Profs sign letter criticizing Queen's over response to complaints about lecture remarks

November 19, 2012

Professors at Queen's University have written an open letter apologizing to former history professor Michael Mason over the institution's handling of accusations that he used racist and sexist language while teaching last year. The letter follows a report from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, which concluded that Queen's administration violated Mason's academic freedom and acted "callous and irresponsibly" in its handling of the accusations. Administrators have disputed CAUT's findings and declined to apologize to Mason, as the report recommends. In response, several Queen's professors wrote the open letter, which claims the administration "cannot and does not represent Queen's." Signed by 150 members of the Queen's community so far, the letter says "Queen's consists of Queen's academic staff, Queen's non-academic staff, Queen's alumni, and Queen's students. As Queen's University, WE apologize to you, Professor Mason." The institution's provost said Queen's was willing to explore the complaints internally, and even to bring them before an arbitrator if necessary, but the faculty association -- which has since endorsed CAUT's findings -- opted against that path after Mason took medical leave. His course was reassigned, and he will not return to teaching at the institution. The provost told the Globe and Mail the university's response is constrained by confidentiality rules, but that Queen's "would never seek to censor an individual using material, appropriately contextualized." He told the university's senate last month that "not only are the (CAUT) conclusions based on incomplete information, they are also incorrect." Mason told the Globe he feels administrators "have dug in their heels," and that he will "always think that they consciously tried to bully me." Globe and Mail