The University Should be Free From Political Influence: My Letter to the Lethbridge Herald – January 10, 2018

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:

  1. already extinct says:

    I’m absolutely in agreement with Mr. Blair.

    The entire university needs an overhaul starting with administration, pulling in nearly 100 million a year in salaries, which in itself is scandalous.

    Any fair unbiased investigation would result in some unemployed obscurants (haha as if that will ever happen) and a return to true “academic freedom, expression, exploration and vetting of ideas and thought, not just those funnelled through a feudalist cadre of very very expensive socialist prescription writers!!

     

  2. biff says:

    smart letter, and thanks for more input al ex. (what is happening in the universe, al ex, that we are suddenly on such a run of agreement 🙂 ) I have asked many times in this forum for even one example that underscores mr hall is racist, a hater of any ethnicity, or where he has committed any act that is unlawful or contrary to the acts that guide his profession. nothing has ever been presented, other than usual purely opinion based entries.
    i feel just by typing or saying the word “jew”, or “jewish”, or israel or zionism, that the red phone goes off at b’nai b’rith, the white house, 24 sussex…. is it wrong to express opposition to the theft – or is it “displacement” – of land and property from people because they are palestinian? is it wrong to express opposition toward a nation acquiring territory as a consequence of war or aggression? we can point out the follies and otherwise slam any religions via free speech, other than judaism (is that the phone?!), although islam, almost ironically, is fast approaching a near similar untouchable status.

    • Tony Pargeter says:

      Yes, that is absolutely ironic about Islam as is the assumption that universities are always “socialist ” when this university in particular donated money to the conservatives?
      Well, contradictions abound everywhere it turns out, which is why conspiracy theorists are simply not helpful to any serious conversation, academic or otherwise, and are marginalized for a reason.
      Also, going rogue seems to appeal to many men as a concept as being the more “libertarian” branch of conservatism.Anti-intellectualism lurks in all of this. The most obvious example is the casual and arrogant dismissal of the work of climate scientists for example, while giving religious belief a complete pass.
      My understanding of this situation is confined to what I have read and viewed, but I thought Mr. Hall denies the Holocaust? If this is true it doesn’t really matter what else he has to say does it?

  3. already extinct says:

    I don’t know what is going on either biff, but I agree with you solidly on this account, and its not only Jews – you could easily add Western Indians to your line of untouchables – no one can question much an Indian did in the past or represents today, alas that’s for another time.

    I like to stick close to the provable often siding with those who challenge orthodoxy – particularly in education, truth and fact.

    Prof Hall encourages questioning establishment, history, media manipulations and to no lesser degree those who set educational curriculum, (who they are very few people know anything – ANYTHING!!)

    Prof Hall has been known to challenge the unchallengeable, and we could use more like him in education to balance the drones being popped out by the thousands occupying far to many seats at the table.

    I view Prof Hall in the same light as people like Carl Sagan, who without his input NASA wouldn’t have had cameras on the first Mars and Venus explorations – after all how could photographic evidence advance scientific research? Would the public need to know about such places ?

    Then there’s Perelman who decades before Sputnik launched condensed Tsiolkovsky’s theories of rockets and space flight into the first tome on the subject. He the free-thinker he was (and insisted he be permitted to be) later also proved to be leagues above all others of the study.

    I believe Prof Hall may eventually also show during his fight that he too, raised the inquisitiveness bar significantly among his students proving that academic freedom inspiring free thought is a good thing whether or not the self chosen controlling the message agree or not.

  4. IMO says:

    Indeed, Mr. Blair and ae, I agree that universities, in general, and the University of Lethbridge, in particular, should be free from political influence.

    However, was it just not six years ago that the University of Lethbridge, under Presdient Mahon’s watch, was found to have donated $15,000.00 to the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, and then charged $1800.00 in processing fees, which it refused to waive, for releasing information pertaining to the matter stating “the information is not in the public interest”?

