14 July 1994
After three month's delay and the expense of an outside lawyer, I find myself in exactly the same position as I was on April 15th vis-a-vis the 'Summary' of the Investigation you commissioned into my teaching, publications, and professional conduct.
On April 14th or 15th (I am away from my files) my lawyer (Mr. Charles Roach) wrote to your lawyers, requesting the documents necessary to prepare my Response to the 'Summary' of the 'investigation'.
We waited over two months for a reply to this letter. Finally, on 26 June we received a reply but the purpose of which, your lawyer states, is to 'particularize allegations' with reference to the Summary. He makes no reference to the documents I requested. The letter concludes by stating that the 'University needs a response by July 15, 1994, at the very latest.'
What, Mr. Provost, am I to do? Send another request for the documents needed for my response. I hereby do precisely that, BUT in compliance with your request communicated to me through your lawyer, I hereby enclose a partial response to the allegations (we have to tidy up this affair some time or other) your office has made against me with the reservation that before a decision is made in my case that I be given an opportunity to prepare a response based on the documents which I, as a Professor in this Institution since 1966, AM ENTITLED TO SEE.
P.S. Furthermore, I do not wish to receive any further communications re this matter from intermediaries from outside the University, your lawyer or my lawyer. This is a University matter and must be resolved where it originated: from within the University
by rational men
not by lawyers
hired by them.
By this letter, by this action of a response, I hereby move that your 'investigation' of me, or of any other Professor in the University, be conducted where it originated, back where it belongs: The University of Toronto.
On 28 July 1994, while I was in Ireland in the presence of my collaborator on six academic volumes, Professor Lorna Reynolds of the National University of Ireland (the conversation, therefore, was witnessed), a telephone message was communicated to me by my lawyer in Toronto, Charles Roach, saying that he had received two letters from the Provost to the effect that 'the University had dropped all allegations and all charges', but were insisting on a couple of 'face-saving' items which would be easy to comply with (I refer to this conversation in the 'Introduction' to this volume).
The reader can imagine Professor Reynolds's and my surprise when, a few days later, I received two letters from the Provost containing a whole set of new allegations PLUS a letter that the Provost's lawyer (the aforementioned Mr. Murray) had sent to my lawyer reiterating some of the old allegations that I had clearly dispensed with in the Memo published above.
Although it would delight the reader, the publication of the Provost's and his lawyer's letters would be a violation of copyright, but I publish here my response which quotes the two gentlemen's salient points in the relevant places.
7 August 1994
I have just received your two letters of 27 July and I hasten to respond to say that I will comply with your 'Conditions of Return to Work' and your 'Conditions Upon Returning to Work'.
In your letters you make several references to a letter from your solicitor to my solicitor on 24 June 1994 and which, you say, contains 'allegations of misconduct' and that my 'response' is sought. In his letter of 27 July from your solicitor to my solicitor, your solicitor states: 'These allegations have not been answered.' I beg to differ. In a 43,000-word Memo from me to you, dated 16 June 1994, I answered all of the allegations made in the 24 June letter: with one exception, all of them were repeated from the Summary of the Report on my Work that you sent to me on 30 March. With all your other duties, I realize that you are, perhaps, dependent on your lawyer or others to read Memos as comprehensive as mine. I suggest you ask your lawyer to read it more carefully and he will find all the answers he seeks. The one allegation not answered in my Memo is dated '11 February 1994' and relates to my picking up letterhead from the English Departmental Secretary. The incident was so inconsequential that it failed to make an impression on my memory, and for that reason I cannot comment on it.
NEW ALLEGATIONS: RESEARCH
Your letters of 27 July contain new allegations with regard to my teaching and scholarship that were, it seems to me, cleared in the Report sent to you by Professor Adamowski in January 1994. You write: 'over the last five years . . . you have failed to demonstrate continuing reasonable competence in your scholarship.' Is this your own conclusion as an electrical engineer or is it the assessment of a scholar reporting to you? I know that your lawyer speaks of my 'failure' to meet my 'academic responsibilities' but he is not qualified to judge. In any case, I fail to see how anybody familiar with my published work, or my work accepted for publication, could reach such a conclusion. Did you know, for example, that the 1,000-page book on The Irish in Canada (edited by me in collaboration with Professor Lorna Reynolds of the National University of Ireland, and published during the five-year period under investigation) has been hailed as the definitive work on the subject during the last 100 years.
