NEW TO THE STORY? Check out a story of the strange world of administrative behaviour at the University of Lethbridge.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE DISCIPLINARY PROCESS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE? Read Robinson’s analysis of “banana republic” processes he experienced.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE GRIEVANCE PROCESS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE? Read Robinson’s analysis of “banana republic” processes he experienced.

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UNESCO and Academic Freedom

ARTICLE 27: The maintaining of the above international standards should be upheld in the interest of higher education internationally and within the country. To do so, the principle of academic freedom should be scrupulously observed. Higher-education teaching personnel are entitled to the maintaining of academic freedom, that is to say, the right, without constriction by prescribed doctrine, to freedom of teaching and discussion, freedom in carrying out research and disseminating and publishing the results thereof, freedom to express freely their opinion about the institution or system in which they work, freedom from institutional censorship and freedom to participate in professional or representative academic bodies. All higher-education teaching personnel should have the right to fulfil their functions without discrimination of any kind and without fear of repression by the state or any other source. Higher-education teaching personnel can effectively do justice to this principle if the environment in which they operate is conducive, which requires a democratic atmosphere; hence the challenge for all of developing a democratic society.

— Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel

11 November 1997

Why the “one banana short” website?

Over my years as a university professor, I have seen my share of puzzling administrative action. Often my view has been close up and first hand, having served as president of my faculty association, as president of the provincial confederation of faculty associations and as a member of the board of governors at my institution.

The frequent unwillingness (and sometimes almost pathological inability) of some administrators to exercise common sense and to reverse poor judgment can damage our institutions substantially. When the actions of the administration of public institutions evoke images of a Stalinist Keystone Cops episode, or a Monty Python skit, or a journey with Alice through Wonderland—or when such actions cause an institution to be but one banana short of a republic—it is time to examine the matter in a more public spotlight.

In this first posting of this website, I offered an account of conduct that I had encountered at the University of Lethbridge, where I have taught for over twenty years. The administrative and board reaction to the website was blunt. The Dean ordered me to take down the site and to promise never to do anything of like nature again. I raised objections to the Dean’s orders, but the Dean would not address my concerns. He recommended to the President that I be suspended for two months without pay for “gross professional misconduct.” Lawyers for the President, Vice President Academic, Board Chair and Board Vice-Chair threatened my web host if the host did not remove material on my website.

The reaction of senior members of the administration and Board of Governors proved my point: the University of Lethbridge was looking very much like a banana republic. I had no choice but to resist this sweeping violation of my rights of expression, and my web host acted with similar resolve, refusing to be intimidated by university administrators and university lawyers. The administration proceeded with formal action to discipline me—suspension without pay. This caused many faculty members to speak out. In December, the Vice-President Academic indicated to me that all charges against me had been dropped.

Given my experiences at the University of Lethbridge, I feel obligated to keep this site active and to encourage all members of public institutions to resist and challenge conduct that causes public institutions to take on the character of banana republics.

The purpose of this website—as it was when it was first posted in September 2007—is to challenge administrations of public institutions to perform in line with accepted standards of fair play, due process and natural justice, and to expose administrations where that does not happen. In universities, it is high time that faculty told administrators that “enough is enough!

— Tom Robinson

The University of Lethbridge website is copyright.
© 2007-2008 Tom Robinson

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