Restructuring report unseen

Union officials have had no guarantees the University of Otago will release a confidential restructuring proposal report which could mean redundancies.

The Tertiary Education Union, which represents more than 1000 staff on campus, made an urgent Official Information Act request on Monday asking the university to release a report it believes refines plans to merge the departments of design studies with clothing and textile sciences into a department of applied sciences.

Staff believe the merger will lead to the dissolution of the design studies department, with the jobs of about 20 academic and general staff affected.

The union asked the university to respond by noon yesterday. Organiser Shaun Scott yesterday said the university indicated the report could not be released because it had not been completed.

However, there were no guarantees it would be released once it was completed, he said.

"They didn't really answer the request. We expect we will get to see the report some time, but nothing was made explicit."

A copy of the union's Official Information Act request was leaked to the Otago Daily Times on Thursday.

Mr Scott said he was "neither surprised nor worried" about that, given the level of concern over the merger proposal.

In the letter, which was signed by him, Mr Scott said the union had "serious concerns" about the way the university was carrying out the merger process.

Its original plan was to review design studies, a formal consultative process which would have allowed department staff, students, the union and others to be involved. It had since bypassed the review, instead sending a revised restructuring proposal to the senate - the university's principal academic authority. Senate meetings are in private.

That meant a "key opportunity" for input was lost, the letter said.

"It remains our view that both the science and humanities divisional boards should be provided the opportunity to consider the proposal prior to the senate making decisions."



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