Monday, August 30, 2004

Ruth Dunkin – would things have been different had she been male?

Certainly, Dunkin herself seems to think so. And as I’ve pointed out here last year, “Crikey” did get rather carried away on her case. (At the time of writing, “Crikey” was yet to do a Dunkin post-mortem, although the intervening election announcement could be pleaded in defence).

Based on the deplorable financial figures, though, Dunkin seems to have been actually treated lightly by the media. Only a few months after pulling a $14.9 million net operating surplus out of the hat, it was announced that RMIT’s budget was right back to its familiar situation of recent years – a deficit in the tens-of-millions of dollars.

This time, a decline in international student demand was said to be the reason. It must have indeed been some decline – coming in the middle of the academic year, and resulting in a net turnaround of about $40m (= 2,000 pax, at $20k each per annum).

Three letters to the editor in today’s Age draw some cautionary tales around the international student industry issue.

In the end, though, I suspect that this nebulous factor – relevant to almost all Australian universities – will prove only a footnote in the real story of Ruth Dunkin’s demise, akin to a gambling addict blaming a faulty ATM which, by preventing his/her umpteenth withdrawal for the night, caused a spiral of losses at the playing table and other consequent miseries . Wildly oscillating finances smell to high heaven, and the taxpaying public has a right to now demand a full investigation into what really has gone on at RMIT under Dunkin’s disastrous stewardship.

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