Professor Ian Lee
Sprott School of Business
Dear Professor Lee,
More than three years ago, you wrote an article in the Ottawa Citizen defending Carleton University President Roseann Runte’s decision to terminate Professor Hassan Diab’s employment in the very middle of a class he was teaching.
Professor Diab, of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology (please note the correct name), had been accused by the French government of involvement in a horrific synagogue bombing in Paris in 1980. As it has turned out since, he has never been formally charged with this crime, and the evidence against him in any case proved so tenuous that the judge who reluctantly ordered his extradition stated that Diab would never be found guilty in a Canadian court on the strength of it.
Nevertheless, opposition to his firing led to some frankly surprising responses, including a half-unhinged one from J. Andrew Potter, now the managing editor of the Citizen, who accused the Department of being anti-Semitic, absurdly suggested that Professor Diab had only been hired in the first place as a deliberate slur against Jews, and mused that “perhaps [Peter Gose, Chair of the Department] believes that Muslim students might actually find it congenial to be taught by an accused terrorist and mass murder [sic].”
The other one was yours. I disagreed with your premises and assumptions, but at least it was relatively moderate in tone.
Potter is an ex-academic. But you remain an active member of the Carleton faculty. So it is to you that I wish to put two questions, after reading your article in the Citizen this morning, defending, once again, the indefensible: in this case, a genuine threat to academic freedom at the university at which you teach.
Today you continue to insist that those pursuing the rights of Palestinians are responsible for all manner of evils on campus. You talk about “disruption” by supporters of the Palestinian case, completely ignoring the administrative stonewalling of every attempt to make their point more civilly. You talk about “bullying,” without bothering to note the President’s threats to students and her banning pro-Palestinian material from the campus.
You then go on to defend a grossly tendentious “report” whose major methodological flaws have been meticulously examined and analyzed here. Rather surprisingly for an academic, you don’t engage with a single criticism of the report.
Instead, you refer to the prestige of the committee chair who signed it (a classic example of argumentum ad verecundiam), and then go on a personal attack against Professor Gose. You conclude that the report and its recommendations will actually enhance academic freedom: an “Orwellian” observation indeed, to use your own term.
And this brings me to my two questions. The first, Professor Lee, is this: Do you believe that the concerns for freedom and respect on the part of students and faculty other than Jewish students and faculty are equally valid, and should be addressed with equal vigour?
And my second, in two parts: As a serious academic yourself, do you defend the profoundly flawed methodology of the report with Appendices issued by the Commission on Inter-Cultural, Inter-Religious and Inter-Racial Relations on Campus? Would you accept this kind of work from your own students?
As an alumnus, I continue to be concerned about allegedly falling academic standards at my alma mater. In this spirit of concern, while I don’t expect a response, I would certainly welcome your reassurances.
MA 1970, MA 2010
UPDATE: President Runte, with her usual exasperating arrogance, has stated that she will not respond to the devastating critique of the “report” signed by over 800 faculty, students and alumni (full disclosure: including myself). Neither will the committee she has put to work studying the “report.”
The Graduate Students’ Association, meanwhile, has declined to sign the critique, circulated in the form of an open letter, but will issue a critical letter of its own. Note that one prominent commenter at the link is Emile Scheffel, who is no virgin.
UPPERDATE: (November 29) The GSA letter.