Brock University: Academic Freedom
November 20, 2007
Dr. Jack Lightstone
Dear President Lightstone:
I am writing to you as president of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship. We are a national organization of scholars whose goals are to promote academic freedom in teaching, research, and scholarship and to uphold the merit principle as the basis of academic decision-making regarding students and faculty. For further information, please visit our website at: www.safs.ca.
I am writing with regard to Professor Murray Miles of your philosophy department, against whom a complaint has been brought under the “Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy” of the Collective Agreement.
At this time, we would like to stress just two of our concerns. The first and foremost is the threat to Professor Miles’ academic freedom, and hence to that of all professors at Brock University. As you will appreciate, what constitutes respectful behavior is open to varying interpretations. These are sometimes complicated by personal and political considerations. It is of the utmost importance that the formal adjudication of any complaints of this nature explicitly recognizes the academic freedom rights of the respondent to express his academic opinions, including the right to criticize his university’s policies or colleagues’ views on academic matters. It is likewise of the greatest importance that questions concerning academic freedom and its limits be adjudicated by members of the academic profession competent to do so (full-time tenured professors) rather than by non-academic staff members.
A second serious concern is that the administration of the policy must be carried out under the terms specified in the policy itself. It is our understanding that there have been several violations of the policy, including the following:
a) Although “complaints must be initiated within six (6) months (120 working days) of the incident occurring” the majority of incidents that are being considered as part of the complaint predate this period.
b) According to the Policy “The investigation shall be completed within eight (8) weeks (40 working days). As of today, the investigation has proceeded for about twice that time period. We understand that the time frames may be extended upon mutual agreement of the parties. However, no such agreement has been reached.
c) No attempt to resolve this issue informally was offered to Professor Miles, although the Policy encourages informal resolution.
Thus, we are gravely concerned that Professor Miles has not been adequately protected against abuse of the Policy by those responsible for its administration. Accordingly, we respectfully ask that you clarify how his academic freedom is protected, in practice, under the “Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy” and why the investigation has been allowed to proceed in the face of serious and unambiguous procedural violations of which you have been made aware.
We look forward to hearing from you. We will post this letter and your response on our website.
Clive Seligman, President
cc: Murray Miles, Philosophy Department
Carol Merriam, President, BUFA
Carol Sales, Grievance Officer, BUFA