Buchanan wins but no job back

March 28th, 2008 at 7:41 am by David Farrar

The popular former lecturer has won $66,000 in damages for his unjustified sacking, but the Employment Relations Authority has not ordered his reinstatement.

As many people said at the time, the university over-reacted to his intemperate e-mail, and have now been found to have acted illegally. They seem to still be in denial over this claiming the decision to sack him was upheld.  Could someone explain to the VC that they would not be paying $66,000 damages if their decisision had been upheld. Not ordering reinstatement is a different issue to whether the sacking was upheld.  It was not.

It would be a good outcome if Dr Buchanan found employment again in a NZ university. He was an expert in his area, and his departure remains our loss.

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63 Responses to “Buchanan wins but no job back”

  1. Sushi Goblin (419 comments) says:

    Yep – Buchanan – “the loose cannon”, would be a terrible loss to Auckland and NZ. Whatever his flaws as a stroppy lecturer, he clearly was widely respected by alumni.

    Perhaps Victoria University might like to take him on board?

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  2. Mike S (229 comments) says:

    I always thought UoA had over-reacted here – disciplinary action was called for (you’re not allowed to upset those people paying mega-fees from overseas!) but sacking was way over the top. And what he said, if we can believe everything, was not that inaccurate. If you’re not up to doing the work, you shouldn’t be at university .

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  3. simo (150 comments) says:

    I think Paul would be better off moving on, its a poisoned well UoA, full of socialists, nutcases, and PC apologists, I suppose its a good lurk if your into gravy trains, great if Paul saw the light and got a real job!!

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  4. Nigel (514 comments) says:

    “The Authority, however, sided with the university on the issue of reinstatement saying Dr Buchanan had “very little understanding of the impact his communication style has”.”
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=35&objectid=10500436&pnum=2

    Seems to me that this is not an open & shut case & the ERA ruled appropriately, compensation was due, but reinstatement was not.

    I’m not convinced it’s a wise option to appeal, that will open the way for publicity regarding Dr Buchanan’s communication style which one has to suspect won’t reflect well on him.

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  5. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    Full of people committing thought-crime. Right.

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  6. Spoff (275 comments) says:

    Some of Buchanan’s “expert” opinions:

    “It is possible that Hezbollah acted to divert attention away from Iran’s nuclear weapons program,”
    “Hezbollah has little natural origins in Lebanon”
    “What it (Israel) does not have in this instance—-is good strategic and tactical intelligence”
    “It (the U.S.) also must admit the possibility that it will have to respond in similar kind to atrocities, perhaps with some measure of decorum in order to maintain some type of ethical supremacy in the eyes of its own people and world opinion. And it must admit the necessity of resorting to weapons of mass destruction”

    From the Braunias interview in the Herald

    “When I asked whether he had ever wanted to work for the CIA, he said, no, he wasn’t a person to betray trusts. “But I could have made a lot of money doing it. I fancied I might have made a great covert operative.” This seemed preposterous, unless standing out is considered discreet. I asked him what covert abilities he possessed. He said, “Observational skills. I like to watch. I should rephrase that! I like to observe people. Mostly in their political inter-actions, but if I was a very old person, I would not go to malls and sit around and watch people. I’d go to airports. If I’m going to observe a crowd, I’d rather I did it well, and airports are far more interesting places.”

    From Scoop:

    “”Dr Buchanan was popular with students, telling them stories from his early years as an armed fighter against a right-wing government in Argentina and later working with the CIA in Central America.”

    “His tales of fighting for, and against, guerrillas in the South American jungle were intoxicating,” said journalist Peter Malcouronne, a masters student in 1998.”

    Maybe he already has a full-time job…or is it fantasy?

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  7. Fairfacts Media (372 comments) says:

    I posted on this last night at http://www.nominister.blogspot.com
    A couple of curiosities spring to mind.
    First, the NZ Herald reporting name suppression of the student.
    This seems very bizarre as it is easy to gain her identity from googling old stories , which included her babbling to the Emirates media, which led to her exposure here.
    Yet, when i posted last night, this suppression order was not mentioned by TV3 and others, who identified the student.
    And there are cpnflicting reports over the claim that the student’s father had died.
    I have received an email to say his death has not yet being verified.
    And that Palestinian Marxists are also behind his sacking!

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  8. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Lets see if I can help clear up some inconsistencies here:

    Nigel: Paul said something and then apologised a few hours later – immediately if you allow for sleep. He made a mistake sure, the authority ruled it was misconduct, not serious misconduct. If his dismissal was unjustified, and he didnt even reach the threshold of serious misconduct, why cant he get his job back.

