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Heather Warren: 71 Massey professors hit out over controversial science shake-up - The Mike Hosking Breakfast

The Mike Hosking Breakfast

More than 70 Massey professors have made a rare and direct appeal to the university's chancellor over a controversial science shake-up that could cost dozens of jobs.
The move - which came shortly before the university this month finalised a wide-ranging overhaul of its science offerings - is believed to be unprecedented in New Zealand.
The letter to chancellor Michael Ahie was signed by 71 professors and represented about half of those employed full-time at Massey, and outside its senior leadership team.
Among the signatories were three professors emeriti - and more than 20 based outside the College of Sciences, working in business, health, humanities and social sciences.
The Herald has chosen not to name any of them.
The letter was in response to a recent discussion document that indicated more than a third of Massey science academics could go - equivalent to about 100 scientists across most disciplines - as part of restructures.
The university has since opted to slash its science course offerings by nearly half - although few students are expected to be directly affected - and will review any staffing changes next year.
The letter stated that, after 90 years of "iconic science and innovation leadership", the core strengths that made Massey a leading university would be removed with the proposed cuts.
The professors argued research-led teaching would no longer be possible in core disciplines, and staff remaining to teach service courses would be in "no position to deliver the innovation needed to drive New Zealand forward".
"The proposed changes will greatly weaken Massey University, impact its international ranking, and the revenue and sustainability of the institution."
The professors said there had been no "meeting of the minds" between senior leadership and academic staff, and argued the situation could lead to "bright flight".
They were worried over the speed, scale and process of the changes, which were having "severe negative impacts" on staff wellbeing, and were "divisive and counter to" university strategy.
"We see that instead of working for a common good, campuses and disciplines have been pitted against each other."
The professors recommended that redundancies be deferred, that disruption to teaching and research be minimised, and that their concerns be relayed to Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas and the senior leadership team.
In his response, also provided to the Herald, Ahie said Thomas had been asked to "give due consideration" to specific concerns raised when making decisions around the college's portfolio.
Massey professors have also shared their anger over the restructure confidentially with the Herald, with some questioning the need for it, and criticising the way it had been overseen.
One went as far as suggesting Thomas should resign.
Tertiary Education Union organiser Heather Warren, who has been co-ordinating a response to the latest plans, said the letter "directly reflects the mood of every union meeting we've had".
"[The letter] shows there are a whole pile of people at a senior level who are willing to put their head above the parapet."
NZ Association of Scientists president Professor Troy Baisden said the letter also echoed similar points shared in a separate appeal to ministers by representatives from several scientific societies.
"It's disappointing," he said.
"It appears the university is acting in a way that is not acceptable under the legislative definition - and international expectations - of universities."
A Massey spokesperson said the university was confident the changes would set the college on a "successful pathway" to the future.
"We do not believe the changes, which affect just 0.7 per cent of incoming students to the university, will pose any adverse impact to revenue, global ranking or sustainability," they said.
"Massey University and the College of Sciences remain very much committed to continue to teach and research across a wide range of fundamental and applied science subje...
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