Jan 212011

Four different reports:  The President and Provost (Peter MacKinnon and Brett Fairbairn) overrode the Search Committee’s recommendation for Dean of the Law School.

As reported by the Star Phoenix and  by Global News, Jan 21, 2011


Top U of S officials face criticism over law dean selection

Search committee’s choice was ignored by university’s board

Jason Warick, The StarPhoenix: Friday, January 21, 2011


Some members of the search committee to pick a new dean for the University of Saskatchewan’s college of law are furious after top administrators ignored the committee’s choice and pitched their own candidate to the university’s board of governors in a private meeting.

Some members of the search committee to pick a new dean for the University of Saskatchewan’s college of law are furious after top administrators took the rare step of ignoring the committee’s choice and pitching their own candidate to the university’s board of governors in a private meeting.

Critics worry about the centralization of power in the hands of the university’s top administrators and the board of governors, which continues to ban the public from its meetings. They say this incident, which violates long-standing conventions, will make it more difficult to recruit talented people to sit on time-consuming, volunteer search committees.

“I think all those principles . . . I think it damages all those things,” said a committee member who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The board of governors unanimously approved U of S president Peter MacKinnon’s pitch for candidate Sanjeev Anand.

“It was a pretty straightforward matter. The board dealt with that in that manner,” said board of governors member Garry Standing.

“The board of governors obviously supported the decision that was made (by MacKinnon) and voted on it and voted to proceed,” said fellow board member David Sutherland.

No one interviewed criticized Anand, a high-profile, widely published University of Alberta criminal law professor who has worked at the U of S. The point, critics say, is the search committee’s top choice was dismissed from a field of finalists that also included two respected University of Saskatchewan professors and a senior official in the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice.

The search committee member representing the Law Society of Saskatchewan wrote a highly critical letter about the incident to the board of governors, but the university declined to provide a copy. The university says it is a personnel matter and as such is confidential.

Officially, committee members have been ordered not to discuss the issue and directed interview requests to the office of U of S academic vice-president and provost Brett Fairbairn, who spoke on behalf of the university administration.

“We can’t talk about anything that happened,” said the committee member.

Privately, however, many of the 10 committee members — students, professors, lawyers, deans and others who volunteered dozens of hours to conduct the search — are fuming, the committee member said.

“It’s a very time-consuming process,” said the member.

“This is not just about a few people feeling hard done by.”

In an interview this week, Fairbairn said personnel matters are private and declined to discuss the situation.

In general terms, however, he said the university values the hard work of the search committees and it’s rare for the search committee’s choice to be overruled.

“In most cases — it seems to me like it’s nine out of 10 or even more — it’s a very straighforward process,” he said.

When asked how he or MacKinnon could overrule the search committee, when Fairbairn admitted the research done by the search committee is important, he said there may be a difference of interpretations.

He said the board of governors is always made aware of the views of the search committee, but is not bound by its choice.

“Really, it’s about using the committee as the vehicle to collect and assess information,” Fairbairn said.

Fairbairn lauded the accomplishments and leadership ability of Anand, who takes over as dean on July 1.

“We’re terrifically impressed by his record as both a scholar and a leader,” Fairbairn said.

Board of governors member Linda Ferguson said board members “certainly” had all of the information at their disposal.

“We don’t usually discuss how decisions are made,” she said before referring further questions to Fairbairn.

Board of governors vice-chair Susan Milburn said there was more discussion on this appointment than others. She also noted the search committee is “advisory” and the board is free to make the final decision.

Asked if board of governors meetings should remain closed to the public given that other publicly funded bodies — school boards, health boards, governments — make most of their decisions in the open, Milburn compared the U of S to a “high-performing corporation” where certain information requires protection.

She said the board strives to inform the public of its decisions after they are made.

“We try to be as transparent as we can,” she said.

If administrators aren’t happy with the search committee’s choice, they should not overrule it, said U of S faculty association vice-chair and psychology Prof. Jim Cheeseman. Instead, the search should be declared “failed” and begin again.

Cheeseman, who is part of a group rewriting the rules for dean searches, said he hopes this will help avoid similar incidents in the future.

“One wants to be very careful about these sorts of things,” he said.


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Vol 58 | No 2 | February 2011


Controversy Mars USask Law Dean Hire


University of Saskatchewan college of law building [Photo: University of Saskatchewan]

The choice of a new law dean by top administrators at the University of Saskatchewan has come as a surprise to members of a search committee whose recommendations were overruled in the hiring process.

