HRW: University of Toronto rescinding job offer to pro Palestine law scholar a threat to academic freedom

TORONTO, The University of Toronto’s law school allegedly rescinded a job offer for director of the law school’s International Human Rights Program in response to external pressure about the candidate’s scholarship and work on Israeli government violations of international law, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Canada said yesterday in a statement.

If true, it added, “not only does this do serious harm to the academic freedom, integrity, and reputation of the university’s human rights program, it creates a dangerous chilling effect on other scholars’ rights to research and advocacy.”

The candidate, Valentina Azarova, was the university hiring panel’s unanimous top choice.

After the university reversed its decision, the chair of the program’s law faculty advisory committee resigned from the committee. Another member of the hiring panel quit his job with the program and the rest of the faculty advisory committee resigned.

Human Rights Watch said it has been in contact with both Azarova and the university.

“The position of the university is that ‘ no offer of employment was made,’ but that ‘exploratory discussions occurred with one candidate.’ News reports have published internal faculty emails that explicitly refer to an ‘offer.’ The university claims it could not wait to obtain a work permit for Dr. Azarova, a non-citizen, but yet was pursuing a temporary contract for her as a workaround. The statement also denied that outside influence was a factor in their decision not to proceed with an offer of employment,” said HRW.

International legal academics, including Israeli and Jewish scholars, have written individually in support of Azarova’s scholarship. Other letters of support have well over 1,300 signatories, including former and current United Nations Special Rapporteurs. The program’s alumni association, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, Amnesty International, and others have called for external investigations.

“The University of Toronto should urgently conduct an independent external review, make its findings public immediately, and swiftly address any improprieties,” said HRW Canada. “No one should pay such a price simply for exposing human rights violations by any country, including Israel.”


Source: Palestinian News & Info Agency