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This article was published 20/1/2011 (3920 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The University of Manitoba did not "muzzle"math Prof. Gábor Lukács over academic integrity, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Deborah McCawley said Thursday.
McCawley reserved her decision on the key issue before her -- whether Lukács has the legal right to sue the U of M in a bid to rescind a controversial PhD awarded to a math student last year.
But McCawley told Lukács's lawyer Robert Tapper during his presentation of his case that the evidence indicates that the U of M ordered Lukács to desist over privacy issues.
"Your client was not ordered to desist discussion of academic integrity. It's not right to say it's effectively a muzzle order," the judge said.
The U of M suspended Lukács for three months without pay this past fall for allegedly disclosing the student's private health information. His grievance hearing is set for June.
Disobey your boss, you pay a price -- that's the University of Manitoba's message to Lukács, said U of M lawyer Jamie Kagan.
Kagan, nevertheless, made it clear that a labour dispute or the process of awarding PhDs was not on the docket.
What was being argued Thursday was whether Lukács has the right to sue the U of M to try to rescind a PhD awarded to a math student who twice failed his crucial comprehensive exam, then was awarded the doctorate after claiming to suffer from the disability of extreme examination anxiety. The U of M has maintained it was legally required to accommodate the recognized disability of the PhD student.
Lukács was not directly affected by the university's decision to award the PhD in math last year, and thus has no right to sue the university, Kagan contended.
Lukács did not teach the student involved, and he was not a member of the math department committee which handled the student's appeal, Kagan said.
Tapper told the court that Lukács is directly affected, because the integrity of his department and its degrees is at stake in the case.
Kagan told the court that Lukács received a reprimand, and was told in a private meeting not to violate the student's privacy by disclosing his name and health information. Despite that, Lukács was subsequently "spinning it around the Internet to whoever might want to read it," Kagan said.
"We can't take his labour grievance, and spin that up into a grievance against the student, the faculty, and the university, to challenge his diploma," Kagan said. "When you disobey your employer, there is going to be a consequence, and Dr. Lukács felt that consequence."
But, said Tapper, "This case has nothing whatever to do with privacy. The connection is not to the student, but to the process.
"The University of Manitoba has nothing to be proud of in this case.''
Tapper said the case is about "petty demagoguery" and "fiefdom protection."
He said that dean of graduate studies Jay Doering had no authority to waive degree requirements and award the unnamed student a PhD. Tapper said that science dean Mark Whitmore attempted to silence dissent from Lukács and other math professors.
Lukács feared that the U of M would be seen as a "diploma mill," and its research funding and international standing would suffer, Tapper said.