Statements (about what is going on at UWA Social Sciences) that are not rumours

What follows are statements of fact that are (at least as far as I know) are neither rumours, nor possibly defamatory on the basis of the fact that they are true.

If you believe that something said here is not a fact, please point it out in the comments and I’ll do my best to address it. Similarly, if you’d like to make more statements of fact (not rumours) about the UWA Social Sciences change proposal, please feel free to comment below and I will add any verifiable statements to the list.

FACT: The recent ‘restructure’ of social sciences at UWA has resulted in the redundancy of at least five of Australia’s leading academics in their field. Prof Loretta Baldassar, Prof Petra Tschakert, Prof Farida Fozdar, Ass Prof Jeannette Taylor and Ass Prof Joanna Elfving-Hwang. They are all recognised as being excellent in their field, are ‘top cites’ and have each attracted large amounts of research funding to the university. They are all women who asked reasonable questions about Amanda Davies and her ‘vision’ of the social sciences. They are all now leaving UWA.

FACT: While there was no clear argument in the proposal document about how the changes proposed would achieve their goals, Amanda Davies stated to me that ‘increased efficiency and teaching load’ for the school would be achieved by increasing the teaching load of Media and Communication. That is, increasing efficiency and teaching load is to be achieved by making one discipline teach more than the others.

FACT: The implicit justification provided in the proposal for the preservation of ARCH, GEOG, POLS and LING research time was that they were established or emerging areas of research strength. There was no reason given for why COMM and ASIA were not considered areas of emerging research strength, although these disciplines were clearly marginalised by the new ‘school vision’ ‘in which students learn to employ the scientific approach to examine, theorise and develop solutions to complex social challenges’. The only justification for making these latter disciplines ‘teaching focused’ was ‘to ensure adequate teaching resources are available for the School’s programs and enable the programs to be delivered sustainably’.

FACT: The COMM major is one of the most efficient majors in the university. It is not just ‘sustainable’ with a Teaching and Research staff but highly profitable. So the ‘sustainability’ of programs does not refer to the COMM program but, rather, to the sustainability of other programs in the school.

FACT: Despite COMM being among the most understaffed disciplines in the university the school of Social Science has repeatedly appointed staff to other discipline areas over the past 10 years. Notably the disciplines of GEOG and ARCH have made appointments, despite being at the lower end of the Staff Student Ratio (SSR) table.

FACT: GEOG and ARCH have held the Head of School position for the past 5 years. According to the proposal, which the FWC acknowledged clearly used ‘data that had proved to be incorrect’ for persuasive purposes, the GEOG reported SSR stands at 17 and ARCH at 13 students per staff member respectively. COMM is at 27 students per staff member.

FACT: When COMM lost one of only two Level Ds in 2019, they received no replacement position. Despite this being an ongoing position. Despite having one of the highest SSRs in the school.

FACT: When I asked HR to provide me with a list of appointed positions by the last three substantive Heads of School, HR claimed that they did not have this information.

FACT: In a meeting with Amanda Davies and Christina Lee (HR) just prior to the release of the proposal in July last year, Amanda Davies stated to me that Media and Communication ‘should be a cash cow’.

FACT: During the time considered by the proposal for total research funding by discipline, Media and Comms had the most junior staff in the school (on average), had lost their Level D without replacement and had their research funds frozen by the university because of ‘COVID contingencies’ that were not transparently applied to all staff equally (meaning some staff members were able to use their research funds and others of us were not, with no justification, or transparency around the decision).

FACT: When I contacted the then SDVC to point out that the inefficiencies of the school of Social Science was the result of inequitable appointments and resourcing within the School, he responded that he ‘didn’t see it that way’, without making any argument about why my argument was incorrect.

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