On July 25, 2017, I spoke out against my union’s executive and the negotiating team. On August 1, 2017, I circulated an open letter to the Acadia University in which I was critical of my union during contract negotiations (Exhibit A). I went on to publicly criticize both my employer and my union in a talk I gave on September 27, 2017, titled “Free Speech in Universities: Threats and Opportunities” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u73kjWyRRWU&t=3828s). After the talk, I continued to use my position as a tenured professor to use my academic freedom to express my concerns about the culture war that is transpiring on university campuses.
On February 13, 2018, I received a letter from my employer informing me that I was being investigated by Wayne MacKay for personal harassment, sexual harassment, and discrimination (Exhibit B).
The minutes from a March 13, 2018, meeting of the Acadia Students Union acknowledges the MacKay investigation and states that the administration was providing options for students to feel “safe” in the classroom (Exhibit C). In this context, safety does not refer to physical safety but instead refers to safety from ideas with which students may feel uncomfortable.
The minutes go on to state that a second investigation was being conducted under the guise of the collective agreement that is in place between my union and my employer. This second investigation was underway without my knowledge. Moreover, this second investigation, which would later be referred to as the Hooper Report, was also being done in the interests of ensuring that students felt “safe” in the classroom.
On July 26, 2018, my union’s lawyer spent two hours trying to convince me to sign a Process Agreement in which I would have waived the procedural rights I have in my collective agreement and would have agreed to be gagged. When I refused to sign the agreement, my union did so without my consent on August 1, 2018 (Exhibit D). I wish to highlight that both of these two dates are almost exactly one year after I had first expressed dissent against my union.
On August 31, 2018, I was dismissed from my job as a tenured professor under the guise of the collective agreement that was supposed to protect me for exercising my rights to dissent and academic freedom. Although I was not informed about this at the time, the university also banned me from the campus.
In early January 2019, I informed my union that I wanted to have an arbitration hearing so that I could formally clear my name.
On January 11, 2019, I attended a case conference to discuss the terms and conditions for my arbitration hearing (Exhibit E). Because the terms and conditions were antithetical to a fair hearing, I walked out of the meeting and submitted the document containing the terms and conditions to my lawyer (Mr. Barry Mason), who then formally contacted the union’s lawyer (Exhibit F).
On April 1, 2019, I attended a settlement meeting with Mr. Mason to represent my interests. I could have received $100K/year for three years, which would have counted as pensionable earnings in the university’s pension plan, plus medical benefits. However, I declined this offer because I would have had to agree to not disparage the university in the future. As well, had I agreed to this condition, I would have been unable to defend myself if I were to be confronted with articles that contain false information about me in my dispute with Acadia University.
Although I was uncomfortable with the mediator (William Kaplan) dictating to me that the meeting and the contents of the settlement be strictly confidential, I signed the settlement agreement because it contained in writing the three things I wanted:
1) The second line of the agreement stated as a point of fact only that Acadia had terminated my employment, not that the university had terminated my employment for cause. This was the formal vindication that I was seeking.
2) The university was willing to give me $50K, but only as long as I kept the document confidential.
3) I was allowed to have access to the university campus as a member of the public.
Another reason I signed the agreement even though I was opposed to doing so was because I could see no other option for escaping my legal dispute with my union and employer. As well, I reasoned that the worst thing that could happen to me is that I would not receive my severance pay.
On May 24, 2019, Arbitrator Kaplan ruled that I had violated the settlement agreement multiple times and therefore was no longer eligible to receive my severance pay (Exhibit G). Although I have no objection to losing the money that I could have received, I am concerned about my reputation having been sullied because the ruling – which has been is posted on CanLii – states as a point of fact that my employer had dismissed me for cause when it had not.
In addition, I have discovered that President Ricketts wrote a letter to the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship in which he implies that I was dismissed for professional misconduct, as opposed to exercising my right to academic freedom and for being a free speech advocate. (Exhibit H). Because my settlement implicitly states that my employment was terminated without cause (by omission of the words “for cause”), I believe that President Ricketts has defamed me.
Before I was dismissed, I submitted a Duty of Fair Representation complaint to the Nova Scotia Labour Board and was hoping that the Labour Board would overturn the university’s decision to dismiss me because my union’s actions were clearly against my interests. The Labour Board received my complaint on August 28, 2018, and dismissed it on September 19, 2018. The part of the ruling that I found most disturbing was that there was nothing in the ruling to state that my union had to provide evidence that they were acting in good faith or even being honest when handling my case. I thus had no recourse but to work with my union even though they had acted in bad faith by colluding with my employer to have my employment terminated without cause.
In addition to having my employment terminated without cause and having received no severance pay, my reputation has been shattered by an arbitration ruling that has claimed that my employment was terminated for cause. When my employer alleged that I had breached my settlement, my union easily could have one of two arguments. One argument could have been that the employer’s allegation was completely false; another argument could have been that while it was true that I had breached the settlement, I was dismissed without cause. My next step is to put pressure on my union to clear my name and give me formal legal vindication.