An academic row of bitter proportions has broken out inside Sydney University’s Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery between the newly-appointed Dean of Nursing, Professor Jill White, and senior lecturer Marilyn Orrock.

At the centre of the stoush is White’s decision not to renew 60-year-old Orrock’s fixed term contract when it ends next month. Orrock is in no mood to leave her generously paid position and has complained to all and sundry.

She has a group of supporters who are urging her to file a formal complaint with the university, the NSW Nurses’ Association, the Nurses and Midwives Registration Board and the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission claiming she is a victim of, among other things, “ageism”.

Others say that it is a straight forward industrial issue and that Orrock should lodge a complaint with the NSW Industrial Commission.

Before joining Sydney University this year, White had spent 10 distinguished years as the Dean of University of Technology’s Nursing, Midwifery and Health department.

A registered nurse and midwife, White holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing education, a master’s degree in education and a PhD from Adelaide University.

Since arriving at Sydney Uni’s Mallet Street campus, White has made clear that she wants to take the faculty to new levels of quality education following the departure of her predecessor, Professor Jocelyn Lawler.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Orrock and Lawler are close personal friends. Other senior members of the faculty who were recruited by Lawler also remain loyal to the recently departed dean.

This has created management strains for White, the newcomer, who wants the faculty to move on.

The depth of personal animosities is breathtaking with one of the anti-White brigade supposedly telling friends: “We will bring White down.”

Is this the atmosphere in which to train the future frontline Florence Nightingales?

Professor Deb Picone, the Director-General of NSW Health and a former right-wing nurses’ union official, is well known to all the antagonists. Perhaps she could tell them to take a Bex, calm down and get on with the job.