You possibly do not know either that I have another definitive scholarly edition, Folk Plays of M. J. Molloy, accepted by Smythebooks (Britain) and by the Catholic University of America Press in Washington; since, however, the edition is part of a series, it must wait its turn to be published. I have, of course, published articles and delivered public lectures during the last five years in Canada, the United States, and Ireland, and I have in preparation two other academic books: A Spiritual Biography of AE Russell and Roots of the Irish Literary Renaissance.
During the five-year period I have also published five books in my secondary field that, you say, fail 'to qualify as scholarship.' Of the five books, three are primarily books of poetry and do not claim to be works of scholarship. Nevertheless, books of poetry qualify in most English Departments that I know as fulfilling the requirement for publication.
The other two books (The New World Order and the Throne of the antiChrist and The New World Order in North America: Mechanism in Place for a Police State) are the result of original research: this has been recognized by scholars in Europe, the United States, Canada, and the Middle East. For example, Dr. Amir Ali Khan of Lorestan University in Iran has done a 7,000-word assessment of these books as scholarly works.
Of the first book, Dr. Ali Khan writes:
I admire the scholarly genius in Professor O'Driscoll's approach, how precisely he has posited the continuity and interconnections in his argument, his depth of knowledge, his stamina in collecting all the supportive relevant material. The book addresses the whole span of history enabling the reader to face the facts of our present-day upheavals. It is a marvellous, painstaking work. All the
relevant facts and figures have been arranged in sequence with authentic references. Professor O'Driscoll has collected basic truths contributed by authorities and compiled them to form a book. Those facts are not theories or innuendoes to say the least. The 'masterpiece' is a singular work of a unique mind
Of the second book, Dr. Ali Khan writes:
A thesis, then, is the collecting of data and on its strength deriving a conclusion that no one else has done. Such a research work is purely academic and it has nothing to do with politics or propaganda of any kind. Professor O'Driscoll collects data and facts to expose the unmistakable plot. From the
viewpoint of academic understanding, the book is a work of scholarship par excellence.
These two books do qualify as scholarship. There can be no question as to the credentials of Dr. Ali Khan: Professor Gerry Bentley of the University of Toronto English Department wrote an Introduction to one of his books some years ago.
Even if they are not scholarly works (which I do not concede), there is no stricture that I know of that says an academic cannot write 'non-academic' books. Take Tolkien, for example, a Professor of Anglo-Saxon who spent considerable time writing books for children, books that have become classics. Or Stephen Leacock, Professor of Economics, at McGill University? Or C. S. Lewis! Or Lewis Carroll, a distinguished mathematician, whose contribution to mathematics has been forgotten but whose fame lives on - and rightly so - in his Alice books.
Or is the work that I am publishing in my secondary field not being recognized by you as 'scholarship' simply because it addresses contemporary political and social problems? By taking such a stand, is not the University running the risk of becoming an anachronism in a society that is beginning to demand of its intellectuals some understanding or present-day problems?
My work during the last five years - six books published, two books in the press, two books in preparation - has been achieved in spite of a continued programme of 'academic harassment'. During this precious sabbatical year, for example, I have been banned from the U of T Library (which has the best collection in my field in North America: indeed, it was l who was instrumental in acquiring a substantial number of the books) and from my books and files in my own office for five whole months.
This harassment seems never-ending. You sent me, for example, a 17-page Summary of two Reports in March. I devoted six whole weeks meticulously answering each and every allegation. As stated above, my Memo to you containing the responses is dated 16 June 1994. On 24 June your lawyer sent me the same allegations, some of them dressed up in different prose, and asked me to comment on them again. My response, you will remember, was something in the region of 43,000 words. Was this too long for your lawyer, too short, not enough detail, too much detail? Does he not understand my prose? What?
In your letter of 27 July you acknowledge that 'many students have found your teaching to be effective.' You then cite your lawyer's letter of 24 June: 'Mr. Murray's letter of June 24, 1994 [sic] also sets out a number of further incidents where your conduct has not been professional. A repeat of the unprofessional treatment of students will be viewed seriously and may lead to termination proceedings.'
I fail to understand why you should warn me of 'termination' proceedings on the opinion of a man who has no expertise in the academic field - your lawyer - Mr. Murray. As an example of this ignorance, I cite his letter of 27 July:
1. He does not Understand the Importance of Primary Documents. Your lawyer continues to deny me access to the documents necessary to prepare my defence. Such documents, he says, 'are not relevant'. 'Access to student assessments and student responses,' he asserts, 'is not necessary to enable Professor O'Driscoll to respond to the specific allegations of misconduct.'
