The Storm Over Academic Freedom, Collegial Governance, and International Human Rights at Uoft's Faculty of Law
30 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2022 Last revised: 28 Oct 2022
Date Written: October 17, 2022
In Fall 2020, the Dean at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law scuttled the appointment of a preferred candidate to head up the law school’s International Human Rights Programme. All of the evidence pointed in the direction of the Dean being prompted to act only after a donor – an alumnus, a sitting tax court judge, and former head of a pro-Israel Canadian lobby group – complained to the University about the prospect of hiring, as director of the programme, a scholar who had criticized the State of Israel’s conduct in Palestine as not being compliant with international law. A small number of faculty at the law school, two of whom are the authors of this paper, raised questions, called for an inquiry into the Dean’s actions and closer scrutiny of the rationales being offered by the Dean and the University administration in his defence which, they claimed, had nothing to do with the candidate’s work on Palestine. This paper traces the narrative of this fight for academic freedom that resulted in academic censure of the University of Toronto by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. Focussing upon events internal to the law school, the paper uses this affair as a case study for interrogating the vital nexus between academic freedom and collegial governance. The authors argue that if authority is centralized, dissent is denigrated, and money increasingly shapes university academic environments, academic freedom and collegial governance are not likely to fare well in these institutional environments.
Keywords: Academic Freedom, Collegial Governance, Palestine Exception, University of Toronto, Human Rights, Israel, Palestine
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