EXAMINING ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICE IN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS

 

Letter from Robinson to Dean Nicol:



October 2, 2007

Dr. Chris Nicol, Dean
Arts & Science
The University of Lethbridge

Dear Dean Nicol:

Your letter of September 21 is disappointing. Allow me to point out the consequences of what you have demanded. You will then understand, I trust, why I cannot comply.

If I were to submit to your demands or bow to your implied threats, I would be complicit in fostering an environment at the University of Lethbridge in which the administration could, at will, abuse students and faculty and then silence any effort on the part of the abused to speak about the matter. Students and faculty members of the University of Lethbridge do not enter into a conspiracy of silence when they become members of this institution, bound forever never to speak of or to expose abuse in the university.   

Your references to FOIP and the Faculty Handbook are curious and puzzling. In regard to FOIP, FOIP was never intended to protect abusive behaviour by public institutions; rather, it was intended to protect the individual from such abuse. In regard to the Handbook, both President Cade and Board Chair Turner have insisted that the issue was not a Faculty Handbook matter and that I had no rights under the Handbook, and the Faculty Association recently has signed an agreement along these lines. To apply the Handbook in disciplinary action against me in this matter is, therefore, improper. Further, since the initial matter involved my concern about actions by your office, your attempt now to silence me seems to place you in a clear conflict of interest. Finally, the articles in the Handbook that you have brought to my attention (11.02.5 and 11.03) are either supportive of my case or irrelevant to the case. Therefore, in that I have done nothing illegal or unethical in this matter, I cannot and I will not accommodate you in your demands.

(1) I will not remove the website. It is a private website, and it contains no privileged information. It consists of material I have written or material addressed to me personally. The material is crucial in exposing abusive behaviour that I have encountered first-hand at the University of Lethbridge. Faculty and students at the University of Lethbridge must not be silenced in the way that you are demanding. Such forced silence would reflect the classic scenario of abuse, where the abused are threatened with further harm if they speak of the initial abuse. We can’t let this happen here.

(2) I will not retract my open letter to President Cade and Board Chair Turner, nor will I apologize for that letter. I retain my right, as you do, to certain basic freedoms as an academic and as a Canadian. Further, I brought the issue to the attention of the Meliorist because the Meliorist has an audience that has a rightful interest in the matters that I am addressing. I hope we are not headed in the direction of a censorship of the press, with administration deciding—in their own interests—what matters can be addressed to our student newspaper and what matters cannot be.

(3) I will not give you my commitment that I will perform no “such acts or similar acts in the future,” as you have demanded. In fact, quite the opposite: I will give you my commitment that I will expose abusive behaviour wherever I find it and by whatever reasonable means is necessary. Surely we are all expected to do that.

I will do this much, however. If you can show me that I have made a false statement in any of the material that I have posted, I will immediately remove such material and apologize for having posted it.

I ask you to acquaint yourself fully with the facts of the matter. Once you do, I would hope that you will not only fully retract your highly inappropriate letter to me, you will join me in exposing this unacceptable state of affairs in the university. As your letter now stands, it illustrates so well what I have been maintaining for some time—the University of Lethbridge is fast becoming a banana republic. All of us who are committed to this institution must resist that.

Sincerely,

[original signed]

Tom Robinson, Ph.D.
Professor
The University of Lethbridge






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