Letter from SAFS to Dr. Patrick Woodsworth, Director-General, Dawson College

January 2001

August 22, 2000

Dear Director-General Woodsworth:

Thank you for your August 9, 2000 reply to my June 26, 2000 letter regarding our Society's concerns about Dawson College's treatment of Professor Jeffrey Asher. I am well aware that negotiations between the College and Professor Asher have led to an employment-termination settlement since I last wrote to you. However, I must point out that you did not respond to any of the serious concerns I raised about possible violations of Professor Asher's academic freedom and right to due process. As I informed you in my previous letter, it our policy to consult all parties before commenting publicly on the academic freedom aspects of a dispute. I therefore ask once again that you respond to these concerns without unnecessary delay.

According to an article by Neil Seeman in the National Post on August 16, 2000, Professor Asher believes he was forced out of his job because of pressure from feminists, and not because of any academic misbehavior.

Professor Asher's statements are at odds with your assurance to me that the matter was resolved “to the satisfaction of both parties”. Clearly, it is not in the interests of Dawson College for the public to have the impression that professors can lose their jobs at the College if their beliefs do not conform to feminist (or any other) dogma. And, indeed, if Asher's statements have any basis in fact, the College's actions are violations of his academic freedom. Do you deny Professor Asher's claim?

In my previous letter to you, I pointed out a number of procedural problems with the process used to decide Professor Asher's courses. First, Professor Asher was not invited to defend himself or to respond in any way. Second, apparent complaints against him were accepted at face value. Third, at least two members of the four person committee that ruled on Professor Asher's case, Professors Nemiroff and Powers, appear to have been biased or unsympathetic to Professor Asher, even before hearing evidence on the current matter.

These problematic procedures are troubling and constitute a prima facie violation of Professor Asher's right to due process. Do you deny that these procedural flaws existed?

Accordingly, I would like to ask you to respond specifically to the following questions:

  1. Were the decisions affecting Professor Asher made in the context of his academic freedom and with regard to due process?
  2. What are your institution's policies to safeguard academic freedom of faculty and students and guarantee due process in academic decision-making?

To save time I am faxing this letter to you, with a hard copy to follow in the regular mail. I look forward to your prompt reply.


Clive Seligman, President

Note: To date Dr. Patrick Woodsworth, Director-General of Dawson College, has not answered any of the questions posed to him in the above letter. See SAFS website for additional information.