This is an abridged version of an open letter to Dr. Mahon, President of the University of Lethbridge.
The university’s vision statement, Destination 2020, recognizes the value to the community of producing students capable of critical thinking. It is difficult to reconcile this with the suspension of Professor Anthony Hall.
The vision statement also proclaims “We believe in academic freedom”, and “We practice procedural fairness and act in accordance with all applicable codes of professional and ethical practice and conduct.”
Some people think that Hall is anti-Semitic, and thus in violation of Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act. Having reviewed a great deal of his online activities, it has become clear to me that this is a mistaken interpretation of his views, and does not provide adequate grounds for suspension.
I imagine that the decision to suspend Professor Hall was a difficult one and I, for one, am not inclined to blame you if in hindsight it appears that a mistake was made.
One of the factors in the decision is likely related to the fact that Professor Hall has called for a serious investigation of the official story of 9/11. This is an honest, albeit impolitic, position. Hall stands in a long line of university professors who were dismissed for taking impolitic positions on issues of importance.
In dismissing Professor Hall you have not only disparaged him personally for discussing embarrassing questions but surely you have put a chill into other professors who might otherwise be willing to ask such questions. Moreover, it needs to be asked: What message about expressing controversial views has been transmitted to students? The university is the last place to be silencing dissidents.
The popularity of a belief is not an indicator of its truth. Were it not for academics willing to risk ridicule and vilification we would all still be believing that the sun revolves around the earth, that meteorites do not exist because rocks cannot fall out of the sky, and that infectious diseases are caused by miasma instead of microbes.
It is too late now to undo the suspension that has already been put into effect, but it is not too late to reinstate Professor Hall for the term beginning in September 2017. Why not remedy this? Acknowledge the mistake and reaffirm the value of academic freedom.
If remedy is not possible then the public deserves an explanation.