Updated Comment on Rindos' Tenure Troubles at UWA

Hugh Jarvis (C129QP43@UBVM.BITNET)
Tue, 1 Mar 1994 20:13:31 EST

Apologies to those of you who receive this twice. As it concerns a
matter of importance to many of us, I thought it wise to diseminate it
Hugh Jarvis
The world anthropological community is becoming increasingly distressed
by the University of Western Australia's denial of tenure to Dr David

The subject has been discussed both on mailing lists and elsewhere on
the net, and it has become a major item of concern at professional
meetings in the US and abroad. As each new piece of information comes
to light in this sorry story, one thing has become totally clear: the
PUBLIC reasons for denial of tenure and firing are simply unbelievable.
This recognition is leading a growing number of people to suspect that
another, hidden, agenda is really at stake.

Since I first posted a summary of events in the Rindos Affair, I have
received many requests for more information and updates on events.
Below I discuss a few of the more striking, and odd, developments of
the past six months or so. I asked both the Vice Chancellor's office
at the University of Western Australia and Dr. Rindos for their
comments or clarifications on this posting. Their replies appear at
the very end.

As I noted in my original posting (Wed, 23 Jun 1993 14:02:46 EDT):
> A few days ago Rindos was denied tenure and fired with 3 days notice.
> The claim was that he was not "productive." Yet even a cursory
> examination of his vitae and teaching record shows that he is far
> above the norm at his university, and several departments on his
> campus are enthusiastic at the chance of his joining them permanently.

It has been discovered, by means of data posted here on the Net and
elsewhere, that the University had attached impossible financial
conditions to "offers" made to other Departments which wished to
provide a home to Dr Rindos. Hence, it appears that UWA claims that
other Departments were not "willing" to "accept" him are based upon
mis-representation of the true facts of the case.

The University keeps saying that Dr Rindos was never fired, and that
his contract was merely "allowed to expire" on the grounds that he was
not up to UWA's "high standards." Dr Rindos is now in the process of
taking action in the Industrial Court of Western Australia seeking to
prove this claim is false. He is maintaining (as everybody in academic
life already knows) that denial of tenure on illegitimate or
unsubstantiated grounds, in fact, constitutes an unfair firing.

Scholars working in Australian Archaeology, unconnected to UWA, have
also noted to me the existance of certain academic disagreements
between the Professor of Archaeology, Sandra Bowdler, and Dr Rindos,
especially regarding Rindos' recent work on the colonization of
Australia. Serious concern is being expressed by some that issues of
Academic Freedom also might be involved in this case. I have also
heard very troubling reports that certain UWA Archaeology faculty and
students, and others have contacted scholars in the US and elsewhere
spreading false rumors about Dr Rindos, as well as circulating material
written by him without his knowledge or permission, and depicting this
material in a negative and misleading fashion.

I also noted in my original posting:
>How could a situation arise where a widely known and respected scholar
>could find himself in a situation like this? In Rindos's case, the
>troubles all seem to relate to a scandal that began while he was the
>interim Head of Department. As Head he discovered a number of serious
>professional and ethical problems in his department and reported them
>to University officials. These reports led to major complications when
>when the usual Head returned. Rindos had to be relocated to the
>Geography department for his own protection. Significantly, most of
>graduate students followed him. It looked like the problem was at
>least partially solved. An investigation of the Archaeology
>Department was undertaken by the University and as a result it was
>disbanded. However, over the three year period while this took place,
>changes in the administration of the University occurred. The new
>administrators apparently thought that getting rid of the "whistle
>blower" was an easier way of solving the vast range of problems
>in Archaeology than dealing with the real issues, which included a
>long standing pattern of sexual involvments between the Professor and
>her female students, favouritism, and the intellectual harassment
>and intimidation of students.

A great deal of information has begun to emerge on these matters. An
article in Australia's leading newspaper, *The Australian,* quotes a
Tasmanian scholar, Casandra Pybus, who recently wrote a book on the
so-called "Orr Case" of the 1950's (which until now was likely the
biggest academic scandal in Australian history). Dr Pybus noted that
she is "concerned that women who might be screaming for scalps if a
heterosexual man was allegedly having serial relationships with female
students are now very quiescent in this case where the female staff
member was allegedly involved with female students."

