has only served to heighten tensions between the University administration and humanities staff, who fear losing their jobs and believe their voice isn’t being heard.
An anonymous letter provided to Critic this week from within the division made a number of damning claims, including that staff have been warned not to communicate their concerns and that dissent in any form will lead to a decline in divisional EFTS.
Pro-Vice Chancellor of Humanities Tony Ballantyne strongly denies the claim, saying, “While I have certainly pointed out the need for us all to act responsibly when we are communicating with our current and prospective students and with our external partners in light of the very real risks that we have around student recruitment, staff have freely expressed their views, both formally and informally, from the outset of the process.”
Also claimed was that the administration had lied about is consultation process. The anonymous writers say that despite a promise to consult extensively with staff, very few Heads of Department had been involved and there was no back and forth, compromise or agreement, but rather an administration dictating terms, with not a single HoD agreeing substantially with the agenda.
Ballantyne again disputes this, insisting “I have had an open door policy and have hundreds of hours in meetings with individual staff, groups of staff, and whole Departments; with a lot of this resulting in ongoing communication. I have worked very closely with Heads of Departments and Deans and they have been fully appraised of every step in the process since April and they have had many opportunities to make suggestions”
With so many accusations flying back and forth and the management change not concluding until November, Critic will do our best to keep you posted on this developing story.