‘How to’ censure

A USER’S GUIDE TO CAUT CENSURE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

The CAUT censure provision dates back decades and has been invoked only three times in over 70 years. It requests that academics in Canada and throughout the world respect this censure by refusing to accept appointments, speaking engagements, distinctions or honours at the University of Toronto, until satisfactory changes are made. Not surprisingly, the terms of the censure did not anticipate the various contingencies and considerations that have come to the fore as a result of the censure against the U of T. Because the censure does not apply to the conduct of faculty at U of T, we understand our actions as honouring the censure. We approach interpretation and application of the censure flexibly, with a view to fulfilling the following purposes that the censure is intended to serve:

  • A censure is intended to exert pressure on university administration to rectify a past breach of academic freedom and collegial governance, and to ensure the robust protection of both going forward
  • The object of censure is the administration — not faculty, students or staff
  • A censure will necessarily have an impact on all members of the university community, but measures taken to honour the censure should not target faculty or students 
  • Measures taken to honour the censure should not undermine a commitment to advance equity within the university

In light of these considerations, we encourage individual faculty and academic units to commit to the principles that underpin the censure. We acknowledge that honouring the censure requires flexibility, and the exercise of individual judgement that is sensitive to context.  

CAUT intends to issue its own guidelines to clarify the censure.  In the meantime, we have consulted with CAUT about the guidance we offer here.  The Executive Director has indicated his view that our advice is consistent with the purpose and intent of the CAUT censure.  

What is a CAUT Censure?

What has CAUT presented as the condition for lifting the Censure?

Is the censure a form of censorship?

How should the U of T community handle speaking engagements with invited speakers?

Does the censure extend to speakers from within University of Toronto speaking at the University of T?

Should U of T scholars and students cancel their speaking engagements elsewhere?

How can members of the university community organize around the CAUT censure?

How should faculty approach the faculty appointments process during the Censure?

Does honouring the censure preclude people seeking and accepting CUPE Unit 3 Sessional positions?

What about ongoing collaborations with scholars at other universities?

Should students respect the CAUT censure as well?

What about attendance at events featuring outside academic speakers?

How about external reviews?

How should we handle outreach and training events? 

What about student admissions and PhD defenses?

What about book manuscript workshops involving external commentators?

What is a CAUT Censure?

Censure is a sanction in which academic staff are asked to not accept appointments or speaking engagements at, or distinctions and honours from, the institution until satisfactory changes are made. CAUT censure does not prevent faculty from other institutions from serving as external examiners for doctoral defences at U of T.

What has CAUT presented as the condition for lifting the Censure?

CAUT has asked for restoration of the offer to Dr. Valentina Azarova as Director of the International Human Rights Program. No, we do not know whether Dr. Azarova would accept the offer.  

Is the censure a form of censorship?

No. Asking speakers to respect the censure is no more a form of censorship than asking people not to cross a picket line at any workplace accused of engaging in racist hiring practices. If speakers continue to come here it undermines CAUT’s efforts to hold the University accountable for what was, in effect, an attack on academic freedom, integrity and human rights. 

How should the U of T community handle speaking engagements with invited speakers?

We invite faculty to consider the following options:

  1. Relocation

Where an event involves outside participants, we encourage organizers to relocate the event to another institution. For example, if an event is convened in partnership with a colleague at another institution, consider arranging for the other institution to host the event.

In announcing relocation, organizers should inform attendees that the event was relocated because of the CAUT censure and explain why the censure was imposed. Communications should explain that “Censure is a sanction in which academic staff are asked to not accept appointments or speaking engagements at the institution until satisfactory changes are made.” 

The announcement may also be accompanied by a public statement of solidarity by the organizers and/or speaker (see example here).

  1. Cancellation/Postponement

Organizers may also consider cancelling or postponing events until the censure is lifted. 

Academic unit heads should be asked to review all events in their units and either cancel them or contact the department members who organized them to discussion the possibility of:

– Cancellation/postponement until censure is lifted

– Organizers might consider replacement by an event that raises awareness of the CAUT censure.

In announcing cancellation organizers should inform attendees that the event was cancelled because of the CAUT censure and explain why the censure was imposed. Communications should explain that “Censure is a sanction in which academic staff are asked to not accept appointments or speaking engagements at the institution until satisfactory changes are made.” 

The announcement may also be accompanied by a public statement of solidarity by the organisers and/or speaker (see example here).

3. Proceed with Event 

Let’s say there is a truly compelling reason why it is not possible to cancel or relocate an event. If the organizers decide to proceed, the event could be preceded by, and include frequent references to, a statement that reads something like the following:

All of those in attendance are advised that, as of April 22, the University of Toronto has been under censure by the Canadian Association of University Teachers for its failure to resolve concerns regarding academic freedom stemming from a hiring scandal in the Faculty of Law. CAUT Executive Director David Robinson has said that, ‘When reviewing all the evidence, CAUT Council delegates concluded that the decision to cancel Dr. Valentina Azarova’s hiring was politically motivated, and as such constitutes a serious breach of widely recognized principles of academic freedom… In a close examination of the facts of the case, CAUT Council found it implausible to conclude that the donor’s call did not trigger the subsequent actions resulting in the sudden termination of the hiring process. CAUT has only imposed censure on a member institution twice in the last several decades – in 1979 and in 2008.”

