On December 10, 2009, Dr. Keith Banting, the President of the CPSA, sent me a letter responding to a complaint that I had made to the Board of Directors (this letter is available on the Ethics page of this blog).  For those unaware of the events that transpired last year, a number of members of the Women’s Caucus of the CPSA posted anonymous allegations on the their website that “overt and blatant racism was expressed” during a “panel on aboriginal politics”, and that “similarly offensive behaviours” had occurred at “previous CPSA meetings” (http://www.cpsawomen.ca/lucheon/index.htm.  The examples given of “offensive behaviours” were that members were called “squaws” and “similar offensive language was used”.  There was even a “discussion of whether this was ‘hate speech’ under the criminal code”.  Although I was not named on the website, I was specifically mentioned in discussions on the Women’s Caucus listserv (see the letter from Joanna Quinn posted on the Ethics page), and I was identified as the person being complained about on Janet Ajzenstat’s blog “The Idea File” (http://janetajzenstat.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/harvey-mansfield-on-canada/). 

Although there has been no substantiation of the “overt and blatant racism” that I supposedly expressed, a letter was submitted by Kathy Brock, Joyce Green, Kiera Ladner and Malinda Smith to the CPSA Board asserting that “the CPSA needs to address racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia”, as well as “scholarship…which suggest[s] that racism must be protected by academic freedom”.  They also obliquely refer to the fact that “similar views [to a "junior woman scholar"] have been expressed by senior male scholars (and in one case have been awarded)”, without any elaboration of what these “views” are or if/how they are racist or responsible for promoting a hostile environment (see the “Racism, chilly climate, our responsibility and the discipline – Brock et al” on the Ethics page).  These assertions, along with discussions that occurred on the Women’s Caucus listserv (see “Women’s Caucus emails” on the Ethics page on this blog), led to a motion requesting the CPSA to “create policy concerning (1) speech that promotes hatred or creates a hostile environment; and (2) the consequences of such speech. In particular, we would like guidelines concerning professional conduct during the Annual Meeting (for panels and all other formal and informal sessions). These guidelines should include instructions for session chairs, participants and discussants. We also request the establishment of protocols for registering complaints and a process for their resolution”.

Dr. Banting’s letter tells me that there is currently nothing that can be done about the remarks legitimized by the Women’s Caucus since the CPSA does not have a complaints procedure in place for investigating individual members (although such a procedure will be discussed by members in June after the CPSA’s Committee on Professional Ethics releases its report).  My concern, however, is not so much the actions of individual members, but the fact that they are using the Women’s Caucus – an organization that is affliated with the CPSA – to make anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations.  Although the CPSA may not have the authority to police the behaviour of its members, surely it has the capacity to ensure that its affiliates are conducting themselves in an ethical and professional manner.  The actions of the Women’s Caucus of the CPSA, in fact, seem to condone libel.  Why doesn’t the CPSA rein in its Women’s Caucus?  Is it afraid to “offend” the postmodern sisterhood?