THE revelations that Paul Greenfield, vice chancellor at the University of Queensland, has been forced to retire early because of “irregularities” in admission of a close relative to medical school do not come as a shock to many of us who have worked in the Australian university sector for many years (‘Relatively stupid for vice-chancellor’, November 12-13, Australian Financial Review).
Neither does the unsuccessful attempt to cover up the scandal. Ethical standards in universities have deteriorated alarmingly over the past couple of decades. I have seen situations where final grades of particular students at Queensland universities, including University of Queensland, have been arbitrarily changed to accommodate the whims of senior administrators.
I have been a lecturer and senior lecturer at universities for more than 20 years. These also include Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University.
I have seen practices amounting to selling degrees to poorly qualified overseas students to bring in revenue. Those at subordinate staff levels who try to intervene or object are dealt with very harshly.
There is a pervasive sense of personal entitlement and lack of accountability among the most senior ranks of our universities that is very disturbing. This culture needs to change. A step in the right direction would be for Greenfield to leave his position immediately, acknowledge his failings, and at least provide a public apology to the hapless medical school applicant his relative displaced.
John W. Bearsey
Republished with permission from Bearsey, first published by the Australian Financial Review, Letters, November 15, 2011.
Sad to see – as Greenfield has done heaps for that university on a transformative agenda. I just hope we have the full story?
We probably do not have the full story, but there have been numerous opportunities for UQ to provide this. What appears to be clear is that there are a fixed number of places at UQ medical school for a particulatr year and too many applicants with OP1. The applicants all take the same exam, UMAT for those applying dirctly from secondary school. They fill the availasble places in order with those with the best UMAT scores until all the places are filled. A fair and transparent process. What possible “irregularity” could possibly arise here unless someone has intervened to give preference to someone with a score below the cut off level? Presumably the people that have resigned were responsible? Is there another rational explanation?
Ian Thomson says
Naivety and innocence among academics , who cannot believe that anyone would abuse such absolute power, is what causes the downfall of people like Mr Greenfield. He ,himself, has probably been shocked by the deep water he was thrown into.
This may be the tip of a very large iceberg . Internal assessment at country High Schools is a scary reality. Then place the assessee in front of Mr Greenfield.
Surely it stands to reason that if Professor Greenfield had not been involved in any unscrupulous actions regarding mad school admissions he would come out publicly and make sure everyone understood what actually happened. As a UQ student, I really hope that there is a simple explanation, and he will repond to these newspaper articles to put and end to this. Indirectly its hurting the students if the reputation of UQ is going down. I hope Professor Greenfield writes a letter in the paper or gives an interview on the ABC to explain what has happened.
I bet they are all squirming and screaming in high places at UQ. Chuck Feeney is probably not too impressed with this farce. He has donated about $100 million for medical research at UQ. I wonder what he thinks.
Schiller Thurkettle says
It should not be surprising to anyone that members of a self-selected group of intellectual elites will commit a great number of wrongs whilst believing their behavior is virtuous, or at least sacrosanct. The same is true of Greenpeacers.
Schiller – How libelous
(1) “self-selected group of intellectual elites ” ah huh – and you would know?
(2) “commit a great number of wrongs” – pulled out of Schiller’s butt as fabrication and filler
(3) Greenpeacers – irrelevant link
Jennifer Marohasy says
Greenfield is refusing to answer questions:
He should do the honourable thing and go now.
As reported in the Courier Mail Greenfield held a “press conference”at UQ a couple of days ago. The event lasted for 21 seconds, and he steadfastly refused to answer any questions. He then left the room, and his spin doctor stated that they just wanted everything to return to normal. These are not the actions of an innocent man somehow caught up in malicious rumours or manufactured media stories. If Greenfield had a simple and straightforward explanation for what is being reported, he has been given an opportunity to place this before the public and the university staff and students. Instead he has nothing to say. He is the head of an institution which pupports to uphold the highest standards in fairness and evaluation of student performance. The facts are surely pointing towards a need for him to move on before the end of the year so that some degree of normality can be restored.
Schiller Thurkettle says
I presume you believe that Greenpeace was virtuous in destroying a field of experimental wheat which was developed and funded by the Australian government?