Even more damning, confidential memoranda from members of the
Archaeology Review Committee to high UWA administrators, including the
Vice-Chancellor, have come to light since Dr Rindos was fired. These
memos warned the University about the serious sexual and professional
problems in the Archaeology Department and were put in the strongest of
terms imaginable:

January 1992: "The allegations themselves are sufficiently grave,
sufficiently numerous, sufficiently consistent and potentially sufficient
damaging to the ideals and the reputatation of this University . . . that
there are sufficient grounds for concern to suggest that the allegations
be investigated by a properly constituted body of enquiry.
"It was alleged that a number of graduate and undergraduate students
had had sexual relations with a member of staff and that this had been
followed by favoured treatment of some (for example, in terms of grants
and jobs within the Department) and apparent victimisation of others
(including public ridicule and denial of fair opportunity).
"It was alleged that an environment had been fostered in which
cynicism and ridicule were used to promote certain theoretic approaches
and denigrate others, and that this stultified free academic exchange,
damaged academic reputations and integrity, and ultimatly severely
retarded academic growth, particlarly of some promising [PhD] students."

June 1992: "I am very worried that the situation has gone from bad to
worse. . . . I am worried that the second review did not investigate in
sufficent depth, the allegations mentioned in the first report. As far as
I know, the second committee did not contact any members of the first
review committee nor interview some of the key people involved. Thus it
would not surprise me if they failed to obtain legally valid evidence to
either confirm or deny the allegations. . . . very damaging activites are
still being carried out. I do not believe that these will cease until
much stronger action is taken."

"As convenor of the Archaeology Review Committe, it is clear to me
that Dr Rindos and others have received most unfortunate and unfair
treatment at this university.. . . he and others appear to have been
subjected to a concerted campaiging of denigration that I believe few
could have sustained. That he was able to be productive at all is clear
testimony of his ability as an academic. . . . I believe this university
could be guilty of a grave miscarraige of justice if it does not confirm
Dr Rindos in his tenured position."

May 1993: "Events seem to be marching towards what I believe may be a
dangerous conclusion for this university."

Especially troubling, however, it now seems certain that the decision to
deny Dr Rindos tenure was made *ONE* *YEAR* before the deed was done!

June 1992: "The more I think about it and the more I hear the more
convinced I become that it would be a mistake to try to deny tenure to
Rindos. When we discussed it [in May], you based your argument primarily
upon managerial grounds, not on grounds of academic principle or natural
justice. . . . There now exist some further options [and] . . . I suspect
not all avenues had been explored . . . Based upon my current knowledge .
.. it would be a mistake to deny tenure."

June 1992: "I understand. . . that Dr Rindos is unlikely to have his
tenure confirmed. This information surprised me to say the least: it
seemed to be a total reversal of what I thought would be the probable
outcome of our review [of the Archaeology Department]."

During the following year, several different reports were written which
proposed entirely different "reasons" to deny tenure. It seems that
negative testimony was solicited, and that malicious charges made against
Dr Rindos were followed up by the University, perhaps as part of a much
larger attempt to force him out. In his favor, on this score, Dr Rindos
has already won one defamation suit and is said to be initiating several

Dr Rindos' tenure review has become a sort of public joke ever
since it has become known that the recommendation to deny tenure was
based upon a totally subjective judgement of his academic worth by one
member of the Committee (none of whom were archaeologists, or even
members of a related field). In all fairness to the Committe, however,
it must be said that they called for a check of readily available
performance statistics to test the validity of the subjective judgement
on performance. This check was never done (presumably because it would
have vindicated Dr Rindos). The Committee also stressed it had NOT
taken possible extenuating circumstances into account in making its
recommendation. Yet this matter is now being publicly misrepresented
by University claims that the Committee HAD taken such circumstances
into account.

A particularly troubling aspect of this case is that UWA totally
ignored written advice and recommendations which arrived after the first
recommendation was made to deny tenure. Dozens of letters, including ones
from the very best known and respected archaeologists in the world (such
as Drs Binford, Dunnell, Gould, Harris, Hole, Schiffer, Zimmerman, and
Zubrow, to name a few) notified UWA that Rindos clearly deserved tenure
for his many contributions to our field (extracts from their comments can
be provided by me upon request). Are the very best international
professional judgements of scholarly merit worth nothing at UWA?

Since Dr Rindos was fired, UWA has gone out of its way to denigrate
his academic abilities, and has even gone so far as to claim that *HE*
was having improper relationships with students! In what must be one
of the more bizarre twists in an already absurd story, UWA states that
it *DIDN'T* deny him tenure for THAT reason. One is led to ask whether
UWA feels improper relationships with students would *not* affect one's
tenurability, when reporting such relationships means that one's
overall performance is not up to UWA's "high standards"?

