The Renison Affair

Foreword

Everything that follows is true. It is an account of the protests, disruptions, and turmoil that took place at Renison College at the University of Waterloo in the 1970s. This it is the first time that the complete story has been told. Although it may seem like unbelievable fiction, all of these events took place. I’ve identified the major participants, both the good and the bad and have used real names except where people might be embarrassed by these revelations, or may want to cause trouble because they don’t want to be reminded of what they did. I have used actual names everywhere else.

The facts of the Renison Affair are well documented in transcripts, records, testimonies, letters, reports and newspaper accounts. The events actually happened and people really did behave like this and say such things. This may seem incredible given today’s intolerance for these kinds of acts, the laws that are in place to prevent them and the punishments meted out to those who persist in these kinds of behaviours. However, a few decades ago people could and did act like this and get away with it. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then.

I am describing what took place during what became known as The Renison Affair, the factors that led up to it and what happened afterwards. It is a part of the history of the College and the University of Waterloo and most of the facts have never come to light. It is a case study of an unique academic situation and a good example of how one person managed to deal with it and survive.

The Calm Before the Storm

I was young, married, had two children, a good job at Purdue University in Indiana and we had just bought our first house. Then I accepted a job at Renison College, the Anglican College at the University of Waterloo and found myself in the midst of an unbelievable situation.

I was an experienced academic with four university degrees from the University of Toronto, York University and the University of Alberta and had taught at five universities in Canada, the UK and the USA, published dozens of academic papers, conducted hundreds of thousands of dollars of research, co-authored a series of high school texts and was serving as a contributing editor for a professional journal. I had been at Purdue for seven years, but wanted to return to Canada. I had declined an offer to return to the University of Alberta to be a department head but when the possibility to be the Principal at Renison College came along, it seemed like an interesting prospect. Interesting doesn’t come close to describing the job and the mayhem I encountered. I should never have accepted the job and once I found out what was going on and what I was getting myself into, I ought to have resigned. After I arrived it quickly became apparent that the college was in danger of being closed and no one seemed concerned enough to prevent it. Problems had to be corrected. Little did I know that I would soon be involved in a whirlwind of chaos and anarchy.

Renison College was founded as a result of the efforts of Anglican laity in Kitchener and Waterloo under the authority of the Synod of the Diocese of Huron. It was incorporated on January 14, 1959 and was named in memory of Robert John Renison, (1875-1957), a former Metropolitan of Ontario and Archbishop of Moosonee. It affiliated with the University of Waterloo and offered courses and programmes in Arts and the Social Sciences for credit towards the Bachelor of Arts degree.  Renison’s first building provided offices, classrooms, and two residence wings to house forty men and forty women. A second building was erected in 1964 to offer additional academic and residence space. I always thought that it was apocryphal that the biblical quotation on the cornerstone was “Rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The founding fathers never imagined that the word of truth would be as hidden, distorted or divided as it was later on.

I flew up to Waterloo and was interviewed by the Board of Governors search committee. The college was lovely; grey stone buildings somewhat gothic in style beside a creek overlooking the university. The interview was rather strange. I was shown around and introduced to Don M’Timkulu, the acting Principal.  I saw him for only a few minutes and was surprised by his reluctance to talk about the College. I assumed that he was not pleased about being replaced. We met very briefly in his office which was filled with an odd assortment of old furniture, a stained glass window sitting in one corner and piles of books and papers everywhere. He sat in a chair that tilted to one side and his desk was battered and had a brick propping up one missing leg. He had very little to say and the visit lasted less than five minutes. He was cold and aloof and although I asked several questions, he answered in brief, vague statements and didn’t give me any insights into what was happening.  I thought it was a very peculiar introduction to the College and its administration.

One member of the Board of Governors asked me whether I had any objection to the college having a chaplain. This was a very strange question. Every church college had a chaplain. I assumed that Renison already had one. I was led to believe that Renison was a small, intimate institution with good students, interesting courses and a collegial atmosphere.

They didn’t tell me that the faculty had refused to accept the Board’s previous selection of a Principal and had demanded that a person in this position be accountable only to them. The Board knew that there were problems at the college but pretended ignorance about what was going on and the problems that were brewing. It was wrong and counterproductive for them to have kept this from me.