Nope not virtuous at all – but utterly irrelevant to this thread.
There is a Crime and Misconduct Commission inquiry currently investigating these matters. I dont think it is the usual practice to have a CMC inquiry into circumstances where there has been an obvious misunderstanding or administrative lapse. The last time I am aware of where the CMC investigated matters within a Queensland university it related to some business dealings of one Gordon Nuttall. Does anyone know what became of Gordon? – I always thought he was a good ‘ol boy – did a lot for Queensland.
I think Gordo has gone away for a few years. A good bloke though. He was always very generous, particulary with his relatives. He gave his kids the money to buy a house. Its always good to see people looking after their relatives and giving them a helping hand.
The letter from John-Milton Smith in the AFR “Decline in acadmic ethical standards” November 17 paints an even grimmer picture ofthe current state of affairs in universities. Apparently “soft corruption” is pretty common at the top levels with VCs enjoying a rather splendid lifestyle with “lavish lunches” and “overseas trips” all laid on for their majesties. Meanwhile the lowly slaves and thier wretched offspring can only dream of sending little Johnny to med school if he works really hard and gets the grades. The educational system is one of the few ways those that start out relatively disadvantaged in society can progress. To see the high and mighty ones shoving their relatives to the front of the queue is appalling.
Emily Bear says
It looks like things are going from bad to worse for Greenfield and his friends. Comments of a former Queensland Supreme Court judge at:
Universities need to uplift their ethical standards. The problems we are seeing with lack of ethics and accountability in some scientific disciplines may be related to a general deterioration in standards in the university cullture.
These uni types keep babbling on about being “collegiate” and fair play. I think its just not cricket to hang around at the batting crease when is plain to see you have been caught. Time for Paul to be a gentleman and go back to the pavillion. If he wont go voluntarily, we will be forced to bring in the third umpire for an action replay, and then everyone will know what happened. Time for someone to play with a straight bat.
Its Paul Greenfield’s last day at UQ today. He did not survive until July as he had wished.
This seems to be one case where media attention has helped in getting a just result.
Merry Chistmas, Paul.
Peter Gauci says
A huge part of the problem is that UQ is – by virtue of corruption in the state government authorities like the CMC – quite literally above the law.
The senior administration knows it and behaves accordingly.
I – a gay man – refused to date a female student. She threatened me in writing (in an email) for refusing to date her then falsely accused me of sexual harassment. But when told that I was gay, she confessed to having made it all up – again in writing.
Outcome – UQ found me partially guilty of sexual harassment on the basis of a non-existent confession. The “investigator” just made it up. And she refused to even consider my stalker’s confession in her report on the grounds that it came into existence after she was hired. Go ahead and laugh…
How did this happen? UQ’s sexual harassment policy – unlike all other universities in the country – only directed staff to the QLD ADCQ as an external body to which complaints could be made. Their initial advice was I had clear grounds for complaint – threatening someone for refusing to date you is not ok. But when they received it, the complaint was assigned to one person, then mysteriously (as in no reason for the reassignment was recorded) to someone else who summarily dismissed it without explanation.
But then HREOC got involved. I went to them just for the explanation the ADCQ refused to provide. They told me they couldn’t understand the ADCQ’s decision but couldn’t legally accept a complaint that had already been submitted to a state government agency. But so sure were they that this was wrong that they got involved and accepted my complaint.
Interesting fact – in clear contravention of Australian law, UQ had no sexual harassment training or induction for staff prior to my case and HREOC stepping in. They didn’t need it because they could just rely on their buddies at the ADCQ to mishandle any complaint lodged with them.
The CMC is no better. I lodged a complaint with them which they dismissed on the grounds that UQ hired an external investigator and this meant that they were fully responsible for everything – including the personal behaviour of UQ staff, even before the investigator was hired. Almost as good as their work on the winegate affair…
The CMC had done the same just months earlier with another complaint about the same staff in a case of embezzlement of almost a $100k and a conspiracy to cover it up.
I also contacted the CMC re this inquiry to give evidence as to how UQ’s senior management victimise staff who attempt to report wrongdoings internally. No surprise that they weren’t interested, i.e. this “inquiry” is just a whitewash.