All in all, it seems obvious that a McCarthyish witch hunt was and is
still being conducted against Dr Rindos. Whether this will succeed in
the long run is unclear (after all, as in the US, the University of
Western Australia has essentially unlimited taxpayer's money to back
its fight!). It is also somewhat unclear just who is protecting whom,
and for what reasons. But the pattern of cover-up and victimisation of
the whistle-blower is one which, regrettably, has been seen before.

What *is* clear, however, is the fact that people around the world now
are pretty well convinced that due process at UWA is, just like Rindos'
Tenure Review, a huge joke. Procedures may only be judged by their
outcome, and the outcome in the Rindos case is clearly unjustified,
possibly based upon bias and the need to maintain a cover-up, and is
without a doubt totally out of keeping with international academic
standards. We are all aware that institutions, like governments, can
do ANYTHING and rationalise it by cloaking it in due process. Recall
that even the most heinous of crimes known to have been carried out
against humanity were accomplished with all the paper work in proper
order. Hence, repeated invocation of *process* rather than *results*
(or perhaps even *justice*?), of *means* rather than *ends*, will
inevitably lead anthropologists to a position of extreme skepticism.

Given the kind of data which has been surfacing about the Rindos Affair
over the past six months, it is not surprising that plans for motions
of censure and academic bans against UWA are now being widely discussed.
In this we may well be seeing the realization of a prediction that was
made in another memo by the Head of the Archaeology Review Committee back
in May 1993: "The international community of archaeologists is likely to
black list this University if Rindos is not tenured."

Where will these events lead? That is hard to predict. It will be very
interesting to see what befalls in the court cases now pending. The
proposed censure of UWA may have very significant results in the area
of bureaucratic honesty, especially at a time when the power of tenure
is being eroded. As more occurs on the UWA front, I will endeavour to
keep people updated. And for those of you who may desire to get more
details regarding what was mentioned above, please feel free to contact
me, and I will direct you to the appropriate information sources.

Hugh Jarvis c129qp43@ubvm.cc.buffalo.edu

Date: Sun, 27 Feb 1994 10:04:31 +800 (WST)
To: Hugh Jarvis <C129QP43@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU>

Dear Mr Jarvis:
Thank you for your letter and the copy of your summary of recent
events. I have little to add save to note that documents recently obtained
obtained appear to make the situation even more tragic than could have
been imagined.

In place of extended comment, I would prefer to take this opportunity
to thank the many scholars who have written letters on my behalf, offered
me emotional and financial support over the past year, and who have
worked, in so many different ways, to stand up for all that is good and
worthy in academic life. For this, all of you have gained my deepest

I would also like to extend my thanks to the students and Staff, both
Academic and General, at UWA. My academic experiences there were most
rewarding and I retain the fondest of memories for the students and
scholars I met, and with whom I had the pleasure to interact. I can only
hope that actions now going before the Western Australian Industrial
Commission will allow me the opportunity to resume my, sadly interrupted,
career at UWA.

While I am saddened about what has happened in, and perhaps even to
the University of Western Australia, I would like to stress that I
believe no judgement of "collective guilt" should ever be laid upon the
faculty of UWA as a result of the actions of a few, isolated,

I wish you all well, and again wish to thank everybody, both in
Australia and overseas, for your continuing support. Cynicism is
possibly the worst trait an academic might ever develop, and by your
actions you have helped me to avoid it.

[You may from quote the above as you wish.]

Most Sincerely,
Dave Rindos


Date: Thu, 24 Feb 1994 09:04:39 +0800
To: C129QP43@UBVM.cc.buffalo.edu
From: bgoldflam@mint.acs.uwa.edu.au
Subject: Professor Gale's response to Posting on Dr Rindos

As Dr Rindos' case is currently before the Western Australian Industrial
Relations Commission it is inappropriate to comment on your proposed
posting other than to say I believe the article is full of inaccuracies
and is refuted. I would also note that I believe some of the comments
may be defamatory.

Professor Fay Gale
Barbara Goldflam
Vice-Chancellor's Office
The University of Western Australia
Nedlands WA 6009
Tel: (09) 380 2806 Fax: (09) 380 1013
email: bgoldflam@mint.acs.uwa.edu.au