    Spoff: Your post has no relavence

    Fairfacts: I’d be keen to discuss this with you in a more private setting. However, the supression order relates to another instance of ALEDGED misconduct on the email – which Buchanan was never formally warned or disciplined for. Indeed the authority said it wasn’t relavent. It is not the May 30 email. And the role of “Palestinian Marxists” is a fascinating aspect to this case, one that the truth has yet to fully emerge. Suffice it to say, he was, in my opinion, done in.

    At the end of the day the UoA was wrong to sack him, they were wrong to even discipline him for serious misconduct, and as such he should get his job back. End of story.

    Cheers
    Scott

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  9. philu (13,393 comments) says:

    paul buchanan is the most erudite/knowledgable commentator on matters american/security we have..

    (there is no-one else within a bulls roar..

    (esp the ‘usual supect’/american apologist who is wheeled out from auckland university to comment..

    a man whose lectures i walked out of..never to return..

    after he filled these young students’ heads with the idea of what a good idea it was that reagan invaded grenada..

    his lectures were ridden/sodden with apologia of past american ‘evils’..

    i spent half my time gape-mouthed..going w.t.f..!..)

    if paul buchanan is unable to return to work here..

    it will be our loss..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  10. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Mr Buchanan has pissed someone off, it’s that easy. And I doubt paying out 66,000 $ will worry the UoA that much, it’s not like it’s comming out of the pockets of those that gave him the big A. It’s all so easy when you are a state funded tit sucker, if this money came out of the pockets of those that made this decision, fuck there would be some squealing going on now.

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  11. Craig Ranapia (1,915 comments) says:

    Meh… I find it remarkably difficult to feel any sympathy for either party and (to my great surprise) think the ERA got it right. And I’ve also got to agree with Nigel. “Friend and former student Scott Mansell” has been all over the media saying he’s universally beloved by staff and students, but I’ve heard otherwise from people who just didn’t — and still don’t — want to get themselves caught up in an particularly nasty round of common room politics.

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  12. Fairfacts Media (372 comments) says:

    Pop over to No Minister to see the Geert Wilders ‘Fitna’ movie.

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  13. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Craig – with the outmost of respect: My comments publically are based on what I have heard and experianced. To catagorise this as ‘common room politics’ misses the issue: a man’s livelihood and career have been ruined unjustifiably. His actions did not reach the level of serious misconduct, and whatsmore the decision to dismiss him has been ruled to be unjustified.

    If 1 or 2 people dont like him, and I am aware of a consolodated effort by members of the radical left, who perhaps motivated by anti-american prejudice, have been very active in their desire to remove him for the advancement of their agenda, then that is there issue.

    Put simply, the UoA was wrong to dismiss.

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  14. Craig Ranapia (1,915 comments) says:

    If 1 or 2 people dont like him, and I am aware of a consolodated effort by members of the radical left, who perhaps motivated by anti-american prejudice, have been very active in their desire to remove him for the advancement of their agenda, then that is there issue.

    And I’m talking about around half a dozen people I know, none of whom are “radical left” but whose character judgements and intolerance of bullshit of any kind I respect enormously. Incidentally, all of them have enormous respect for his academic work but aren’t quite ready to nominate him for sainthood or martyrdom.

    Reality check: Academia is no more immune that anywhere else to personality cults, feuding cliques, ego-trippers, drama queens and professional victims who never take any responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

    But I agree with you on this: I wouldn’t have sacked Buchanan. Instead, I’d have given him a taste of his own medicine — a, shall we say, blunt reminder of some pretty basic standards of academic conduct.

    Put simply, I don’t think anyone comes out of this looking good. And there’s another side to the story that folks like Scott Mansell aren’t telling.

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  15. dave_c__ (49 comments) says:

    Bloody good job – People like this nutcase think they are a cut above the mere plebs that he deigns to teach. His words in the email give insight into his underlying attitudes – we can clearly do without them.
    He is only a teacher afterall. No great loss.

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  16. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    A quick review of the bahaviour and academic “achievement” of his aledged victim is very telling.

    An utter waste of space who plays the race card at every oportunity and expects to be given passes because of the family money.

    She couldn’t pass wind with written instructions and a gallon can of baked beans.

    11 out of 10 for the knee jerk vitriol there dave.

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  17. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Craig: What side of the story arent I telling?

