Fairbairn letter leaves lingering questions at U of S

A letter by the University of Saskatchewan's former provost has done little to quell questions about a firing that caused waves internationally. The university's faculty association is still pressing for more answers.

Faculty association unsatisfied with narrative on Buckingham firing

A letter by the University of Saskatchewan's former provost has done little to quell questions about a firing that caused waves internationally.

The university's faculty association is still pressing for more answers.

"There's quite a lot of things that don't seem crystal clear to us at this point," said USFA executive member Eric Neufeld.

In May then-Provost Brett Fairbairn fired Robert Buckingham, both as head of the school of public health and as a tenured faculty member, for publicly criticizing the university's cost-cutting plan TransformUS.

Howls of protest followed, and Buckingham was swiftly restored to his professorship at the U of S, although not to his executive position.

Days later Fairbairn resigned amid the lingering controversy.

Calls by some students and faculty for a full inquiry have so far been rejected by the university.

Apparent contradictions

Then a confidential letter by Fairbairn titled "How It Happened - What I Know" surfaced. In it, Fairbairn writes that "it is not correct to say (Buckingham) was stripped of his tenure or of his faculty position." Further down, he goes on to explain that he dismissed Buckingham "altogether as an employee of the university" because trust had been breached.

Neufeld said the two statements appear contradictory.

Meanwhile the USFA cites the Buckingham case in its ongoing fight against the university president's veto over tenure decisions.

"How can the Board entrust the President to override collegial decisions regarding the award of tenure when the process respecting Dr. Buckingham, as it played out, was so clearly flawed?" the association said in a written statement.

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