By Lethbridge Herald on June 3, 2018.
In 2016, he was suspended from his position of more than 25 years. A year later he was reinstated.
But there is still uncertainty whether he will ever step foot into a classroom again.
So — University of Lethbridge professor Tony Hall wants his story to be heard.
Hall, a tenured professor who has taught Globalization studies, Native American studies, and liberal education at the U of L since 1990, was suspended without pay in October 2016 over concerns he had contravened Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, including providing a platform for hate speech regarding some of his online activities.
He maintains some of the issues involve academic freedom and he should be allowed to promote his work as he sees fit.
During the next five days, The Herald will be presenting an exclusive special five-part series in which Hall speaks candidly about his experiences of the past nearly two years.
Following is part one of The Herald’s sit-down with Hall.
Herald: “Prof. Hall, in your opinion how did the sequence of events begin two years ago that has engulfed your career of nearly 30 years as a faculty member at the U of L?”
Hall: “Thank you Nick for that question, one that gives me an opening to go to the very origins of the controversy. Before explaining how it all started, however, allow me to remind readers that I was suspended from my professional duties at the University of Lethbridge in early October of 2016. My pay was cut to zero, I was pulled from my teaching in mid-term and I was banned from setting foot on campus.
“All these punitive measures flew in the face of the foundational rules of collegial governance at universities around the world. My suspension without due process violated protections supposedly embodied in my tenured status. My tenured employment as a university professor is woven into the fabric of a collective agreement joining faculty and administration in a two-sided dance of ongoing negotiation. Of what use is tenure if a tenured professor can be pulled from her or his academic duties for giving offence to powerful groups. Isn’t that exactly what the protections of tenure are supposed to guard against?
“No process of outside adjudication preceded my instant suspension. No justification was given other than for U of L President, Michael J. Mahon, to indicate that I might have violated provincial human rights law. In his confidential letter to me of Oct. 3 of 2016, Dr. Mahon announced, “It has been brought to my attention through numerous sources that you are engaging in and have engaged in a series of actions which, on their face, would appear to contravene Section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights Act.”
“The suspension added a major new factor to the force of a pre-existing trial by media that began to gather momentum starting late in the summer of 2016. Beginning on Aug. 26 officials at B’nai Brith Canada maliciously associated me with the horrific contents of a vile Facebook item said to have briefly appeared on my former Facebook wall. This posting was executed without my agency, knowledge or consent. The tactic was a virtual equivalent in the era of the internet and social media to having illicit drugs or an explosive device planted on one’s person prior to a police sting operation.
“This Facebook post is said to have appeared and then disappeared on my Facebook wall during the duration of a few hours on Aug. 26. When I first learned of the existence of the Facebook deception in mid-September, I publicly condemned the post’s atrocious contents as running contrary to my fundamental values as a schooled opponent of genocide in all its manifestations.
“The Facebook deception was instrumental in creating the momentum of a campaign to discredit and cripple me professionally, a campaign that continues yet. The Facebook deception quickly plunged me under a cloud of infamy and public shaming. This description here in the Lethbridge Herald is the first time I have been provided with a venue in mainstream media to explain my perspective on what transpired.
“To this day the university administration has yet to address its relationship to the digital operation that created the manufactured crisis within which I was suspended without pay and due process. The object of the deception was clearly to smear my reputation by wrongfully identifying me with the repugnant content of a Photoshopped image together with a vicious text “proclaiming “KILL ALL JEWS NOW! … The Holocaust never happened but it should have.”
“Since the summer of 2017 I am in a position to document many surprising features of this case. I can do so based on letters obtained in response to Freedom of Information requests to the Alberta Ministry of Justice and to the U of L administration. Some of the retrieved letters expose heretofore hidden aspects of the Facebook deception that were deployed with all the destructiveness of a reputational wrecking ball.
“On Aug. 27, the day following the alleged appearance and disappearance of the Facebook post in question, reports identifying me with its reprehensible contents were circulated widely. In documents obtained from the FOIP Office of Alberta’s Justice Ministry I have proof of communication to top officials characterizing the reprehensible Facebook post as being indicative of my true opinions. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Copies of a particularly accusatory letter calling for me to be fired went immediately to Dr. Mahon, to the RCMP, to Premier Rachel Notley, to Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and to Alberta Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt. The communication sent to these figures slanderously identified me as “an advocate for the murder of Jews.”
“Simultaneously B’nai Brith Canada moved quickly to put the planted Facebook post before Lethbridge and Calgary Police Services with a call that these agencies open investigations. This request was quickly met in the affirmative. I was investigated to see if I would be charged with hate speech and incitement to commit genocide!
“I was indeed investigated by the police who decided not to charge me with a crime. Nevertheless, reports of the police investigation were made to proliferate. B’nai Brith Canada immediately publicized on its website reports of police involvement in my case. My response to this development is to emphasize that I should have been seen not as a possible protagonist in the commission of a crime. On the contrary I was quite clearly the target and victim of an audaciously deceptive Facebook operation.
“The political lobby’s smear operation quickly evolved into a campaign to have me removed from my professorial post. B’nai Brith Canada mounted a petition drive to have me investigated and fired. This objective was apparently embraced and advanced by the university administration as evidenced by its decision to suspend me from my professional duties on Oct. 3 and 4.
“My contention about the nature and purpose of the Facebook deception forms a core argument in the statement of self-defence I recently put before put before the panel currently investigating this case. At present I am trying to obtain a hearing to develop the oral aspect of my self-defence. For my part in the proceedings I am seeking to include the live testimony of witnesses who will appear before a three-person panel charged to investigate the underlying facts of this matter.
“Due to a court ruling on Sept. 15 of 2017, one that the U of L Board lost and my faculty association won, I am able at last to begin to relate my side of the story in a properly-constituted process. The outlines of this process are set out in provisions in the University of Lethbridge Faculty Handbook and in the terms of a tripartite agreement. This agreement takes the form of a contract signed with me by representatives of both the U of L Board and Faculty Association on Oct. 30 of 2017.
“I have developed the written basis of my self-defence in a 500-page account I have authored and recently submitted to the members of the investigating panel. These panel members are fellow faculty members, two from the U of Alberta and one from the U of Lethbridge. My submission also includes 100 pages of primary source documents, some of which were obtained on my behalf through Freedom of Information inquiries.
“In my estimation that main attribute of the documents obtained through FOIP show a pattern of thick collaboration beginning in the July of 2016 between the university administration and a powerful political lobby. A core unit in this lobby has been B’nai Brith Canada, the lead agency in the Facebook deception mounted against me in the prelude to what many have described as my illegal suspension.”
U of L officials were given the opportunity by The Herald to respond to all of Hall’s direct claims. They provided this statement:
“The University of Lethbridge will not provide any comment on the background or the process currently underway related to Dr. Hall. The process was agreed to by Dr. Hall, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) and the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors. To comment at this time would be inappropriate and irresponsible.”
See Tuesday’s Herald for part two of this special five-part series.
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