NEWS
05/21/2014 11:39 EDT | Updated 07/21/2014 05:59 EDT

University of Saskatchewan board sacks president Ilene Busch-Vishniac

Ilene Busch-Vishniac has been fired as president of the University of Saskatchewan.

The board of governors said Busch-Vishniac had been terminated without cause and will continue in a teaching capacity at the university.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall used his Twitter account to announce that Gordon Barnhart had been appointed interim president. Barnhart, a long-time academic, is the former lieutenant-governor of Saskatchewan.

The move comes after a flurry of criticism surrounding a decision to fire a professor, and end his tenure, who openly criticized the university's leadership. That professor, Robert Buckingham, was returned to his teaching duties after Busch-Vishniac conceded the move was a "blunder". Although his tenure was restored, Buckingham was not continued in his administrative job as dean of the School of Public Health.

Just days later, prior to an emergency meeting of the Board of Governors of the university, a senior official, Provost Brett Fairbairn, tendered his resignation.

Board wants new leader for rebuilding efforts

"The board feels strongly that the university’s ongoing operations and its reputational rebuilding efforts will be more effective with new leadership," the board said in a statement Wednesday night.

Busch-Vishniac's firing was described as taking effect "immediately".

The board noted the controversy surrounding Buckingham's firing had been troubling.

"It was a painful week for the University of Saskatchewan," the statement said. "Many students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the U of S, and the people of the province generally, were dismayed by news emerging from the campus over the last seven days. The board was deeply troubled by this situation and committed itself to repairing the university’s reputation."

At the centre of the controversy is TransformUS, an initiative underway at the university to restructure programs with a goal to reduce costs. Buckingham's criticism of the initiative set off the chain of events that led to the board's move.

While the board was unhappy with the moves against Buckingham's tenure, the body continued to support the TransformUS initiative.

"The University of Saskatchewan is committed to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. It would also like to stress that it believes that tenure is a sacrosanct principle within this university," the board said. "Finally, the Board of Governors at the University of Saskatchewan continues to be strongly committed to the goal of financial sustainability and renewal."