Oh word, Rick Mehta was fired

Acadia University terminates professor after investigation into racist, sexist comments made both in and out of the classroom.

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Acadia University professor free speech convention darling Rich Mehta. - VIA YOUTUBE
  • VIA YOUTUBE
  • Acadia University professor free speech convention darling Rich Mehta.

Congratulations to Rick Mehta on what will surely be a windfall for his personal brand.

The associate psychology professor has been fired by Acadia University after an investigation into multiple complaints about his sexist, racist and transphobic comments.

Scott Roberts, spokesperson for Acadia, confirms to The Coast that the professor has been let go.

“We can confirm that Dr. Rick Mehta, a professor in Acadia University’s department of psychology, has been dismissed by the university,” Roberts states. “As this is a personnel matter, the university will provide no additional comments or respond to requests for further details.

In an interview with former Ontario PC candidate Andrew Lawton (who himself has a history with hateful remarks about several equity-seeking communities), Mehta claims his termination letter cited issues that “were wide-ranging and include failure to fulfill academic responsibilities, unprofessional conduct, breach of privacy, and harassment and intimidation of students and other members of the university community.”

Mehta claims he was unable to see copies of the investigations completed by Dalhousie law professor Wayne MacKay and Acadia dean of science Jeff Hooper unless agreeing “to be broadly gagged.”

Mehta's attempts at online fame have earned him a following in some circles as a Jordan Peterson-type figure who stands for freedom of speech on university campuses.

The investigations into his behaviour, however, were launched after multiple complaints by students, faculty and other Acadia community members about Mehta's “racist and transphobic comments” in and out of the classroom.

Mehta would allegedly devote excessive amounts of class time to unrelated lectures, using “right-wing fringe websites” to attack feminism or deny the gender wage gap rather than teaching the required material.

In a letter from psychology department head Rob Raeside, which Mehta himself shared on social media last winter, it's stated that students had stopped attending Mehta's classes because of the professor’s rants.

“The students have not expressed in writing the precise details of the racist and transphobic comments, but it is clear from their interactions with me that they are extremely disturbed by your comments, some to the point of not going to class,” writes Raeside.

Mehta has also been claimed residential schools weren't as bad as the testimony from Indigenous survivors suggests, supported the rights of white nationalists to poster the Acadia campus and publicly named a rape victim from his class to hold her “responsible.”

Acadia has throughout the investigation process maintained it has a legal obligation to look into student complaints and provide an environment free from harassment and discrimination.

But that likely won't stop other free-speech warriors from turning Mehta's termination into a story of political oppression. It's already happened on Lawton’s blog.

“Mehta’s firing is the culmination of an ideological witch hunt rather than any genuine wrongdoing,” writes the former political candidate. “Especially taking into account how the initial investigation materialized mere weeks after Mehta started challenging Acadia’s ‘decolonization initiatives.’ It came days after he critiqued the role of feminism in one of his first-year courses.”

Free speech, it's probably worth noting, is a legal right protecting individuals from unnecessary censorship by the Canadian government. Academic freedom, on the other hand, is the right for a professor not to be unduly censored by their university. The latter is a much smaller shield.

In a press release sent Friday afternoon, Acadia University's Faculty Association says it has already filed for arbitration to examine the evidence for Mehta’s dismissal.

“The termination of a tenured professor is very serious,” writes the AUFA in a brief statement. 

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