Thompson Rivers University has released a statement on academic freedom, assembled by a committee of 10 faculty members.
The statement follows an academic freedom investigation done in 2018 by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), which concluded that suspended professor Derek Pyne’s academic freedom was breached by the university.
The conclusion by CAUT was that TRU “appears to suffer a broad institutional weakness when it comes to understanding academic freedom.”
Pyne said he was suspended for his research into so-called predatory journals — academic research publications that charge money to those looking to have their work published, with or without review from post-secondary peers.
TRU, meanwhile, has contended that Pyne’s suspension had nothing to do with issues of academic freedom or his research into predatory journals, stating he was suspended for another matter altogether.
University representatives have maintained they cannot provide the reason for Pyne’s suspension, which lasted one year, due to privacy issues.
However, two Labour Relations Board decisions of July 16, 2019 and Sept. 26, 2019, state that the university took action against Pyne due to what university brass deemed his aggressive behaviour, including allegations he put his hands around a colleague’s neck and, later, mocked the same colleague, who was feeling suicidal.
In response to the release of the new statement, Pyne said he doesn’t think it means anything.
“The collective agreement is what matters — not this,” Pyne said, pointing to a statement within the collective agreement between the TRU Faculty Association and the university.
In part, the collective agreement statement reads:
“Academic members of the community are entitled, regardless of prescribed doctrine, to freedom in carrying out research and in publishing the results thereof, freedom of teaching and of discussion, freedom to criticize the institution and the faculty association, and freedom from institutional censorship.”
Pyne said he thinks the new statement was driven by university administration, despite being compiled by faculty members, at least one of whom Pyne says he does not trust.
“I think the collective agreement already has a better statement. It would just need to be enforced,” he said.
Pyne said he plans on grieving his case once again in March 2022.
TRU’s complete statement on academic freedom can be read on the university’s website, at tru.ca.