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CAUT Bulletin Archives

December 2007

David Noble, CAUT say Ruling a Victory for Academic Freedom

[Photo: Ryan Rexworthy / York University]
[Photo: Ryan Rexworthy / York University]
An Ontario labour arbitrator has ruled in favour of David Noble (shown in photo, left), a partial victory for the York University social sciences professor in his ongoing dispute with the university over academic freedom.

York University Faculty Association filed the $10 million grievance on behalf of Noble, who has also launched a $25 million defamation lawsuit, over a 2004 press release issued by the university, which criticized a flyer Noble was distributing on campus.

In it, Noble characterized the university as holding a pro-Israel stance and listed individual board members’ affiliations with pro-Israeli organizations. The university responded by issuing the press release, which branded the flyer “highly offensive” and referred to “bigotry and racism” without directly naming Noble.

Labour arbitrator Russell Goodfellow ruled in November that York violated Noble’s academic freedom by issuing the release and ordered the university to remove the release from its website, as well as pay $2,500 in damages.

Noble, who is Jewish, told the Bulletin he views the decision as “a major victory for academic freedom.”

In the conclusion to his ruling, Goodfellow writes, “York breached the collective agreement by failing to respect Professor Noble’s rights as an academic. Indeed, it may be said that York failed to extend Professor Noble even the most basic of courtesies that might reasonably be expected to be enjoyed by a faculty member. The university publicly vilified his work without first contacting him or the York University Faculty Association to advise of its concerns, to investigate the matter or to indicate what it was contemplating.”

CAUT executive director James Turk said he’s pleased by the ruling for Noble.

“It’s a landmark win for academic freedom rights,” he said. “We’re particularly pleased the decision recognized that although York’s press release did not actually name David Noble, it certainly was harshly critical of his work in a manner that undermined his academic freedom.”

Noble’s $25 million suit against the York University Foundation, Hillel of Greater Toronto, the Canadian Jewish Congress Ontario region and the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, is still proceeding through the courts.