I accepted the position with dreams of becoming the next Mr. Chips of Renison College. I took office in July 1974 and the next two months were very quiet. No one was around; classes were over, the students were gone as were many of the faculty. I was occupied with exploring the college, meeting the administrators at the university and the heads of the other colleges.  When I turned my attention to the College records, I discovered that there was surprisingly little to look at. My first inkling that something strange as going on occurred  when I asked the Administrative Officer, Gwen Kauk to give me the College budget.  Gwen was a solid Germanic woman who made it clear that I was unwelcome. She gave me a few pages concerning just the residence. “But Gwen” I said, “I want to see the academic budget too.”  “You can’t.” she replied. “That budget is developed by Professor Miller and you’ll have to ask him for it. I don’t know anything about it”

Was she pulling my leg? She was the administrative officer for the entire college but wanted me to believe that she didn’t have anything to do with the major portion of the operation. However, it got even stranger. Hugh Miller was the Dean of the College and had been very critical of me even though we had scarcely met. When I asked him for the financials for the academic side, I was told that I would not be allowed to see them since they weren’t completed. He didn’t say that they weren’t ready yet, but that he wouldn’t allow me to see them. Who did he think he was? Who ever heard of the CEO of an organization being denied budgetary information? Even more amazing, he went on to say that I wouldn’t be able to have any input into the academic budget. This seemed completely bizarre and I began to suspect that there was much more to this than met the eye.

I was getting nowhere at Renison so I decided to ask a few questions of the administrators at the main university. I was warmly welcomed. Not only were they very friendly but they seemed positively relieved to see me. The reason why became clear when Howard Petch, the university Vice President, told me that there were serious concerns about the college and its academic programs and that if a new Principal hadn’t been appointed and changes made, the University was going to take steps to close the college. He went on to say that the University was worried about Renison’s academic offerings and who was teaching the courses.

What kind of a mess had I gotten into? I dashed back to the College determined discover what was being taught, by whom and what qualifications the faculty actually had. In doing so, I opened a Pandora’s Box and the results were staggering.

Inconceivable and Unbelievable – Renison’s Courses and Faculty

I asked to see the personnel files for the faculty but it seemed that there were only a few and the rest had been lost or mysteriously misplaced. As for the part time lecturers, there were no records for them at all. Undaunted, I asked each member of the faculty to hand in updated curriculum vitae (CV). This is a normal document in academic circles. It lists a person’s degrees, when and where they were obtained, a record of their teaching career, their publications, research, speeches they have given, committees they have sat on and any other information pertinent to their career and performance.

I was flabbergasted when most of the faculty refused to submit a CV and shocked when they said that I did not have the right to ask for such a thing. What planet were they living on? How did they ever manage to get hired at Renison if no one knew anything about them? Either the records didn’t exist at all or there was a coordinated effort to deny me access to them. No one in the administration at the University of Waterloo could believe what was going on, but simply said, “What did we tell you?”

I managed to find out a bit more about the faculty but I was disappointed to discover that only a handful had advanced degrees and that fewer than half possessed Ph.D.’s. This was at a time when there was an abundance of Ph.D.’s looking for university work. Why was Renison staffed this way and how had it happened?  It didn’t come as any surprise that most of the faculty had engaged in very little research. Some had done none at all and had not published in professional journals. The quality of teaching was completely unknown. The College didn’t have any process in place to assess this and there was no way to determine who was or was not doing a good job. There were no standards for qualifications, research, publishing or teaching at the College and I could find no evidence of a performance review for anyone. My request for information about these areas must have been extremely threatening.

We did have faculty members who were good academics but they were the minority. Balasubramanyam Hyma taught Geography and had a joint appointment at the University, Werner Packull was a very good historian, Mark Nagler was a fine sociologist, Mona Zentner was a new addition to the faculty in Social Work and Harry Tuyn was a delightful expert in English.  I was having trouble finding anything about the six other members of the full time faculty. Later I learned that our best academics were being threatened, bullied and coerced by the others and prevented from cooperating with any of my requests.

