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Canadian Faculty Group Censures U of Toronto

April 27, 2021
 
 

In a rare move, the Canadian Association of University Teachers Council voted this month to censure the University of Toronto over a canceled hire within the university’s law program. The council found that the university’s decision to withdraw its verbal job offer to Valentina Azarova as director of the International Human Rights Program was “politically motivated, and as such constitutes a serious breach of widely recognized principles of academic freedom,” David Robinson, CAUT’s executive director, said in a statement. The 2020 hiring process was “abruptly aborted following concerns raised by a sitting judge over Dr. Azarova’s academic work on human rights in Israel and Palestine,” Robinson also said. Azarova has written critically about Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

The University of Toronto commissioned an outside review of the matter, which found no conclusive evidence that politics or donor relations played a role in Azarova’s ouster. But the CAUT and faculty members within the law school, among others, have criticized the scope of that review. The University of Toronto Faculty Association is pursuing its own grievances in the case, alleging that the university breached the core principles of academic freedom and collegial governance.

Meric S. Gertler, university president, said in a public response to the CAUT regarding delegates' 79-to-0 vote in favor of censure, "I am extremely disappointed by CAUT’s decision. As I stated to you -- and to the leadership of CAUT when we met last week -- the university had responded to the controversy by appointing the Honourable Thomas A. Cromwell, CC, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and an individual of unimpeachable integrity, to undertake an impartial, independent review."

Somewhat different from the American Association of University Professors, the CAUT asks academic staff not accept appointments or speaking engagements at censured institutions until changes have been made. The last time the CAUT censured an institution was in 2008. Before that, it was 1979. Robinson has written at length about the Azarova case here, for the AAUP.

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