This correspondence has been made public due to the high level of concerns raised by the TEU membership nationally.
Sent to Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato | University of Waikato chancellor Sir Anand Satyanand
Te Hautū Kahurangi, TEU acknowledges that Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, University of Waikato has accepted that “structural and systemic issues of discrimination and racism” exist at the University.
TEU also supports the establishment of a taskforce to address these issues and develop the transformational changes necessary to deliver it. However, the TEU wishes to register serious concerns about the way that the university has handled claims of racism at the institution so far.
We have taken time to consult with members and Māori leaders in our sector to ensure that this response is well considered.
We do not believe the process enabled a proper inquiry into the concerns around the actions of the vice chancellor and senior leadership, or the systemic and institutional racism, for the following reasons:
• There was no process for agreeing terms of reference, terms which influence the outcome;
• The terms of reference did not focus on the core issues raised in the letter which sparked the inquiry;
• Neither were staff given the opportunity to determine who would lead the inquiry;
• The review process was rushed and left little time for genuine dialogue;
• The report and solutions were released simultaneously, giving no time for union members or others to have an input into the next steps; and,
• Ongoing fear around critiquing the institution itself and senior leaders has prevented open dialogue.
TEU also disagrees with the Reviewers summary finding that ‘the specific claims against the University, the Vice Chancellor, and management, are incorrect, inaccurate or reflect different perspectives or opinions.”
The only claim where the factual data was considered in their report to Council was whether Maori staff were paid less than equivalent non-Maori staff. Their investigation only extended to a very selective and narrow comparison of salaries of senior academics in the FMIS and ALPS (Arts, Law, Psychology and Social Science) Division. For the record, the ALPS Division has a higher than average cohort of female senior academics and with the University having a long history of gender disparity in their senior academic rates (i.e. as of 2018 only 26% of Professors were female and of that 26%, three quarters were paid salaries in the lowest quartile of the range of rates for Professors at Waikato University). This meant that the salary comparison between FMIS and ALPS appears intentionally loaded to invalidate the claim made by the “Waikato 6” rather than the Reviewers taking an objective, evidence-based approach to the claim.
For the Reviewers, to find that all claims made by the Waikato 6 were incorrect or inaccurate on the basis of a single loaded comparison is disingenuous and distorts the whole tenor of the Review report. For the University to then emphasise the “incorrect, inaccurate” nature of the claims made against it, in their media and press releases, has undermined confidence in the process.
However, we are hopeful that working together we can find a strong way forward.
We call on the Chancellor and the Taskforce Co-chairs to convene a series of meeting with staff, students, iwi and hapū, TEU representatives, and stakeholders to draw out the terms of reference for the taskforce. There also needs to be agreement on what expertise is needed in both leading the taskforce, including external expertise on racism in large institutions.
The composition of the taskforce also needs to be agreed upon by the university community. It is crucial that we together work out who will be involved, how they will be involved, and what status any decisions or recommendations of the taskforce will have.
This matter is of deep concern to the membership of the TEU at the University of Waikato and nationally. We have expertise and experience which is needed if we are to address racism and we recognise this issue cannot be solved quickly.
As such we are committed to addressing the issues raised and expect the same of our institutional leaders.
Sandra Grey, TEU National Secretary
Annie Barker, Co-President UoW Branch
Vicky Young, Co-President UoW Branch
Shane Vugler, TEU Organiser
Media Contact: Sandra Grey, TEU National Secretary 021 844 176