Mike Mason, the former Queen’s adjunct professor accused of making allegedly racist and sexist comments last fall, said he agrees with the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) report condemning the University for their handling of the situation.
Mason left the University last fall after students and TAs brought concerns about comments he had made during lecture to the history department.
Last week, CAUT issued a report charging Queen’s with violating Mason’s academic freedom and acting “callously and irresponsibly in how it handled complaints with respect to his teaching.” When the original allegations emerged in fall 2011, Mason had declined to comment to the Journal due to legal reasons. He was unable to be reached for comment immediately following the release of the CAUT report.
Mason had stepped out of retirement for the second time to teach one fall second-year history course at Queen’s.
Mason said in his eyes, CAUT’s report is completely accurate. The report criticized the actions of members of the administration who issued Mason a series of conditions on which the continuation of the course depended. In a Nov. 4 article, James Carson, department chair of history, told the Journal that the allegations were “way more complicated than how they’re represented,” and that students’ private concerns shouldn’t have been discussed in class as they were on Oct. 26.
CAUT claims that invitations for University administration to participate in their investigation were declined.
In a Sept. 21 Journal article, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Alan Harrison said CAUT has no jurisdiction over the matter.
“The individual about whom this report was written took a leave of absence and as a consequence of that, no further action was taken,” Harrison told the Journal.
Following the allegations, three of Mason’s classes were cancelled. After his departure, various lecturers stepped in for the remaining classes.
Mason said he went to his doctor to request a note for a health leave. Although he has a minor heart irregularity, he said the stress of the experience was the catalyst for his leave.
“My doctor immediately communicated with the University that I was suffering stress and I need to go on health leave,” he said. “So at [that] point I’m no longer teaching the course under any conditions.”
Mason said he wouldn’t teach the course under the conditions set out by the administration, which included having Carson sit in on Mason’s classes occasionally until the end of the term. Those conditions were to be the result of a failure on Mason’s part to agree to prior conditions, including an investigation and a cease from teaching during the investigation, according to the CAUT report. Queen’s administration couldn’t be reached for comment following the interview with Mason.
“In 50 years, no administrator [has] ever cancelled a single class of mine … I was worried that these guys were actually wrecking my course,” Mason said. “This is in fact a deprivation of academic freedom. Nobody had consulted me.”
Mason said one concern with his teaching that was brought to his attention was his use of the term “jap.” “I had read from a textbook a recently published book about World War II, a passage in which in 1944 an American general said … something like ‘I didn’t know the little jap sons of bitches could have done this,’” Mason said. “He was talking about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and he was expressing surprise that the Japanese were able to carry out a surprise attack and destroy the Navy just about.”
Others were concerned about his referring to women in the class as the mistresses of the course, according to Mason and the CAUT report.
“[I meant] I want you to pay close attention to what I’m teaching you because … I want you to become the masters or mistresses of what I teach you, of my lectures,” Mason said.
Since the incident, Mason said he hasn’t heard from anyone at the University. He has no plans to return to Queen’s.
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