With last week’s revelation that the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers filed allegations of harassment against dean of law Jeremy Levitt on behalf of faculty members, it is evident that things have yet to slow down in the law school crisis.
Last Tuesday, the CBC revealed that unproven allegations of harassment against the dean have been made by the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers on behalf of UNB faculty members. The UNB administration has reached out to an external investigator for help in resolving the recent issues.
Law professor emeritus Neil Gold was brought in by the university to interview all parties concerned with the recent issues in the law faculty.
“When we receive allegations of harassment, we treat them seriously. In this case, we’ve asked a highly regarded and experienced individual in Neil Gold to come and interview people involved,” said UNB spokesman David Stonehouse.
Gold will report his findings confidentially to UNB vice-president academic Tony Secco.
“Once he has those findings, Dr. Secco will determine what action is required to ensure a respectful and collegial work environment at the law school,” said Stonehouse.
Levitt is also facing allegations of harassment, sexism and a threat of violence from two former female colleagues at Florida A&M University College of Law.
In the meantime, According to acting associate dean of law John Williamson, the law school is functioning as usual. However, it is the UNB Fredericton Senate, and not Ludlow Hall, that will be the main stage for UNB law-related issues.
Closed senate meeting requested
A closed meeting of the senate has been requested by student senator and law student Lyle Skinner to review the senate search committee. Skinner is concerned with the way that the unproven allegation of harassment against Dean Levitt was not uncovered by the independent personnel agency hired to perform Levitt’s background check.
“I view it as appropriate to petition the President to hold a special closed session of the UNB Fredericton Senate to examine the Dean Search Committee policies to understand how the University has now arrived at the present situation,” wrote Skinner in a document explaining the issue to senators.
“A review of Senate Search Committee practices should serve to improve any future process for hiring senior administration whether they are deans, vice-presidents or the president of UNB.”
In order to successfully petition a closed meeting, Skinner needed nine other senators to request the meeting with him. Skinner said he has collected the required number of signatures and has passed the petition to the university secretariat’s office.
The UNB Fredericton Senate met again on Feb. 17. Check Thebruns.ca for updates.
Professors disappointed with failed freedom of expression motion
Many UNB professors are not pleased with the failure of student senator Lee Thomas’s freedom of expression motion at the Feb. 3 senate meeting.
Thomas motioned that the senate “affirm and advocate for the right of university members to speak freely about issues that affect them without fear of repercussions from peers, faculty, staff or administration.”
The motion failed by a tie vote of 22 in favour and 22 against.
“It was troubling to see half of Fredericton Senate vote against the motion. It is not clear to me how anyone who maintained that the motion essentially reaffirms a clause of the UNB Declaration of Rights could then vote against it,” said Vlad Tasic, chair of the mathematics and statistics department.
Thomas’s motion was tabled in light of students who had expressed concerns that they did not feel free to speak publically or to the media about the issues at the law school. However, there are already sections of the University of New Brunswick Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities pertaining to freedom of speech and this is where senators were divided.
“I think what Lee [Thomas] was trying to get was a reaffirmation of that fundamental principle and so then a lot of people voted for it because it doesn’t ever hurt to reaffirm fundamental principles such as freedom of expression. I think that was the divide because I think the answer is everyone supports freedom of expression,” said Nicole O’Byrne, senator and assistant professor of law.
Both president Eddy Campbell and vice-president academic Tony Secco expressed concerns during the discussion of the motion, that what students had to might be harmful to employees.
“Rights become real when reaffirmed in action. Student senators did just that: they brought to life the principles for which they argued with eloquence and verve. By contrast, vice-president Secco assured Senate that he ‘has students’ backs’ — while arguing against the motion,” Tasic said.
“The importance of these principles can never be over-emphasized,” O’Byrne said. “When an issue like this comes up, where the students feel like they want some sort of support, that’s why I voted for it. For the support of the university being made very, very clear and not just in some dusty policy document somewhere that people have never heard of.”