The college offered a variety of liberal arts courses and something called Social Development Studies. There were also courses in psychology, sociology, social work, religion, history, English, philosophy and geography.[1] I discovered that although we had only twelve full time faculty members and six or seven part time instructors, there were half a dozen cases of nepotism. 

Hiring the relatives of one’s employees is generally frowned upon and discouraged or simply not allowed where salaries and promotions are based on the review by one’s peers. Expecting one’s wife, lover or brother to act dispassionately and in an unbiased manner isn’t realistic, so nepotism is generally avoided. This certainly wasn’t the case at Renison. Several of the part time people were related to or were live-in friends or lovers of the full time faculty. I was beginning to understand how some people got hired and promoted and I didn’t like what I was learning.

Many of our courses were academically rigorous and were taught by qualified faculty members. But others were highly suspect in terms of what was being taught and who was teaching them. Some were taught by instructors who were unqualified and should not have been teaching for us at all. I learned that the Board of Governors had been told that one faculty member was nearing the completion of a Ph.D. program, but in actual fact was not working towards such a degree at all.  The university did not recognize this individual’s qualifications to teach the subject being offered at Renison and would not give our students credit for courses that this person taught.[2] 

Other courses were being taught in a manner that was academically unsound and inappropriate. One class of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work was team taught by four people, Marlene Webber, Marsha Forest, Jeff Forest and Hugh Miller. Marlene, Jeff and Hugh were Renison faculty members but who on earth was Marsha?

I learned that she was Jeff’s wife, a full time faculty member at the University of Waterloo, but she had never been hired by Renison. Nevertheless she had been allowed to teach full time at the college, sit on the Renison faculty council and had been granted full voting and decision making rights. I’d never heard of such a thing. What kind of place was this? Had everybody been asleep at the switch? When I asked about her at the university, they didn’t want to talk about her, but simply said that they were glad she spent most of her time at Renison since she was a problem in her own department.

          I had to find out what was being taught in the course and how the students were able to attend one class, do one set of assignments but get three different marks in three different subjects.  This was not a new and innovative form of teaching, it was a complete aberration. I decided to look into this a little further. Who had allowed this to happen? What kind of education were we providing? A very bad one it seemed.

          Marlene Webber appeared to be teaching mainly Social Work and seemed to have the academic background to do so. But this didn’t compare to what I discovered about the Forests. I found a very thin file on Jeff and it revealed that although he was teaching in the Social Work subject area, he did not have a degree in this field and had never taken a single course about it. Who on earth had hired him? There was no file on Marsha and all I could learn was simply that she taught in the department of Human Relations and Counselling Studies at the University.

How I found out what was being Taught

I was getting quite alarmed now and was determined to know more about what was being taught in this class. Under normal circumstances one would expect that instructors would teach what was on the curriculum and that they would have appropriate qualifications and expertise in that area. This didn’t seem to be happening at Renison but any interference in the process would be construed as an infringement of academic freedom. A few discussions with our students soon revealed things I could scarcely believe.

One day I had coffee with one of our mature students who had been working in the social work field before returning for her degree. “How are you enjoying your courses,” I asked her. A strange look came over her face, she looked around to see who might be listening, leaned forward and whispered, “Do you really want to know?” 

“Of course,” I replied.

 “Well,” she said. “I came here expecting to learn about Social Work but instead, I’m learning about protests and how to be anti-establishment.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I arrived at Renison last September,” she went on, “and was in the class that was being taught by the Forests, Miller and Webber. One day they gave us all black armbands, had us put them on and told us that we were all now members of something called the Anti-Imperialist-Alliance. We had no idea what this was. I thought we were going to do some sort of role play. Instead, they marched us across campus and gave us signs to carry protesting the death of Allende the Marxist president of Chile. We didn’t even know who he was or what we were doing, but it certainly didn’t have anything to do with social work.”

“Are you sure you are not making this up?” I asked.

“Absolutely not.” She said. “Ask the other students.” [3]

This was unbelievable. It was obvious that this was a carefully organized effort by the instructors to use the students for their own purposes. No responsible academic would ever do this and the fact that four of them used their class like this boggled the brain. However, a few more conversations with other students led to even more amazing revelations. One young woman came to me and I could see that she was very nervous and upset.