    By the same token, then, the University of Lethbridge should have refrained from influencing politics via the donation to the Alberta Conservative Party.

  5. Anthony Hall says:

    After more than a year of unrelenting trial-by-media, finally I can explain my side of the story in the months ahead in an academic procedure outlined in the collective agreement between Faculty and Administration. The other side of that story is that the University Board of Governors has dropped its complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. This significant change is readily verifiable provided there was some interest in giving balanced news coverage of this story rather than spinning it to maintain the smear of the trial-by-media initiated by the Lethbridge Herald in June of 2016..

  6. grinandbearit says:

    It is perhaps noteworthy that the B’nai Brith is critical of the Alberta NDP government and hold them responsible for Hall’s reinstatement, not his prosecution. http://www.bnaibrith.ca/alberta_mla_questions_government_on_anthony_hall andhttp://www.bnaibrith.ca/five_times_the_system_failed_the_canadian_jewish_community_in_2017 Their criticism is based on the NDP government’s insistence that the proper process be followed that might lead to Hall’s legitimate termination.

    The NDP government position is to allow the legal procedures and processes outlined in the faculty collective agreement to unfold properly.

    The only thing that I am aware of that both the anti-zionist conspiracy theorists and the pro-zionists agree on is they blame the NDP when they get a chance.

    As to academic freedom, this is a principle, articulated in the faculty collective agreement, that both the University Board of Governors and the faculty are legally bound to defend. Any person in Alberta, including the Premier, is free to state their opinion on Hall’s repulsive and offensive public statements. It is the University that is required to strive to defend Hall’s academic freedom.

    • Andrew Blair says:

      Grinandbearit, you are right that the B’nai Brith is critical of the NDP for refusing to go along with a process outside the faculty collective agreement. So what are getting at? Do you mean to emphasize that the B’nai Brith doesn’t care for due process? In my letter to the Premier, found at https://academicfreedomanthonyhall.ca/ I say

      “If there is a need to separate honest truth-tellers from hateful story-tellers the task is best given over to those who have been professionally educated in the relevant areas of study. In this instance the university administration bowed to external pressure and tried to do an end run around the appropriate procedures laid out in the Faculty Handbook, which are part of the collective agreement. The ruling of Judge G.H. Poelman on September 15, 2017 tripped up this end run, and drove the faculty association, the university administration, and Professor Hall into a compromise agreement. The agreement does not address the failure of the administration to do its duty to protect academic freedom, but at least it brings all the legal wrangling closer to a resolution. This wrangling has been very costly in terms of time, money, and collegial relations in the university community.”

      Do you find this to be a fair characterization of what has happened?

      Could you give us an example or two of which of Hall’s public statements you consider to be repulsive and offensive?

      People are not legally free to defame others, so we all need to be careful in expressing our opinions whether we are the premier or not.

      Aside from defamation, people in power have far more ability to influence public opinion than does the ordinary citizen. Do you not think it possible that the premier’s pronouncements about Hall could make it more socially acceptable to adopt a prejudicial view of him? Are you saying that she is just like any ordinary citizen, and has no special obligation to be careful of what she says?

  7. biff says:

    g&bit, your support of zionism is apparent (dismissing those opposed as “conspriacy theorists”), and your disapproval of mr hall also is clear (referring to his public statements as “repulsive and offensive”). is it possible to share any examples of the latter, or some information that would support the former?

    • grinandbearit says:

      I do not support zionism. Just because I refer to conspiracy theorists as being conspiracy theorists, does not mean i support zionism. I am fully supportive of Hall’s academic freedom, even though i consider many of his public statements, available to all through youtube, to be repugnant and negligent. To continually raise questions about conspiracies THAT HAVE BEEN ANSWERED MANY TIMES, does not mean you are inspiring critical thinking in students, it means you have another agenda.

