Friday, April 23, 2021

Report finds no clear evidence that judge's political objection to a faculty candidate at Toronto affected hiring decision...


...but the separate investigation of the judge continues.  (Earlier coverage.)

UPDATE:  Apparently, the investigation did not evaluate the credibility of the testimony collected, which may be a problem.

4/22/21 UPDATE:   The Canadian Association of University of Teachers clearly did not agree with the earlier investigations' finding, and has now censured the University of Toronto, which is a quite dramatic move.

AND ANOTHER:  Law professor Denise Reaume (Toronto) has shared this helpful account of what has transpired:

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) on April 22 imposed censure on the University of Toronto over its decision to terminate the candidacy of Dr. Valentina Azarova for the Directorship of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the Faculty of Law. The consequences of censure are detailed here.


The University had tried to stave off censure by commissioning a report on the controversy from former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell. The report was flawed by factual inaccuracy and misleading assertions. Widely criticized, it failed in the ambition to exonerate the administration. In some ways, it made matters worse.

The history: In September, 2020, then Dean of Law, Ed Iacobucci terminated the hiring process for the Director of the IHRP. Dr. Valentina Azarova was the unanimous and enthusiastic choice of the selection committee, but negotiations to finalize an offer to her were abruptly cut off after communications from a wealthy alumnus, donor, and sitting judge made plain that some donors would not tolerate the appointment of someone whose scholarship included study of Israeli conduct in the occupied Palestinian territories. Members of the search committee, and the Institute, resigned in protest. Complaints against the conduct of the alumnus—a sitting Federal judge—were lodged with the Canadian Judicial Council.


Cromwell was commissioned by the University to determine the basis for the Dean’s decision not to proceed with Azarova’s appointment. Cromwell declined to draw any inference that the Dean may have been improperly influenced in his decision. The University’s response trumpeted the report as vindication of (now former) Dean Iacobucci. This response has been now been echoed by the newly appointed Dean, Jutta Brunnée.  


Cromwell’s assessment was comically inept. Here is an executive summary of one critical analysis of his error-laded document; the full analysis is here. A slightly different take on the report is provided by Professor Joe Carens, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, U of T. And further insider perspective is provided by Professor Richard Moon, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor.


Cromwell does what he can to downplay the shocking attempt by a wealthy donor to derail a University appointment by treating it as a simple ‘heads up’ to university officials about the unacceptability of a hiring decision to members of the local Jewish pressure groups. My colleague Anver Emon provides a detailed analysis of this part of the report here.


Another dangerous aspect of Cromwell’s report is its peculiar handling of confidentiality and privacy issues arising out of these events. My colleague Ariel Katz provides a critique of this part of the report here.


All in all, the Cromwell report is a disaster for academic integrity and academic freedom. Censure is not imposed lightly by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. But this case is so egregious, and the Cromwell report so dangerous, that it is fully warranted here.   

ANOTHER (4/24/21):  Professor Reaume writes with some more developments:

Joe Carens has released his full critique of the Cromwell Report:

And, in the wake of the CAUT censure and the University’s response that the CAUT has no business opining on whether clinical staff deserve academic freedom protections,

Professor Kent Roach has resigned in protest as Chair of the Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights.

The Asper Centre is very active before the courts intervening on a range of rights issues.

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