Univ. Western Australia Update #4 [Warning: Long and Distressing]

Hugh W. Jarvis (hjarvis@ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU)
Tue, 5 Mar 1996 00:19:22 -0500

(My appologies to any who receive this twice!!)

Since June 1993 [!] I have been posting occassional updates on the events
which occurred in Archaeology at the University of Western Australia. In
brief, the story began when Dave Rindos was denied tenure after reporting,
when he was acting as Head of Department, serious problems with the
treatment of students in the Department. A departmental review was held
by the University and it found that conditions in the department were
scandalous beyond belief. In its recommendations the Committee called for
strong action to rectify the problems. However, for reasons which are
still unclear, the problems were never properly addressed by the
University and instead of justice being done, Dr Rindos was fired on the
clearly contrived ground that he did not "come up to the high academic
standards of UWA."

While those of us familiar with the Australian scene have long been aware
of the rumours regarding conditions in Perth, and while a number of
Australians have been more than happy to speak privately about what they
knew, thus far the story has been pretty kept pretty much out of the
public arena. All of this has now changed because of a speech given in
the West Australian Parliament by the Hon Mark Nevill who spoke at length
about the "very serious situation" regarding the "archaeology affair at
the University of Western Australia" (Hansard 24, 1995, pp. 13192-13203).

Following the speech, leave was sought and obtained, to table documents.
Over 300 folios were thereby entered into the public record, most of which
are letters sent to the University documenting the scandalous conditions
which existed in the archaeology department. The charges included sexual
and academic victimization of students, serious interference with academic
freedom, and the total subversion of normal procedures of academic

Given the length of this speech (it went on for an hour), I certainly will
NOT be including it here (the full text will be available in the near
future at a Web Site which is now nearing completion). But to give you an
idea of its contents, here are a few selected quotations from the speech.
They are followed by a brief update on the Rindos case.



The [archaeology] affair at the University of Western
Australia involves the exploitation of students in that
department. There is also the sexual exploitation of
students. I believe the University has abrogated its duty
of care to the students . . . some of whom have been forced
to leave . . . and complete their studies overseas. The
treatment of Dr David Rindos has been appalling. . . . The
behaviour of Professor Sandra Bowdler and her group of
followers has been appalling also.

The result of this affair is that UWA and the university
community in general have failed to provide a credible and
viable archaeology discipline. . . . With issues such as
Mabo and economic development it is essential that we have
a functioning archaeology unit in Western Australia which
has respect and credibility and which turns out competent
graduates. . . . We have a vast amount of archaeological
information in this State, the surface of which has hardly
been scratched. We do not have a viable, credible
archaeology faculty in this State. I believe UWA has badly
let down Western Australia.

My frustration . . has resulted in my writing a letter to
the Standing Committee on Government Agencies to try to
interest it in examining some of the matters associated
with this archaeology affair. . . . I gave evidence to the
committee. The issue is in the committee's hands . . . .
The matter should be put in the public arena. . . .
Universities should be autonomous but at the same time
they should be accountable. . . . we have an obligation to
ensure that the university is properly managed and complies
with any state legislative requirements.

[He then turns to a history of the case starting with
Rindos' arrival, his discovery of problems, and his early
reports to his supervisors. He describes the results of
the 1991 Archeology Review before turning to the
devastating evidence presented to the Vice-Chancellor in
formal letters of complaint (thereby also putting the lie
to the oft-repeated claim by the University that "no formal
complaints had been received").]

One female studying Prehistory 200 wrote: "During a field
trip, Professor Bowdler made sexual advances towards me.
Being immature and flatter I became involved in a sexual
relationship. . . within a month I realised the
predicament I had placed myself in, but feared that if I
left Professor Bowdler she would somehow destroy my career.
I believe that over the past three years she has attempted
to do this. In 1988 I was forced to leave my family and
friends to get away from [her]."

Another letter states: "Prof. Bowdler . . . appears to
treat at least some students as a potential sexual

[...more testimony . . . ]

Another student stated: "Professor Bowdler is a predator
who preys on young female students. It is an absolute
disgrace that the University of Western Australia employed
such a person as well as allowing such blatant power abuse
to persist for nearly a decade."

The majority of these statements have been made by female
students . . .

[. . . more testimony . . .]

The Vice Chancellor, Professor Gale, in discussions with me
quite flippantly dismissed as consensual the succession of
affairs with undergraduate students indulged in by
Professor Bowdler. . . .

I am shocked that the vice chancellor believes that such
power contaminated relationships can be so easily
dismissed as consensual . . . to condone such behaviour is
to blame the student victims. The vice chancellor's
attitude is unacceptable. . . . She owes an apology to all
feminists who hold that gender is no excuse for improper
behaviour, and she owes an apology to the many students who
have been sexually or otherwise victimised at the hands of
a professor who is still in her employ.

[. . . many quotes providing examples . . . ]

In that department there was certainly intellectual
oppression. There was also a lack of due process. The
review committee found that Professor Bowdler and her
followers had instituted a reign of intellectual
oppression, encouraging and participating int he public
ridicule of students whose opinions were found to be
politically or otherwise unacceptable to them. . . .