      • Anthony Hall says:

        Define “conspiracy theory” please grinandbearit. Is it a “conspiracy theory” to call for an end to forced fluoridation of public drinking water? Can’t we agree to disagree on some issues without a resort to cheap shots aimed a delegitimizing the other? And why do you hide your identity? Is all disagreement with the substance of official narratives automatically the stuff of “conspiracy theories”? Whose interests might be served by such a linguistic sleight of hand? Surely slander committed from behind veils of anonymity and disguise is unethical because of the evasion of accountability.

        • grinandbearit says:

          Answers to Hall’s questions: It is a conspiracy theory if it promotes the idea that something is attributable to a covert organisation usually with some malicious intent, usually in conflict with sound reasoning from the vast majority of available evidence. Advocating an end to water fluoridation is therefore not a conspiracy theory (asserting that industry or government is putting F in water to harm people, etc is a conspiracy theory). Yes we can agree to disagree and either of us is free to call a conspiracy theory a conspiracy theory. No, official narratives are often wrong and are proven to be so by reasoning from good evidence. For example, the Nazi government officially denied that they were systemically killing jews, communists, gypsies, etc. We now have good evidence that their official narrative was false. Same goes for the past official narrative of the government and churches about the residential schools in Canada.

          I would say that it is actually you, under your real name, that commits slander and unethical speech.

      • biff says:

        thank you, g&bit, for your reply, and my apologies for reading too much into your phrasing. thank you mr hall for choosing to fight for free speech, at much risk, no less.
        i feel there is often a preference by many to see one side of an issue as fully correct, and the other mere conspiratorial conjecture? to use 9/11 as one example, one may prefer to believe it was terrorists based in afghanistan that committed the act – is it safe to say most see it as clearly black and white fact, particularly given it is the official usa gov’t position and has long been supported by our cdn gov’ts to the fullest extent such that it was the basis for war there – while dismissing any possibility of involvement by others, including saudi arabia and even americans. as such, perhaps this is one of the issues a mind made up would refer to as having already been answered many times, while calling those not comfortable with official truth a conspiracy theorist.

        however, what one may choose to see as the acceptable facts around the 9/11 issue remain unacceptable to others. so it follows that i ask, do not people have a right to keep digging if they feel there my be more information that has not been revealed? indeed, there is plenty the usa gov’t has kept classified, due to the old excuse of security concerns, that may prevent a full story from emerging. to use the jfk assassination as an example (long the folly of conspiracy fools, right?)…one discovers there is ever more to support the wing nut theory that this murder was orchestrated by or with the help of usa gov’t officials.
        perhaps it is a good thing that people keep digging for the fullest amount of information, no? not only is this healthy for free speech, it ensures that we either have the full truth, or something less. to me, to apply the word conspiracy so as to be dismissive of those that are not satisfied with a comfortable or politically correct position on an issue is to undermine free speech. moreover, is not at all naive to believe something because it is the official position of a higher authority, such as a religious body or a gov’t.? surely there is nothing wrong about seeking truth by beginning with an hypothesis.

        • grinandbearit says:

          I am not so naive as to think that most issues are black and white. All conclusions based upon inference are, of necessity, tentative ones. We look at the available evidence, consider such evidence skeptically and then come to some conclusion. It could be agnosticism about the matter (it may be this, or it may be that, the evidence is inconclusive). On the other hand, often evidence is overwhelming, in which case we may be very sure that something is, in fact, likely to be true. Examples include current causes of climate change, organisms evolved pretty much as described by evolutionary theory, 9/11 was an act orchestrated by a conspiracy involving Al Qaeda, and water fluoridation works to protect teeth.

          Continuing to be skeptical of conclusions is often warranted and sometimes it is not. For example, it is reasonable to continue to evaluate the efficacy of water fluoridation, especially to establish the optimal concentration in water, simply because we do not know some of the answers. On the other hand, to be skeptical that the holocaust occurred or that residential schools were systematically wrecking aboriginal communities, is not reasonable given what has already been learned about those topics. If faculty members are questioning official narratives and doing so in a competent manner with care to reason soundly about the evidence then they should be protected by academic freedom. In contrast, what are we to think of someone who has committed to advance the protection of some industry or institution, unreasonably and incompetently disparaging solid evidence using public resources?