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  18. RRM (9,917 comments) says:

    “It’s all so easy when you are a state funded tit sucker…”

    Wow, you really hate “the system”, don’t you?

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  19. jafapete (757 comments) says:

    Spot on DPF. I have read the decision in full, and while it does add a few details not already or since reported, none of them are very substantial. You’ve pretty much got it right.
    The V.C. is an interesting case. I’d like to say a lot more about how highly he is regarded by his colleagues at the University here and at VUW, but as he is a litigious type I will spare DPF the bother. But you can imagine.

    Anyway, here’s what he considers a win:

    “[75] Having said that, I have concluded that a fair and reasonable employer
    would not have dismissed Dr Buchanan for the reasons it did and in all the
    circumstances that then prevailed.
    [76] As already set out the University took into account email correspondence
    between Dr Buchanan and X and Y in early 2007. I have already concluded that
    the action of the University in taking these two emails into account was unfair and
    unreasonable.
    [77] The University escalated Dr Buchanan’s conduct to that of serious
    misconduct. I find that was unreasonable in all the circumstances…”

    It’s not the first time that he has tried to put a positive gloss on a loss. There was the 4 May 2005 Employment Court decision which went against him and which “The University of Auckland welcomes the Employment Court’s clarification of new aspects of the Employment Relations Act.” (See the UA website for the full spin.) I have the decision packed away in a box, but it went something like, “bad boys UA, but we are going to give the parties another chance to sort this out.”

    UA also has the very dubious distinction of being the all-time record holder amongst NZ universities in numbers of personal grievances; even when you take size into account it’s still way ahead of the rest. same in terms of payouts, although it operates a policy of binding people to secrecy about settlement payouts, or even the fact that there was a settlement (which is unusual). You may wish to compare this policy with the VC’s disingenuous statement in the Herald (Hewittson interview) last year that the university has to go along with these secrecy deals because that’s the way things are done these days. Can you see a pattern emerging?

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  20. jafapete (757 comments) says:

    On this tosh about radical lefties being out to get him, I think you’ll find the reverse is the case. Not only do the lefties on this blog seem to be in support of his return, I know that some of the moral support he has received over recent months has come from noted lefties around the campus. The “radical lefties” (i.e. nutcase equivalents of the neocon “true believers”) I’ve discussed the case with didn’t seem to be out to get him. Who is sdm talking about?

    I should declare an interest. I found Buchanan difficult to get on with, but then he was very nice in acknowledging in one of his books some assistance I gave him.

    Nigel: The Herald article was a very poor account. The journo didn’t even know the difference between “wrongful” and “unjustified” dismissal.

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  21. sdm (39 comments) says:

    I am referring to a number of posts on blogs, videos being uploaded etc, from certain individuals who believe that Paul is/was a CIA zionist (BS I know), and some of them have gone as far as to blame him for 9/11. Many of these comments were deleted when the site administrator was made aware of the defamatory nature of the remarks.
    There was an article in the herald about activist involvement in his firing.
    I am not saying the entire left had a role, just certian individuals

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  22. jafapete (757 comments) says:

    sdm, oh yes, quite possible, as there are unstable types on both sides of the fence, sadly. Can you say which blogs? The interest is genuine.

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  23. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    I hope he wins every caser he takes against the university. All he is guilty of is telling a slack student the truth. No one should be punished for telling the truth (its irrelevant if the language was PC or not )..I hope he screws the university into the ground.

    Here in the waikato they fired a guy a few years ago because he had the timerity to ask ‘what or where is the evidence of the holocaust against the jews’ (I think he was actually implying that this holocaust was about the same level as the holocaust against gypsys and homo’s and russians, etc. He said that we know that the nazis killed about 20 million of the others but was there actually a list of the 6 million jews who were claimed to be killed) Well, the hate machine got going and the university fired him. They should never have done so.

    Universities – the home of free and open thought – have succumbed to the PC brigade and need to be kickedout of it one way or the other.

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  24. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Well there were comments made on tumeke by posters such as Anti-Flag, brewerstroupe and Karlos which basically allege a CIA link. The 9/11 ‘truth’ forums had some disgusting allegations that he was to blame for the events of 9/11 – most of them seem to be nuts but there was a guy called hard1sad who is particually nasty – and the videos on youtube have been removed

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  25. Craig Ranapia (1,915 comments) says:

    Scott:

    I’m not going to identify people who spoke to me in confidence, and I certainly don’t think Dr. Buchanan would like having some less than flattering anecdotes about his less than entirely admirable behaviour towards other students and colleagues dragged into public view. But they do exist, and can’t all be dismissed as a politically motivated hit.

