The recent reversal of administrative bungling in the Westhues case
by independent adjudicator Peter Mercer has a number of
important implications for all faculty members at the 
University of Waterloo.

Over the last several years, the current administration has
repeatedly resorted to a novel legal theory, under which arbitrary
and unjust discipline imposed against faculty becomes justified through
supposed inherent powers of "line management".  Using this rationale,
top administrators such as the President and Provost have bypassed
existing University policies to impose their own flawed judgments.
When informed of the ethical and legal obligation to follow applicable
policies, their responses have consistently been arrogant and inadequate.

Mercer's decision categorically rejects this abuse of power.
In overturning the discipline imposed on Westhues, Mercer notes
"There is in fact no policy at the University of Waterloo
on discipline, save under Policy 53 dealing with dismissal of a 
tenured faculty member" and "Certainly there is no express or
implied grant of authority to the Provost to improve such sanctions
pursuant to Policy 33."  

The inadequacy of Waterloo's policies dealing with grievance
disciplinary, and ethical issues has long been known to those
on the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF & T) of the Faculty
Association (FAUW), and those at CAUT.  Indeed, in 1996, an independent CAUT
fact-finding committee concluded that UW policies needed significant
revision to ensure fair treatment for all parties.  Instead of
accepting these reasonable conclusions, and working to revise
the policies, President Downey (CAUT Bulletin, November 1996)
blustered, "No one who bothers to consider the facts of this 
case will mistake the [CAUT] AF&T Report for an impartial
review.  The disregard for fairness and natural justice in a body so
free with advice to others on these matters is distressing but 
increasingly unsurprising."  In his ad hominem attack, Downey failed
to provide any rational basis to reject the CAUT report's conclusions.

If there is anything to be grateful for, it is that President 
Downey will soon make way for another UW President -- hopefully
someone with a genuine commitment to policy reform.

Mercer's report also raises serious questions about the moral
authority of the current Provost.  During his tenure, Provost
Kalbfleisch has exhibited an appalling lack of sensitivity
on issues dealing with free inquiry:  from his heavy-handed censorship
of computer newsgroups and library newspapers to his unjustified
attempt to discipline Westhues.   I seriously question whether,
in light of Mercer's decision, Provost Kalbfleisch continues
to maintain the confidence of the university community.  
I call upon the Provost to either issue a public apology to Westhues
or resign his position as the chief academic officer of the
University of Waterloo.

The final lesson is that, until current policies have been revised,
no UW professor is safe.  Any student may bring forth frivolous
charges of racism without fear of penalty.  If past experience
is any guide, the Ethics Committee cannot be depended upon to
distinguish valid charges from preposterous ones.  And the
current Provost cannot be depended upon to follow the terms
of University policy and refrain from instituting arbitrary
penalties of his own invention.  In such a poisoned environment,
how can free inquiry prosper?

Jeffrey Shallit
Computer Science