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CAUT officially lifts censure of U of T over Faculty of Law hiring scandal

Lifting of censure marks end of year-long controversy
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The Jackman Law Building houses U of T’s Faculty of Law. MICHAEL PHOON/THE VARSITY
The Jackman Law Building houses U of T’s Faculty of Law. MICHAEL PHOON/THE VARSITY

On November 25, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Council officially lifted its censure of the University of Toronto over a hiring scandal that erupted in September 2020 at the Faculty of Law. The censure was imposed in April 2021 over concerns that U of T had violated its commitments to academic freedom. 

Two months after pausing the censure in September 2021, the CAUT voted to officially lift it at its 91st council meeting. While the censure was in effect, the CAUT asked that its members boycott appointments and speaking engagements from U of T.

Background of the censure

In September 2020, controversy erupted after allegations surfaced that U of T rescinded a job offer to Dr. Valentina Azarova for the position of director of the Faculty of Law’s International Human Rights Program. Allegedly, the job offer was rescinded after a donor to the university complained about her writings on Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The CAUT paused the censure in September after U of T re-offered the position to Azarova. The CAUT had listed re-offering the position as a major component of lifting the censure. Advocacy from U of T community members also demanded that the university re-offer the position to Azarova. 

However, Azarova ultimately declined the offer, citing “important uncertainties that could not be resolved in the course of negotiations.” 

CAUT lifts the censure

The CAUT announced in a tweet that the censure has been lifted in “recognition of actions taken, including new language in uni [sic] policy to prevent donor influence.” In response to the allegations of donor interference, U of T has modified the Provostial Guidelines on Donations and all hiring staff have attended training sessions on donor relations.

CensureUofT, an advocacy group created in response to the censure, issued a statement following the announcement saying that the U of T administration has “downplayed the problem of donor interventions and has ignored calls for better collegial governance practices and administrative accountability.”

In an email to The Varsity, a spokesperson for U of T wrote that the decision is welcomed by the university and that it is “pleased that the underlying issues that led to the censure have been resolved.” 

“With this difficult period now behind us, the University looks forward to bridging the divisions that emerged in our community during this controversy,” wrote the spokesperson. 

U of T also thanked the CAUT for interacting with the university in a “thoughtful way” throughout this period.