WOLFVILLE – The Canadian Association of University Teachers has launched an inquiry into Acadia University’s investigation of psychology professor and free speech advocate Rick Mehta.
“We’re always interested in protecting core academic rights, and there is a potential that significant academic freedoms are at stake here,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson.
The association announced March 20 that it's created a committee to review the school’s investigation of Mehta and has appointed Penni Stewart, Associate Professor at York University, and Francesca Holyoke, Head of Archives and Special Collections at the University of New Brunswick as its members.
“We are looking into the university’s handling of this matter to see if any attempts or actual violations of Professor Mehta’s academic freedoms,” says Robinson.
How it will work
The inquiry will call for invested parties – the university’s administration, professors and students, for example – to submit evidence. Any party wanting to submit evidence can, but no one is compelled to, according to Robinson.
The committee will also conduct a site visit at Acadia, as well as interviews with faculty, administration professor Rick Mehta and the broader academic community.
And as for a timeline, Robinson speculates it could be lengthy.
“There’s a lot of material since Mehta has posted his lectures online, so it’s an enormous amount to go through,” said Robinson.
“We gather as much information as possible to fairly assess the situation.”
What it can achieve
CAUT has launched around three dozen such inquiries over its 60 years as an association and, according to Robinson, has effected change in have been able to put in new policies and procedures as a direct result of past inquiries.
Once the inquiry is complete, the committee will submit a public report based on its findings and will include any recommendations it may have for Acadia on its current procedures.
“This touches on what is the scope of academic freedom inside and outside of classroom, and who should determine that,” said Robinson, who confirmed the committee will likely begin its inquiry as early as next week.