Dudley Pinnock under attack

Dudley Pinnock, Waite Professor of Entomology at the University of Adelaide, tells about actions taken that deny him freedom of inquiry.

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Actions taken by my Department Head, Professor Schmidt and/or the Deans of the Faculty, Professor Woolhouse and then Professor Oades (Deputy of Professor Woolhouse until 1995), that deny me academic freedom of inquiry and research include:

Late in 1996, in response to the Commonwealth Government funding cuts, the University of Adelaide decided to reduce expenditure by using enforced, "targetted" (their term) redundancies instead of voluntary separations.

On the 2nd of December, 1996 I was advised without warning by Professors Oades and Schmidt that my position had been declared redundant. Until then I was unaware that the University would even consider making redundant staff who, like myself, had taken up senior academic positions by invitation.

A National Tertiary Education Union newsletter (University of Adelaide Branch Newsletter 3/97, 4 April 1997) compared this process and its implementation at Adelaide and at Flinders University.

At Adelaide, in an extraordinary move which made the effects of a bad decision even worse, the power to target individuals in each Faculty was given solely to the Deans and through them, the Heads of Departments. It appears that there were no checks or balances put in place to ensure that the targetting process was fair, reasonable and free of personal bias.

In my Department, this power was given to the same administrators who were responsible for the actions listed above, i.e. Professors Oades and Schmidt.

Our system of departmental and Faculty governance was intended to provide a consensual form of leadership among peers; it was never intended that the Deans and Heads should ever be given what is, in effect, the authority to terminate employment without fair trial.

I know of no case where open and constructive discussions were had with staff members, in the Department, the Faculty or in the Academic Board, on how budget savings could best be made to minimise adverse impacts on teaching, on research and on individual staff members. Instead, it appears that the Deans, in consultation with Department Heads, were given carte blanche to target individuals as they saw fit. These decisions were made behind closed doors and the names of the targetted individuals were then passed by the Dean directly to the Senior Management Group, which implemented the enforced redundancy procedures.

The risk of misuse of this apparently untrammelled power is obvious: it created a unique opportunity for administrators to remove persons expressing dissenting views or persons they deemed inconvenient, e.g. whistleblowers, perceived rivals, those occupying space they wanted to take over, or those they simply disliked.

The declaration of redundancy was made even though this year I would have had a full undergraduate teaching load, plus 7 research students. (I am, by student evaluation survey, one of the best, if not the best, teacher in the Department and my research students have won more Browning Medals, the Department's highest student award, than those of any other supervisor.) Also, for 1997 alone, I had generated $330,000 in extramural research funding, all of which has now been blocked or returned to the funding agencies.

I believe the declaration of my position as redundant was a continuation of the discriminatory actions I have been subjected to in the past, and I decided to appeal the redundancy decision.

My appeal was unsuccessful, as were those of all the other appellants whose cases have now been heard. My position came to an end on 25 July 1997.

What I find especially galling, in addition to the injustice of my past treatment, is that these administrators have the power to destroy my professional career even though their contributions to their disciplines and their international reputations are far less than my own. I have copies of some of the letters to my Chancellor from the leading insect pathologists in the world attesting to my international status. All, apparently, to no avail.


History of Events

(an account prepared for the National Tertiary Education Union)


In 1978 Professor Pinnock was invited to come to the University of Adelaide to take up a position specially created for him as Reader in Insect Pathology in the Department of Entomology.

* It is important to note that at that time, the University was fully aware that Professor Pinnock held a tenured position as Associate Professor of Entomology at the University of California at Berkeley, thus it was a reasonable expectation and presumption by Professor Pinnock that in accepting the invitation to take up a senior academic post in Adelaide, he would hold a similarly tenured position - especially since he was not informed otherwise.



26th of September. Professor Pinnock was appointed Chairman of the Department of Entomology from 1 January 84, following the retirement of Professor Browning.



After two unsuccessful international recruiting campaigns by the University to appoint a new Professor of Entomology, Professor Pinnock, then Reader (and who had not applied for the chair), was asked to stand, did so, and was appointed Waite Professor of Entomology and Head of the Department of Entomology.



During this time, Professor Pinnock obtained substantial extramural funds to build the Insect Pathology Laboratory, a new Quarantine Insectary and a new Entomology glasshouse. The Entomology syllabus and subject content were revised and produced graduates regarded as the best trained in Australia by employers such as CSIRO.

