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CAUT calls for B.C. minister’s resignation over political interference

(Ottawa – February 1, 2024) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is joining the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of British Columbia (FPSE-BC) in calling on B.C.’s Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills to resign following revelations she interfered in an internal personnel matter at Langara College. 

On January 25, Minister Selina Robinson used her X account, formerly known as Twitter, to call for the termination of Dr. Natalie Knight, even though an investigation cleared the professor of any wrongdoing. 

“I am disappointed this instructor [Dr. Knight] continues to have a public post secondary [sic] platform to spew hatred and vitriol,” the minister wrote. “I have met with @langaracollege to express my concerns for the Langara and broader communities. They agree everyone deserves to feel safe.” 

Dr. Knight was fired from the college within 24 hours of the minister’s posting. 

“Political interference into the internal affairs of universities and colleges must never be countenanced as it undermines their independence and the academic freedom of faculty that is necessary to preserve, share and advance knowledge,” wrote CAUT executive director David Robinson in a letter to B.C. Premier David Eby. “By intervening publicly and directly with the college administration concerning Dr. Knight’s expressed views, the minister has violated these fundamental principles.” 

Langara College conducted an internal investigation into comments Dr. Natalie Knight made at a demonstration on October 28, 2023, about the Israel-Gaza conflict. The investigation concluded Dr. Knight’s comments did not violate the law or any college policies. 

“The notion that a minister would intervene directly with a college and call for the termination of a tenured faculty member is highly inappropriate and unprecedented. We will assist the Langara Faculty Association in grieving this unjustified termination,” said FPSE-BC executive director Michael Conlon. 

“The minister is free, as any citizen is, to disagree with Dr. Knight’s political views,” said CAUT’s Robinson. “However, the minister does not have the licence to censor those views or to meddle in a college’s internal matters.” 

CAUT is the national voice of 72,000 academic and general staff at more than 125 universities and colleges across Canada.