In the dark recesses of Building EB at Parramatta it’s all getting a bit primitive. The Dean of the School of Business ‘Hydraulic Clive’ Smallman has been unable to persuade enough staff to take voluntary redundancies and now seven will walk the plank. It’s spill-and-fill time: academics in the affected areas have to reapply for their jobs.

So why has it come to this? You’ll remember that in early 2012, enrolments were down and Old Mother Hubbard declared the cupboard was bare. ‘The Schools would have to make cuts’, we were told, ‘there is no alternative’. Never mind that UWS student staff ratios are among the highest in Australia. Nor that most of the teaching in many areas is performed by casuals. Don’t mention the fact that Schools earn most of the university’s money by teaching undergraduates and are given barely a third of it to spend. The hard medicine would have to be administered and good people would have to go.

So courses were closed and long-standing staff took packages. Many of them could see the writing was on the wall: if they didn’t go voluntarily there was a fair chance they’d be dragged out kicking and screaming. And as the year wore on the austerity rhetoric became more hysterical.

But then, as Spring blossomed forth, something magical happened. Water became wine and the loaves and fishes multiplied before our eyes. Far from being in the red in 2012, UWS had amassed a huge operating surplus, far larger even than forecast at the end of 2011. So could we all relax? Would the Grim Reaper disappear into the mist? Apparently not. The dogged pursuit of those deemed uproductive continues. To put it bluntly, a grossly understaffed university is making seven academics redundant on the pretext of a now-discredited narrative of economic crisis. If they had a scintilla of integrity, university managers would abort the whole process, and announce a stay of execution.

Instead, in a move to mollify the masses and short circuit charges of fiscal hypocrisy, the Vice Chancellor announced this week that an additional two million dollars would be allocated to the Schools for research. This all very well but the fact is that there’s nothing for the ‘SOB Seven’ to look forward to except a slow walk along a short plank.

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