Monday, March 07, 2011

The confusions of Stuart McCutcheon

When the Auckland branch of the Tertiary Education Union announced plans to picket an Awards evening organised by the University of Auckland Alumni Society, some critics of the union warned that it was setting itself up for disaster. A picket would, anonymous critics claimed, be seen as 'divisive' and 'destructive', and get a cold reception from the hundreds of people gathering to honour distinguished fellow graduates like long-time Greens MP Jeneatte Fitzsimons and outstanding young scholars like the scientist Claire French.
The union has for months now been opposing McCutcheon's demand that crucial clauses relating to research rights be removed from the contract of academic staff. The disappearance of the clauses would reduce both the quantity and the quality of the research emerging from the University of Auckland, and make the place less attractive to both prospective staff and prospective students.
It seems, though, that University of Auckland alumni have considerbaly more appreciation of the importance of research and free thinking than the university's current vice-chancellor. The thirty or so union members who picketed last Friday's awards ceremony in pouring rain received a warm response from many of those who attended the awards ceremony. Hundreds of leaflets were gratefully accepted, and scores of ceremony attendees chose to wear stickers announcing their support for the Tertiary Education Union. Mayor Len Brown, who studied law at the University of Auckland before beginning his long ascent of the greasy pole of local body politics, stopped and chatted with union delegates and assured them that they had his support. Jeanette Fitzsimons and Keith Locke both stopped to talk and make their support clear.
Unfortunately, last Friday's show of support for university staff seems to have gone unrecognised by vice-chancellor McCutcheon. In a statement quoted in today's New Zealand Herald, McCutcheon presented the Tertiary Education Union as an unreasonable and unrepresentative body which was hellbent on putting valuable university funding at risk. Stuart's statement seems to me like a particularly pure example of that strange mode of behaviour Freud called 'projection'.
Skyler, who is co-President of the University of Auckland branch of the Tertiary Education Union, has fired this reply to McCutcheon's claims off to the editor of the Herald, in the hope of rectifying a few of the man's confusions.
To the editor:
Vice chancellor Stuart McCutcheon is wrong to accuse the union that represents university staff of jeopardising funding for the institution. It is McCutcheon who is creating a crisis at the university by refusing to negotiate with the union.
Keeping key conditions including academic grades, standards and criteria and research and study leave within the contract ensures that academics can do their job well, and also attracts top quality staff and PhD students.
Academics are making their stand because they know that McCutcheon's demands would decrease the quality of education at Auckland University and lead to the departure of many talented staff and students from the institution.
McCutcheon claims that eleven hundred academics at Auckland do not belong to the union, and calculates that the union therefore represents less than half of academics, but his figure includes many short-term and part-time academic staff members. The Tertiary Education Union's eight hundred and fifty members include well over half the permanent full-time academic staff at the university.
Finally, the union has never argued that research and study leave will be abolished, rather that significant changes will be made to it and the number of staff receiving it will decrease.
You can find out more about the Tertiary Education Union's defence of educational standards and union rights at this website.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

McCutcheon is a dinosaur left over from the days of the failed doctrine of neo-liberalism.

He should be put out to pasture.

6:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...




12:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a disturbed person that last commenter must be.

11:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

McCutcheon should be running a yak farm somewhere in Mongolia. He can't relate to people.

9:42 pm  
Anonymous guy rundle said...

hey scott

guy rundle here from Crikey, Sunday Age in Australia. Interested in getting in touch with you re article on c'church, NZ culture various. Can you drop me a line on


11:30 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

Staff are not jeopardising anything, the VC is by refusing to negotiate and backing the union into a corner where they have no choice but to take action. The union/staff are the ones defending the quality of teaching and research at the university. They are willing to turn down 4% salary increase to protect key terms and conditions in their contract that enable them to provide the best teaching and research. Does NZ want to fall even further behind Australia?! If the VC carries on in this way it will be his fault that UoA can not attract quality staff any more. We aren't asking for anything new - just want to keep current terms and conditions. We are open to negotiating but the VC has refused (he's taken a take it or leave it position which is unfortunate). Stop trying to bust the union Stuart and come and talk to us - we want this fixed quickly (and it can be)!

12:44 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:46 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

Excellent opinion piece by Dr Nigel Haworth in today's Herald entitled 'Corporate model poses threat to university's excellence' - you can read it at:

12:47 pm  

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