uSask fires Executive Director for criticizing TransformUS to government

May 15, 2014

The Executive Director of the University of Saskatchewan's School of Public Health has been summarily fired and banned from the campus for life after publicly criticizing the TransformUS plan. Robert Buckingham, who established uSask's School of Public Health, had been outspoken in his criticism of TransformUS, and warned that a plan to combine his school with the College of Medicine could cost the School of Public Health its accreditation. He wrote to the provincial government and the opposition voicing his concerns. The next day he was told he had breached his contract and was fired as a tenured professor. He was escorted off campus by security. Buckingham received a termination letter, later released by the NDP of Saskatchewan, stating, "in publicly challenging the direction given to you by both the president of the university and the provost, you have demonstrated egregious conduct and insubordination and have destroyed your relationship with the senior leadership of the university." Jim Turk, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, called uSask's actions "inexcusable" and vowed that the CAUT will "do everything possible to see that this injustice is remedied." National Post | Toronto Star | Star Phoenix

Postscript: May 16, 2014

The University of Saskatchewan has revised its decision to dismiss the Executive Director of its School of Public Health, Robert Buckingham, for criticizing plans to merge his school with the College of Medicine. Senior leaders have announced that Buckingham “will not return to that leadership position. He will, however, be offered a tenured faculty position.” uSask President Ilene Busch-Vishniac said that “the confusion on this issue stems from differing interpretations based on his contract. Because we hold tenure in high regard, we will immediately reverse that part of our decision.” Busch-Vishniac also clarified that Buckingham was never banned from campus. She added that he was not punished for his opinion on TransformUS, but because “once a decision is made at the institutional level, all senior leaders must publicly conform to that decision or resign their leadership role.” uSask News Release