Successful research programs on sheep blowfly (Pinnock), sheep lice (Pinnock), pasture cockchafer (Pinnock), pine bark beetles (Morgan), Sirex wood wasp (Morgan and Hagen), Citrus red scale (Maelzer), lucerne pests (Maelzer & Pinnock), mosquito vectors (Laughlin), sap-feeding bugs (Miles) parasitoid behaviour (Keller) and braconid systematics (Austin) were initiated and/or completed by the academic staff of the Department.



The academic staff unanimously re-elected Professor Pinnock to continue as Head of the Department of Entomology.



Harold Woolhouse was appointed Professor, Dean and Director of the Waite Institute.

10th of August: Professor Pinnock, as Head of the Department of Entomology, wrote to the Vice Chancellor expressing his concern over, and giving reasoned arguments against, Professor Woolhouse's unexpected proposal to amalgamate the Departments of Entomology and Plant Pathology. At the same time, copies of the letter were sent to Professor Woolhouse and to the then Head of the Department of Plant Pathology, Professor Kerr.

There seemed to be no action taken by the Vice Chancellor to review Professor Woolhouse's proposal, and, despite concerns expressed by most members of the academic staff affected by the proposed change, the two Departments were amalgamated.

The amalgamated Department was given the title of Crop Protection, and its first Head was Professor Kerr, a supporter of Professor Woolhouse's proposal for the amalgamation.

16th of November: Professor Woolhouse wrote to Professor Pinnock, stating that an assessment of the future status of entomology and plant pathology would be the subject of a debate in the Board of the new Faculty.

27th of November: Professor Pinnock replied to Professor Woolhouse, acknowledging his letter and expressing regret that an assessment of the future of entomology and plant pathology was not made before the amalgamation of the two Departments. Professor Pinnock then went on to discuss the implications of the drastic cut in staffing level proposed by Professor Woolhouse for the newly amalgamated Department, - especially the anticipated impact on the maintenance of entomology as a discipline within the University.



A reduction in funding for the Faculty resulted in a decision to transfer the cost of most of the departmentally-funded technical staff to outside research grants. Instead of phasing in these changes as grant funds became available, the Head of Department, Professor Kerr, withdrew Professor Pinnock's departmentally-funded full-time technician at only ten days' notice, thus suddenly and totally withdrawing all departmental technical support for Professor Pinnock's research and teaching, and giving him no chance of obtaining a research grant at such impossibly short notice.

As far as he is aware, Professor Pinnock was singled out as the only member of staff to be receive what he believes to be such a harsh and unreasonable treatment.



Professor Schmidt took up an appointment as Head of the Department of Crop Protection, replacing Professor Kerr, who had retired.

During the calendar year 1992, Professor Pinnock was away from Adelaide on 12 months' Study Leave in the UK and France. During this time, the day-to-day running of Professor Pinnock's ongoing research program in Adelaide was entrusted to the postdoctoral research fellow (PDF) employed on each of the sub-projects in the program. Contact with Professor Pinnock was possible at all times by fax or telephone.

One of the PDFs requested that some of that sub-project work be done in Sydney because better equipment was available there. Professor Pinnock replied that he was agreeable if the move would facilitate and expedite the research. By the end of 1992 it became apparent to Professor Pinnock that the PDF working in Sydney was not performing satisfactorily and that some major components of the sub-project were not being done.



February: Shortly after his return to Adelaide, Professor Pinnock went to Sydney to discuss the situation with the PDF and review in depth the research to be done. He then wrote a letter to the PDF setting out in detail a few week's work be done in Sydney, after which the PDF should return to Adelaide to work under Professor Pinnock's direction. Regrettably, the PDF refused to comply with Professor Pinnock's instructions, and, without his knowledge, wrote to the granting agency proposing the project be changed with the effect that the PDF could remain in Sydney and work with the person the PDF was living with at the time.

This proposal was not feasible scientifically and unacceptable to Professor Pinnock. After weeks of correspondence in vain requesting the PDF comply with his instructions, Professor Pinnock, after taking advice from the University's industrial officer, initiated the University's disciplinary procedures over the PDF's dereliction of duty and abandonment of post.

July/August: Professor Pinnock attended an overseas research conference of the Society for Invertebrate Pathology, of which he was a member of the Executive Council.

Knowing of Professor Pinnock's absence overseas, the PDF came to Adelaide and, it seems, made representations to the Head of Department, Professor Schmidt, and the Dean, Professor Woolhouse.

2nd of August: Notwithstanding Professor Pinnock's absence, Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse wrote to the funding agency, and recommended that Professor Pinnock's then ongoing research grant be transferred to the institution in Sydney where the PDF had been working.

