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CAUT Bulletin Archives

April 2005

CAUT Committee to Investigate Allegations at York

At the request of the York University Faculty Association, CAUT has appointed an ad hoc investigatory committee to look into allegations of threats to freedom of expression and to academic freedom at York as well as allegations of inappropriate governance practices at the university.

Members of the committee are Rebecca Coulter, an associate professor of education at the University of Western Ontario, and Kenneth Field who is head of access services at Trent University's Bata Library.

The terms of reference for the committee are to determine whether there were threats to, or breaches of, rights to free expression and academic freedom, whether there were inappropriate governance practices and to make recommendations to deal with any problems the investigators may find.

Concerns about freedom of expression at York peaked in January after Toronto police violently ended a peaceful student demonstration, resulting in the arrest of five of the demonstrators and hospitalization of one student. The administration's actions were condemned by the York University Senate, the faculty association, the York Federation of Students, the York University Graduate Students Association and CUPE Local 3903, which represents teaching assistants and contract academic staff.

In 2004, the university was also the centre of attention nationally when York president Lorna Marsden handed student Daniel Freeman-Maloy a three-year suspension and banned him from campus for making excessive noise during two protest rallies in Vari Hall. After the Superior Court cleared the way for a judicial review of her action, she ended the suspension.

Faculty association officials have also expressed concern about the university's Temporary Use of University Space Policy, introduced by the board of governors in August 2004, that bans events from traditional meeting places and requires as much as 30 days advance notice to book other university spaces.

In addition, some York faculty members have expressed concerns to CAUT that the administration's actions are violating their academic freedom.

The committee, says James Turk, executive director of CAUT, will begin its work in the next few weeks and "hopes to meet initially with university officials and representatives of the faculty association, as well as with any other member of the York community who can assist in its investigation."