David Noble: University, academic reach settlement after six years

Historians in the News

Simon Fraser University has settled a lawsuit with David Noble, an outspoken professor who said he had been denied a humanities appointment at the British Columbia institution because of his strong criticism of the use of technology in academe.

The settlement completes a saga that started six years ago, when a Simon Fraser search committee nominated Mr. Noble, a professor of history at York University, in Ontario, to hold its J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities. Administrators at Simon Fraser blocked the appointment, arguing that Mr. Noble's curriculum vitae was too short and his personal style too abrasive.

But Mr. Noble said he had been blackballed because of his vehement opposition to online education, a stance expressed most famously in a series of articles called"Digital Diploma Mills."

In 2003 the Canadian Association of University Teachers issued a report chiding Simon Fraser officials and recommending that the university renew its invitation to the controversial professor. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Noble filed suit, and the report -- which had been released only to the professor and the university -- was leaked to the news media. Simon Fraser administrators disputed the report's findings, reiterating their stance that the university's appointment process had worked properly.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and Mr. Noble said on Wednesday that he was prohibited from discussing the deal. But he said he was glad to see the protracted legal wrangling, which he called"a slog," come to an end....

[HNN: Noble is in a legal controversy at York. In 2005 he sued the university after he was criticized for handing out literature that was deemed anti-Jewish. (Noble is Jewish.) He has asked for nearly $10 million in damages.]

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