A new report from a tribunal at McMaster University recommends “lengthy” suspension for five tenured business professors and underscores and exposes “toxic” rifts that existed for years inside the university's DeGroote School of Business.

Released with little fanfare on Tuesday and posted to the web, the 26-page report rules on two claims of alleged violations of the university’s anti-discrimination policy — one against a “senior university administrator” and the university, and the other against six faculty members and one staff member as well as the university — that stemmed from a “poisoned” work environment. 

The three-person tribunal was launched in 2010 to address conflicts that arose during the leadership of Paul Bates, who was dean of the business school between 2004 and his resignation in 2010.

'Individuals were harassed, intimidated or retaliated against because of their perceived association with the Senior Administrator, or, for example, because they were not perceived as ‘Mac guys'' — Maureen MacDonald, McMaster University

In its report, the tribunal, comprised of one science and two humanities professors, found the respondents in the second case, referred to as Complaint B, had broken the university’s anti-discrimination policy.

In its decision, the tribunal indicated it did not find the "senior administrator" to have broken the university’s anti-discrimination policy, and instead found the complainants in the case to have contributed to a “poisoned” work environment.

The report does not list the names of any of the claimants or the respondents, and said their identities would remain confidential unless the tribunal ruled otherwise.

Tribunal member Maureen MacDonald, who authored the report, went on to write that a group of tenured faculty members with the business school breached the anti-discrimination policy “when individuals were harassed, intimidated or retaliated against because of their perceived association with the Senior Administrator, or, for example, because they were not perceived as ‘Mac guys.’ ”

The tribunal found that “most egregious misconduct” involved tenured faculty members having “tainted, interfered with, and compromised the integrity” of the faculty's promotion process in way that may have negatively affected the job prospects of lecturers who were less securely employed.

Proposed punishments

In its report, the tribunal recommended “lengthy suspensions without, benefits or privileges" for three of faculty members, and “reduced, yet still lengthy suspensions” for two additional respondents. It advised that all five should be barred from access to the university’s property for the duration of their respective suspensions. 

In addition, the report said the sixth respondent should be given a formal reprimand to stay on the individual’s discipline record for a period of five years.

The tribunal said it did not find the university to have been directly responsible for any harassment or discrimination in the cases, but said that its anti-discrimination “policies were not mobilized in a timely fashion, and, as a result, issues festered.”

The report calls on McMaster to review its anti-discrimination policies in the next 12 months and to submit its future recommendations to the university’s senate and board of governors for approval.

To make its decision, the tribunal pored over 14,891 pages of documents and heard testimony from 65 witnesses over a three-month period.