June 19, 2001  
Ontario, A01
By Tracey Tyler - Legal Affairs Reporter
The University of Toronto has apologized to one of its law professors and suspended an investigation into whether she encouraged students to cheat. Professor Denise Reaume "did not counsel or intend to counsel students to cheat or otherwise commit an academic offence" by submitting inflated first-year test scores to Bay Street employers, the university says. Not one of the 25 students caught cheating implicated Reaume, the university said in a statement released last night, which appeared to end a four-month standoff between the professor and U of T. Reaume said she is very pleased with the settlement, calling it a "vindication" for academic freedom.

"All I really want is to be able to do my job as best I can."

The university published a statement on its Web site in February saying Reaume was under investigation for comments she made to first-year students about the degree to which big law firms emphasize test scores when interviewing for summer jobs.

Reaume admitted she told students that she thought the emphasis on grades was destructive to the first-year learning environment and suggested they enter a pact to submit straight As, since the scores weren't included on any transcripts. But she said she never expected students would follow her suggestion to the letter.

Shortly after the investigation was announced, eight scholars from leading law schools around the world, including Oxford and Yale, signed their names to a letter decrying U of T's attack on "academic freedom."

"The university reaffirms its commitments to principles of free speech and academic freedom, which include the right to `raise deeply disturbing questions and provocative challenges to the cherished beliefs of society at large and the university itself,' " U of T said in last night's statement.

The university's administration still believes, however, that Reaume's remarks were "inappropriate," the statement added, at the same time calling her "an accomplished academic" and apologizing for any harm to her reputation or integrity. "They are entitled to think that my remarks are inappropriate," Reaume said. "I'm entitled to think that they are not. That is exactly what academic freedom is about."

The university's faculty association filed a grievance on Reaume's behalf and recently appeared before a tribunal in a bid to stop the investigation. As part of the negotiated settlement with the university, Reaume had to abandon the grievance in exchange for an apology. But she maintained last night that she did not compromise her position and the settlement helped correct the damage done to her reputation.

Reaume said as far as she can tell, students didn't follow through on her suggestion because not one of them submitted straight As to the law firms.

Moreover, an integral part of Reaume's comments was that students submit straight As en masse, which wasn't the case given that there were about 170 first-year students. "It would be a good idea if the university and Canadian society as a whole now started to look seriously at the question of what kind of students the country's law schools should be churning out," she said.
Copyright (c) 2001 The Toronto Star