NationalOpinion

UBC Law prof who was denied tenure responsible for her own termination

After 39 long months, Lorna McCue, a Ned’u’ten chief and former director of the First Nations Legal Studies program at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Law, finally gets to perform centre-stage in the social justice circus of disgrace.

In 2012 UBC denied McCue tenure, and subsequently dismissed her. Last week she convinced a Human Rights Tribunal to hear her case, where she will argue that her “race, colour, (and) ancestry” played a role in her dismissal. According to the tribunal, her position is that UBC was forcing her, “as an indigenous scholar, to be someone she is not.”

How could UBC Law so brazenly and rashly discriminate against this vulnerable law professor? Simple, they didn’t.

Here are the facts.

McCue was a professor at UBC for eleven years, during which time she published no peer-reviewed articles. None. This is why she was let go. In light of the facts, I believe McCue’s discrimination allegation is absolutely disingenuous.

I agree, the “publish-or-perish” mentality is problematic, but in this situation UBC’s expectations were clearly communicated to McCue. Early in her career the Dean wrote her: we “expect to see five to six peer-reviewed, significant publications by the time you seek tenure.” She knew the expectations.

Not only that, but the expectations themselves were eminently reasonable. To begin with, all universities require their professors to publish academic writing, whether you’re a law professor in London, or a neuroscientist in Nairobi. McCue knew this was standard practice.

On top of that, UBC only required that she publish “five to six” articles, and they gave her 11 years to do so. This is more than fair, especially given that professors at the University of Toronto, in non-STEM faculties, publish an average of 2.7 articles per year; at McMaster, 3.9; and the University of Ottawa, 3.7.

In 2008 UBC even granted her an eight month reprieve from teaching, specifically to give her time to research and publish something, anything. During these eight months she published just eight pages, and in a non-academic source at that. McCue had golden opportunity to get her career on track, and she failed to take it. That’s on her.

McCue also argues that as an indigenous scholar, she should not be held to the same standards as non-aboriginal academics. She argues that she partakes in “non-traditional scholarship,” such as attending conferences and penning chapters in colloquial books. She says she “was doing teaching with (her) community,” instead of publishing.

As noble as that sounds, we must remember that all professors attend conferences, many professors author chapters, and some even write books; but this is always above and beyond their academic publications. She says she needed “significant compromise” because of her background, as it turns out UBC gave her nearly sycophantic compromise, but it was to no avail.

Lorna McCue is not a victim of discrimination, but of her own dissatisfaction. Her arbitrary, vindictive actions devalue every potentially legitimate human rights claim. For McCue, I have no sympathy.

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