The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Saskatoon university offers to reinstate tenure to fired university professor

  • Print

SASKATOON - The University of Saskatchewan president says the school "made a blunder" when it fired a professor for speaking out about budget cuts and so has offered him back his tenure position.

Senior leaders at the Saskatoon-based school said Thursday that Robert Buckingham's termination had been reconsidered and reversed. University president Ilene Busch-Vishniac said academic freedom and tenure are sacrosanct.

"We accept that we made a blunder and we hold tenure in the same high regard that everyone does throughout the world," Busch-Vishniac said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"We will be doing a post-mortem to figure out how we ended up in this awkward position, to fix it and to make sure it never happens again."

Busch-Vishniac said the school is not trying to muzzle professors. Academic leaders, such as deans, can disagree with the changes being proposed — in private, she said.

"But once a decision is made, we expect all of the leadership of the university to align behind that decision and that's where we ran into some problems, so that's why Dr. Buckingham was removed as executive director of the School of Public Health."

He is not being allowed to return to that post.

The Canadian Press could not reach Buckingham for comment, but he told local media that he will accept the tenure position.

Buckingham was escorted from campus by police Wednesday after writing a letter to the government and Opposition New Democrats about the overhaul at the university.

The school released a plan last month that includes cutting jobs, reorganizing the administration and dissolving some programs to try to save about $25 million. The plan calls for the School of Public Health to be rolled into the College of Medicine, but Buckingham worries that could jeopardize the school's recently earned international accreditation.

The cuts are part of a bigger goal to address a projected $44.5-million deficit in the school's operating budget by 2016.

The university's decision to reinstate Buckingham came shortly after Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said he wanted an urgent meeting between the province and the university board.

Wall said he spoke with the board and its chairman, but did not insist on Buckingham being reinstated.

"No, again, there's the principle of the independence of the university," Wall said Thursday at the legislature in Regina.

"I think that it's fair to say that deep concerns (were) expressed. The university was hearing, as we all were, from right across the country, significantly in Saskatoon from students, from faculty."

Wall said the province still wants to talk to the board about whether the firing broke the University of Saskatchewan Act.

"The concern ... is even with this decision today, what about the policies that are required to be followed as spelled out in the act? These are not just notional ideas in some sort of an agreement. There are some legislative requirements on the part of the university for these things."

The Canadian Association of University Teachers, the national voice for 68,000 academic and general staff at more than 120 universities and colleges, called the firing "an inexcusable embarrassment to the traditions and history of the University of Saskatchewan and an embarrassment to post-secondary education across Canada."

"Firing a dean and tenured full professor because he publicly disagreed with your plans for the university is an intolerable attack on academic freedom and proper university governance," association director James Turk wrote in a statement.

Turk suggested Busch-Vishniac should publicly apologize to Buckingham for "her ill-considered and heavy-handed response to proper discussion and debate."

"That is the only remedy that has the possibility of restoring the reputation of an excellent university that you have so badly damaged," he wrote.

Busch-Vishniac said she had not yet spoken directly to Buckingham, but that university provost Brett Fairbairn had done so. She believed Buckingham received an apology.

"But if he has not, let me state right now that we are sorry for the action we took, and apologize to Dr. Buckingham for dismissing him from the university.

"We should not have done that."

— By Jennifer Graham in Regina

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - Take It Easy

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.
  • A Canada Goose cools off in a water pond Monday afternoon at Brookside Cemetary- See Bryksa’s Goose a day Challenge– Day 27-June 25, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Should Manitoba support the transport of nuclear waste through the province?

View Results

Ads by Google