Provost provides background on York’s agreement with CIGI

Vari Hall

Vice-President Academic & Provost Patrick Monahan has issued this message to the York community:

As members of the community are aware, the University has entered into an agreement with the Centre for International Law and Governance Innovation (CIGI) to establish 10 Chairs and fund 20 graduate students in three important fields of international law. This initiative will bring significant benefits to the University as it advances the priorities identified in our Academic Plan, and will establish York as Canada’s leading academic centre for the study of international economic law, international environmental law and international intellectual property. CIGI is providing $30 million in funding for the initiative, and the Government of Ontario is supporting it with a further $30 million.

Given the public attention that this initiative has attracted recently, some of it based on an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of the facts, I wanted to provide the community with the relevant background information and address some of the concerns that have been raised. Most particularly, a new protocol signed March 9 makes explicit how York’s academic and administrative freedom will be fully protected.

First, the University retains full decision-making authority and autonomy in the development of this initiative. Although we will consult with CIGI, and work collaboratively with them in promoting and developing the research program, final decisions regarding such matters as who shall be appointed to the Chairs rests with the University. There is no “veto” held by CIGI with respect to this initiative, as is confirmed by the two protocols that have been recently entered into with CIGI. Among other things, these protocols confirm the following:

  • The Chairs will be recruited through a merit-based recruitment process governed by the University’s recruitment policies, practices and collective agreements;
  • The relevant Faculty or hiring unit will prepare a shortlist of candidates for Chairs, and select the individual to be appointed from the shortlist; and
  • The Chair holders will enjoy all the protections relating to academic freedom and academic integrity enjoyed by full-time faculty members at York.

There has been some attention focused on a provision that contemplates a review of the Faculty short-list with a committee that includes some CIGI representatives. However, in cases where there is any difference of opinion on the shortlist, the matter will be referred to an independent committee of scholars, experts in the relevant fields, who are at arms-length from CIGI. The views of the independent committee of scholars will be binding on CIGI. This kind of independent peer review is analogous to the external peer review that has been in place for many years with respect to the Canada Research Chair program, as well as the Canada Excellence Research Chairs. It will enhance rather than detract from the academic credibility and integrity of the program. The March 9 protocol confirms this procedure, is binding on the parties, and takes precedence over provisions in the original agreement of August 8, 2011.

The York Senate’s Academic Policy, Planning and Research Committee has unanimously endorsed this initiative, on the basis that it is manifestly in the interests of the University and that academic freedom is protected. I welcome further discussion and to working collaboratively with members of the community as we move ahead with the implementation of this important initiative.

Here are the relevant documents:

August 8, 2011 agreement

February 10, 2012 binding protocol

March 9, 2012 binding protocol


Patrick Monahan, Provost