James Cook University on the Barrier Reef is in full spin mode over
staff allegations of a dubious process of appointing a new
vice-chancellor to run the place. And usually sharp Snitch columnist
Dorothy Illing of The Australian’s well-read Higher Education
Supplement swallowed the spin this week, running a piece about
extraordinary openness in the process. Problem is, staff are seething
over the opposite, saying the whole process full of secrecy and bias.
They have taken to the public webwaves and you can read their blog. And so much for The Australian’s tip that shortlist was soon-to-be revealed – the blog had the full list on Monday.

The un-spun story is that a tide of cranky staff want to know why the
list doesn’t include popular blue-ribbon internal candidate
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Ian Wronski, a 10 year veteran and dedicated
supporter of the university. He mysteriously didn’t make it to
interview stage and they are not happy.

The Aus piece also missed that yesterday 36 of the uni’s senior
staff sent a letter to the chancellor (who, for those who suspect
universities are not run by anyone, is the equivalent of the chairman),
demanding to know why Wronski didn’t get considered.

Insiders reckon he got the rough end of the pineapple because
he’d tried to point out a looming financial disaster at the university
well before it started to bite. He had argued that the slump in student
demand nationwide would soon send the uni’s finances banana-shaped. He
turned out to be right, and JCU is now living off financial reserves –
that are said to be about a year off empty. All this began with
outgoing vice-chancellor Bernard Moulden resigning early this year,
rather than taking up another renewal of his term that he had lobbied
hard for. That occurred just after the closing of the financial
accounts last December.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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