Editorial Board 2000-2001
Courage under fire
Courage under fire
The courage of her convictions has landed a prominent University of Toronto professor in deep trouble.
Last week, allegations of influencing grade tampering were launched against professor of law Denise Reaume. Specifically, Reaume allegedly told her students to falsify their grades on applications for summer jobs.
The grades in question were results from winter exams that would not appear on the students' official transcripts, but instead were designed to gauge a students' progress to that point in the year.
When professor Reaume observed that some of her students were under considerable stress because of the tests, it was then that she allegedly suggested that they alter their marks as a form of political protest against up-scale law firms who would use the grades to do preliminary work on hires for their summer staffing needs.
Reaume also told the law faculty's newspaper, "We must have the courage of our convictions to say to Bay Street that they don't need to know all the details of a student's progress."
Currently, U of T is investigating Reaume in connection with the accusations raised against 30 students accused of tampering first-term grades on their summer job applications.
She has since responded to the allegations by raising a number of grievances which claim that her academic freedom was being compromised and that the university failed to follow the proper process for an internal investigation.
Although her suggested form of protest may not have been the wisest, the professor should not be chided for speaking out against what she felt was undue pressure on her students. To that end, she has received widespread and well-deserved support from colleagues, both within the faculty of law and from abroad.
What's most galling about this situation is that these students did nothing wrong to U of T. They lied to a third party about their academic progress in order to make a statement about the flaws in their hiring processes. Now that these students have been caught, it seems U of T is just making an example out of them because the institution feels the sting of public embarrassment.
One could even argue this Big Brother-ish behaviour is the exact sentiment behind student codes of conduct. But one must ask, especially in a situation like this, at what point does a university's jurisdiction over the lives of students end?
Finally, it should also be noted that Reaume did not hold the hands of these students if they in fact misrepresented themselves academically. She was simply stating her opinion, albeit provocatively, and certain students decided to follow her advice. Reaume's academic freedom to express her educated opinion in the classroom must outweigh the university's need to play politics with business.
Summer jobs aren't the only thing at stake here the right to say what's on your mind is, too. And that's a very important right to have in the academic setting.