CAUT to Appoint Committee of Inquiry in Thorpe Case

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has announced that it will form a Committee of Inquiry to investigate the treatment of Prof. Michael Thorpe, says George De Benedetti, President of the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA).

“There is still much concern on campus about the treatment of Professor Thorpe, so we are pleased that the CAUT will investigate this case,” De Benedetti says.

Professor Thorpe, who retired from Mount Allison in 1997 after 23 years, was denied a teaching position in the university’s Department of Continuing Education by the Administration this past winter. In addition, despite Senate recommendation, the Administration and Board of Regents took the unusual step of refusing to grant Professor Thorpe the honourary title of Professor Emeritus.

Professor Thorpe has attributed this administration’s opposition to his very public criticisms of the Newbould administration. Eighty past and current members of the university faculty signed a petition this past spring in support of Professor Thorpe.

The Committee of Inquiry is normally appointed to investigate suspected cases of the violation of academic freedom, De Benedetti says. A number of individuals will be appointed by CAUT and will visit the campus to investigate the treatment of Professor Thorpe.

In correspondence to MAFA, CAUT Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee Chair Dr. Patrick O’Neill outlines a number of concerns that the Committee will investigate. These include inquiring into the process through which retired faculty members teach occasional courses; the process of conferring Emeritus status at Mount Allison; the establishment and use of personnel files, including secret files, and the question of whether Professor Thorpe was treated according to the principles of due process and natural justice.

“This whole series of events illustrates the lack of civility at Mount Allison, which was documented by Dr. Fred Wilson of the University of Toronto in 1997,” says De Benedetti.

The CAUT has been criticized for probable bias by the Mount Allison administration, but this concern does not trouble Dr. O’Neill of the CAUT. “One thing that can obviously be said is that we did everything we could to get the University Administration to agree to a jointly appointed committee, but they refused. That forces us to go it alone,” O’Neill says. “We are still hopeful to have the cooperation of the Mount Allison Administration,” De Benedetti says. The composition of the committee and its arrival in Sackville will be announced in the new year by CAUT.

For more information contact:

Prof. George De Benedetti, President
Mount Allison Faculty Association Strike Headquarters
47 Main Street, Sackville NB
(506) 536-2968 (strike headquarters)
(506) 536-2396 (Home)
FAX (506) 536-0200
[email protected]