Bahai News - Ex-prof challenges treatment
Jan. 16, 2002. 07:47 AM
Ex-prof challenges treatment
Claims U of T rejected him because of his Baha'i faith
RenÉ Johnston/toronto star
Benjamin Lawson, a former UofT professor,
has made a discrimination claim to the
Ontario Human Rights Commission.
A former University of Toronto professor has suffered financial,
emotional and career damage as a result of the university's repeated
rejection of him for tenure-track positions between 1990 and 1994, an
Ontario Human Rights Commission board of inquiry has heard.
Benjamin Todd Lawson is arguing that the university discriminated against
him on the grounds of his Baha'i faith and his Canadian citizenship.
The university contends that the focus of Lawson's scholarship was too
narrow for the position in medieval Islamic thought studies, for which he
applied twice; the position was never filled.
Another tenure-track position for which Lawson applied was given to
another professor, who went on to chair the university's religious studies
Lawson, 53, is seeking wages and pension benefits equivalent to the
earnings he would have made if he had attained a tenure position, as well
as compensatory damages for the negative impact on his career, about
$500,000, according to his lawyer Robert Gibson.
He was denied a tenure-track position three times while working at the
university on contract.
In one case, selection committee members identified him as the only
Canadian candidate qualified for a job teaching in the university's Islamic
Lawson had complained to the university that job selection committee
members had questioned him about his Baha'i faith and that a faculty
member had expressed concern about too many Baha'i professors teaching
A university investigation concluded there was no discrimination against
Lawson, who lives in Montreal and has not found full-time teaching
employment since his U of T contract expired in 1994.
Lawson approached the University of Toronto Faculty Association with
allegations of discrimination based on his religion and his Canadian
citizenship. The association filed a complaint to the Ontario Human
Rights Commission. The investigator found Lawson's case was among the 5
per cent of complaints the commission finds worthy of a hearing at the
board of inquiry.
The chair of the three-person board of inquiry, Patricia DeGuire, issued
an order yesterday against the publication of any evidence in the
proceedings until the board has heard all the evidence in the case, which
is expected to go until June.
In her order, DeGuire stressed that neither the commission's counsel nor
Lawson's lawyer asked for the publication ban.
©Copyright 2002, The Toronto Star
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