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  26. sdm (39 comments) says:

    But Craig: The decision to dismiss him was based on this email only. They said so in the ERA. So the only question is, did they make the right decision? And the answer is obvious: No.

    So wehere we are left with is that he did not do anything that equates to serious misconduct, he shouldnt have been fired, so why cant he get his job back?. I actually think the UoA would get a lot of credibility if they admitted a mistake and took him back, rather than digging their toes into the sand and being made to look stupid. Remember, they caused this.

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  27. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    As one who has much first hand experience of dealing with foreign students I must say some not all tend to be very demanding to the point where they expect to be spoon feed the answers. They have little ability to do research and prefer to learn by rote just sucking up info and regurgitating it.

    This particular student appeared to be well out of her depth. Its amazing the low standards of some who present with undergraduates degrees from some countries unis and yet fail the most basic skills tests here.

    Time the bar was raised from just bums on seats to a bit of qualiy Althou thats probably a bridge to far fro most.

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  28. jafapete (757 comments) says:

    sdm, Great summary of where we’re at. We will find out how those arguments play out in the Employment Court in due course. But the VC is well known for admitting mistakes and avoiding looking stupid.

    I have to correct a minor point made earlier. The VC made the statement about having to go along with confidentiality agreements last year in a Herald feature (and not the feature in Metro, I think, although they both focused on the current misrule). The Hewitson interview was a year or two earlier… the one where she made much of a huge, oversize eggtimer he had in his office and which made him look like a dick. It was gone the next day according to moles.

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  29. peterwn (3,271 comments) says:

    sdm – The lecturer caused the whole problem to start with by sending a totally unacceptable E-mail. No reasonable person would send a email of that sort, unless he or she was mentaly unstable (perhaps temporarily), in which case the person should be seeking treatment. Just have a look at the email and ponder on its contents.

    I appreciate that the criteria for reinstatement are different for dismissal, for example position already re-filled, workforce disruption, etc. However in this instance the same material facts applied both to the dismissal and reinstatement decisions by ERA. There seemed to be no facts which were not applicable to the dismissal decision but were applicable to the reinstatement decision.

    Therefore the Authority should have either upheld the dismissal, or have ordered reinstatement. The Authority seemed to be having a bob each way on this one.

    Claims that the lecturer would be unable to get another lectureship in NZ because of the dismissal would seem to reinforce a view that the dismissal was justified. If he was that brilliant a lecturer then surely other universities would be falling over themselves to hire him – Auckland’s loss being their gain.

    My personal view is that the email content was so obnoxious as to put this clearly in the ‘serious misconduct’ category and it seems the VC took this view too.

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  30. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Does the UoA really want to go through an employment court? Lets have some genuine scrunity on their policy, or lack thereof, of dealing with complaints. WHat I heard in the ERA basically indicated the due process was through out the window, and for an established institution dealing with the career.

    They got this so wrong – they elevated this to a level of serious misconduct when they shouldnt have. They ignored Paul’s own suggestions as to how to avoid similar situations. Clearly they made a decision before the facts were presented. I wonder, but highly doubt, if anyone is going to be held to account…

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  31. kiwitoffee (383 comments) says:

    Like we all do regularly, Dr Buchanan made a mistake. But in this instance he made a particularly serious one.

    Dr. Buchanan has compounded the problem with a remarkable lack of judgement in his dealings with colleagues and, after the event in question, a campaign of self-promotion.

    He may well be an experienced academic but I, for one, do not believe that there are not equally able Latin Americanists in New Zealand, ones who do not think it is their prerogative to insult students (especially foreign full-fee paying young women) no matter what the circumstances.

    What ever happened to the gentle, unassuming, quietly authoritative and respected scholars?

    New Zealand universities and society in general are better off without such high-profile, self-important bullies.

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  32. sdm (39 comments) says:

    How was it self promotion? Remember, the email was leaked by others…surely he has a right to defend himself

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  33. kiwitoffee (383 comments) says:

    Yes, of course Dr. Buchanan has the right to defend himself, if he has a defence. I suggest he doesn’t.

    As far as self-promotion goes, I’m referrring to, for example, a lengthy interview in the NZ Herald not long after his dismissal.

    As I understand it, the email was not ‘leaked’. It was made public by the recipient. That seems to me to be perfectly reasonable. I think I would have done the same.

