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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2004

York University Draws Criticism

Delegates to CAUT Council voted overwhelmingly to express criticism of York University for its failure to provide prompt legal assistance to a political scientist at the university served with a libel notice by an Ontario cabinet minister.

After coverage in the Ottawa Citizen on his research into corporate funding of political parties, York associate professor Robert MacDermid received libel notices from then Ontario cabinet minister Tony Clement and Leslie Noble, a lobbyist who served as adviser to former Ontario premier Mike Harris.

York University Faculty Association was rebuffed when it argued the university had the obligation to provide independent legal counsel under the university's legal liability policy, especially as the university advertised the names of faculty members, including MacDermid, who the media were encouraged to consult.

The motion states that CAUT Council "deplores" the actions of the York University administration and calls for "all university administrations to provide independent legal counsel to university teachers in all cases where their academic freedom is challenged."

The motion also rejects attempts to restrict academic freedom to narrow areas of specialization.