This extraordinary action was taken without the knowledge of either Professor Pinnock or the Research Branch of the University's central administration, and neither were aware of it until some time after it had occurred.

9th of August: Professor Woolhouse wrote, also during Professor Pinnock's absence and without his knowledge, to a company which had funded part of Professor Pinnock's research program. The Woolhouse letter referred to a meeting held that day between Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse, the PDF, and representatives of the company, during which the company was advised by Professor Woolhouse that "... the University of Adelaide was not in a position to carry this project forward ...", and that the project should be continued at the institution in Sydney where the PDF had been working. The PDF then returned to Sydney.

Mid August: After Professor Pinnock's return to Adelaide, he discovered the existence and nature of Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse's letter to the funding agency, and heard indirectly that during his absence, Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse had met with the company to discuss Professor Pinnock's research project.

Professor Pinnock requested Professor Woolhouse inform him of the outcome of the meeting.

23rd of August: Professor Woolhouse replied, stating only that he had met with the company at its request and the outcome was a matter for the company. (The company later informed Professor Pinnock that the meeting had been requested and arranged by Professor Woolhouse.) The actual outcome of the company's meeting with Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse was that no further funding for Professor Pinnock's research was ever provided by the company.

5th of September: Professor Pinnock protested the actions of Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse and placed the matter before the Vice Chancellor.

14th of October: The Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) informed Professor Pinnock that he had written to Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse noting his belief that they "had erred" in writing as they did to the funding agency. He also wrote that day to the funding agency and the research grant remained with Professor Pinnock for the remainder of that grant period. However, Professor Pinnock's request for a continuation of research funding was unsuccessful, and no further funding for Professor Pinnock's research was ever provided by the agency.

Thus outcome of these actions by Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse was that all of Professor Pinnock's research support was now cut off.

It appears that no disciplinary action was taken against the PDF, even though the PDF did not do the assigned work and continued to refuse to return to Adelaide. The result of this behaviour was that the sub-project did not meet its research objectives. The PDF resigned from the University shortly before the grant was terminated.



The double loss of the funding agency and company support was a severe blow to Professor Pinnock's research program, but by then there was sufficient interest in the excellent results being obtained that he was able to arrange for the other two PDFs, Drs. Cooper and Lyness, formerly employed on the now terminated research grants, to be funded by a University spin-off company, Microbial Products Pty. Ltd. Their function was to continue the research program formally supported by the research grants. However, even this reprieve of the research program was terminated by Professor Woolhouse when, on the

18th of January: Professor Woolhouse summarily ordered these two PDFs off campus on the unsubstantiated charge that their research was an "illicit operation" not in compliance with the University's insurance, occupational health, and legal requirements.

24th of January: Professor Pinnock wrote to Professor Woolhouse asking in what manner the University's requirements were not being complied with, so that this could be rectified.

3rd of February: Professor Woolhouse reiterated his order that the PDFs immediately leave the campus, but now stated a different reason - which was that there was "The potential for situations to arise" and mentioned conflict of interest, confusion over resources and security of property, which he claimed could occur if these two PDFs continued to work on campus.

4th of February: Professor Woolhouse wrote directly to Drs. Cooper and Lyness, ordering that their "... presence on the Waite campus must be terminated immediately".

8th of February: Professor Pinnock advised Professor Woolhouse that the research undertaken by these PDFs was a continuation of the program formerly funded by the research grants and conducted by them as University employees. None of the "situations" Professor Woolhouse claimed could occur, ever arose during the several years they were working in Professor Pinnock's laboratory.

* (N.B. This research (as far as we could take it) is now written up and was published this year in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 69 (1): 24-30, 1997).

21st of March: An additional threat to Professor Pinnock's research program was revealed when he discovered that Professor Schmidt had agreed to give over Professor Pinnock's purpose-built and funded Insect Pathology Laboratory to Professor Oades' Department of Soil Science, and to move Professor Pinnock into totally inadequate facilities in the main Waite building. The research fermenters, University equipment essential for Professor Pinnock's research, were ordered to be moved off-campus to an undesignated site.

This threat was allayed when in April the rural research agencies which had funded the Insect Pathology Laboratory wrote to the Vice Chancellor expressing their concern that the Laboratory might be used for a purpose other than that for which it was funded, and seeking assurance that Professor Pinnock's research program not be impeded by lack of adequate facilities.