The university’s board of governors voted Nov. 18 to hire University of Alberta law professor Sanjeev Anand, the short-list candidate reportedly favoured by U of S president Peter MacKinnon.

Although the university is not bound by the committee’s hiring recommendations, ignoring its choice violates long-standing convention, and has reportedly dismayed many committee members who put in dozens of volunteer hours researching and interviewing candidates. Those members cannot publicly discuss their recommendations because of privacy concerns.

“I don’t know of this ever happening before at the university,” said U of S faculty association vice-chair Jim Cheesman, who is part of a joint university council/board committee currently refining search and review procedures for senior administrators.

Those refinements are still under consideration by council, and were not used in Anand’s selection. Cheesman anticipates the new guidelines will ultimately be adopted by the board of governors for application in future hiring situations.

He characterizes the existing process as murky and says the joint committee’s recommendations will clarify employment criteria, define the makeup of selection committees, and attempt to promote transparency and accountability without compromising applicants’ rights to privacy.

Hiring recommendations made by search committees are non-binding as mandated by The University of Saskatchewan Act, and will stay that way, Cheesman adds.

However, Cheesman believes that where administrators “can’t live” with a committee’s choice, the search should be declared “failed,” and feedback passed along to the committee before another search begins.

“If you continue to ignore the recommendations of search committees, you’ll create a chilly environment. People will get very cynical about the process,” he warned.

U of S vice-president and provost Brett Fairbairn declined to speak about the details of the search for the new dean of law, but acknowledged that the current review of the hiring process amounts to a “codification of overarching principals,” and as part of a regular updating will provide a “better articulation of appropriate considerations.

“We involve a lot of people in search processes. It’s unique and reflects the academic culture. This results in diverse opinions,” Fairbairn said of the incident.


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As reported by Academic Group, January 24, 2011


Top uSask administrators criticized over law dean selection

News Date:

Jan 24, 2011

Some members of a search committee for a new law dean for the University of Saskatchewan are angry after senior officials apparently overruled the committee’s choice and pitched another shortlisted candidate to the institution’s board of governors in a private meeting. Critics worry about the centralization of power in the hands of uSask’s top administrators and the board of governors, whose meetings are closed to the public. They say this incident will make it more difficult to recruit talented people to sit on time-consuming, volunteer search committees. The board’s vice-chair says the committee is “advisory” and the board is free to make the final decision. The faculty association’s vice-chair says if administrators are not happy with the search committee’s choice, they should not overrule it. Instead, the search should be declared “failed” and start again.  Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

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As reported in the student newspaper, The Sheaf


Committee silent over law dean controversy

Feb 02, 2011

Associate News Editor

The once vocal search committee for a new dean of law is now silent over accusations that University of Saskatchewan president Peter MacKinnon overlooked their recommendation for the new dean.

Accusations published in the StarPhoenix in recent weeks indicate that the search committee — which is made up of volunteers from the university and community — suggested appropriate candidates for the job, but MacKinnon’s choice, University of Alberta law professor Dr. Sanjeev Anand, was vetted.

Anand previously worked at the U of S, according to the StarPhoenix.

Jim Germida, the chair of the search committee, was unwilling to comment to media on the specific accusations, stating that whatever the university president and his vice-president Brett Fairbarn have said must be taken as correct.

At university council Jan. 27, MacKinnon acknowledged the accusations but mostly highlighted the demolished relationship between faculty and administration.

He said that the first time he was informed of the accusation that he had ignored the search committee’s suggestions was in the StarPhoenix.

“I was under the mistaken belief that if members of the faculty association executive felt [negative towards our hiring practices], they would have communicated such to me before such a, quote, ‘scathing public message,’ ” said MacKinnon.

“The charge that elite university administrators are making all the decisions is utterly without substance,” he added, pointing to “Section 49 of the University of Saskatchewan Act [which] makes it clear that deans are appointed by the Board of Governors.”

Brett Fairbarn, university provost and vice-president academic, stated to council that “we really should not be relying on the StarPhoenix as a source.”

He accused the newspaper of misquoting but would not clarify the inaccuracies to StarPhoenix reporter Jeremy Warren because, he said, he could not comment on this specific case.

MacKinnon said that of the 15 appointments in the last five years he is familiar with, 14 saw an offer made to the candidate the search committee preferred. It is only when the search committee cannot come to consensus over candidates that the Board of Governors makes a decision on its own.

“This was a case where there was not a consensus,” said Fairbarn after the meeting.

Germida would not confirm whether or not the committee had come to a consensus.

– –   image: Pete Yee

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