Who is he to take such an Olympian view? In law the accuser and his legal advisers are allowed full access to documents that he or they consider necessary. The book of evidence has to be available to both sides in a legal dispute. In refusing me assess to the primary documents, Mr. Murray is deliberately thwarting my rights as a Canadian citizen.
Mr. Murray too is acting more like a Dean of Discipline than a legal adviser: 'The full reports provided to the Provost by Professors Adamowski and Boyle are not required in order for Professor O'Driscoll to respond. In any event, the summaries provided by me to Suzie Scott, which your client and you both have, contain the essential elements of the reports. No further production is required.' Summaries, Mr. Murray should know, are not the same as original documents: abstracts or extracts may be biassed in one way or another. In any case, Mr. Murray has himself admitted in a letter to Suzie Scott (9 March 1994) that the Summary he did of the two Reports 'may differ substantially' from the original documents. By his own admission, then, Mr. Murray's summaries are not to be relied on as representing the truth. Why, therefore, should anybody be forced to accept them?
If, too, Mr. Murray is so contemptuous of the importance of primary documents in this instance, how can he understand the importance of primary documents in scholarship?
2. Mr. Murray Distorts Words and Facts. Mr. Murray then goes on to cite the Layton case, a disaffected student who criticized not my classroom performance but my writing outside the classroom and whose disaffection is more than counter-balanced by the assessments of some 300 students who have stated that my teaching is not just competent but 'brilliant'.
In the Layton case, what was described by Professor Adamowski in May 1993 as a 'serious pedagogical error' in my showing this student forty pages of a 440-page manuscript three weeks prior to publication is distorted and inflated by Mr. Murray in July 1994 (fourteen months later) to an 'unprofessional mistreatment [sic] of students.' We see here the Provost's lawyer insolently making assumptions and distorting the tempered language of the academic so that a 'pedagogical error' in relation to one student has become 'unprofessional mistreatment [sic] of students.'
3. Mr. Murray is Illogical. Mr. Murray writes: 'Numerous people in the University of Toronto are afraid of Professor O'Driscoll, believing he might retaliate against them for complaining about him.'
The logic of this sentence escapes me. How can Mr. Murray know that 'numerous people' are afraid of me if they are afraid to complain about me? As well as that I haven't been at the University for sixteen months. How can a person grow fearful of another person in his absence? By the way, how many are 'numerous'?
4. Mr. Murray quotes out of Context and presents Inaccurate Interpretations. Mr. Murray writes: 'Professor O'Driscoll, who himself admits that he 'may have a slight drinking problem' seems to deny having such a problem now. Mr. Murray is referring to the following sentence in my June 16 Memo to you, Sir: 'nor do I have a problem with alcohol. It is true that I may have had a slight drinking problem in 1987-8, but this was the result of three distinct causes: the breakdown of my marriage and [dissolution of my] family; the death of my mother while this was happening; and the 'cruel and unusual treatment and punishment' I was experiencing from the University. Once those causes were removed, I did not have any more difficulty in this respect.' One can see that I freely admitted that I may have had a slight drinking problem when I was undergoing great emotional strain in my personal life - in 1987-8. That is a long time ago: I state very clearly that I do not have a drinking problem now. There is no question of my 'seeming to deny' anything.
5. Mr. Murray Makes False Distributions. Mr. Murray writes: 'the warning regarding Professor O'Driscoll's failure to meet his academic responsibilities is not based on the content of his work, but rather on scholarly competence.' How can 'content' be separated from scholarly competence? The first duty of a scholar is to choose a subject that he knows falls within his scholarly competence.
6. Mr. Murray Objects to the Handwriting of Human Beings. Mr. Murray writes: 'The University does not accept the material sent by Professor O'Driscoll to the Provost by handwritten letter [sic].' The material referred to here is my Memo to the Provost some 80 pages (printed above) concerning the allegations that your Office has made against me, pages that were not merely typewritten but typeset. Is this Memo to be discounted because it was accompanied by a handwritten letter (written, incidentally, on an airplane while I was being transported to Ireland)? What is unacceptable about a handwritten letter accompanying a printed response? The handwriting and the signature of a person is proof of his or her identity as an individual. Does Mr. Murray not know that a great portion of a scholar's research is [...]
7. Mr. Murray Refuses to Accept the Evidence of Those Who Are Qualified to Give Evidence. Mr. Murray writes: 'the University does not intend to rely on student assessments and responses.' Does this imply that student evidence is not to be relied upon? What would the students think of this? How otherwise can a Professor be assessed except by the students he is teaching? By a lawyer located on King Street?