16th of June: With all his research support cut off, his PDFs ordered off campus, and in an urgent attempt to obtain funding to continue his research, Professor Pinnock arranged, after much delay and effort, for Microbial Products Pty. Ltd. (by this time an independent company) to commit funds to join with the University in an application for an ARC Collaborative Research Grant for approximately $360,000 over three years. The application was blocked when Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse refused to approve it.

Even though the proposed research project could have been conducted entirely within the then existing facilities in the Insect Pathology Laboratory, the grounds Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse gave to the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) for blocking Professor Pinnock's application was that the Department "was not in a position to put departmental facilities towards the support of the research proposal".

July: When at a departmental committee meeting Professor Pinnock protested over the blocking of his ARC grant application, Professor Schmidt was unrepentant and seemed unconcerned at Professor Pinnock's frustration.

The actions of Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse resulted in a reduction of extramural grants to Professor Pinnock from a 15-year average (up to 1993) of over $272,000 per year, to zero from 1994/5.

It should be realised that in addition to the deliberate cutting off of his research funding, Professor Pinnock has been denied the opportunity, enjoyed by many other academic staff of the University, to have externally-funded research scientists working with him on collaborative research.

September: The Vice Chancellor set up a Committee of Inquiry in response to Professor Pinnock's protest to the University Council over the actions of Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse.

4th of October: Professor Pinnock lodged his submission with the Committee.

4th of November: The Committee interviewed Professor Pinnock. During this interview, it became painfully obvious to Professor Pinnock that a member of the Committee, a past supporter of Professor Woolhouse, was prejudiced against Professor Pinnock. The same day, Professor Pinnock wrote to the Convenor of the Committee, lodging a protest of bias on the part of that Committee member.

December: The Committee submitted its Report to the Vice Chancellor, but failed to attach either Professor Pinnock's submission or his letter of complaint of bias.

When Professor Pinnock requested a copy of the Committee's report he was denied any access to it, and turned to the University Staff Association for assistance.



20th of April: With assistance from the Staff Association, Professor Pinnock eventually was given access to the Committee's report, and sent a detailed rebuttal to the Vice Chancellor and to the Staff Association.

Apparently, no further action was taken by the University concerning the actions of Professors Schmidt and Woolhouse against Professor Pinnock.

3rd of July: Professor Pinnock had become aware that students interested in studying insect pathology under his supervision were being pressured by Professor Schmidt to study in a different area. Professor Pinnock sent a letter complaining of this to the then Acting Dean, Professor Oades. This letter was not answered.

5th of July: Following the departure of Professor Woolhouse, Professor Pinnock wrote to Professor Oades, requesting he rescind the order of Professor Woolhouse prohibiting the two industry-funded PDFs from working on the Waite campus on collaborative research with Professor Pinnock.

11th of July: Professor Oades replied that he would not rescind the order prohibiting the two PDFs from working on the Waite campus with Professor Pinnock.

27th of July: Professor Pinnock wrote again to Professor Oades, pointing out (yet again) that the PDFs would be not be engaged in any form of commercial activity but only in collaborative research, and requesting that Professor Oades reconsider his decision. This request was not answered.



2nd of December: Without any warning or prior consultation, Professor Pinnock is advised by Professor Oades that his position has been targeted to be declared redundant.

The decision to target Professor Pinnock's position was made by Professors Schmidt and Oades. Professor Pinnock believes this targeting is the culmination of a long series of discriminatory actions against him by these administrators, as the foregoing history shows.



20th of January: The University administration sent Professor Pinnock the reasons for identifying his position in particular as being able to be declared redundant.

10th of February: Professor Pinnock responded in detail to the reasons given by the University administration for identifying his position in particular as being able to be declared redundant. He stated that the reasons given by the University were either untrue, or were applicable to many other academic staff members of the Department and University, and were not valid reasons for identifying Professor Pinnock's position in particular as being able to be declared redundant.

24th of March: The University administration acknowledged Professor Pinnock's response of the 10th of February. The administration advised that "the University is of the opinion that there is no further comment to be made, and that therefore your arguments would be best placed before the Review Committee established to hear appeals from the University's decision to declare positions redundant".

23rd, 26th and 30th of May: The Review Committee hears Professor Pinnock's appeal, which included the above history of events and supporting documentation, and his rebuttal of the reasons stated by the University targeting his postion in particular for redundancy.

24th of June: The Chairman of the Review Committee sent Professor Pinnock a copy of the Committee's report to the Vice Chancellor. The Committee reported that "For the reasons we have given we do not consider that the University has been shown to have failed to follow fair process in declaring the applicant redundant".