 “I want to tell you what’s going on in our classes.” She said, “But you must swear to keep this confidential. They know things about me that would be very embarrassing and they have threatened to use it against me if I talk to you.”  Naturally I agreed and the dam burst.

“At the beginning of the term”, she continued, “they told us that we had to fill out forms telling them everything about our background, our families, our parent’s salaries, income and worth. They also wanted to know all kinds of very personal information, our political views, dating and other stuff. I thought this was a bit strange, but this was my first university course, so what did I know?  My dad wasn’t happy about this, but I told him it was ok. I had no idea how they would use it against us.”

“What do you mean? I asked.

“Well, I soon found out that if I voiced an opinion and it wasn’t like theirs they would tell the class that this was due to my background and the fact that I had been brought up by bourgeois parents. Then they would reveal some of the information they had about me and try to turn the class against me. I learned to keep my mouth shut.”

I could hardly believe what I was hearing. “Were there any other incidents? I asked.

“Yes”, she said. “I went to a social event for students and faculty in the fall and Jeff came over and bought me a drink. He told me that I was very attractive and asked me to dance. I had a few dances with him then he said he found me very attractive and asked if he could kiss me. I was embarrassed and left the dance floor and waited until he left before I went home. Please don’t let them know that I have told you this. If they were aware, they would know how to hurt me.”[4]

          What kind of people did we have who would treat students like this? But if I thought this was bad, there was more to come. I promised to protect her and continued my investigations with other students.

A third year student told me “I took a class from Marsha and Jeff in my second year – Social Work 225. The course was entitled Social Problems. I was hoping to learn of some of the problems that I would face in the Social Work profession, alcoholism, delinquency and drug addiction. Instead I learned about boycotts, socialism, and not to buy Maxwell House Coffee and Kraft products. I fail to see any connection between this and social work which is what the course was supposed to teach.” [5]

Did these instructors think they could get away with anything or were they just incredibly foolish? One of the most bizarre revelations was related to me by a young woman who had been in this strange class that was team taught. Her story sounded like something out a bad movie.

“At the end of one of our classes” she told me, “Marlene and Marsha told the men to leave and the women students were invited to a wine and cheese party supposedly for the purpose of getting to know them better. It was anything but. We were taken to the home that Marlene Webber shared with Sami Gupta, one the part time instructors. We were served wine and cheese and Marsha and Marlene told us that our society is corrupt and sick and they did not want to see women just sit back and get married. We discussed homosexuality and lesbianism and how we felt about it. When I said what I thought, Marsha indicated that I thought that way because of my upbringing and that unless I accepted lesbianism as normal, I would not be a good social worker. We were told that a lesbian experience is one of the things in life we should experience and that a woman could probably satisfy another woman better than a man. Then they proceeded to give a demonstration of the use of a vibrator explaining that heterosexual relationships were not necessary for women and that they could be satisfied through the use of a vibrator”. [6]

I could scarcely believe what I was being told. “Surely you’re making this up.” I said. “This would never happen at any university let alone a church college.” She assured me that she was telling the truth. Her story was corroborated later during Jeff’s Academic hearing.

As disturbing and bizarre as this was, there were even more revelations.

 “Did you know that Jeff copied complete textbooks and sold copies to his students?” A faculty member asked me.

“No, I hadn’t heard that one,” I replied. “What did the college administration do?”

“Nothing.” Was the response.

So even though he had broken copyright laws, put the College at risk and lined his own pockets, the administration just accepted this.

          One student told me that Jeff had told his classes that a revolution was coming and that they must prepare for civil unrest. Apparently someone introduced as a revolutionary had been brought to the class and talked about making bombs from household supplies. The students were terrified and confused but had been warned not to speak to the Board of Governors who, they were told, were all “fascist pigs”.