          • biff says:

            i see much in your reply, g&bit; as always, you choose to present with depth. i feel there remains an issue as to who gets to be the final arbiter of what evidence gets to be used, seen, or covered over. maybe more simply: how do we ever know we have all the information on anything? your ideas, or those of myself and others for that matter, of what might be dismissed into the realm of conspiracy theory – is nonsense a synonym? – does not mean they are not potentially true: how can one ever be certain that there is not more evidence yet to be discovered/uncovered that will alter a present understanding? placing a gag order on, or trying to undermine or discredit any pursuit that seeks more information, or wishes to examine varying perspectives – ie. dismissing those still not satisfied with a prevailing belief as conspiracy theorists or haters or fools (whatever the negative label) – undermines free speech as well as truth.

            in fact, we should feel satisfied the continuous digging – free speech – is what either further supports, or undermines, what we think we know to be truth at a given point in time. there are so many examples of things we “knew” to be truths, only to learn otherwise. did not most of some society at one point in time know that the earth was flat; that there were witches in salem, and in europe, for that matter; that it is one’s right to own slaves; that a priest could not possibly ever sexually abuse a child? ironic then, that there are many instances where what was once absolute truth has often been uncovered…to be a conspiracy.

            perhaps we are better served by keeping an open mind enough so as to allow all “truths” to be explored without fail, regardless of our present sensibilities. truth cannot be found in a book forever locked shut.

            maybe the only exceptions to this would be the worlds of gov’t, big pharm, capitalist economics and particularly banking, heck, the multinat’l at large. there, it would be folly to try and discover conspiracy, for, although in not as many words, the mainstream media tells me so.

            • grinandbearit says:

              Biff: There is no final arbiter, it is just up to us. At times we have to make a call, eg. Trump is a very stable genius or a dangerous, incompetent, narcissist loon; Hall is a freedom fighter defending critical thinking, or a largely incompetent advocate for indefensible conspiracy theories. Make a call.

              • biff says:

                insofar as to the context of freedom of speech, now we are back at square 1. we each make a call on things – some feel they are irrefutably correct, and others even further successfully lobby for laws that establish official and legally binding truths, which as well prevent any further inquiry on the matter. those that are fully bought into prevailing or politically or legally endorsed truths threaten legal action, and otherwise refer to those that find there may be more to a story as conspiracy theorists, haters, fools or unfit. to question and to seek more information are integral elements of free speech. in the case of mr hall, i simply ask where he crossed the line of exercising his right to free speech = is there one example that underscores mr hall is racist, a hater of any ethnicity, or where he has committed any act that is unlawful or contrary to the acts that guide his profession? surely one of those so certain of their truth will support it with evidence.

                • grinandbearit says:

                  I have been talking about academic freedom, a principle that protects a faculty member’s right to pursue inquiries, competently conducted, no matter where the evidence leads, no matter how unpopular the conclusions. I am not talking about free speech, something protected by a different set of legislation. In many ways the conversation about free speech at universities is a different matter. see for example https://www.aaup.org/sites/default/files/Scott_0.pdf

                  I also will not link to Hall’s statements on zionist plots etc, nor conduct a trial in the comments while his legitimate procedure appears to be going on. He is able to express his views on the holocaust, israel, zionism, false flag attacks, well enough. I do have the right to express my view that they are offensive and repulsive.

                  • Tony Pargeter says:

                    Spot on grinandbearit, whoever you are.
                    Utterly reasonable, thoughtful, objective, and therefore a pleasure to read.
                    Most of us respect the value of critical thinking and are open to new information on principle, but when there is a virtual tsunami of it, as there is, it makes more sense to apply Occam’s razor doesn’t it?
                    I think we can all agree that many men want to rule the world, and having a “global” theory certainly ticks all the right boxes in that regard.
                    Another useful image and concept to consider in this context is the word “TRUTH” written on a piece of paper with the circle of a hand-held magnifying glass drawn over the centre, which enlarges the letters “RUT.”