The organizers may also wish to add an explanation of why holding the event is consistent with the principles underlying the censure.

Does the censure extend to speakers from within University of Toronto speaking at the University of Toronto?

No.

Should U of T scholars and students cancel their speaking engagements elsewhere?

CAUT censure only refers to people coming to the University of Toronto.

How can members of the university community organize around the CAUT censure?

Read up and inform yourself about the CAUT censure. Besides cancelling your own events or withdrawing from events with invited speakers, please write to speakers, organizers or the heads of your units informing them of the censure and asking them to respect it. Organize petitions and information sessions within your unit to build momentum for unit-wide adherence.

How should faculty approach the faculty appointments process during the Censure?

CAUT requests that academics in Canada and throughout the world respect this censure by refusing to accept appointments at the University of Toronto until satisfactory changes are made.  The consequence of University intransigence is that we may miss out on the opportunity to appoint excellent academics. After a great deal of reflection, however, we have concluded that we do not believe that our commitment within U of T to honouring the censure entails cancelling appointment processes. This could impose too great a cost on those who are at an early stage of their academic careers and in vulnerable positions with limited alternatives. If people choose to forego an appointment in compliance with the censure, we respect their choice.  However, we would not advise cancelling searches for new positions or encouraging academics not to apply for or accept appointments, postdoctoral fellowships and doctoral or postdoctoral awards at the University of Toronto. 

Appointments that would bring to the university scholars from underrepresented backgrounds are part of how we transform the institutional culture that got us here in the first place. Censure should not disproportionately affect constituencies within the University who have the most to fear from the sort of interference that the CAUT has condemned in this instance. It is urgent that we move ahead with hires, particularly of Black, Indigenous and, in this instance, Palestinian scholars and those whose work advances Palestinian human rights. It would be a cruel irony if the response to efforts to prevent the appointment of a pro-Palestinian human rights lawyer prevented hiring other critical voices. The censure should be interpreted as a measure meant to promote equity rather than undermine it.

Faculty may wish to consider apprising short-listed candidates, as well as the audience in attendance at job talks, about the censure and the reasons it was imposed.

Does honouring the censure preclude people seeking and accepting CUPE Unit 3 Sessional positions?

The principles that apply to faculty appointments (see above) also apply to CUPE employment. In its May 17 statement of support for the censure, CUPE 3902 asked members to “decline invitations to attend, speak, or participate at U of T engagements, including informal or unpaid consultations within U of T; and to cancel, reschedule, or relocate upcoming U of T engagements.” CUPE does not ask members to refuse sessional employment.

What about ongoing collaborations with scholars at other universities?

CAUT censure does not cover continued communication or research collaboration, just speaking engagements which involve outside speakers coming to U of T. We can still work with our colleagues and peers, but we should not invite them to speak here until the censure is lifted.

Should students respect the CAUT censure as well?

Yes. Graduate and undergraduate students from other universities should not be invited to speak at or participate in conferences and colloquia hosted by U of T while the university is under censure. 

What about attendance at events featuring outside academic speakers?

We anticipate that some events featuring outside academic speakers will take place.  Faculty who wish to honour the censure may wish to consider not attending such events. Faculty may also consider sending an email that explains to the speaker the reason for non-attendance.  If faculty choose to attend a virtual event featuring an outside speaker, they may wish to use a CensureUofT zoom background.

How about external reviews?

External reviews form part of the university administration’s ‘quality assurance’ cycle. The university appoints three reviewers from ‘peer institutions’ to conduct a review of an academic unit’s scholarship, curricula, programs and administration. They furnish a report that provides feedback to the unit and to the university regarding the unit’s strengths and areas for improvement. The reviewers are almost always senior academics from Canada, the US or Europe.  

The censure does not specifically address external reviews.  We consider it important to note that the external review exercise primarily serves the university administration’s management objectives.  As such, we believe that external reviews fall within the range of activities that departments who wish to honour the censure should not undertake.   

In units that decide to proceed with external reviews, individual faculty who wish to honour the censure may consider declining to participate in the process or, alternatively, using the opportunity to inform external reviewers about the censure, the reasons for it and its significance.

How should we handle outreach and training events? 

Various units and individual faculty organize events where non-academics from outside the university attend as speakers or participants.  Faculty are advised to consider the wisdom of pursuing these initiatives in light of the principles underlying the censure.  Given the wide range of activities that this might encompass, it is difficult to provide more precise guidance.  Of course, outside speakers or participants are free to decline participation out of their own support for the censure. 

What about student admissions and PhD defenses?

The censure does not call on prospective students (undergraduate or graduate) to decline offers of admission to University of Toronto. Nor does it counsel against external PhD examiners participating in dissertation defences. These positions are consistent with the principles outlined in the Preamble (see above).

What about book manuscript workshops involving external commentators?

These events are typically small and closed. They often (though not always) are for junior faculty.  It is not apparent that cancellation would have any consequences for the administration, while the negative impact on the faculty member is clear. For these reasons, it is consistent with the general principles outlined above to allow such events to continue.  As with other events, it is preferable to relocate manuscript workshops to a non-U of T site if that is feasible. If that is not feasible, we recommend opening the event with an announcement about the censure and the reasons for it, and the reasons why this event is compatible with respect for the censure.

A living document to be updated regularly by the U of T Committee for Academic Freedom and Integrity. Last update: June 5, 2021.