Decisions relating to the allocation of academic and
intellectual resources were often made to serve
non-academic ends, and the processes of administration
became subverted to the ends of harassment and abuse . . .

[... many quotes providing examples removed here. . . ]

Those campaigns of abuse and victimisation obviously
succeeded in creating an atmosphere of fear. The review
committee wrote: "A number of staff and students who made
depositions to our committee expressed fear of retribution
and indicated that other ex students would have made
depositions if they could have been assured of protection."

The fears of those students were well placed as was sadly
admitted one year later by the convenor of the committee,
Professor Bruce, who wrote in a public letter

". . . students put their faith in our committee in the
hope that the major problems within . . . archaeology would
be resolved. They now believe, with justification, that
their faith was, to a large extent, misplaced . . .
deliberately damaging activities . . ." described to the
committee during the review process -- "are still being
indulged by members of the original department. . . .I
believe this University must do more to stop such
travesties of academic behaviour."

[. . . more testimony and evidence . . . ]

I now refer to the defamation campaign that was launched
against Dr Rindos. Members of archaeology, most likely in
reaction both to complaints which had led to the review
committee, and the protection that was given Dr Rindos and
other students, retaliated with what was turn into a
prolonged and ultimately successful attack on him.
Professor Bowdler claimed that the problems uncovered
during the review of archaeology were the fault of Dr
Rindos. She claimed that no problems ever existed and that
Dr Rindos invented a directed a campaign against her --
that she was the actual victim. That was quite a

A copy of Professor Rindos' [sic=Bowdler's] complaint about
the review committee was eventually forwarded to its
members. The review committee pointed out that all
problems predated Dr Rindos' arrival. The review committee
repudiated Professor Bowdler's allegation that Dr Rindos
was in any way incompetent or that he had created any
campaign against her. I would like to discover why the
university chose to believe Dr Bowdler, whose self interest
in this matter is obvious, rather than the objective
judgment of the properly constituted review committee.
There seems to be a fatal flaw in the university's decision
making processes.

[He then provides a summary of the events involved in
denying Rindos tenure]

In her letter of sacking of June 1993, Vice Chancellor Gale
provided additional reasons for dismissing him. Her
personal reason for sacking him was that Dr Rindos had been
unable to get along with Professor Bowdler. Dr Rindos,
after being the first person to stand up to the culture of
corruption in archaeology, also became the first person
ever to be denied tenure at UWA. I believe that this
Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that the
legislation that it has created is effective complied with.
This is a major scandal and has done immense damage to our
State. The hierarchy of UWA has turned a blind eye to the
fact that the problem is ongoing. If we can do anything to
undo the damage already done, we should do it. The
Minister for Education said last year that he was powerless
to obtain answers to questions put to him regarding
improper behaviour at the University of Western Australia
despite the fact that it is a government agency. I believe
it is important that this whole coverup be exposed and the
fraudulent attack on the good name of Dr Rindos be also
exposed. He has been set up as a scapegoat for the
problems of archaeology and his denial of tenure is the
ultimate insult.


In a recent press report in _The Australian_ newspaper, top UWA
administrators responded to Mr Nevill's speech by saying that they knew
all about what had been going on, complaining that his speech was
"scurrilious" and "one-sided" and that Mr Nevill had offered "nothing
new." Apparently all of the events reported upon in the speech were well
known and caused little or no concern.

The UWA also made clear that they apparently had no major problem with the
standards of academic and sexual behavior in the archaeology department
and "did not plan to take any action" regarding the conditions which had
been made public in the speech. Hence, the University is sending out a
clear message regarding what constitutes acceptable behavior in
student/teacher relationships and the treatment of students at the
University of Western Australia.

Regarding Dave Rindos, UWA once again stated that if Dr Rindos had
problems with his dismissal, then he should take his case to the Visitor.
This particular appeal, based in an English tradition, was a major focus
of the newspaper article referred to here. Entitled "Missing file leaves
Rindos in Limbo" it reports how the university has somehow managed to
"misplace" Rindos' Personnel File, and how it went missing many months ago
(oddly, its disappearance was discovered when Rindos asked to view it!).

I guess you won't be too surprised to find out that this particular file
contains evidence Dave needs to finalise his appeal to the Visitor, and
until it is found, his appeal is at a total stand-still. One would think
that UWA could come up with a better excuse -- perhaps something like "the
dog ate it" ??

That ANY university could condone the behavor reported upon in the
Parliamentary speech by its staff is totally unbelievable. That they
would choose to protect the guilty and allow the careers of innocent
people, including students, to be destroyed, quite frankly, sickens me.

UWA has long sought an international reputation. It certainly has one

Still somewhat numbed,

Hugh Jarvis

PS: A subsequent post will contain a press release sent to me
by the UWA Vice-Chancellor's Office. Comments came with it, but I am
still awaiting clarification of their (often rather strange) claims.