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CAUT Bulletin Archives

September 2005

Chun Wins Resolution with UofT

In July, the University of Toronto awarded Kin-Yip Chun a paid leave of absence that will continue until June 2011.

Professor Kin-Yip Chun has finally won a settlement in his long-standing dispute with the University of Toronto and its physics department.

In an agreement reached this summer, Chun will be on a paid leave of absence (with full salary and with U of T benefits) until his planned retirement date in 2011, allowing him to pursue his research objectives at Tongji University in Shanghai, China. Chun will continue to hold his U of T appointment of research scientist and associate professor in the physics department (non-tenure).

Chun said he was pleased with the settlement and expressed gratitude to CAUT for its assistance in bringing his 20-year ordeal to a favourable conclusion.

Still, the outcome has a bittersweet aspect for the Toronto physicist and seismologist.

"It is not without irony that to salvage my academic career, to gain academic human rights, and to work as an equal among academic colleagues, I am now leaving the University of Toronto — Canada’s most respected institution of higher learning — to go to China, a country I left behind in 1962 in search of a better human environment," Chun said.

"Professor Chun’s experience raises serious questions about how academic institutions should deal properly with charges of systemic discrimination," said CAUT president Loretta Czernis.

"The handling of the Chun case must cause the Canadian academic community to commit itself to finding better ways of handling such situations. No one should have to go through what he has. It was terrible for him, for his department and for his university."

An independent inquiry is investigating the Chun case and will likely be issuing a report later this year or early next year. The inquiry is chaired by Constance Backhouse, Distinguished University Professor, faculty of law, University of Ottawa and director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre.

She is joined by William Black, a law professor at the University of British Columbia and Nobel laureate Philip W. Anderson, emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University.

The inquiry’s terms of reference are to determine whether there were breaches of or threats to Chun’s academic freedom; whether there were violations of his human rights; whether there were violations of his rights as a faculty member; whether there were violations of a prior agreement reached between Chun and the U of T (signed in September 2000); how allegations of systemic as well as covert discrimination can be handled by academic institutions to allow situations to be dealt with fairly, thoroughly, and expeditiously and appropriate ways for such disputes to be resolved.