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Bruce Gardiner Appeal

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We, the signatories to this petition, wish to protest in the strongest terms against any consideration that the University of Sydney is giving to forcing Dr Bruce Gardiner (Department of English) to take early retirement or a teaching-only contract, and against the generally punitive and counterproductive measures against all staff being contemplated by the university in its ‘Draft Change Proposal’. Many of us regard Bruce to be the most diligent and dedicated supervisor or colleague we have ever had. The best teaching is always research-led. The brilliance of Bruce’s pedagogy is attributable to the wealth of research that he invests in it, and is attested to by the numerous undergraduates who have experienced his highly impressive lectures and the extensive comments he makes on written work. Bruce’s supervisees have consistently been the top performers at undergraduate and graduate level, and have also gone on to receive prestigious scholarships, awards and grants, both national and international. It is true that he has not published extensively. His contribution to scholarship, however, cannot be measured solely by the criterion of works which he has published under his own name. His tutelage of generations of future researchers through his meticulously prepared and scholarly lectures; his assiduous mentoring of postgraduates; his stewardship of the Honours programme over many years (1999–2008); his unstinting generosity to colleagues in reading and commenting on their work; his unfailing willingness to assume supervisory duties that no one else will take on – all these factors make him a pillar of the department, a vital element in the research performance that the university is so anxious to boost, and essential to it as a human community of colleagues. Rather than proposing to show Bruce the door, or to redefine his duties in a way that will impede his capacity to continue research, we urge you to give him the research time he needs to complete the research projects on which he is currently engaged. For those of us who are alumni of the English Department, the fondness and respect we have felt for it and for the University in general have been built largely from the experiences we have had of being taught by brilliant academics, of whom Bruce is a stand-out example. Any possibility of enforced redundancy or teaching-only contract for him and others like him is going to damage the investment that we and others have in the institution. The news that he risks being dismissed or punished by the University will strike many as scandalous, and will irreparably damage the fond respect that we have for the institution, in which many plan to invest through bequests and other pledges. The anger and distrust generated by the university’s proposed cuts are far from limited to the particular departments in which cuts are made. This petition is an example of how opposition and anger rapidly spread out of the University – even with the possibility of one forced redundancy. We believe that the University’s insistence on the retrospective criterion of four research outputs in less than three years is an example of detrimental short-term thinking which should be avoided at all costs. Redundancies and similar measures may look like they make sense in terms of balance sheets. Those sheets do not show the true costs. We urge you to revoke plans to dismiss or punish Bruce or any of his colleagues.

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