CAUT investigation called into question
The Canadian Association of University Teachers [CAUT] recently denounced the University of Manitoba’s economics department, making serious allegations that the department violated academic freedom. The Winnipeg Free Press wrote about the report when it was issued on January 28. As the report was released the same day the Winnipeg Free Press published its story, the University of Manitoba had not had an opportunity to review it and did not provide comment. The U of M, however, believes CAUT’s investigative process was flawed.
In the days following the Free Press story, others have shared their thoughts on the matter.
U of M economics professors Ryan and Janice Compton maintain the blog Hockey Night in Headingley, which explores hockey and its culture through the paradigm of economics. Their most recent post, however, offers a critique of the CAUT report.
Days later, on February 2, the Higher Educations Strategy Associates published a short Op-Ed on the matter here.
And University of Manitoba President David Barnard reassured the economics department that this matter is being taken very seriously and restated his reservations with the CAUT process. You can read President Barnard’s communication to the economics department below.
President Barnard responds
As I made you aware when CAUT first announced its intention to investigate the economics department, I have serious issues with this undertaking, both from a jurisdictional and a process perspective. At the time, I made clear my reservations about what I saw as an inherently flawed process, well outside CAUT’s jurisdictional boundaries, and infringing on the University of Manitoba’s.
Now, after a first review of the report, it is evident that my concerns were well-founded. The report is deeply flawed in numerous ways that compel the University of Manitoba to look more closely and seriously at the full implications of this matter, legal and otherwise.
As I stated during the initial investigation process, I believe you have the right to express your opinions, in whatever forum you wish, on issues impacting your academic pursuits. I share with you again the information I provided at the time: I noted that “CAUT is a voluntary organization with no formal relationship with the University, and as such is a body external to our institution, having no official standing of any kind… you should use caution in dealing with:
– Information regarding confidential processes, such as recruitment and hiring;
– Personal or personal health information about anyone other than yourself; or
– Providing documents or information to a greater extent than would be available…on an access to information request.”
If you require advice about what information you should or should not provide, please feel free to contact the Access & Privacy Office, or the Office of Legal Counsel.
I have full confidence in the work being done by the Dean of Arts, department head and faculty members to support the department’s continued commitment to learning, discovery and engagement. I understand how challenging this process has been to those of you on whom this investigation has brought attention, and I assure you that we will continue to work on this.
Seems foolish to believe something before you know the facts. How can you honestly weigh the value of the report if you’re already admitting to your bias against it?
It’s best to consider it gradually and carefully so as not to fall into error and prejudice, which are difficult to correct and smooth out later. Or at the very least, not to admit your bias so you can maintain the veneer of respectability.
I wish to go back on my comment. A friend told me about the other press being written about this (like the hockey blog you link to) and I checked it out. Now I get why the university questioned the integrity of the investigation. Now my beef is with the WFP. Woof! (Is that trademarked?)