Architectural Blatherations

Naughty Boy John Redmond, Dean of Architecture at the University of Sydney, Gets Caught out

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The Good Oil

John Redmond
Dean John Redmond

In 2010, the University of Sydney lionised Mr John Redmond as its new Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, declaring that Mr Redmond brought a wealth of experience in University management and academic leadership. His leadership turned out rather more adventurous than the university bargained on.

Dean Redmond Poaches

In January 2012 the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reported that the Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the University, Mr John Redmond, had seriously breached the code of ethics governing the use of student admissions data. [All quotes on this page are from the SMH article].

In Australia, the admissions process for almost all new uni students across the entire country is co-ordinated by the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC). All very efficient. All the universities have access to this data, of course, and a very strict set of rules about what they can do with it. According to the SMH article, Dean Redmond broke those rules.

Dean Redmond, it would seem, was a very naughty boy indeed. Using the UAC's database, he attempted to poach students who had applied to other architecture schools to his own school at the University of Sydney, in clear violation of the UAC's rules. Here is what the SMH said:

The head of architecture [Sandra Kaji-O'Grady] at Sydney University has resigned in protest against an attempt to poach students from other institutions by using a confidential database, clearly breaching state guidelines.

Sandra Kaji-O'Grady quit last month after the dean of architecture, design and planning, John Redmond, sent letters to more than 100 students at other universities guaranteeing them a place if they switched preferences to Sydney University - contravening anti-solicitation rules.

The letter guaranteed students a place in the course even though many had not met the academic entry requirement, sparking uproar in the faculty.

Under the code of ethics, universities may contact students who have applied to a course at that institution but may not solicit the student to change their order of preference.

Desperate to exonerate his university from wrongdoing, Derrick Armstrong, the acting Vice-Chancellor, left Dean Redmond to swing from the gibbet by saying that Dean Redmond had acted alone in sending the letters of offer and was not following a university directiv.

Demands for Dean Redmond to Resign

In a typical fit of umbrage, the school's academics demanded Mr Redmond's resignation. As reported by the SMH:

Last month [December 2011], almost the entire department called for Professor Redmond's resignation. In a letter of protest they said his actions were taken in spite of their clear advice. This regrettable incident is symptomatic for an autocratic management approach that flaunts [sic] the university's own directives and routinely ignores the advice of faculty executive academics and professional staff in the faculty.

The dean does not have the support of the academic staff and his position is now untenable.

The revelations raise serious questions about the way universities use confidential information concerning thousands of students. Professor Kaji-O'Grady's announcement said she had resigned because senior management has consistently ignored my advice and counsel in making critical decisions that I do not believe to be in the best interests of the discipline. She remains a member of the faculty.

The 13 academics wrote to Professor Garton and the vice-chancellor, Michael Spence, demanding Professor Redmond's dismissal.

Hot Air Resignations

We have little idea of the rights and wrongs of Mr Redmond's actions, although they do seem to be the actions of an idiot, and from the quotes above he does sound like a complete arsehole.

So what is really going on? Clearly, 13 academics {professors, dons} in the department don't like Mr Redmond, and have not for a very considerable time. This is their opportunity to get revenge for many perceived slights (autocratic management approach) ever since his appointment. But their website list 27 academics in the department: that leaves 14 others who think that Mr Redmond is just fine and dandy.

Don't expect any of the academics to resign from their jobs, regardless of the reportage. Oh no. Australian academics may resign from committees, they may resign from nominal positions, but few indeed will resign from collecting their big bucks, courtesy of the Australian taxpayer. When someone like you or I resigns, we leave the building and our employer stops paying us. When an academic at an Australian university resigns, they stay in their office, and their paycheques {paychecks} still keep coming. They may make their point, but they still make their dough.

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