'All of these accusations,'an academic from another University concludes, 'are of such a trivial and flimsy nature that it is inconceivable that grown adults - let alone serious academics would bother collecting them in a 'Summary' about a scholar who is known throughout Europe and North America for his scholarship and his teaching.'
Trivial or inconsequential events are blown out of all proportion, and in cases where I have access to the primary documents, the conclusion in the 'Report' is very much at variance with the original document. Principal Boyle, for instance, makes reference in his part of the 'Report' to a'judgment of the Grievance Review Committee to hear Professor Robert O'Driscoll's appeal from his removal as a participant and teacher in the Celtic Studies Programme of St. Michael's College,' and headed by the distinguished Faculty of Law Professor E. R. Alexander:
The personnel file contains an account of a conflict between professor O'Driscoll and the Acting Principal during the spring term of 1987 concerning aspects of the Celtic Study [sic] Program. A tribunal which reversed his dismissal from that program as an excessive penalty found that Professor O'Driscoll's criticism of the St. Michael's administration which led to this action was intemperate and an irresponsible exercise of his basic freedom.That point is made earlier in Professor Alexander's 'judgment' but it is not by any means the main point: Principal Boyle has taken one of the subsidiary points of the document and given the impression that this is the main thrust of the document. It is not: the main point of the 'Judgment' was that the University Administration at that time were found guilty of 'cruel and unusual treatment and punishment' with relation to me, and there is also a subtle suggestion that this treatment had brought the administration into disrepute. The full context of the phrase quoted can be seen in the following extract:
By analogy to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even though the administration's knowledge of the contents of Professor O'Driscoll's confidential letter was obtained improperly, its use to discipline Professor O'Driscoll would not bring the administration of justice within the University into disrepute (Charter, s.24 (1)). However, the penalty imposed as a result of that disciplinary action was excessive. Professor O'Driscoll had made a substantial contribution to St. Michael's College and the University of Toronto for more than twenty years. The Celtic Studies Programme was his brain-child and Celtic Studies was his primary academic interest. In addition, Professor Brown admitted to us at the hearing that there was no evidence that Professor O'Driscoll's critical letter had any adverse impact on the Program. The Program is continuing this year with the cooperation of the Irish universities and scholars. To remove Professor O'Driscoll permanently from the Program was to, again using the analogy of the Charter, inflict 'cruel and unusual treatment and punishment' on him (Charter, a.12).... Professor O'Driscoll has many more years of valuable academic service to give to the Celtic Studies Programme and St. Michael's College and, indeed the whole University of Toronto community. It is only in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding that the full potential of his services can be realized.
In order to validate my interpretation of this critical 'judgment' and of the context of the 'cruel and unusual treatment and punishment' to which I was subjected by the University of Toronto in 1987, I submitted the relevant papers to a colleague from another University. He wrote in response:
Again to a question of fairness. In 1986 O'Driscoll was removed as Director of the Celtic Studies Program at St. Michael's College, following which, in March 1987, he was told he 'was no longer a participant' in the Program. Both these decisions caused him considerable anguish: I know this well, since I was in touch with him at criticaljunctures as these events were unfolding. (A Grievance Review Committee, while not denying he was to some degree 'at fault,' in effect exonerated him, stating that O'Driscoll is 'an internationally recognized Celtic Studies 'scholar'and adding that he 'has many more years of valuable service to give to the Celtic Studies Programme and St. Michael's College and, indeed, the whole University of Toronto community.') But my point is this: he was shabbily treated by university authorities in 1986 and '87. Even the subsequent vindication and reinstatement might not have prevented a lingering trace of bitterness. Indeed, the way he was treated might have helped nurture in him some of the conspiracy theories that have been featured in his recent publications.
After reviewing him, the University of Toronto might well request a review of itself, to see how it has dealt with this employee. Having seen the record, I'm not at all sure the institution is capable of making the 'thorough and humane judgment' I mentioned earlier (Professor Patrick O'Flaherty, Memorial University of Newfoundland).
As well as validating my interpretation of the 'Judgment', Professor O'Flaherty hits the nail on the head in another respect: the 'cruel and unusual treatment and punishment' l had suffered at the University in 1986-7 led me to develop a second field of academic focus. I had raised something in the region of $1.6 million for the University in pioneering North America's first undergraduate programme in Celtic Studies and - intellectually and artistically - I was troubled by the break-up of what I had spent twenty years attempting to accomplish.
I began to investigate whether there was any correspondence between my experience in developing Celtic Studies at the University of Toronto and what was happening on the broader world scene. In February 1990 I published a 64-page poem on the subject, Nato and the Warsaw Pact Are One. I should like to quote what a distinguished Professor at the National University of Ireland wrote of the volume:
How the private life is affected by the public is the theme of the work here presented. In its fragmented and syncopated form, it reflects a mind caught up in horror, in hallucinatory apprehension, in a sense of bafflement, attempting manic guesses at meaning, seeking for some, or any, explanation, grasping at straws, seen through the fog.
It is ironic that this outburst should come at the moment when events in Eastern Europe take such a sudden and totally unexpected turn.... strange that someone living far from Europe, across the Western ocean, should echo all this, and by allowing destructive impulses to come into the open prepare the ground of his being for future constructive efforts (Nato and the Warsaw Pact Are
One, p. 5).
'Of that challenging and foreboding work,' a fourth-class student, Michael Wray, wrote to Professor Adamowski (16 November 1993),
I can say this: not everything one reads should be taken at face value. O'Driscoll employs a technique whereby he starts off seriously and ends with a send-up of both the reader's and his own seriousness. As this is the case in his previous fiction, then I see no reason why he should not be employing a similar technique in the Armageddon series. It is just possible that he is tweaking both the politically correct attitudes of the cultural élite, and the myths and fears lying at the foundation of human consciousness. This ... offers a better understanding of his work than does accusing him of any malicious intent.