Swinburne University’s new Vice Chancellor’s brand in tatters following historic vote of no confidence

Swinburne University of Technology’s recently appointed Vice Chancellor, Professor Pascale Quester, has today been embarrassingly rebuked in an historic vote of no confidence by the university’s union members.

The vote, which yesterday was passed by 98% of Swinburne staff attending an extraordinary NTEU branch meeting, comes just three months into Professor Quester’s tenure as Vice Chancellor and in the face of hundreds of new forced redundancies. In the motion, Swinburne staff “adamantly expresses its loss of confidence in the Executive Group, Chancellery and Council in the management and leadership of our University.”

A vote of no confidence has never before been passed by Swinburne NTEU members. It is a landmark demonstration of the strongest possible breakdown of relations between the university’s workers and its executive management.

“It was clear even before Professor Quester arrived at Swinburne that she was not interested in listening to staff or trying to understand what we do here,” said Mel Slee.

Professor Quester arrived at Swinburne in August 2020 following a career as a marketing academic at the University of Adelaide. “Her first move as Vice Chancellor has been to use the cover of Covid-19 to cut jobs and undermine Swinburne. This is a time when we need real leaders who listen and fight for our staff and students more than ever.”

Staff say they voted for the motion of no confidence to reflect their anger at what can only be described as disproportionate and excessive job losses. Swinburne was, in comparison to most Australian universities, well protected from the economic impacts of Covid-19, and yet will have 10% of its total workforce made redundant by Professor Quester – one of the highest rates of job losses at an Australian university.

Under Professor Quester, Swinburne has also taken on millions of dollars in debt to fund the redundancies – debt the union says the university will be continuing to pay off well after the Covid-19 crisis has passed.

The motion of no confidence comes as a rift between university workers and management reaches endemic levels across Australia. Students and staff, teachers and researchers alike feel increasingly disenfranchised and manipulated by a layer of senior university management who do not understand higher education and are not accountable for their actions.

‘The university has to stop behaving like some rogue corporate operator,’ said Mel Slee ‘We need it to return to being a proud and responsible public institution working conscientiously for its students, staff, and the broader public good’.

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