Queen's investigating allegations that professor teaches that vaccines are harmful

February 6, 2015

Queen's University is investigating student complaints that a professor of a first-year health studies course was teaching that vaccines are harmful. Students shared on social media slides from course lectures, one of which was entitled "Vaccines—Good or Bad?" and stated that "no scientific evidence exists showing vaccines are NOT contributing to increased incidence of chronic illness and disability in children." Another slide directed students to anti-vaccine videos that suggested that AIDS originated from the polio vaccine and warned students that this material was "going to be on the test." In a statement, Queen's Principal Daniel Woolf said that he has asked the Provost to work with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to look into the matter. Woolf said that "the university is committed to the academic freedom of our faculty members; at the same time, the university expects that faculty members will present intellectually rigorous research and course material and that they will present available scientific evidence objectively and declare their biases." Queen's Provost Alan Harrison said that he needed to confirm that the slides were shown in class and to learn whether the professor added any contextualizing commentary to the material being presented. National Post | Globe and Mail | Toronto Star | CBC | Queen's Statement

Postscript: February 10, 2015

Queen's University's School of Kinesiology and Health Studies has granted Melody Torcolacci, the professor who was criticized for teaching anti-vaccination views, leave from teaching the course at her request. Discussions about her other classes are ongoing. Following the scandal, Richard Reznick, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen's, published a statement to his department's website emphasizing the extent of vaccine education provided by the university. Reznick's statement notes that students are taught information that is based on scientific principles and are instructed on how to educate vaccine-hesitant families about the process of developing and testing vaccines. Globe and Mail | National Post | Sault Star | Reznick Letter