I was getting a better picture of some of the full time faculty now and it wasn’t pretty. Surely this couldn’t really be happening. Was this some kind of bad dream? Was I losing my mind? Did anyone else know about this? Was I the only one who was concerned and thought that this was completely unacceptable? Dazed but determined to get to the bottom of what was going on, I turned my attention to the part time faculty.  I had little or no information about them or even who some of them were and no one was about to tell me. However I figured out a way around this.

We were very small at the time and I signed everyone’s pay check so when I came across someone I didn’t know and no one admitted to knowing, I made a note on their cheque saying that I wanted them to drop in to collect their next cheque. I met a lot of people this way and began to get a better picture of our instructors. Most of them were fine, capable and experienced people. But some were not. One fellow taught for us but that was all I knew about him. When he showed up to get his pay, I asked him what he was teaching for us.

“Religious Studies.” He said.

“Good”, I replied. “Where did you take your degree?”

“I don’t have a degree.” He answered.

“Just a minute.” I responded. “You don’t have a degree but are teaching Religious Studies. Do you have any background or experience in Religious Studies? Have you worked in the field or studied it?”

“No,” he replied, “but I think I took a course in it at a community college.”

“How did you get a job here?” I asked.

“Simple,” he said. “My brother is a professor of religious studies here and I got my job because of him.”

“Well I’m sorry.” I told him. “We really must have instructors who are properly qualified. We won’t be able to use you after this semester unless you get the right qualifications.”

I felt that I was beginning to make some progress but that bubble burst when his brother ran into my office, yelling, screaming and pounding on my desk threatening to physically attack me unless I re-hired his brother. This was a side of academia I hadn’t encountered before. I asked him to repeat his threats in the presence of the administrative officer and he quickly obliged. Amazing. But I didn’t re-hire his brother.

They Plan for Chaos and Anarchy

None of this seemed in keeping with the tenets of a church college let alone any academic institution in the free world. However the full extent of the opposition against having a principal and the steps that the faculty and staff were prepared to take only came to light later. I had been told that some members of the faculty and staff had been meeting in secret and were planning to take over the college, ruin the principal and force him out of office. But I had no way of telling whether these were anything more than rumours until Mona Zentner, a newly hired professor and her husband Irv, who was a Professor of Social Work at  Wilfrid Laurier University described what happened to them when they were invited to a party at the Forest’s apartment. As Irv Zentner explained,

“The function was not what I have come to call a party. I mentioned this to the hostess, Marsha; she replied that the party was a “political move” to prevent John Towler, the new principal, from having a similar party. I was selectively inattentive to most of the party conversation. I became interested in the discussion when I overheard my wife angrily stating that most of her time as a beginning faculty member had been absorbed in senseless and futile errands and repetitive clerical tasks. She saw herself as being prevented from discharging her primary function of teaching by … the prevailing atmosphere of chaos and confusion at Renison.

At this time the primary discussants were Mona, the Forests, Marlene Weber (sic) and Hugh Miller. It was difficult to follow their response to my wife’s statements as they seemed to me to be impassioned slogans, primarily consisting of calling the board of governors and the newly employed principal such names as “fascist pigs”.

Interspersed with the slogans was a general discussion of Social Work. It seemed to me that my wife and I were the only ones present who had any remote notion of social work. Consequently, I found that portion of the discussion filled with ignorance and hostility to the profession. Since I was in no mood to be a teacher in that setting, I turned the conversation to my wife’s earlier complaints and wondered aloud how the new principal could become a “fascist” in so short a time, the response, in essence, consisted of an impassioned burst of speech from the Forests and Miss Weber, the context of which was, “Just take our word for it, we know.”

In pushing for a bit more information and a few less slogans, such as “capitalist imperialists”, the Forests and Miss Weber described a few incidents which they labelled as “power grabs of the mad dog Towler.” I remember remarking to them that the cited incidents, stripped of the rhetoric, seemed to be the acts of a man seeking some simple information about the college, the response from the group was to state that their intention was to prevent the principal from gaining any information about the college. This was followed by specific instructions to my wife that she not make any public statements or ask questions unless instructed by this group.

I had difficulty believing I had heard such a blatant statement; and I suggested that many problems might be resolved by simply conversing with the new principal. They seemed appalled by my suggestion and explicitly repeated their instructions to my wife, adding that she owed her job to them, and it seemed to me that they implicitly conveyed that they could remove her position.

