Commentary: Mt. A. students’ union ‘disheartened’ but understanding of secrecy surrounding the Rima Azar case

Note to readers: The following statement was issued by the Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU)  in response to a request for comment from The New Wark Times on the secrecy surrounding the settlement of the case involving Mt. A. Psychology Professor Rima Azar.  Azar, supported by her union — the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) — challenged her seven-month suspension without pay last year after students complained, among other things, about posts on her personal blog. For more background on the case, click here. The terms of the settlement reached in April between Azar, MAFA and the university are being kept confidential and although her suspension came as a result of student complaints, the students themselves have no way of knowing if the final outcome reflects their concerns. The arbitration proceedings that led to the settlement were held behind closed doors in spite of a joint request from Warktimes, CHMA-FM and The Argosy, Mt. A’s student newspaper, for open hearings.

The MASU was disheartened to hear that the proceedings would be conducted entirely in private, although we understand the potential reasons for why such a decision might have been made.

As the MASU, our role within the politics of the university, students and the local community is always to play an advocating role for students. The same held true for this situation and will hold true for all forthcoming ones as well.

However, the MASU recognizes that there are major complexities within this issue which require detailed investigation of all the evidence present in a factual and unbiased manner. In such situations, careers, reputations, and relationships can get caught in the crossfire easily if those responsible are not cautious.

While we understand the decisions being made, the MASU hopes that the happenings and conclusions of this case can be heeded as a learning opportunity to set better precedent for the handling of such issues in the future; we hope that public discourse around such issues in the future is done in a fruitful manner and avoids volatility and hostility, rather encouraging critical discourse and discussion between all involved, especially students.

We echo Brad Walters’ sentiment stating that the handling of this case could have been improved on all sides. However, we also feel that academic freedom as a concept is not as simple as it may seem. Educational institutes are organizations with hierarchies, both in power and status, across students, faculty, and administration. Creating an educational environment in which students feel comfortable, free, and respected is part of what academic freedom entails.

Academic freedom is not synonymous with free speech and requires much greater consideration of the ends at which it is aimed and the context in which it is situated. Academic freedom is not inherently absolute and untethered, but situated with its end-based goal of creating a non-toxic learning environment.

However, logic, as always, is silent on the particulars. The specifics of what does and does not constitute a breach of academic freedom is an incredibly complex question and should be evaluated within our specific local/intellectual context through civil discourse – something the MASU hopes occurs at any such future proceedings.

In recognition of this, while we are disheartened that the decision and proceedings will not be made public, we trust and hope that those responsible for the proceedings are conducting them in a fair and clinical manner and that the conclusion reached will be as close to a just outcome as possible.

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5 Responses to Commentary: Mt. A. students’ union ‘disheartened’ but understanding of secrecy surrounding the Rima Azar case

  1. BSS says:

    “Creating an educational environment in which students feel comfortable, free, and respected is part of what academic freedom entails.” Really, what about the freedom of the professors? Rima Azar was commenting on her own private blog when the students did this to her. If they did not like her opinion, why were the seeking it out? It was none of their business. What happened to this poor woman was abysmal. Who would hire anyone that did this to someone? I certainly would not want someone working for me that could do this to someone. Wokeness is just plain meanness in the guise of political correctness.

  2. Kata List Productions says:

    When they say “we” and MASU I am gonna have to call “flex” by collective against individual.. and we really should not tolerate the targetting of this woman any further… she writes a blog.. they really need to get over it… I enjoy her takes on life and society… we need more Rima voices not less… elders with opinions are what the MASU youth need to be exposed to otherwise we’ll have a gaping divide between ‘young’ and ‘old’… is that the intention here? .. She writes from her heart .. why does this infuriate the “MASU” and whoever is behind the wall of collectivism so much?

  3. Mike Gallant says:

    I’m sure this was written with plenty of care, attention and caution but it seems to be a plethora of weasel words. I have no doubt that students want a bright shiny future like the rest of us – but seriously, is this how you want it to be? Spend time with people you disagree with, another point of view or for f*#k sakes, someone who can cause you to question your own thinking. Safe spaces, respectful (forced) debate don’t actually exist in the real world – go forth and embrace the unknown, the uncomfortable and the messy. Hopefully you’ll end up somewhere in your 60’s saying “I’ve tasted everything”.

  4. will says:

    This whole case was insane so we shouldn’t try to justify the increasing woke authoritarianism happening locally, nationally and around the globe. And in particular saying that as an immigrant you don’t think Canada is “systemically racist” (the use of systemically is intentionally vague) is an opinion that doesn’t justify someone being suspended and subjected to threats to their reputation and ability to live (using a salary to buy food and shelter). The proper university response used to be vigorous debate which requires the use of free speech.

  5. Marika says:

    Such an official-sounding statement. It sounds like it came from their law firm.

    And reads like a warning of sorts. To whom? To other profs who step out of line and have an unapproved opinion?

    What a very strange statement.

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