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Good practices

Punished after reporting colleagues

An investigation by the Canadian Association of University Teachers found that the leaders of Thompson Rivers University (TRU) violated the academic freedom of one of its professors, economist Derek Pyne, when they placed him on unpaid leave for six months in 2018. Pyne was suspended for harassing colleagues and defaming TRU, a public teaching and research institution in Kamloops, British Columbia.

In an article published in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing in 2017, he wrote that 16 of the 27 researchers at the university’s Business School had published papers in predatory journals—low-profile publications that publish articles in exchange for money without performing a proper peer review. Pyne did not mention the names of his colleagues, but he stated in the article that they inflated their scientific output to obtain promotions. The economist had a difficult relationship with many other professors and had previously publicly criticized the quality of the courses offered by the university.

The TRU changed leadership at the end of 2018 and one of the first acts taken by its new president, Brett Fairbairn, was to suspend the researcher. “All of us as academics agree that academic freedom is foundational to the existence of a university,” said Fairbairn, according to Canadian radio station CBC. The president, however, dismissed the report issued by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. “Some of the information about the case is confidential and due to legal restrictions, we were unable to share it with the teachers’ association. The report is therefore based on limited information.”