Audit Cultures: Anthropological Studies in Accountability, Ethics, and the Academy

By Marilyn Strathern | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

The university as panopticon

Moral claims and attacks on academic freedom

Vered Amit

On Monday, August 24, 1992, Dr Valery Fabrikant walked into the Hall Building of Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec and shot five people. One, a secretary, recovered from her wounds. Four others were either killed immediately or died later. Those murdered had been Fabrikant's faculty colleagues: three had taught in the same faculty of engineering where Fabrikant held an appointment and another had served as the head of the faculty association which had represented Fabrikant in several grievances. During Fabrikant's nine years at Concordia University, he had been successively promoted from a research assistant to a tenure stream associate professorship but he had also alarmed an increasing number of staff, administrators and faculty members with his episodes of bizarre behaviour, accusations, email campaigns, threats, confrontations and acrimony which had escalated in the year or two just prior to the events of August 24. In the immediate aftermath of the killings, attention, both within and outside Concordia University, focused on the choices made by its senior administrators who had apparently been aware of and concerned about the danger posed by Fabrikant's increasingly threatening conduct but had not taken sufficient measures to protect the institution's personnel. The Board of Governors almost immediately terminated the contract of the top administrator; it also commissioned a number of formal reviews. In the course of these inquiries, attention shifted away from the administration to the academic faculty with the insinuation that while administrative deficiencies had undoubtedly occurred, they rested most of all in a failure to hold academic faculty generally, rather than just Fabrikant, properly accountable for their intellectual authorship, financial dealings and civility.

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