Robert Buckingham defends himself against 'silencing' allegations
U of S Professor says he never punished faculty or staff for speaking out
The professor at the centre of a major controversy at the University of Saskatchewan says he never dismissed faculty or staff for speaking their minds.
Last month, Robert Buckingham was fired both as a tenured professor and as head of the university's School of Public Health (SPH). Buckingham lost his job after publicly speaking out against the university's cost-cutting program TransformUS.
While Buckingham had his tenure restored shortly afterwards, the matter grabbed national headlines. The story opened up serious questions of freedom at speech at universities, and at what point administrators should be silent.
It's now come to light that two former professors at the SPH were dismissed in 2010, allegedly over the same issues that cost Buckingham his job.
Dr. Bruce Reeder and Gerri Dickson were both 'joint appointments' at the school, working half-time at the SPH and the other half at either the College of Medicine or the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology.
After an email sent on Christmas Eve, 2010, both Reeder and Dickson were no longer in the program. While they were both still tenured faculty at the U of S, they no longer had anything to do with the school.
Dickson says she was dismissed from the school after challenging Buckingham on the direction of the SPH.
Dickson's husband Murray says the decision came as a 'surprise' and was done, "without any collegial processes involved and was unilateral."
However, Buckingham says Reeder and Dickson were both 'courtesy appointments' to the school, and he let their terms run out, instead of dismissing them.
He also says neither Reeder or Dickson brought anything to the table on reaching accreditation, his main goal at the time.
"Basically, they didn't fit the five core competencies, and so they didn't really fit in getting the school accredited," he said.
Buckingham said he has always valued freedom of speech.
"You can speak to my faculty on that," he said. "No one's ever been dismissed because they've been outspoken, or criticized the direction I took the school, which was for international accreditation."
Buckingham says his first year at the school was tumultuous, but said he wouldn't change his actions.
"I wouldn't change a thing," he said. "The goal was set at the beginning for growth and to grow the school rapidly, for national recognition, for international visibility."