An Acadia University Professor, Rick Mehta, who was fired last year has now lost a $50,000 settlement. An arbitrator ruled he had repeatedly breached an agreement with the University in a series of tweets.
CBC has the story of the arbitration, but the real story is why he was fired in the first place. At that time, the Wolfville, N.S., university alleged he harassed and intimidated colleagues and students, breached privacy and failed to teach required course material.
Mehta said, in response, the university used its harassment and discrimination policies to suppress his dissent against the school’s “social justice” agenda. He said:
“By definition, if we’re committing to one point of view then the other alternatives can’t even be discussed, much less debated.”
Surprisingly, that point seems to be supported by Vice-President of Academic Heather Hemming, in her letter detailing the reasons Mehta was fired. She said he was too interested in free speech:
“You seem to be under the impression that your rights of ‘free speech’ and academic freedom trump all other obligations to the university.”
Specifically she said, “Indigenous peoples, racialized minorities, women, sexual identity and gender expression, immigrants and multiculturalism are all targets.”
This sentence, like the other one, supports Mehta’s argument the University didn’t like a professor criticizing its “social justice” agenda.
Here at Fair Argument, we see a worrying similarity between this and the Duchesne case at the University of New Brunswick. The University establishes a broad policy on some issue and then prohibits any discussion about it as being insubordinate, inappropriate or offensive.
Since the Duchesne case still hasn’t been settled, we hope UNB won’t follow Acadia’s example. Universities are supposed to be places where public issues are discussed, not places where such discussion is prohibited.
For more on the Rick Mehta case, here’s an interview he gave to the Athenaeum, the Acadia student newspaper.