Key Issue 1: Was any discipline merited?
Before being able to address the grievances filed against Northeast University, it must first be determined if Preston’s lack of action immediately following Butler’s initial outburst merits any form of discipline. Under Article 12 of the Collective Agreement, “a member must be disciplined only for just and sufficient cause”, and this is what must be established. Preston also committed a crime of negligence in this case because he neglected to tell anyone after Butler’s initial outburst and threat of violence. Negligence falls under Tort Law in Canada.
1a. Did Professor Butler make an explicit threat of violence?
The remarks made by Butler during the first meeting with Preston consistently revealed his desire to kill Chevalier. This can be seen from his statements, such as, “I’d like to kill him!! You know, I now understand how Fabrikant could do what he did”, “And there’s nothing I can do about it...Nothing legal, anyway”. By following the statement “I’d like to kill him!!” with his other remarks, it is clear that the phrase was not simply used as an expression and the context suggests a real threat of violence.
Regardless of personal interpretation, it should have been clear to Preston that this was a threat of violence under the university’s “Policy Against Violence on Campus” which states, “Violent behaviour can include...a direct or indirect threat of physical harm” and “Do not ignore threatening or violent behaviour”.
1b. Did Northeast University communicate a clear expectation that any threat of violence needs to be immediately reported?
Preston has been disciplined for violating Northeast University’s “Policy Against Violence on Campus”, as a result of his inaction in bringing the threats made by Professor Butler to the attention of anyone in authority. This policy has been well communicated to the faculty at Northeast, being published and distributed, and the Northeast Faculty Union was consulted during the development of the policy. The policy directly states “If you witness or experience violence or threats of violence...report the situation to your unit head or to Security Services immediately”. In the interest of the safety of the faculty and students at the university, it is clearly stated that any violence or threats of violence should be reported immediately.
1c. Did Preston overstep his decision-making role?
Given the policy at Northeast and the clear threat of violence made by Butler, Preston did not have a decision to make. The statements made by…