Evidence to Mr. Murray seems to be of no account. Again and again he cites the evidence of two disaffected students who made complaints, not about my conduct in the classroom but about my writings outside the classroom and about which they are not qualified to judge. If the testimony of the more than 300 students who were in my courses during the five-year period under investigation (I have consistently scored 86% to 90% in the assessment every year) had not been so overwhelmingly in my favour, would Mr. Murray have used those against me, as he has in the case of the disgruntled minority? But since they were in my favour, he will not allow them.
Mr. Murray seems to take a literal interpretation of Lewis Carroll's ironic maxim in The Hunting of the Snark: 'what I say three times is right.' May I also say, Mr. Provost, that lawyer's letters are well-known for the crabbed and garbled English that they use. The letter of your lawyer, Mr. Murray, seems a perfect model of such misusage. I am thinking of using parts of it for my students in September as examples as to how not to write English.
With relation to 'Service', you write: 'I see no evidence of service in the last five years.' You obviously are not aware that before I went to live in the country (and there are many Professors from the University of Toronto who do live outside the city) I made an arrangement with the President of St. Michael's College and my Discipline Representative.
At that time President McConica and I were particularly close. An adverse judgment had been made against the College by a University Tribunal headed by the distinguished Professor E. R. Alexander of the Faculty of Law, accusing the College and University of 'cruel and unusual treatment and punishment' with relation to me. President McConica was particularly anxious that this not be made public during his tenure as President. I gave him an understanding to this effect. He then went on to arrange a particularly generous assessment of manuscripts and papers that I had given to the College, and this I found useful for tax purposes. When I discussed the implications of my living in the country with regard to University Service, he said that my service for the previous twenty years would equal the service that most academics offer over forty years, and to take it from him that I need not worry about 'University Service' in the future.
Surely permission of this kind, once given, cannot be rescinded. If the University wishes now for me to relocate in the that I need not worry about 'University Service' in the future.
Surely permission of this kind, once given, cannot be rescinded. If the University wishes now for me to relocate in the city, may I assume that the expenses involved therein will be borne by the University?
President McConica knew, but you may not know, Sir, that during my 20 years activity on behalf of the College and University I raised $1.6 million to establish a Programme of Studies in the University that had not been taught here before AND that I presented a dazzling sequence of Festivals involving the leading intellectuals and artists in Europe and North America that drew something in the region of 35,000 people to the University of Toronto campus.
I should say too, Provost, that my former service to the University has been ill-rewarded. I was dismissed from the Programme I had been instrumental in founding and for which I had made a unique arrangement with the National University of Ireland and with Universities in Great Britain. Treatment of this kind is hardly designed to encourage further attempts to serve the University. The trouble seems to be that I was too generous with my time and resources in offering my services to the University.
One other point should be made here before I move on to the other matters you raised. It relates to my bivouacking on occasion in my office. You write: 'You will not use your office in Elmsley Hall as a temporary residence and will not spend overnight in that office or any other office at St. Michael's College or at the University of Toronto.' Allow me to inform you that it is not within your rights to forbid me about the use of Elmsley Hall, as the title to this building is held not by the University of Toronto but is registered in the name of the Basilian Fathers. Again, before going to live in the country, I sought and secured permission from the Basilian Fathers in question - the Bursar of the Order, Father Norman Iversen, and the Director of Accommodation, Father Frank Mallon - to use my office any night I was either too tired to drive home or the weather was too inclement. If I had not got that permission, I might not have moved outside Toronto. Again I ask: can permission of this kind, once given, be rescinded? If so, then I assume that the University will defray the expenses involved. Incidentally, bivouacking in one's office is common practice for representatives to the European Parliament.
I am deeply touched by the University's concern for my health. With all of your other concerns, it is re-assuring to find that the needs of the individual are so carefully considered. I have no reason to believe that I am in anything but the best of health. If I use, I do not misuse or abuse any of the 'substances' you may have in mind.
May I take the liberty, Provost, of making one last point? in a democracy justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.
Professor of English & Celtic Studies
P.S. With reference to your prohibition of alcohol, am I to understand that it does not extend to the customary glass of wine at University functions?
Plate 63: Professor Robert O'Driscoll (centre), moments after introducing
Mayor Moore (then chairman of the Canada Council) to his 'idol' Joseph Campbell (right). James Joyce Centenary Festival, January 1982.