Why is anyone shocked that a donor can influence the hiring decisions at an elite Law School? That’s what it’s all about.

Barbara Bedont
9 min readMay 28, 2021

As a graduate, I see the recent hiring scandal at UofT Law as part of a long-standing policy of excluding diverse voices.

Photo by Narciso Arellano on Unsplash

There used to be an antique table in the foyer of University of Toronto Law School — a polished refectory table that taunted students looking to offload their heavy legal texts. The School administration didn’t want students to avail themselves of this obvious resting place, so it put up a sign saying “This table is for your viewing pleasure only. The Administration.” Soon after, a student surreptitiously replaced the sign with one that said “Only The Administration would get viewing pleasure from this table.”

Like the table, UofT Law School’s commitment to such things as equality and diversity of opinion is for viewing pleasure only. The School likes to have a principled veneer but as the recent hiring scandal reveals, when you poke a stick into the funding hornet’s nest, things get ugly very quickly.

For those unfamiliar with the scandal, a recent New Yorker article gives a quick lesson on the whole affair. In short, a hiring committee offered a job to a highly qualified candidate, Professor Valentina Azarova, to run UofT’s International Human Rights Program, but because Professor Azarova had published some articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that displeased some donors, pressure was put on the dean of the law school to rescind the offer. He did so, creating excuses about work permits, travel visas, bla bla bla. This prompted those who still believe in academic freedom — including some of UofT’s own Faculty members — to cry foul. An inquiry was set up headed by someone friendly to both the funding community and the dean. Predictably, it whitewashed The Administration’s decision.

Screen grab of some of the supporters of the UofT censure, including Setsuko Thurlow, David Suzuki, and Noam Chomsky.
Supporters of the UofT Censure movement include Setsuko Thurlow, David Suzuki, and Noam Chomsky.

After the facts of the hiring scandal emerged, an association of university professors censured UofT Law on the basis that the decision to revoke the job offer was a breach of academic…

Barbara Bedont

professional trouble-maker, lawyer (not the kind that makes lots of money), writer, activist. I write about current events with a gender and class perspective.