David Noble: Outspoken academic wins fight with York

Round One goes to the teacher in the ongoing dispute between York University and its rabble-rousing professor David Noble.

A labour arbitrator has ruled York violated Noble's academic freedom by issuing a 2004 press release criticizing a controversial pamphlet he penned and ordered the university to pay Noble $2,500 in damages. It must also withdraw the press release from its website.

While Noble failed to win an apology from York for the press release and was awarded a mere sliver of the $10 million in damages he was seeking, the history professor calls the ruling "a major victory for academic freedom."

And it's a landmark win for professors across Canada, says Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

"Trying to silence that sort of comment was an attack on one of the most basic elements of academic freedom," said Turk.

York University spokesperson Alex Bilyk said "we uphold the principle of academic freedom and accept the decision of the arbitrator" but noted York has not been asked to issue an apology, or pay the $10 million in defamation.

The fight began in 2004 when Noble wrote and handed out flyers on campus accusing York leaders of being biased in favour of Israel and clamping down more harshly on pro-Palestinian student groups.

The flyer, entitled "The Tail that Wags the Dog," named members of York's foundation who work with pro-Israeli agencies such as United Jewish Appeal. The flyer suggested this is why York expelled student Daniel Freeman-Maloy.

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