Academics at Australia’s Murdoch University have been told that those who are not “on board” with the institution’s “vision” should be “invited and supported…to leave”.
The remarks were emailed to 43 professors at the Perth-based institution by David Flanagan, the chancellor, on 13 November. They highlight the internal crisis into which the institution has been plunged amid an investigation that has seen its vice-chancellor resign and his deputy facing allegations of misconduct.
Richard Higgott, a former pro vice-chancellor for research at the University of Warwick, announced his retirement last month after three years at the helm at Murdoch. He was previously suspended on full pay after being reported by the university to Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission.
The charges against him have never been revealed but The Australian newspaper has reported that among the allegations that were investigated were credit card misuse, bullying and a lack of transparency in appointments.
Earlier this month, the university also confirmed that Professor Higgott’s deputy, provost Ann Capling, whom he appointed in 2010, was the subject of a disciplinary investigation over unspecified allegations arising out of the wider inquiry.
It said she was “absent from the university at her request” in order to prepare her response to the allegations. It also suggested that other senior staff were being investigated.
The allegations against Professor Capling have been dismissed as “scurrilous” by all 10 of the university’s deans – all appointed since Professor Higgott’s arrival in 2011.
The Australian Financial Review has reported suggestions of hostility between Murdoch’s new crop of senior management and a group of academics opposed to the reforms they have introduced. There was also reputed to be tension between Professor Higgott and Mr Flanagan. This month, Mr Flanagan backed out of a meeting with staff requested by the deans and other senior academics, it was reported.
In his email to the 43 academics, obtained by The Weekend Australian, Mr Flanagan said he was aware some at Murdoch did not support his “vision”.
“These staff should be invited and supported…to leave this university and go where they feel more able to support the vision of a different institution,” he wrote.