Why has a 102 year old ecologist been asked to vacate his university office?

David W. Goodall is an Australian ecologist with an outstandingly long career – he received his PhD 75 years ago!  Over that period he has produced some seminal works in the field of vegetation analysis, and acted as Editor-in-Chief of the 36 volume, highly influential Ecosystems of the World series.

Until recently David had been allocated office space at Edith Cowan University in Perth, and commuted into campus by bus and train at least four days a week.  As reported in the Australian media, however, David has now been asked to give up his office and only come on to campus, accompanied, for pre-arranged meetings.

The university claims that it made the decision in David’s own interest, but his own daughter (who surely knows him and his capabilities better than the university authorities) says it’s the “the worst thing …[they]… could possibly do, I don’t know if he would survive it”.

I really hope Edith Cowan University reconsiders this, it seems a very shabby way to treat a distinguished researcher with such a long working history, who is still active (his most recent paper is from 2014!) and contributing to the scholarly life of his department.

Please read the original story and, if you feel so inclined, tweet your reaction to @EdithCowanUni

6 thoughts on “Why has a 102 year old ecologist been asked to vacate his university office?

  1. Susan Walter

    Hmm…reading between the lines, I’d say that there is a fair chance the university has made the right decision. There is no indication of how familiar with her father’s current condition the daughter really is, so my guess is that the university staff that he interacts every few days have a far better idea of what he is physically and mentally capable of these days. His own statement is fairly mild (just wishing they would reverse the decision) and the university appears to be bending over backwards to make it work for him. All they want is that he no longer engages in the commute on public transport. It is possible they also want the office space for someone else, but they give every indication of being willing to arrange to have him on campus whenever he wants. They will foot the bill for getting him to and fro and provide the equipment for an office offsite. I hope some compromise that suits both parties can be reached. The university strikes me as a fairly interesting and open place — certainly not ageist, as they must have originally taken him on when he was already in his eighties. I would say there is an awful lot we are not being told by either the university or the professor himself. My guess would be that there have been a series of incidents of some sort which worried university staff, but the university is being very discreet and politely not going into details.

    1. jeffollerton Post author

      That’s all perfectly possible, Susan, and we don’t know what we don’t know. But the daughter indicates that she was asked her opinion by the university and she gave it, but was ignored. It will be interesting to see if students and staff in the department support him with a petition or open letter.

      1. Susan Walter

        We only have the daughter’s perception that she was ignored. It may be that the university took her opinion into account but felt it could be accommodated by them welcoming the prof on campus whenever he wanted to come. I agree that a public response (or lack of) by students and departmental staff will be telling.

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