At some point, Miss Weber said, “We have finally got an ideal educational experience for students; we plunge them into confusion and senselessness and that is what education is all about.” My wife laughed, the others indicated agreement with Miss Weber. I remarked that perhaps their concerns stemmed from such confusion and perhaps some clear structure would alleviate their fears. I suggested that perhaps the faculty should work at a formal constitution with Dr. Towler. The Forests said that they were working on one which would exclude the principal and retain power for the “radicals.”

I found that the conversation had become so outrageous that I began to laugh. I commented that they were the most politically naïve people I had ever met. I pointed out that if they carried out their stated intentions to harass, obstruct, exclude and keep uninformed the new principal, they would force him into an extreme position. I said that they were leaving this man who no one knew since he was such a recent arrival – the alternatives of dead ending his career in impotence, resigning or taking strong action which would then be seen as the very “power play” about which they seemed so concerned. I emphatically remarked that they were leaving the new principal no reasonable options.

It was at this time that Jeffrey Forest began a long oration, the gist of which was that the group and he in particular were going to drive Dr. Towler from the college. He recounted at length (and it seemed to me with a great deal of joy) that they had “destroyed” a Dean at his former university. He conveyed his intention to repeat this experience at Renison.

Personally, I began to find the situation and the conversation so bizarre and unbelievable that I felt as if I were participating in a play written for the theatre of the absurd. I signalled my wife and we left the “party”.[7]

The Zentners’ kept this information to themselves and only divulged it later at the Academic hearing. No wonder I felt I had landed myself in some sort of Kafkaesque nightmare.

Why it all went wrong

How had these people been hired in the first place let alone promoted? A little more judicious questioning gave me the answers. Wyn Rees was appointed Renison’s first full time Principal in 1961 and served in this capacity until his death in July 1971. He was a strong academic with traditional views. He set the tone under which Renison was clearly an Anglican college with strong roots and relationships with the church. He taught in an academic gown, encouraged students to wear gowns to class, insisted on open doors on residence rooms on Sunday afternoons, and enforced rigid residence curfews. He guided the college through its initial development of academic programs and growth but was concerned about the ratio of part time to full time instructors since the former far outnumbered the latter. From its inception the college operated in the red partly due to the fact that like other church affiliated colleges, Renison received only half funding from the provincial government. This policy was not changed until 1973. Immediately after this change Don M’Timkulu, the new acting Principal hired eight new full time faculty members including those who were to cause so much disruption.

Under Rees, the college calendar clearly reflected Renison’s association with the Anglican Church, its values and identified the members of the Board of Governors. By 1973 none of this was in the college calendar and it did not reappear until I became Principal.

The College had not developed a comprehensive set of policies or procedures under either Dr. Reese or Dr. M’Timkulu. Everything functioned on an ad hoc basis with little or no accountability to anyone for anything. I discovered that many decisions took place during cocktail parties. Apparently someone would say, “Let’s promote so and so.” There would be a vote on it, it would pass and the faculty would instruct Don, the interim Principal, to recommend this decision to the Board of Governors. He would do so and it was fait accompli. They followed the same procedure when it came to hiring or increasing salaries and Don apparently reported these decisions to the Board of Governors without comment. Obviously he was neither in control nor exerting any leadership. There were no rules, no policies, and no review of records, qualifications or past or current performance. It was more like a free-wheeling country club of like-minded cronies.

I decided to look into the background of the Forests. I learned that they had come from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, so I called the university to inquire about them. I asked for the Dean, but was told that the previous dean had resigned and his successor was recovering from a nervous breakdown. “Well,” I said, “Can anyone tell me anything about Jeff Forest?” There was an audible gasp and a long pause before the voice on the other end told me that there had been severe problems at the university and that Jeff had been very much involved. Apparently the institution had been the scene of violent protests and sit-ins and had only been reopened by law enforcement officers. The official was clearly uncomfortable about saying anything more, but he did send me a large envelope stuffed to overflowing with clippings from various newspapers and magazines.[8] What he had told me was just the tip of the iceberg. The problems at the university had been severe and long lasting. All of this cast our Jeff in a new light but why hadn’t we known about this? Or had people at Renison known and welcomed him because of it?

