Will the real Stuart McCutcheon please stand up?

Posted By TEU on Jul 26, 2018 |

Tertiary Update – Vol 21 No 14

National president of the Tertiary Education Union, Sandra Grey has written again to Stuart McCutcheon responding to efforts by the Vice-Chancellor to silence criticism and prevent debate at the University of Auckland.

Grey first wrote to Professor McCutcheon on 22 June stating that intensifying efforts to prevent criticism of the direction he is taking the University is contrary to good employment practice and sound decision-making.

This is despite McCutcheon himself saying two years ago that he “had no problem with being criticised.”

The Vice-Chancellor has insisted that staff have the opportunity to read his response of 10 July, so today the TEU is publishing the correspondence to date.

One cannot help but point out the irony of McCutcheon insisting that staff hear his view on matters at a time when he is using ‘fidelity and loyalty’ to stop them critiquing and collectively discussing his proposed changes to the University.

Nevertheless, in his letter, McCutcheon said he “consider[s] adverse public comment during restructuring to be contrary to accepted legal consultation  practices” and a breach of an employee’s statutory obligations of “good faith.”

These views are part of a worrying pattern of intimidation and silencing of individuals who are critical of changes that the Vice-Chancellor is making. His statement also raises serious questions about whether McCutcheon simply pays lip-service to consultation, particularly if he considers adverse public comment during any such consultation to be against the law.

He goes on to say that adverse comment is contrary to the obligation of “loyalty and fidelity that an employee owes the employer.” McCutcheon appears to be arguing that the presence of anyone with views contrary to his own is a threat to the future of the University.

Grey points out in her most recent letter that McCutcheon has no basis to suggest existing legislation prevents, or authorises him, or any other Vice-Chancellor, to prevent, staff from communicating about and organising against planned changes at the University.

She also reminded him that he has no authority to issue threats of dismissal against those who talk to the media or engage in public comment.

University of Auckland policy states that change management is to be conducted in a fair and transparent way. However, it can be said that there is no transparency for any group if staff, students, and other stakeholders are prohibited from speaking about the change proposal.

You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics of deep concern and undemocratic. Universities have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of silencing of criticism.

The TEU is calling on all other tertiary education institutions to stand up to any attempt at intimidation and affirm their support for the basic principles of open and democratic exchange between all students, staff and the local community.

Sandra Grey is also hosting a ‘teach-in’, on 1 August, on critic and conscience in the context of events at the University of Auckland over the past few months. The Vice-Chancellor has been invited to participate.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Minister dissolves Unitec council and appoints commissioner
  2. Stuart McCutcheon wrong about Pasifika education
  3. MPs cut short debate on student and staff representation
  4. MPs finalise domestic violence leave legislation

Other news

Former leader of the Māori Party Te Ururoa Flavell has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa – NZ Herald

The Education and Workforce Select Committee has released a report on the 2018/19 Estimates for Vote Education, Education Review Office and Tertiary Education – Parliament

The Government has announced a $10 million pilot programme to provide free counselling for 18 to 25 year olds – Stuff

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is about to review the New Zealand Business qualifications – NZQA

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has placed strict conditions on EDENZ Colleges 2016 Ltd, requiring them to cease new enrolments in the New Zealand Diploma in Business programmes at levels 5 and 6 – NZQA

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