On Campus

Former Acadia dean sues over dismissal

Claims university acted in bad faith

A former acting dean at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., who was fired two weeks after being cleared in a sexual assault investigation, is suing the university for unjust dismissal. Colin Wightman was hired away from Minnesota State University to be the director of Acadia’s school of computer science, starting work in July 2006.

In a statement of claim filed Monday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Wightman said the job also involved a tenured position as a full professor, and that he was appointed acting dean of science in May 2007.

The documents say that in April 2007, he engaged in a “consensual one-time fantasy sex encounter” with a young woman, and that the encounter “involved some elements of bondage.”

Wightman said in the documents that there was no connection between the woman and Acadia University.

RCMP contacted him on June 19 to say that he was the subject of a criminal investigation of sexual assault, but no charges were laid and he was advised of that in writing from the force two months later, he said.

The day after the RCMP contacted him at the start of the investigation, Wightman continued, he apprised the university administration of the situation and suggested he be placed on leave, which the university did. He also started mental health counselling.

Wightman said he gave the university a copy of the letter from RCMP stating that no charges would be laid, but in early September the university fired him.

He claims in the documents that Acadia incorrectly took the position that he was not protected under the collective agreement as a tenured professor.

Wightman also alleges that the university acted in bad faith in the manner of dismissal by alleging that he had used his university computer during working hours to engage in sexual conversations in chat rooms, without providing details of the alleged use so that he could respond.

He claims that the university labelled his sexual activity as “aberrant behaviour” and took the position that the conduct that led to the police investigation was “incompatible with the purpose, principles and operative imperatives” of Acadia.

But he said his actions were of a private and personal nature, and there was no public disclosure of the police investigation or the allegation.

RCMP say the complaint they received came from a third party, but wouldn’t specify further details.

Acadia spokesman Scott Roberts wouldn’t comment on whether the university had contacted police.

He said the university knew about the court action.

“We’re aware of it and obviously we will respond in court, but we feel we acted appropriately and responsibly in this case,” Roberts said.

Wightman is seeking general, aggravated, special and punitive damages.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The Canadian Press