On November 19, 2015, CAUT released the report of a thorough investigation into Brock University’s handling of complaints under Brock’s Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy (RWLEP). The report was prepared by a CAUT Ad Hoc Investigatory Committee, which was established to examine events related to protests by several faculty and teaching assistants regarding Brock’s involvement in the Solidarity Experiences Abroad (SEA) program. The faculty’s and students’ objections to the SEA included its religious and political content, as well as their belief that Brock’s endorsement of the religiously-based SEA program was inconsistent with the University’s secular nature. The Roman Catholic Chaplain and acting Chaplain at the University filed complaints of alleged bullying and harassing behaviour against the protesting faculty and teaching assistants.
The report concludes that the University’s investigation of these complaints “not only failed to comply with the principles of natural justice, but also infringed the academic freedom and free speech rights of the respondents”. Further, the report identifies a number of serious problems associated with the respectful workplace policies that are now commonly found in universities. “The goal of respectful workplace policies is to regulate expression,” the report states. “As such, they risk undercutting the principles of academic freedom and free expression…. If there are to be such respectful workplace policies, then they must put respect for academic freedom and freedom of expression front and centre.” Other aspects of the report deal with the University’s failure to follow appropriate process in its investigation of the complaints, the University’s obligation to provide legal assistance to faculty who are respondents in matters before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and the inappropriateness of the “Concordat” between Brock University and the Catholic Dioceses of St. Catharines. The report concludes that it was through this Concordat that the SEA program gained recognition as a Brock program.
CAUT has offered to meet with BUFA and the University Administration to discuss the report’s findings and recommendations, emphasizing that “it is in everyone’s interest for these matters to be resolved as quickly as possible”. BUFA has already indicated its willingness to engage in such discussions with the Administration and CAUT.
The members of the investigatory committee were Dr. John A. Baker, Chair (Chair; University of Calgary), Dr. Mark Gabbert (University of Manitoba), and Dr. Penni Stewart (York University). A copy of the full report is available at: https://bufa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/CAUTahicReport.brock2015.11.pdf
Linda Rose-Krasnor, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
President, Brock University Faculty Association
Phone: 905-688-5550, ext. 3870