Controversial prof wins battle with York U
But York only required to pay $2,500 of $10-million sought for damages
Erin Millar | Nov 19, 2007 |
A controversial professor has partially won a battle in an on-going dispute with York University. The university must award professor David Noble $2,500 in damages for violating his academic freedom, which is only a fraction of the $10-million he was seeking.
The dispute arose when Noble alleged that the York Foundation, York president Lorna Marsden, and a number of Jewish lobby groups conspired to ruin his reputation after he distributed a pamphlet to a number of students in 2004. The pamphlet criticized the university for being biased due to pro-Israel influences and listed individual board members' affiliations with the Jewish community.
In response to Noble handing the document out at two classes and a student event, the Canadian Jewish Congress Ontario Region(CJCONT)and the United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto condemned Noble's comments, calling them "appalling." CJCONT chair Joel Richler was quoted as saying, "This is anti-Semitism, vaguely disguised as anti-Israel rhetoric."
That release was followed, half an hour later, by one from York University that condemned the literature as “highly offensive” and referred to “bigotry and racism,” but did not directly name Noble.
The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star published stories in the following days. Noble, who is Jewish, says that damaged his reputation, discriminated against him, and violated his academic freedom. "In an effort to suppress my inquiries, publicly destroy my reputation, and isolate me from my peers, the defendants launched the most vile kind of personal attack — attempting to stigmatize a Jewish man as an anti-Semite — because I dared examine and expose their pernicious activities," Noble said.
Noble then filed the $10-million grievance as well as a $25-million defamation lawsuit.
While the labour arbitrator Russell Goodfellow ordered the university to pay $2,500 in damages, he did not require York to apologize to Noble.
“Indeed, it may be said that York failed to extend Professor Noble even the most basic of courtesies that might reasonably be expected to be enjoyed by a faculty member,” the ruling states. “The University publicly vilified his work without first contacting him or YUFA to advise of its concerns, to investigate the matter, or to indicate what it was contemplating.”
The ruling states that neither York nor Noble “behaved as they should.” Goodfellow concluded that York had indeed violated Noble’s academic freedom, but dismissed his defamation claim because Noble couldn’t demonstrate financial loss as a result of the defamation.
Nonetheless, Noble told the Toronto Star that the win was “a major victory for academic freedom.” Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, agreed, calling the decision a landmark win.