University of Saskatchewan board fires President Ilene Busch-Vishniac

September 2014

Gordon Barnhart, former lieutenant-governor, appointed interim president

Ilene Busch-Vishniac has been terminated without cause as president of the University of Saskatchewan.

The board of governors said Busch-Vishniacwill continue in a teaching capacity at the university.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall used his Twitter account to congratulate Gordon Barnhart, who had been appointed interim president. Barnhart, a long-time academic, is the former lieutenant-governor of Saskatchewan.

The move to letBusch-Vishniacgo comes after a flurry of criticism surrounding a decision to dismissand end the tenure of a professor who openly criticized the university's leadership. That professor, Robert Buckingham, was returned to his teaching duties after Busch-Vishniac conceded the move was a "blunder".

Although his tenure was restored, Buckingham was not continued in his administrative job as dean of the School of Public Health.

Just days later, prior to an emergency meeting of the Board of Governors of the university, a senior official, Provost Brett Fairbairn, tendered his resignation saying he accepted responsibility for the botched dismissal of Buckingham.

"The board feels strongly that the university’s ongoing operations and its reputational rebuilding efforts will be more effective with new leadership," the board said in a statement Wednesday night.

Busch-Vishniac's dismissal was described as taking effect "immediately".

The board noted the controversy surrounding Buckingham's dismissal had been troubling.

"It was a painful week for the University of Saskatchewan," the statement said. "Many students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the U of S, and the people of the province generally, were dismayed by news emerging from the campus over the last seven days. The board was deeply troubled by this situation and committed itself to repairing the university’s reputation."

At the centre of the controversy is TransformUS, an initiative underway at the university to restructure programs with a goal to reduce costs. Buckingham's criticism of the initiative set off the chain of events that led to the board's move.

While the board was unhappy with the moves against Buckingham's tenure, the body continued to support the TransformUS initiative.

"The University of Saskatchewan is committed to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. It would also like to stress that it believes that tenure is a sacrosanct principle within this university," the board said. "Finally, the Board of Governors at the University of Saskatchewan continues to be strongly committed to the goal of financial sustainability and renewal."

Busch-Vishniac was just approaching the two-year mark of her five-year term as president.

Before her 2012 appointment to the U of S, she was provost atMcMaster University in Hamilton for five years.

The board said her teaching duties, if she takes them, would be in the university's college of engineering.