Five faculty members in the DeGroote School of Business have been handed lengthy suspensions by a three-member internal tribunal, with no right to appeal. [Tom Flemming / Flickr]
McMaster University has imposed lengthy suspensions without pay on a number of tenured faculty in the school of business following a secret, internal tribunal process that has lasted for the past several years.
The case arose out of bitter divisions within the DeGroote School of Business in relation to then-dean Paul Bates. The suspended faculty had been critics of Bates and filed a complaint against him, following an overwhelming vote of no confidence against him. Supporters of Bates filed complaints against some of his critics.
Under McMaster policy such complaints are heard by an internal tribunal made up of three faculty members. The tribunal normally conducts its hearing in secret, with all participants covered by a strict confidentiality order, which remains in effect.
The tribunal dismissed the complaint against the dean but upheld the complaints against the dean’s critics — finding those individuals had engaged in conduct tainted by bias in interactions with perceived supporters of the dean.
The tribunal’s public decision, consistent with the confidentiality provisions, does not name any of the parties nor provide exact details of the “lengthy suspensions without pay, benefits, privileges or access to the university’s premises for the period of the suspensions.” The suspended faculty have no right of appeal under McMaster’s policy, and are preventing from commenting because of the confidentiality order.
“Except in very exceptional circumstances, which are not present in this case, there is no place for secret trials on university campuses,” said CAUT executive director James Turk, in criticizing the tribunal process.
He noted the secret process prevents anyone from knowing the actual facts of the case, the evidence, the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the tribunal’s conduct of the hearings, and the legitimacy of the findings and punishments.
“Were any of the parties in this case charged with stealing a loaf of bread or jaywalking, they would have the right to a judicial process that was open to public scrutiny,” Turk said. “As the Supreme Court of Canada said in the 2005 Toronto Star case, ‘In any constitutional climate, the administration of justice thrives on exposure to light and withers under a cloud of secrecy.’”
CAUT has provided legal counsel to the suspended faculty to assist them in their demand that transparency is only possible if, and on-ly if, in addition to the tribunal’s full decision, the transcript of the hearings and all material put before the tribunal are made public concurrently.