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  34. jafapete (757 comments) says:

    kiwitoffee Add karma Subtract karma +0 Says: March 28th, 2008 at 3:42 pm “Yes, of course Dr. Buchanan has the right to defend himself, if he has a defence. I would suggest he doesn’t.”

    Well toffee, the Employment Relations Authority thought he had a defence, almost all the posters on this page thought he did, there was a public opinion poll a while back that showed most of the public thought he did. [Edit:] And you can visit the NZ Herlad webpage and count the number of people there who think that he should be reinstated. You’re certainly welcome to your opinion, but perhaps you might like to read the ERA decision first, then make up your mind.

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  35. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Kiwitoffee: name one other Latin Americanist/security specialist/regime transition scholar in the entire country that is equal to Dr Buchanan?

    And dont you think leaking the email justified paul defending himself? I hear there was other people who were pedling the email around media outlets……..

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  36. kiwitoffee (383 comments) says:

    jafapete:

    Right, there’s a formal legal process which has found that Dr. Buchanan was wrongfully dismissed. I haven’t read the documents (I really don’t have the time, honestly!) but based on what I’ve seen and heard in the media I must disagree with the judgement. Good legal advice will trump poor legal advice everytime. A legal decision is not always a fair or right one. The email in itself is, in my view, enough grounds to send him packing. If I wrote it, I would know that I was risking dismissal.

    sdm:

    I’d rather not name other people in this forum. I know personally one experienced Latin Americanist in Auckland and I’m aware of at least two others in Auckland. That’s just Auckland. Two of the three are NZers. I imagine there are others elsewhere in the country.

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  37. jafapete (757 comments) says:

    Toffee: “wrongful dismissal” is about being dismissed without the contractual notice; “unjustifiable dismissal” is what we are talking about here.

    One of the first things one learns when one is interviewed by the media, or when they write about something you are closely involved with, is just how distorted and erroneous the media makes things, even before we factor in stuff like ideological bias or partisanship. This distortion gets worse the more complex the issues, and in this case there are some quite complex issues involved. Not wise just to rely on the media in this instance.

    You say, “The email in itself is, in my view, enough grounds to send him packing. If I wrote it, I would know that I was risking dismissal.” My advice, should you ever be in a management position, is to seek advice from someone who knows about this stuff before you do anything at all in the way of discipline. Otherwise, you will find yourself in hot water quick as a flash.

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  38. Andrew Bannister (213 comments) says:

    All he is guilty of is telling a slack student the truth.

    Actually no, he called a student a liar.

    However, he realised his mistake, admitted it and apologised. It should have been left at that (or at most, some sort of mediation might have been helpful). People make mistakes, and the immediacy of email makes such mistakes more common. Unfortunately we live in a society where we have become very intolerant of people’s mistakes.

    gd, I mostly agree with your comments about dropping standards. This drives most academics crazy. Things did get very dire for a while. However, there have been some moves to lift standards a bit and hopefully this will increase. I remember teaching at AU about a decade ago and dealing with two students who were literally unable to speak English. We caught them cheating (other people sitting their exams and writing their essays, using fake medical certificates to get aegrotat passes), because it’s fairly clear that there is something funny going on when two students are friends, cannot speak English, both write A-grade assignments, and come in with identical medical certificates 5 minutes after one another. However, nothing was done about it, because they were both large-fee paying students. Hardly a symptom of lefty politics I would have thought.

    It’s not surprising that lecturers might lose your rag when this happens. Unprofessional maybe, but understandable.

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  39. JSF2008 (422 comments) says:

    FUCK,,, all i can say to some of the crappy pc / get rid of this bully / limp wristed , absolute lossier comments posted by the so called bright???? POSTERS that Mr Farrar enjoys commenting( WAKE UP) , get outside abit more, Some of these posters should enter the real world, examine their strange thoughts and try to understand that strange people with strange thoughts like them are running/ruining our country. I hope the prof SCREWS the dorkland PC house of learning(UoA)????? then goes to that progressive country Australia, and teaches BRIGHT receptive non arab students. now after that witty pointed comment im off to watch the caines dick chch at the stadiam, GO THE CAINES
    ps any bad grammar,SORRY BRO

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  40. peterwn (3,271 comments) says:

    Jafapete – Can you give me a URL where I can find the ERA decision?

    IMO the VC was justified in dismissing him on the strength of the last email only. That email was so obnoxious that IMO sending it constituted ‘serious misconduct’

    If the ERA refused to reinstate, then it would seem the dismissal was justified – there seems to be no significant post-dismissal event that justified not reinstating the lecturer.

