After being fired, banned and stripped of his tenure and benefits, Robert Buckingham has returned to his office at the University of Saskatchewan.
On Wednesday, he was once again a tenured professor. He was not, however, dean of the School of Public Health. That title was taken away last week as punishment for a letter Dr. Buckingham made public called The Silence of the Deans. In it, he detailed how some deans were told that if they criticized the university and its TransformUS project, their tenure would be cut short.
“I have just written the president [Ilene Busch-Vishniac] and asked for reconsideration to reappoint me as dean,” Dr. Buckingham said from his office. “I do not know if or when she will reply.”
Dr. Buckingham’s criticism of TransformUS and the restructuring and job losses it would bring earned him a letter of termination from provost Brett Fairburn. Dr. Buckingham was accused of having “irreparably damaged” his relationship with the university.
The backlash from the public and academics across the country forced Ms. Busch-Vishniac to say the university had blundered in firing Dr. Buckingham. He was welcomed to return as a tenured professor, but not as dean.
Mr. Fairburn then resigned just before the university’s board of governors reviewed the matter on Monday evening.
“We know the reputation of the university has been harmed and we are reflecting on how we can restore it,” Susan Milburn, the chair of the board of governors, wrote in a letter on Wednesday to alumni, donors and friends. “You have my personal commitment – as an alumna and board chair – that any actions will be undertaken with the best interest of the university in mind to regain your trust.”
Ms. Milburn added that the U of Saskatchewan is “committed to academic freedom and freedom of expression.”
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for May 26-27, when it will review the school’s leadership and debate whether further changes in administration are necessary. Ms. Busch-Vishniac has vowed she will not resign. She wants to stay until the TransformUS project is completed.