On Campus

What’s wrong with the Diab affair

If Carleton officials took such drastic measures to throw him out, why won’t they explain why?

The official start to this blog will come later this month, but as a professor, I thought I should say a few words about the firing of Hassan Diab.

Clearly the issue is difficult for Carleton’s administration: What if Diab turns out to be a terrorist and we did nothing? What if he turns out to be innocent and we fired him? It’s a hard question. But that’s what we pay administrators for.

However it turns out, Carleton’s administration owes the public an explanation for their actions. Perhaps they feel that presumption of innocence applies only to actual trials and that the concept only means that the burden of proof is on the prosecution in a court case. Perhaps they feel that French authorities wouldn’t be after Diab unless he was likely guilty, and that justifies their choice to replace him. But if that’s what they think, they should say so and be prepared to defend their stand. A public university has a duty to the public, and the public has the right to know that all decisions affecting the scholarship at such an institution is being done with due respect to academic freedom and academic integrity. It’s a tough job, but someone at Carleton has to start doing it.

Carleton’s vague statement that they want to foster a “stable, productive academic environment that is conducive to learning” is so empty that it’s an insult to anyone who cares about education. Still worse, what content is implied beneath the platitudes might be taken to suggest that Carleton fired Diab because they didn’t want to deal with protests that might be launched over his teaching. If so, Carleton has handed over the reins to any lobby group mad enough, and big enough to cause them a headache.

Carleton’s administration owes the public an explanation. One that is specific, and in plain English. And they had better make it good.

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