I am writing as a fellow academic and as an artist to join my voice to question the lack of transparency in the firing of Norman Cornett from McGill’s religious studies department.
As a former part-time professor, I am keenly aware of the non-transparent treatment to which part-time teachers are regularly subject.
When a notable and committed instructor is dismissed, I believe it is an occasion for an institution such as McGill to demonstrate its commitment to its stated principles of fairness and free expression.
The Faculty of Religious Studies posts the following statement of purpose on its web site: “Freedom of Speech and Expression is a valuable right, and the best way of preserving a right is to exercise it. However, the right to speak is one thing; whether or not the thing said is correct is quite another. The exercise of the right of Freedom of Speech has often led to erroneous or distorted statements about religion. We must not prevent people from making such statements: It is their right. However, we also possess the right to speak up and express ourselves, and we are free to point out these errors and distortions. We intend to do just that.”
In light of McGill’s stated wish to point out errors, it would appear that Cornett should be entitled to know what were the errors that he committed in the eyes of his department that were serious enough to provoke his dismissal.
Harlan JohnsonPart-time instructorConcordia University