Academic freedom at the University of Toronto

The University of Toronto is under censure by the Canadian Association of University Teachers for misconduct by the former Dean of Law (and other administrators) in blocking the appointment of Valentina Azarova to the Directorship of its International Human Rights Programme.

I support the censure.

Among many other works, Azarova published peer-reviewed research on human rights and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Lands. She was the unanimous choice of the faculty search committee. But after having been warned by wealthy alumnus (and sitting federal judge) David Spiro, that his friends at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs would not welcome Azarova’s appointment, then-Dean Edward Iacobucci blocked it.

Law faculty resigned from committees and university posts. Students protested. A complaint against David Spiro was brought (by me and others) to the Canadian Judicial Council. (The Council has now reprimanded Spiro, but let him retain his job.)

As I was the first to complain about the judicial misconduct, I have been asked by the press and others for statements. I hope to return to how we are to judge the judges in another post. (The Canadian Judicial Council has been criticized for decades for its Star Chamber-like ‘procedures’.)

But for now, I want to address my colleagues and friends at the University of Toronto, especially those in my subfield (who have all remained publicly silent on this scandal). You are not paying the costs. But your students are: in lost opportunities and evaporating internships as NGOs, community groups, and even law firms refuse to partner with you while you are under censure. You have the power to bring this to end.