Arbitrator ruled against uSask's president's power to veto tenure

June 5, 2014

The StarPhoenix reports that an arbitrator had ruled in March that the University of Saskatchewan was wrong to give its president the power to veto tenure appointments. The ruling was part of a decision on a 2011 case in which then-President Peter MacKinnon had overruled the unanimous decision of a faculty tenure committee. Arbitrator Andrew Sims said that both MacKinnon and the board were incorrect in their decision that the president should have such an ability. Susan Milburn, Chair of the uSask Board of Governors, said that the university is considering appealing the arbitrator’s decision, and added that the veto power will remain in place until there is an opportunity “to hear from our stakeholders.” She noted, too, that recently fired President Ilene Busch-Vishniac had been reviewing the matter of the presidential veto but her work was incomplete at the time of her dismissal. Jim Turk, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, urged uSask to respect the arbitrator’s decision, saying that the veto power “is very harmful to academic freedom.” The issue of the President’s power to veto tenure decisions was raised during the controversy over the firing of Robert Buckingham, formerly Executive Director of uSask’s School of Public Health. StarPhoenix

Postscript: July 16, 2014

The StarPhoenix reports that the University of Saskatchewan will appeal an arbitrator’s decisions that its President should not have veto power over professors’ tenure appointments. A representative of the uSask Faculty Association (USFA) said that the union was “disappointed they’ve decided to appeal.” Susan Milburn, Chair of the uSask Board of Governors, declined to comment on the matter to the StarPhoenix, but did say that senior administrators had made the decision and that she was unsure who made the call or when. She added that the issue is also being reviewed internally and that interim President Gordon Barnhart, who is researching the matter, has solicited feedback from groups including USFA. The appeal will be heard July 23. StarPhoenix