ANQI SHEN — The Silhouette (McMaster University)
HAMILTON (CUP) — Five professors in McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business have been handed “lengthy suspensions without pay” after a tribunal of their peers found their misconduct resulted in a “poisonous and hostile work environment.”
In 2011, two complaints of harassment were filed by and against faculty in McMaster’s business school.
Five faculty members filed a harassment complaint against a senior administrator and McMaster University. Seven faculty members and one staff member then alleged that six other faculty members, including the four who filed the first complaint, harassed them. A single counter-complaint was filed against one of the initiators of the second complaint.
The complaints were filed a year after former business dean Paul Bates resigned amid faculty disputes and claims of bullying. Some believed he was not a qualified academic, as he had industry experience but no university degree, while others defended him. The issue created a rift amongst McMaster’s business school faculty.
An anti-discrimination tribunal set up to address the complaints recently released its 26-page public report. The report summarizes the tribunal’s findings after two years of proceedings, 2,694 documents and testimonies from 65 witnesses.
The tribunal, made up of three tenured McMaster professors, found that several professors committed “serious and multiple” acts of misconduct.
“The most egregious misconduct involved the unlawful and self-serving interference with tenure and promotion,” according to the public report.
While the tribunal saw grounds for dismissal, it found that McMaster allowed some delays in the process. Certain decisions by a “non-party senior administrator” also contributed to the workplace hostility.
The tribunal recommended that three professors should have “lengthy suspensions without pay, benefits, privileges or access to the university’s premises.” It was recommended that two other professors also be suspended, but for a shorter period of time. One other individual will receive a written reprimand.
The identities of the professors are being kept confidential.
The tribunal did not find any “direct harassment or malicious behaviour” by McMaster University. However, it was recommended that the university review its anti-discrimination policy.
McMaster president Patrick Deane issued a statement calling the complexity and number of the complaints “unprecedented” at the university.
Deane stated that he “fully accepts the tribunal’s findings” and has “already begun the process of implementing the recommended sanctions and other remedies.”
According to McMaster spokesperson Andrea Farquhar, the business school has hired “a number of well-qualified instructors” to take over from the suspended professors.