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CAUT Bulletin Archives

December 2003

A Bellwether Case

The reversal of Professor David Noble's selection to the J.S. Woodsworth Chair at Simon Fraser University should be an alarm bell for academic faculty in Canada. A president leading his vice-president academic and the dean of humanities to terminate an already concluded peer selection process for a scholarly chair is unacceptable. This top-down reversal violates the very basis of the university - academic excellence and freedom to inquire.''

The SFU administrators do not deny Noble's superior scholarly record of excellence, or even allude to it. Instead, there is a familiar diversion into what CAUT president Victor Catano's article aptly calls, "Confusing Collegiality with Congeniality" (Bulletin, Oct. 2003). The collegiality dodge seems to be the last bastion of arbitrary repression of those who disagree with the clique or corporate-driven university. Noble's work on the transformation of higher education into "digital diploma mills" is anathema to the SFU administration because it clearly exposes the anti-educational nature of online courses which SFU's senior administration has pushed.

What is not reported in the Bulletin is that the SFU president sent a memo to his administrative colleagues saying, "I'd avoid this appointment like the plague" ("Suit will challenge 'corporate' university," Vancouver Sun, Oct. 4). Yet SFU administrators still claim there were "no procedural irregularities, no bias and no discrimination." The university's educational revenues are now paid to lawyers to defend these falsehoods in court.

The assault on research excellence itself in this case is as glaring as the assault on academic freedom. The university's constitutional objectives of the advancement and dissemination of knowledge have been openly and arbitrarily abrogated. This is a bellwether case for the future of university research and academic standards.

John McMurtry
Philosophy, University of Guelph