University teachers group launches inquiry into case of outspoken Acadia prof
By The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – The Canadian Association of University Teachers is launching an inquiry into the case of an outspoken East Coast professor under investigation following complaints over his polarizing views.
The association says it has appointed a committee to review how Nova Scotia’s Acadia University is handling grievances against Rick Mehta to determine whether his academic freedom has been breached or threatened, and make any appropriate recommendations.
“Professor Mehta’s case raises important questions about the scope of academic freedom in teaching and the exercise of extramural speech by professors,” David Robinson, executive director of the association, said in a statement. “These issues are of broad significance to all academics in Canada.”
The committee members are York University associate professor Penni Stewart and Francesca Holyoke, the head of archives and special collections at the University of New Brunswick.
Mehta, a psychology professor and free speech advocate, has weighed in on a range of controversial issues including decolonization, immigration and gender politics.
He shares his contentious views – and defends the rights of others to do so – both on social media and in the classroom.
Mehta’s supporters say his voice is an antidote to political correctness run amok, and that while his views may be unpopular to some they do not constitute harassment.
But his critics say he attacks marginalized people and perpetuates harmful stereotypes, and that he’s determined to be a provocateur even if it hurts students.
The situation has exposed the challenge facing universities of balancing the open exchange of ideas with the responsibility of keeping students safe and supported.
The university in Wolfville, N.S., launched a formal investigation after it received complaints from students, faculty and others with concerns about opinions he appeared to be advancing or supporting.
Acadia has retained Wayne MacKay, professor emeritus at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, to investigate and provide a report to the university.