President’s memo cites executive reshuffle at Athabasca University

Athabasca University – safe for the moment, AU President Frits Pannekoek says. Below: Dr. Pannekoek.

Major executive changes have been made at Athabasca University, with the departure of several senior executives widely rumoured among university staff today.

In an email to faculty sent early this afternoon, Athabasca University President Frits Pannekoek tried to reassure employees about the changes, and about reports on another blog that the university will be closed or rolled into the University of Alberta after the March 7 budget.

“I am informed that the executive personnel changes announced yesterday have fueled speculation about the future of our university, particularly with reference to rumours about the budget process and the possible merger of AU with another Alberta post-secondary institution,” Dr. Pannekoek said in the email. “Such rumours are totally without foundation.”

The email went on:

“I again stress that there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that AU will not continue to operate as an independent, board-governed university. I spoke with Thomas Lukaszuk, Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, and Jeff Johnson, MLA for Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater and I have been emphatically assured that no plan exists, or is contemplated, to merge AU with the U of A or any other institution.

“They have also both emphasized to me that there are absolutely no plans to close the university.

“As we approach the release of Alberta’s budget on March 7, media and public speculation about the fiscal restraint measures it will apply is likely to increase. Such speculation is beyond our control, but we should not allow ourselves to fall victim to fear mongering.

“I will share some good news about our current financial position. We have just finished an analysis of our third quarter results and I’m happy to report that we will meet, or exceed, our budget commitments for the current fiscal year. This is all due to your hard work and thank you.

“I understand community interest in the announced changes to executive personnel; however, the university is legally and ethically bound to respect the privacy rights of its current and past employees. Within the limits of those obligations, I will share further information about executive changes with the AU community as appropriate.”

Athabasca Communications and Media Manager John O’Brien had nothing to say about what he described as a personnel matter, beyond observing about a report five senior officials had departed: “Number’s wrong, and we can’t comment on personnel issues,” Dr. Pannekoek’s email concluded.

The development happens in the wake of report on the blog that the provincial government has been considering pulling the plug on the northern-based Internet university.

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