President Birgeneau's Open Letter to the University Community

January 2001

September 25, 2000

Dear Colleagues:

Many of you have expressed satisfaction and relief that the University of Toronto and Dr. Chun have reached an agreement whereby, after a prolonged and public dispute, Dr. Chun will return to a research position, having withdrawn his allegations and all outstanding litigation. Your support throughout this difficult period has been greatly appreciated.

I write to you now to clarify some details of both the terms of the agreement and the university's reasons for reaching it. Quite simply, the agreement was offered in response to the 1994 Yip report which found that Dr. Chun had been exploited in his position as a self funding research associate. The appropriate remedy has always been a return to research under the relevant policies of the university. The agreement reached is consistent in its aim and structure with earlier offers of settlement, and preserves the university's integrity in its appointment policies.

That said, I want to make three points. First, this agreement was possible only because the allegations of racial discrimination were decisively and conclusively dismissed by the Ontario Human Rights Commission ruling in July. The Yip report had declared that there was no evidence of racial discrimination in the searches in question conducted by the physics department. The decision of the Ontario Human Rights Commission vindicates Dr. Yip's report and the physics department. The university's defence of its members named in the human rights complaint was vigorous and successful and these members have been completely exonerated by the process. Nevertheless, these allegations have been hurtful to a number of individuals and their families and to the department of physics. I express my deepest regrets to them as well as my unequivocal support for their good names and reputations.

Second, the research position to which Dr. Chun returns is not a professorial position in the tenure stream. His primary appointment is pursuant to the policy on research associates and senior research associates, with adjunct associate professor status, to enable application for research funds and possible graduate student supervision. The agreement also provides adequate time and resources to enable Dr. Chun to recommence his research, again consistent with the aim of the agreement.

Finally, the agreement provides the basis for a new beginning but that beginning will require continued effort and support so that the negativism of the past will not overshadow our future. I am confident that our colleagues who are directly involved in the reconciliation process will do their very best to ensure that the University of Toronto distinguishes itself in this difficult transition period. I thank you for your interest and your continuing support of this university and its values of academic excellence, freedom and equitable respect for all.

The draft minutes of my report to Governing Council on this matter on September 14, 2000 are available on the university website (

With my very best regards and gratitude.
Robert J. Birgeneau, President, University of Toronto.