The following letter was published in the Lethbridge Herald on January 10, 2018, and may be accessed on the Herald site here.
In the Jan. 4 edition of the Lethbridge Herald, president Mike Mahon of the University of Lethbridge is quoted as saying that the university is committed to academic freedom. This is good to hear.
Academic freedom has many facets. One of the most important of these is keeping the university free from the influence of those holding high political office.
As it turns out there has been a serious threat to academic freedom emanating from the office of Premier Notley.
Professor Anthony Hall was reinstated as of Nov. 23 in accord with an agreement among Dr. Hall, the Faculty Association and the Board of Governors. The agreement includes an investigation of Dr. Hall to be conducted by a committee of three. As of Jan. 4, the committee has not even been appointed, much less done its work.
Despite that, on the day following the reinstatement, Premier Notley was quoted in a press release put out by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs as saying, “There is no question that the views of this individual are repulsive, offensive and not reflective of Alberta.” In response to emails she received on the case she replied that “We absolutely do not believe he should be teaching students.”
How did Premier Notley acquire her impressions of Dr. Hall? How deeply did she look into what his views are?
It is utterly inappropriate for the premier to be interfering in the internal affairs of the university. How can the public expect the committee of investigation to produce a fair and impartial evaluation when the premier has made such pronouncements?
President Mahon should repudiate the interference of the premier. How can he speak of building an “academic community that feels the protection of academic freedom” if he does not do this? Can faculty really feel protected if an outside lobby group can defame a professor, and have the result be suspension without due process or warning? And then do nothing if those in high political office pile on?
Comments written at the Lethbridge Herald site are as follows: