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Queen’s professors demand apology from university for colleague accused of racist, sexist remarks

Students on Queen's University campus in Kingston, Ont. on April 6, 2011.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Professors at Queen's University are promising to continue demanding restitution for a former colleague they say was falsely accused of making racist and sexist remarks while teaching a history class last year.

Sessional teacher Michael Mason, a professor with 40 years of experience, faced possible discipline after he admitted to using a series of racial epithets while lecturing, but maintains he was directly quoting others from historical documents to expose and criticize the overt racism that was prevalent after the Second World War – which he says is a common technique. He also directed the term "mistresses" at female students, but explains he only said he hoped those taking the class would become "masters and mistresses" of the material.

The inquiries into his conduct that followed were cut short when Prof. Mason took a medical leave. But the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) investigated the incident and published a critical report last month alleging Queen's had "acted callously and irresponsibly," and had violated Prof. Mason's rights as a professor – an opinion Queen's disputes.

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"I would let it go if they apologized," Prof. Mason said in an interview. "But I would always think that they consciously tried to bully me."

On Tuesday, professor Mark Jones breathed new life into the debate when he questioned the University's Senate about why the school's leaders have not responded publicly to the allegations, and whether they owe Prof. Mason an apology.

"I wanted to pressure the university to respond," Prof. Jones said. "The report is out there in the public sphere. I think it's doing damage to our reputation."

But Queen's provost Alan Harrison said the school was willing to explore the allegations internally, and subject them to an arbitrator if necessary – a path the Queen's University Faculty Association (QUFA) opted against. Outside that process, Dr. Harrison said Queen's is restrained by confidentiality rules, and called the CAUT's conclusions "incorrect."

"We would never seek to censor an individual using material, appropriately contextualized," he said. "As far as we're concerned it has been laid to rest."

Nevertheless, QUFA president Paul Young, who endorses the CAUT's findings, worries Queen's has "left the matter hanging."

"The institution is just stone-walling it," Prof. Young said, and "[we] are still actively pursuing it."

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About the Author
Banking Reporter

James Bradshaw is banking reporter for the Report on Business. He covered media from 2014 to 2016, and higher education from 2010 to 2014. Prior to that, he worked as a cultural reporter for Globe Arts, and has written for both the Toronto section and the editorial page. More

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