Australian National University losing top women in troubled School of Politics

October 7, 2014 – 6:14AM

Emma Macdonald


The beleaguered Australian National University’s School of Politics and International Relations continues to lose staff despite management claiming that it had “resolved” most of the grievances around the school’s alleged culture of bullying and gender discrimination.

Yet instability continues with two more of the university’s senior female political scientists announcing their resignation from the ANU and the school appointing its third head in less than a year.

One third of the school’s academic staff  – eight out of 27 – have now filed formal grievances about their work environment  and 12 have left. The school’s reputation has subsequently suffered through international coverage of its industrial woes.

Meanwhile it is believed that one senior academic at the centre of bullying allegations is now taking legal action against the ANU.

Last month the university failed in its appeal against one of two successful Comcare cases awarded to academics who suffered psychological damage while working there.

A gender imbalance within the school will be exacerbated with the resignation of one of the most senior remaining women Dr Katrina Lee-Koo, who is currently on maternity leave but will leave to take up a position with Monash University next year.

A former Associate Professor in the school Renee Jeffery has also resigned from the ANU to take up a Professorship of International Relations at Griffith University next year. She transferred internally into the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies last year at the height of the exodus.

Disruption at the top of the school’s management has also continued with the appointment of the third head of school in less than 12 months.  Dr Andrew Banfield has taken over from Professor Ian McAllister, who was placed in the position in December when Professor Jeffery Karp went on extended sick leave.

Dr Banfield is a relatively junior academic, having completed his PhD just four years ago. He was appointed deputy head of the school in 2013.

He has played down dysfunction within the school, suggesting staff attribute the continuing instability to “malcontents” when a prospective student raised the issue during a large forum at the August ANU Open Day.

While questions have been raised internally as to why Dr Banfield was made head of school over more senior female academics,  the ANU spokeswoman said “the university is unapologetic about creating opportunities for and supporting high potential early and mid-career academic staff – to do so is essential for renewal.”

She also said that new appointments made this year were “mindful of improving gender balance”.

Of the nine new appointments made, however, just four are female, which brings the total number of female academics at the school to 11 out of 27 and is lower than at the start of the year.

The female staff are at lecturer level meaning women continue to carry the biggest teaching loads. Concerns to management raised by female staff are that they have been further asked to increase their teaching workloads at the expense of their research output, while both male and female academics have endured direct criticism or career setbacks for seeking to balance their work with their family responsibilities.

The school’s internal ructions have reached the international political science community with UNSW Associate Professor of International and Political Studies Dr Tony Burke saying there was no doubt the school’s international reputation had been damaged as a result.

Professor Burke said “there is a broad knowledge of the damage done to international relations teaching and research at the ANU. There is great dismay about it and it is seen as an example of international poor practice.”

The situation at the ANU was discussed during a panel  at the International Studies Association meeting in Toronto in March, has been featured on the Washington-based Chronicle of Higher Education and has been widely discussed on the international networking website Political Science Rumours.

Source : The Canberra Times

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