June 1, 2002

Clive Seligman

Letter to Editor, National Post

Canada researches chairs' gender

René Durocher, executive director of the Canada Research Chairs Program, has embarrassed himself and demeaned female scholars by advocating the politicization of appointments to these prestigious chairs. Referring to the fact that 15% of the chairs have been awarded to women, he said: "We have been talking to the universities and telling the presidents they must improve the situation."

Without explicitly claiming discrimination or providing any evidence, he irresponsibly implies that discrimination is at work in that university selection committees are bypassing deserving women in favor of less deserving men. If he does not mean to suggest discrimination, then what is the problem he wants the university presidents to improve?

Instead of expressing pride in how successful the Research Chairs program has been "in improving Canada's research capacity ...reversing the brain drain, as well as attracting international research stars," Durocher confused achievement with entitlement, violated university autonomy and willingly sacrificed academic freedom for sex-based social engineering.

Canada Research Chairs should be appointed through the normal academic processes, using well established criteria for judging research excellence of individuals. Imagining the quality of the chairs could be improved by taking into account the sex of the candidate is not a harmless fiction, but a recipe for mediocrity, exactly the opposite goal for which the chairs program was instituted.

Canada's university presidents should speak out loudly against any attempts by Mr. Durocher to interfere with how research chairs are selected.

Dr.Clive Seligman, president, Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, London, Ont.

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