Remembrance of Things Not Past

By Dr. Nancy Oliveiri

The scandal in the University of Toronto Law Faculty shows us the doom of repeated history.   

Twenty five years ago on May 24, 1996, my colleagues and I entered a struggle for academic freedom at U of T Medicine confronting the power of a billionaire donor to the University.  A few years later the scandal of Dr. David Healy, even more closely paralleling that of Dr Valentina Azarova, broke. Both controversies raged for years; in my case it never ended. David who had been hired, was fired.  I experienced actions including firings which were “harmful to my reputation and disrupted my work”.

And as in the law school scandal we face today, repeated denials were issued from Deans (Aberman; Naylor) and Presidents (Prichard; Birgenau) that violations of academic freedom had anything to do with my research findings, possibly adverse to a big University donor.  

As my colleagues warned of an “escalating firestorm” and pleaded for fair resolution, as they did in the current scandal U of T appointed a (paid) review from powerful ‘experts’ {Professors Arnold Naimark, Bartha Knoppers and Fred Lowy}.  As did Cromwell, these loyalists aligned with the University, defending their position even after it was later shown they had relied on an individual who had provided misleading evidence to their “Inquiry” and who later destroyed many lives

President Gertler may wish for “business as usual.” But it has been observed: fire has a mind of its own.  These conflicts usually don’t burn themselves out.  

Nancy F. Olivieri, MD, MA, FRCP(C), Professor, Pediatrics, Medicine and Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Canada

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