Paul L. Caron

Friday, October 9, 2020

'Beleaguered' Dean Refuses To Address Toronto Law School's Hiring 'Fiasco'

Following up on Brian Leiter's post, Toronto Law Scuttles Search After Sitting Judge (and Major Donor) Criticizes the Final Candidate on Political Grounds:

TorontoToronto Star, What the U of T Law Dean Is Not Telling About the School’s Hiring Fiasco Is Very Telling:

Transparency is accountability. Leaders know this. Opacity is having something to hide, suggestive of shielding a wrongdoing, maybe even taking a hit for someone else.

Perhaps none of the above applies to law school dean Edward Iacobucci, who led the University of Toronto’s faculty council meeting on Wednesday. Perhaps it does. Inscrutability by definition causes uncertainty.

Yet, if he said it once, the beleaguered dean said a variation of “I will not say more on the matter” at least a dozen times during the hour-long meeting. It was attended by some 75 faculty, students, assistant deans and other staff, many of who were clamouring for transparency on the faculty’s contentious decision to cancel the hiring of a prominent scholar. A recording of the meeting was leaked to the Star.

This university has sparked an international uproar that refuses to abate with new letters pouring in from rights groups and public intellectuals demanding it reveal what may have transpired behind closed doors that led to its abrupt decision to shut out Valentina Azarova, despite her being the unanimous choice of its own hiring committee.

The job was for the position of director of the law faculty’s prestigious International Human Rights Program (IHRP). A sitting judge at the Tax Court of Canada and faculty donor is alleged to have expressed concerns over her academic work on Israeli settlements on Palestinian territories, sparking fears of undue interference.

The university has denied it buckled under pressure but not that such pressure was applied. To demands it open an independent investigation, it has remained mum. The Tax Court has said it would not be commenting. Complaints have been made to the Canadian Judicial Council, the body that investigates and disciplines judges when necessary.

The entire faculty advisory board of the university has resigned in protest. A member of that committee resigned from his paying job at the university. ...

Iacobucci, who has less than three months left in his term, only said “academic freedom was not an issue in this hire” and would not clarify further.

What is it that allows someone at the centre of a firestorm to carry on as if it’s business as usual and not respond to repeated concerns of scholars and human rights experts, to not allay legitimate anxieties of their own students? Those affected don’t know what happened and those who know are not telling.

In an institution pushing for transparency, silence is breaking relationships. Silence is confusion. Silence is indifference.

At some point, that non-response is a response.

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