Butler gets two-year probation

Psychology professor given conditional discharge for assault


Queen’s psychology professor Brian Butler, accused of assaulting his neighbour, Andrew Hyett, with a ladder on Oct. 3, 2006, has received a conditional discharge. This means he receives no punishment on the condition that he does not contact Hyett, Hyett’s family or any visitors to the house either directly or indirectly. He also received a two-year probation.

Butler, 62, had no previous criminal record.

“I behaved badly on Oct. 3 and, in hindsight, I would like to have handled this much better.”

He maintained he had no intention of harming his neighbour, and Hyett’s injuries were the result of an accident.

“I didn’t want to throw the ladder so I said ‘Here’s your ladder’ and the guy went ass over tea kettle.”

He said the conflict between the two began several years ago when the Hyetts moved into a vacant house next door to Butler. Butler’s dog defecated on the Hyett’s lawn, Butler said, and the conflict escalated to include issues surrounding the noise of Butler’s pool pump and garbage Hyett left outside his house.

He told the Journal he doesn’t think the incident will affect his teaching in any way.

“I have received considerable support from students,” he said. He said most people understand how easily conflicts are blown out of proportion.

Butler has a tenure agreement with the University, something he says is an integral part of the higher education system.

“The whole system of tenure is absolutely essential,” he said. “Without it, the University or grant-giving institution has absolute control over you.”

Tenure insures that faculty cannot be dismissed from the University except in extreme situations. According to the collective agreement Queen’s holds with its tenured professors, “the standard for dismissal shall only be gross misconduct, incompetence or persistent neglect of academic duties. Gross misconduct includes a pattern of serious misconduct.”

The policy is intended to protect the academic freedom of faculty members with regards to both teaching and research.

Butler said he doesn’t think the principles of tenure grant university faculty any more leeway with regards to their behaviour than employees in any other field.

“I don’t think tenure is any different from the job security that happens elsewhere, except that tenure takes longer,” he said. “If I can’t perform my job or if I don’t perform my job competently, I’m let go.”

He said he thinks matters such as this should be left to the justice system and employers should have no part in the discipline. The incident has no bearing on his academic values and will not affect his ability either to conduct research or teach his material.

“I don’t think the University should impose any penalty on me.”

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