The Academic Corporation: Justice, Freedom, and the University

Description

162 pages
$29.95
ISBN 0-920057-96-9
DDC 378'

Publisher

Year

1987

Contributor

Reviewed by Edward L. Edmonds

Edward L. Edmonds is a professor of education at the University of
Prince Edward Island and an honorary chief of the Lennox Island
Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island.

Review

This book describes the unsuccessful pursuit over four years of a grievance by a Canadian junior academic in a Canadian university. Initially informed by an Appointments Committee that he was a “preferred candidate,” he was later rejected at the departmental level in favour of another candidate, equally well qualified, it would seem, and possibly better in one regard, but not a Canadian. The grievance claim was that he had been unjustly discriminated against because of, among other things, his political beliefs and activities.

This book is frankly adversarial in stance, as the cover design portrays. The authors passionately believe injustice was done and seen to be done. Every shred of evidence, written or hearsay, is quoted in support of their case. The concluding chapter is an attack upon just about everyone: the university senate, that traditional guardian of academic freedoms, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the university’s own Association, the Quebec Human Rights Commission — even university dons everywhere do not escape censure — they are a timid lot, it seems (quite a large generalization, in the absence of substantial research evidence).

The authors write in an eminently readable style, if blemished on occasion by intemperate sarcasm. The real value of the book will be in readers’ own reaction to the evidence adduced. Thus, in the matter of confidentiality, two extremes surface. One is the distribution of signed statements to rejected candidates of how individual members of interviewing committees voted and why. The other extreme (and certainly the safest!) is the secrecy of the ballot-box. Somewhere between is the vexed question of proxy votes.

Then again, should an investigating committee ever ask to see the credentials of a successful candidate vis-a-vis a rejected one? Again, what should be the degree of legitimate political activity outside a university? Should one, for example, cancel classes rather than cross a picket line? The issue of Canadianization is a thorny one. Should a Committee go for the best-qualified candidate, or simply the best Canadian one?

Finally, there is “writ large” in this book the confrontation between two conflicting philosophies. The university in question upheld the collegial principle (be it added, with great dignity and composure) as being closest to the Western interpretation of a democratic system. The authors reject this, defining it in Marxist terms as nothing more than a corporate ideology.

On all these important issues, readers will best disregard the polemic and make their own judgements, “all passion spent.” The book is well worth reading, if only on this account.

Citation

Fenichel, Allen, and David Mandel, “The Academic Corporation: Justice, Freedom, and the University,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 25, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/34788.