                  • Andrew Blair says:

                    Grinandbearit, okay, so don’t link to Hall’s views, but please tell us what the views are that you find so offensive and repulsive.

          • Andrew Blair says:

            Grinandbearit, regarding 9/11 you think that the evidence is overwhelming that it was an act orchestrated by a conspiracy involving Al Qaeda. It is true that there are all kinds of arguments for this view, but the question is what conclusion does ALL the available evidence, on balance, point to. David Ray Griffin has done a masterful job of collating the evidence in 11 or so books. He thinks it points to a different conspiracy. Of course he might be wrong, but can you tell me of any similarly comprehensive treatment that favours the official narrative? It’s not a rhetorical question. I am looking for such a treatment.

  8. grinandbearit says:

    There is a truly impressive body of work explaining how 9/11 took place and that is responsive to each of the holes that conspiracy theorist have tried to poke in the official narrative. Too often people only read material in their own belief’s echo chamber, ignoring contradictory evidence, imagining that such evidence has been already refuted. I have include a few links, the first two have points and counterpoints from two positions to illustrate the relative strengths of the evidence and arguments.

    https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/911-conspiracy-debate-part-i/
    http://911truthnews.com/critique-of-david-ray-griffins-fake-calls-theory/
    http://jod911.com/drg_nist_review_2_1.pdf

  9. already extinct says:

    I don’t know what this has to do with Universities and academic freedom, my apologies Prof Hall and Andrew Blair, but, a passenger jet liner did not disappear nose to tail in that tiny hole in the Pentagon, outlying buildings that day did not blow themselves up, and the technology to talk to someone on the ground from the seat of an airplane did not exist on any plane involved Sept 11.

    “Counterpoints” “evidence” and “arguments” hahahah.
    Writer professional and hobbyist still feast on Kennedys bones. Have at it!

    • grinandbearit says:

      This old objection about no passenger plane having crashed into the Pentagon has been dealt with over and over and over again. It is based on a simple misunderstanding of the size of the hole after collapse of the wall supports and the fact that objects crashing through walls do not leave cartoon cutouts. For example http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/a5659/debunking-911-myths-pentagon/

      As soon as one of these myths is refuted, then another and another is trotted out and pretty soon the first one is presented again and somewhere along the line ad hominem arguments are presented that i must be an agent of zionism or the US govt. Time to stop here, if there are any serious people reading this list, each and every one of the 9/11 truther myths has been refuted OVER and OVER again.

      • Andrew Blair says:

        Grinandbearit, why are you so impatient with those who are skeptical of the conventional 9/11 narrative? May I suggest that you contact Kevin Barrett and see if he will interview you on his radio show. I’ll try to make this happen if you like. Write me at Andrew.Gordon.Blair@gmail.com.

        • grinandbearit says:

          Because they do not deal with the refutations of their claims.

          I would like to think that Kevin Barrett is a good person and he did not receive proper protection from his academic colleagues (Hall is much luckier apparently), but i have no interest at all in lending my participation to his efforts.

  10. already extinct says:

    I’m grinning and bearing it – just bear ly.

    Let’s agree that you stick with cherry picked bafflegab contaminating the vast outer world of the internet, I’ll stick with consensus of the most knowledgeable experts from aviation and demolition in the world weighing in on what was possible and what they think occurred, or was possible.

    Like I said Kennedys bones are still being picked over – the next round or 350 page opinion pieces to arrive late next November in time for Christmas 2018. Stay warm!

    • grinandbearit says:

      Sorry to hear that your bubble tells you that the consensus of experts supports you when that is clearly not the case. Why don’t you tell me what is wrong with the analysis of the plane crashing into the Pentagon contained in popular mechanic without the ad hominem nonsense. I bet you cannot.

