Beckett: Renewing questions on academic freedom

By Tom Beckett
October 18, 2012

One should expect a decent demonstration of scholarship from the Social Sciences dean Brian Timney – or at least the good judgment to refrain from relaunching his obvious personal animosities toward a just-deceased former colleague, J. Philippe Rushton, as Timney London Free Press story.

The facts published in that article contradict Timney’s claim he and the university defended academic freedom.  When a faculty member’s work is judged not on its merits for scholarship but for personal and political reasons, this is an attack on academic freedom. In the starkest contrast possible, Rushton’s peers, amongst them his most severe critics, awarded him the Guggenheim Fellowship, a most competitive distinction bestowed upon only those with the most vigorous scientific standards, including Linus Pauling.

Another fact going against Timney’s claim is Rushton being barred from the classroom. To bar a Guggenheim fellow, and not the thugs who threatened violence, hardly supports Timney’s claims of defending academic freedom.

As then chair of undergraduate studies of the Psychology department, Timney had an obligation to prevent thugs from running the school and affecting students’ safety and their academic freedom.  Timney failed to do so. 

As well, Timney’s claims are refuted by the only peer-reviewed article on this subject, The Case of Philippe Rushton, as it appears in Academic Questions Fall 1990.

Tom Beckett 


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