Dennis Altman challenges figures behind cuts to La Trobe University to Humanities and Social Science faculty
A leaked letter from Dennis Altman, Professor of Politics and Director Institute for Human Security, at La Trobe University made headlines in The Australian’s Higher Education supplement on 5 September for challenging errors in Vice-Chancellor Dewar’s article in The Conversation.
We can’t publish The Australian’s but we can provide the text of his leaked email:
“Some of my colleagues have urged me to write a response to your piece in The Conversation. I think this would be inappropriate, but I share their dismay at what is presented. I know that the evidence that has been presented to you and the Dean for many months shows that some of the most severe cuts are in areas such as Sociology which attract large numbers of students [including post graduate students], and that claims for the very large numbers of courses results from double counting and plain errors of fact.
But it strikes me there is a quite different way of approaching what is constantly seen as a failure of the academic staff in our Faculty. If retention rates are slipping and we are not meeting enrolment targets is this not because, as John Rosenberg has admitted, the targets were actually unrealistic? How much of the apparent failure of the Faculty is due to structural issues over which academic staff have no control, such as poor public transport [which we know is a big problem at La Trobe] and many years of neglect of infrastructure? La Trobe has greatly increased expenditure on marketing over the past few years: why do we not identify this as a failure rather than implying our problems stem from unattractive courses, which student feedback would seem to dispute? My understanding is that student satisfaction in this Faculty is greater than in most other areas of the University.
At the last meeting of the research strategy committee Paul Fisher [ADR Science] made the point that La Trobe’s reputation rests heavily on this Faculty. Would a better strategy not have been to aggressively market LTU as the best University in the state for humanities and social sciences, and one where you are taught by permanent staff rather than inexperienced casuals? Cutting courses and staff means we will be even less competitive than we are currently, and at great cost to morale and reputation.”
See a related article published by the La Trobe University NTEU Branch.