    If the VC made a massive blunder seen as such by all and sundry, and he was such a brilliant lecturer then why is it that he is having difficulty seeking re-employment? – because that email was so obnoxious that no decent uni would want to employ him.

    By the way VC’s are not hired to be nice guys. It is a tough job running a university nowadays, and there are occasions when the VC has to be quite ruthless.

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  41. kiwitoffee (383 comments) says:

    jafapete

    Thanks for the management tip! As a younger man, I was a manager of sorts so I have some idea of what you are talking about. I’m sure the employment relations industry has become more complicated in the intervening years.

    I agree about the limitations and hazards for people exposed to the media. But Dr Buchanan seemed to me to be a savvy media operator – he was regularly on the wireless – and he is supposed to be an intelligent and articulate communicator.

    I’m sure you are correct in referring to the legal difference between ‘wrongful’ and ‘unjustifiable’ dismissal. My point is that ultmately it makes no difference. Dr Buchanan erred big time to the extent that he put his employment in jeopardy. The fact that he has lost his job is hard on him, though he’s not likey to go hungry and from recent media coverage of his situation he says he has a number of other employment options in his field open to him.

    The decision not to re-appoint Dr Buchanan makes an important point.

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  42. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Kiwitoffee – unlike you i’ve read the decision and sat through some of the hearing. So I saw what went down. You my friend are making stuff up based on media reports that may or may not be accurate.

    I would imagine that Paul’s CV would stack up against those people who you wont name. I actually think it stacks up against Pol academics in the country, in my opinion.

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  43. kiwitoffee (383 comments) says:

    Andrew Bannister

    Good point about declining academic standards and the moves to try to restore them.

    What about declining standards of behaviour?

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  44. Ryan Sproull (7,115 comments) says:

    Everyone act like the angry letter to the student was the only thing he was fired for, and wasn’t the most recent in a string of things we may or may not know shit about!

    Good work! Now wash my car!

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  45. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Ryan – they said in court and in the ERA ruling that the only thing under consideratiopn was the email.

    So my question is – what do you know that you arent saying?

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  46. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    To right RRM, I think the system sucks. If the UoA was a private company and Dr Buchanan had won an unjustifiable dismissal action in an employment court there would be some serious arse kicking going on. Where the fuck do you think the $66,000 comes from, out of thin air???, no the taxpayers. You see RRM it’s all to easy, who will be held to account for the Dr’s sacking. Whats the bet it’s business as usual, if a $66,000 dollar fine was handed down to a small business it could send it to the wall. I thought universitys were places of learning and free thought but this obviously doesn’t include accountability.

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  47. sdm (39 comments) says:

    side show – plus all the legal fees….

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  48. Andrew Bannister (213 comments) says:

    What about declining standards of behaviour?

    Whose standards of behaviour?

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  49. Ryan Sproull (7,115 comments) says:

    SDM,

    Absolutely nothing.

    And I do believe that if the dismissal was deemed wrongful, he should be reinstated.

    But I find it difficult to believe that they fired him without warnings on the basis only of this. I don’t know what “the only thing under consideration is the email” means in the context of the employment court. Maybe it means he had never been in trouble with his bosses before. Maybe it means the scope of the proceedings was limited only to that particular incident and any previous incidents, if they occurred, were not to be considered in this particular matter.

    But they’re not idiots. They don’t fire people willy-nilly. And unless we go down the path of “the Man wanted to get rid of him cos he was such an off-the-wall rebel”, it’s reasonable to at least entertain the possibility that there were previous incidents to which we are not privy.

    It does seem to me that the media coverage of his dismissal (?!?!) has focussed entirely on this letter and acted as if there were no other factors at play, which may well be the case, but certainly isn’t an assumption I would make. Do you know of anything concrete either way?

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  50. kiwitoffee (383 comments) says:

    Whose standards of behaviour?

    Dr. Buchanan’s.

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  51. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Ryan: What it means is this: He was fired (if you take what the UoA said in the hearing soley on the basis of the email. There were NO other formal warnings or complaints of any kind at Auckland in the 10 years he was there. Now 1 or 2 might have gotten upset because he gave them a C or whatever, but again, that isnt the issue.

    “It does seem to me that the media coverage of his dismissal (?!?!) has focussed entirely on this letter and acted as if there were no other factors at play, which may well be the case, but certainly isn’t an assumption I would make. Do you know of anything concrete either way?”

