Nova Scotia

Fired Acadia professor loses $50K settlement because of tweets

Former professor Rick Mehta has lost a $50,000 settlement from Acadia University after an arbitrator ruled that he repeatedly breached their agreement in a series of tweets.

Rick Mehta's tweets describing himself as 'vindicated' breached agreement

Former Acadia University psychology professor Rick Mehta is shown in a handout photo. Mehta lost a financial settlement from the university after an arbitrator ruled he breached the confidentiality terms of the agreement in a series of tweets. (Rick Mehta/The Canadian Press)

Former professor Rick Mehta has lost a $50,000 settlement from Acadia University after an arbitrator ruled that he repeatedly breached their agreement in a series of tweets.

Mehta described himself as "vindicated" and disclosed that the settlement included a payment, which broke confidentiality terms, according to a decision released this week.

Mehta and Acadia agreed that public statements on the settlement would only reveal that their dispute was mediated and resolved. 

He was fired last year after the Wolfville, N.S., university alleged he harassed and intimidated colleagues and students, breached privacy and failed to teach required course material. The university conducted two investigations into numerous complaints about the tenured professor before dismissing him in August.

Last year, Mehta said he believed he was fired because he spoke out against the university's new mission of "committing to social justice."

Vindication claim 'wildly inaccurate'

In recent tweets outlined in the decision, Mehta described his departure from the university in various ways including that he was dismissed without cause, dismissed for exercising academic freedom and that he left on his own terms.

"Because I got the vindication that I was seeking. In other words, I have left the university on my term, as opposed to the administration's or union's terms. The NDA that I was required to sign by law is not for my protection," Mehta tweeted on April 12.

"University administrators are ruthless towards non-leftist profs who exercise their rights to academic freedom & dissent. They also have labour law on their side that allows them to fire tenured profs without cause and to weasel their way out of paying any kind of severance," he tweeted later in May. 

However, arbitrator William Kaplan wrote it was untrue to say the parties agreed that Mehta was dismissed without cause as that was not determined one way or the other in the settlement.

As there was no admission of liability or culpability in the agreement, Mehta had no basis to claim he was vindicated, Kaplan wrote. 

"It would be wildly inaccurate to say that agreement on the Minutes constituted vindication," he said in his decision.

"Quite clearly Dr. Mehta is attempting to suggest by use of the term vindicated and by his repeated reference to "severance" that there was some kind of an acknowledgment of University wrongdoing when that was specifically not the case (and likewise, there was no finding of wrongdoing by Dr. Mehta)."

Threat to release settlement details

There was no severance pay in the agreement, but a payment for a "relatively small amount", Kaplan wrote. 

Mehta was directed to remove tweets describing himself as vindicated after a conference call hearing earlier this month. He removed the tweets about being vindicated, but tweets about a financial settlement continued.

He also wrote a letter to Acadia's president, Peter Ricketts, threatening to release the settlement details to the media unless certain conditions were met, the decision read.

Mehta later revealed in a tweet this week the settlement amount was $50,000.

His union, Acadia University Faculty Association, took a neutral stance in the arbitration.

Mehta did not respond to a request for comment.