  11. biff says:

    perhaps i will save us all precious time so we can move on. history will back up what i am about to write, so please do not try and refute this: never, ever, has a gov’t elected by the people – DEMOCRACY and gently waving flags – never, ever has one been dishonest with its beloved electorate. it is always about putting the lovely, intelligent masses first, for who else votes gov’ts in. gov’t serves the trusting masses, and knows it is the masses that butter their bread. sure, gov’t types could make a few more bucks serving the multinational – arms companies and dealers, big pharm, banks, mining…but they know these types only have a few votes – the honest and hardworking masses hold the real voting power. so, no elected gov’t would ever lie or cheat its good people. if an elected gov;t ever held back or fudged information, it would only have happened rarely, and only so as to protect the masses from getting scared or stressed and the like, or so as not to give away any secrets that could compromise our security. therefore, like the official jkf narrative, and like the official reason for the usa to invade iraq (which one? whatever is most recent, probably), and like the too big to fail narratives, the official gov’t endorsed 9/11 narrative is beyond reproach. if it comes from gov’t it is honest because politicians are honest; that is why we vote for them. what kind of idiot would vote for a liar? anyway, gov’ts are too big to lie. but, if you do not believe it was all al qaida, the only other smart money would say 9/11 had to do with lee harvey oswald.
    (al ex, you refer to the “plane” that hit the pentagon lol i like the poor old skyscraper that imploded like the 2 towers, you know, the one that was not hit by a plane but implode the same way as the 2 towers.)

    • grinandbearit says:

      As i have noted above governments lie with regularity, “official narratives” are often refuted by subsequent solid reasoning from new evidence. Just because a government says it, it is neither true NOR false. I am sure if i looked carefully i could find something that even the Trump White House has been right about.

      Here is a solid report about the other building that has your shorts in a knot.
      http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/design/a3524/4278874/

      • biff says:

        great story: blame it on office furniture that caught fire from whatever flew from one or both of the towers through open office windows – or, through closed office windows? unreal. it about concludes with: ‘the failure of structural “connections that were designed to resist gravity loads, but not thermally induced lateral loads.” According to Sunder: “For the first time we have shown that fire can induce a progressive collapse.” ‘ i guess the takeaway is that now we will not need explosives to bring down buildings, just a match and some office furniture.

        • grinandbearit says:

          Well that is what i thought, you actually cannot read the material because it conflicts with your conspiracy narrative. The collapses of the other towers caused structural damage and insertion of flaming material. The fires burned unabated, with no fire dampening sprinkler systems since they had been destroyed by the collapse of WTC 1, for 7 hours on 10 floors, ultimately fatally adding to the structural damage incurred at the time of the collapses.
          To equate this with a match and furniture is of course as ridiculous as the rest of this conspiracy stuff.

    • already extinct says:

      biff – I have nothing to say – you are absolutely right – I’ll clip it for the file!

      ……but I’ll keep it distant from the one I keep on those who in the land of fairy tales in which they live – believe a fully loaded 100 ton jetliner was capable of with an amateur pilot at the controls

      Flight trainer, Robin Hordon in concert with every other accredited expert weighing in on this said that the maneuver with a seasoned pilot at the controls of a 757-200 stood a one in 20 chance of hitting the pentagon.

      Not to mention that an object 38m wide, 14m tall, with two massive titanium steel engines hanging from wings loaded with enough aviation fuel to blow a city block into another country went through a fortress wall leaving a hole less than 25 feet in diameter – nothing from the airplane on the lawn – and not one of the 86 cameras guarding the most secure building in the world caught any of it on tape.
      .
      biff – grin all – I now bow out of the contest, and back to brush up on “my” other conspiracy theories!

  12. grinandbearit says:

    I am waiting for someone to tell me why i should discount the hundreds (thousands) of eyewitnesses who saw a large passenger plane banking low and crashing into the Pentagon.

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