Friday, September 17, 2021

Victory for academic freedom at the University of Toronto (UPDATED)

After an offer on the law faculty was blocked as a result of outside political interference, the University of Toronto was censured by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).  CAUT has now "paused" the censure, since the University has now offered the position to the candidate previously blocked. 

UPDATE:  The censure is only "paused" because it's not yet clear whether the University of Toronto will protect the offeree's academic freedom in the face of harassment from outside groups.

(Thanks to Mohan Matthen for the pointer.)

9/18/21 UPDATE:   This is not so good:

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), which imposed the censure in April, says it has called for a pause on the measure after it says the school met one of its key demands: to re-offer the position of director of the school's International Human Rights Program to Valentina Azarova....

After careful consideration, the CAUT says, Azarova has declined the offer.

"Her decision, while unfortunate, is understandable given the University's initial reaction to the unfounded and scurrilous attacks on her reputation and her research," CAUT said in a statement Friday.

In a statement to CBC News, Azarova confirmed that while the the school negotiated "in good faith and extended academic freedom protections to the position, there were important uncertainties that could not be resolved."

"In light of events over the past year, I realized that my leadership of the program would remain subject to attack by those who habitually conflate legal analyses of the Israeli-Palestinian context with hostile partisanship. I also understood that the university would not be in a position to remove these hazards," said Azarova, a research fellow at the University of Manchester. 

Azarova added she is "sincerely grateful" for the support of the academics, students and communities who expressed their concern and is  inspired by their commitment....

[CAUT] says the full censure will not be formally lifted until the university addresses other key aspects of the case and explicitly extends academic freedom protections to academic managerial positions and develops policies to prohibit donor interference in internal academic affairs.

A final decision on whether to lift the censure will be up to the CAUT council when it meets in November.

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