    The authority focused on whether he should have been sacked. So all issues were on the table. The UoA argued that his email was serious misconduct in and of itself, and thus it was right to sack him. They admitted that he had no prior warnings The authority ruled that the only thing that constitued “misconduct” was the May 30 email. They ruled on the basis of the only thing Paul did wrong which was formalised, the May 30 email, he should not have been sacked.

    And Ryan comeon, if there was something else surely the UoA would have tried to play it.

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  52. jafapete (757 comments) says:

    Peterwn: You can get a copy through the link on:

    http://www.ers.dol.govt.nz/law/case/index.html

    Copies of Employment Relations
    Information & Promotion Group
    Knowledge Management Team Services
    Copies of Determinations
    You can order any Employment Relations Authority determinations from the Workplace Information and Promotion Group Knowledge Management Team.
    Please provide as much information as you can with each request e.g. party names, determination number, date of determination, Authority member etc.

    However, you may have to pay. And there is probably a copy on the web by now anyway.

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  53. jafapete (757 comments) says:

    peterwn:
    You are quite correct that the ERA decision is internally consistent. It hit me like a brick when I read it. The decision is being appealed and, should it go through the entire process, I think it’s odds on that Buchanan will be reinstated. Key point — the way natural justice works is that you should not be dismissed for something that you aren’t aware is a problem. Fair? Most people think so. And that’s a big problem with the decision IMO: the ERA is relying on bundling a couple of lesser emails sent during his time of acute pain, etc, and for which he was not cautioned, etc. with the famous email that we all know about, to say no reinstatement. And at the same time (rightly) telling employers they can’t do this.

    However, while I agree that “there seems to be no significant post-dismissal event that justified not reinstating the lecturer”, there is a (higher level) court decision that statements made after the dismissal can be taken into account, he may not have helped things by talking to the media, whether or not one regards this as “self-promotion”.

    Finally, while VCs are not hired to be nice guys, managers who do not act in a fair and rational manner quickly lose their moral authority and hence their effectiveness. This is also what is taught in Business Schools, but universities are notorious for not doing what they teach, and things have not improved since faux private sector management types have been hired in universities.

    For those who ask why he can’t get another job, the answer is that, funnily enough, managers don’t like hiring people they think might make their life difficult. It’s not about competence in teaching and research, because if it were he would breeze into a job. It’s about managers feeling secure. That’s reality.

    I agree with SSB for once. There should be more accountablility here. Why isn’t someone in Parliament asking hard questions about the amount of money that this university in particular has been spending to sweep things under the carpet in recent years? What about the incredible cost overun on the Glenn Building?

    And I can give the lie to idea that the “radical left” were out to get Buchanan (bar a few total nutters). Was just enjoying a beer with a collection of well known lefties, and one of them suddenly sprang up and proposed a toast to Buchanan, which was warmly received. Can’t comment on the types that hang out with Selwyn.

    But I have to say I am suprised that no ACTettes have said, wait a minute, shouldn’t the employer just have the right to sack anybody any time they like without any comeback whatsoever? This is what the BRT believes, after all. Come on right-wing nutters, do I have to do your job for you?

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  54. sdm (39 comments) says:

    My comments on the radical left – I am talking a small minority. I am sure there are people from all political positions who were hoping that Paul would be vindicated, but I am aware of a few people who were distrubting the email before it came out and trying to put pressure on for the Uni to sack him. Why? well you will have to ask them. I am not saying its all, or even most, but there were a few and lets hope that the truth comes out. There were posts on this blog, tumeke and others from people of the left peddling the racist line, and others trying to spread the myth that he had a record. One only needs to read the comments of brewerstroupe, karlos, anti-flag on tumeke and someone called ‘name withheld’ on this blog to know there was an agenda.

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  55. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    Its interesting that those students caught cheating at Unis usually come from (cough) certain enthic backgrounds. I have found them to be very agressive if they dont get the marks they want.

    I fear that beause they or their family pays fees they think that entitles them to pass whever they deserve to or not.

    Having experience in their countries some institutions issue certificates for payment and they think thats how NZ operates as well.

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  56. Craig Ranapia (1,915 comments) says:

    sdm:

    Fair enough, and may I clarify that none of the people I’ve cited in earlier comments have said to me that Buchanan, in their experience, displayed racist animus towards anyone.

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  57. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Craig: Paul is who he is – I wouldn’t describe him as tactful or diplomatic, very much calls a spade a spade. So he may have rubbed a few people up the wrong way, but there is a huge difference between that and being sacked.

