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CAUT Bulletin Archives

September 2003

Noble Inquiry Report Released

CAUT has released on its web site the Report of the CAUT Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee into Complaints Raised by Professor David Noble against Simon Fraser University Regarding Alleged Infringements of Academic Freedom.

Professor Noble initially contacted CAUT in March 2001, with concerns that his academic freedom was violated during the search process for the J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities at Simon Fraser University. CAUT's Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee appointed a committee of inquiry to investigate, composed of the Honourable Howard Pawley, former premier of Manitoba and adjunct professor of political science at the University of Windsor, and Gordon Shrimpton, professor of Greek and Roman studies at the University of Victoria and speaker of CAUT Council.

The 32-page report released this month says Noble's academic freedom was violated in the appointment process for the Woodsworth chair. The report also found that the appointment process failed to adhere to established academic practice on several counts and violated CAUT policies.

The report recommends that Noble should be offered the appointment, that there should be a thorough review of SFU's appointments policies, that there should be training of staff members who sit on appointment committees and that CAUT should review its policies and model clauses in light of the findings of the inquiry.

The report was completed in March 2003, and circulated in April for commentary to Noble, SFU and the Simon Fraser University Faculty Association. A month later, in response to a willingness by SFU to discuss implementing the recommendations of the report, CAUT president Victor Catano and Neil Tudiver, professional officer for CAUT's AF&T committee, met with senior university officials and representatives of the faculty association.

Initial discussions on SFU's appointments policies were productive.

John Waterhouse, vice-president academic at SFU, stated recently, "I very much appreciated CAUT's initiative last May when President Catano and Mr. Neil Tudiver travelled to SFU in an effort to resolve outstanding concerns. One positive outcome to this meeting was a joint undertaking by SFU and its faculty association to work cooperatively in assessing the policy recommendations set out in the CAUT report."

This positive note was echoed by faculty association president Drew Parker.

"SFUFA recognizes inconsistencies in some of the policies and procedures surrounding the appointment of an endowed chair with tenure, and is working with the administration to resolve these," Parker affirmed. "Several policies have already been clarified. It is our goal to insure future procedures are clearly codified, understood and followed."

The parties did not reach agreement on how Noble could be involved in negotiations to address the report's recommendations on the fact that he was not appointed to the J.S. Woodsworth Chair. Noble's subsequent premature release of his copy of the report ended discussion between the parties.

According to Noble, "The CAUT report on the SFU case is an important contribution to the cause of academic freedom in Canada, as an illustration of how the commercialization of universities compromises academic integrity. I urge CAUT members to read it.

"It should be stressed that what happened at SFU is by no means unusual, except for its having been exposed. The full account, especially of the commercial connections, will be made public in the course of my lawsuit."

Catano notes, "The report identifies that Professor Noble was inappropriately denied a position, which should be rectified and that changes need to be made in SFU's policies to prevent similar problems in future. On our attempts to resolve the policy issues, we are pleased with the cooperation we received from the university's senior administration."

Catano also says CAUT has undertaken a review of its own policies in light of the report's findings.