    Gd: One of the things that amazed me about the decision was the reference to the student concerned as a client. I found this somewhat troubling, implied is a notion that just because they are paying for a service does not mean they have responsibilities. Its not just a market situation, where buyers and sellers meet at an equlibrium price, the client has his/her end of the bargin to hold up. Just because you pay money doesnt entitle you to the prize.

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  58. Ryan Sproull (7,115 comments) says:

    There were NO other formal warnings or complaints of any kind at Auckland in the 10 years he was there. Now 1 or 2 might have gotten upset because he gave them a C or whatever, but again, that isnt the issue.

    No, it’s not the issue, and yet people keep on using this “gotten upset because he gave them a C or whatever” type of phrase. It’s odd. So you can categorically say that there have been no other formal warnings or complaints of any kind at Auckland Uni about Buchanan? I’m not suggesting you can’t. I just want to get the facts straight in my head.

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  59. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Ryan:

    I can catagorically say there were no other formal warnings at Auckland University. I was at the hearing myself when the UoA HR person said so

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  60. jafapete (757 comments) says:

    “So you can categorically say that there have been no other formal warnings or complaints of any kind at Auckland Uni about Buchanan?”

    While there were no earlier “formal warnings”, it should be noted that there was something that would fall into the category of “complaint of any kind”.

    From the decision:

    “[42] Mr Phipps’ letter to Dr Buchanan makes reference to an incident which occurred in 2006. Dr Phipps’s says Dr Buchanan was “…warned/counselled…” after sending an email to all university staff which the Dean had complained, was offensive. Dr Buchanan had written:
    …although we should be diplomatic in our response, I do not feel that we should gloss over the failures of leadership and institutional sclerosis that led to the department receiving a less than stellar review. We have no reason, other than for the sake of nicety, to cling to the Chapman legacy other than as historical backdrop, and it is way past time for us to move away from the Pakeha male “old boys” way of doing things that characterised decision-making until the very recent past.
    [43] Professor Vowles, the Head of Department at that time, found the email offensive and complained to the Dean, Professor Morrow.
    [44] I have reviewed the evidence relating to the University’s letter to Dr Buchanan in July 2006 and I have concluded that Dr Buchanan was counselled that his style of communication was unacceptable and unprofessional. There was no warning that his job was in jeopardy should there be a repeat of that conduct. Indeed, the letter states that any similar substantiated complaint would be dealt with as misconduct.”

    Many of those who have been associated with that august institution, the Dept of Political Studies at UA, would probably say that Buchanan’s comments are not at all unreasonable… but nonetheless, he was counselled.

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  61. sdm (39 comments) says:

    Jafapete: Just to clarify my understanding of the Vowles email.
    1) I believe the authority made a factual error – the email wasn’t sent to the whole university, merely the staff in the Pols Department.
    2) Paul was in the process of contesting whether this was actually misconduct (and lets be honest, there is NOTHING wrong with that email). My understanding is that this was never resolved due to a meeting not occuring…

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  62. jafapete (757 comments) says:

    Hi sdm,

    You must be correct that it didn’t go to the whole university, as access to the cross university mailing lists was stopped before then. And someone who I know who was employed by UA at that time doesn’t recall seeing it. It probably only went to the department, given its content, but may have gone to the whole Faculty of Arts. I think the Faculty Office stopped the ability to send emails across the whole faculty at around this time. But I don’t think that the error in the decision is material to the findings or the grounds for appealing it. In my view the main issue was whether PB was warned about unprofessional communications and not the scope of his communications. Well, you could argue that widening the scope to include the whole faculty or university was, in itself, unprofessional, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

    I agree with everything you say in your second point.

    Edit: There are lots of points where I think the ERA got it wrong. For example: “The apology seems to me to be half hearted…” I’ll let people judge that one for themselves:

    I apologise for my annoyed response-I had a series of extension requests and other student excuses yesterday and yours was the last of the day.
    If you can provide a medical or mental health certificate justifying the extension request I shall grant it, but be aware that you will have to lift your game in order to meet graduate level standards.
    Again, my apologies for being hard on you and a reiteration that I will consider your extension request.
    Sincerely

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  63. sdm (39 comments) says:

    jafapete: Re whether Paul’s apology was genuine.
    Two things, I know Paul reasonably well. He is a friend. I can say for sure that he was genuine in apologising. No doubt in my mind. Secondly the timing. He sent the ‘bad’ email at 7.30ish at night, and apologised at 4.15 the next morning. Now in all likelihood the student concerned may have recieved the apology at the same time as the bad email. Even so, and allowing for sleep, the apology was basically immediate.

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