I should have resigned right then and left the Board to straighten out the mess it had allowed to develop, but I didn’t. Somebody had to do something and I seemed to be the only person willing to take it on. The facts were incontrovertible; the situation was unacceptable and clearly no one in their right mind would tolerate such things. The College was in danger of being stripped of its courses and shut down. This would have had serious consequences for our students, faculty and staff and the Anglican Church would have faced enormous criticism and embarrassment. It simply never occurred to me that truth and propriety would count for nothing and that professional organizations dedicated to the protection of education and student welfare would not only disregard evidence, but would twist it to make it say the opposite.

I set out to make matters right not realizing what a maelstrom would result. I consulted with and sought advice from officials at the University, the other Heads of Colleges, the University Faculty Association and CAUT, the Canadian Association of University Teachers. Everyone agreed that the situation at Renison could not be allowed to continue. Changes had to be made and I was advised to follow our rules and procedures and the sooner the better.

The only problem was that the College didn’t have any rules or procedures; not a one. It didn’t seem appropriate or possible for me to unilaterally create new rules or to adopt those of the university without consulting the faculty. But this was impossible. In the absence of any formalized procedures, the College operated with a faculty council that was comprised of the dozen full time faculty members, the part time faculty, Jeff’s wife Marsha, and whatever students happened to drop by. The latter included academic students who took classes with us and our residential students who lived at the college but weren’t in our classes. Everyone had an equal vote and minutes were kept only if someone was willing to take them. Apparently not many wanted to do so and the records of meetings and decisions were few and far between.

This made it very easy to stack the meetings and force the vote on matters dear to the hearts of a few. I later learned that the meetings were not as popular with the students after I took office because the Forests had cleaned up their act, at least a little bit.  Prior to my arrival, Marsha would sit on Jeff’s lap and he would put his hands under her sweater and fondle her. I’m sure that this must have been titillating and more interesting than the meetings I chaired.

I also found out that before I arrived on the scene, some members of the full time faculty, part time faculty and others who had nothing to do with the College had proposed a new administrative structure. In this new system the Principal would be appointed by the Board of Governors in consultation with the Faculty-Student Council. However, his or her role would be similar to that of a clerk for the latter and the Principal’s voting privileges would be restricted. The issue of faculty evaluation had also arisen although some faculty members felt that it was unnecessary. A proposal had been made that faculty performance should be evaluated on the basis of teaching, research and service. Every academic institution operated along these lines, but Renison’s proposal was to be based teaching alone, disregarding research and service and the decisions would be based entirely on student evaluations. This seemed to fly in the face of policies and procedures at any other academic institution and the Board had not given its approval. The Board did not share any of this background with me.

The Chaos Begins

I met with the executive of the Board and College’s solicitor and we reviewed what I had discovered. The evidence against Jeff was overwhelming. Fortunately he had signed a probationary contract which allowed either party to terminate it upon giving six months’ notice. Marsha had never been hired by the college and was not under contract to us. We discussed all of this in closed meetings and decided to confront Miller, give Jeff the requisite six months’ notice and restrict Marsha from teaching at the College. Letters were drawn up and each of the three was invited to a meeting with me and the executive committee of the Board.

Before we had a chance to present the letters all hell broke loose. The meeting was besieged by faculty, students and non-university people protesting our actions. They were well organized, armed with placards and banners and were already in possession of the letters we were about to present. Obviously there was a serious leak in the Renison office. We subsequently learned that a faculty member sitting on the Board and one of the college secretaries passed everything on to the faculty members involved. Not only that, but the Dean of Arts at the university told me that someone in our office was copying private and confidential college files and distributing them to the Anti-Imperialist-Alliance. From this point on I had to type all of my letters and keep any sensitive documents at home.

If I thought it had been difficult before, it was nothing compared to what happened the next day. I arrived at the College to be greeted by a boycott and screaming students waving placards protesting our actions. Renison faculty members and students had set up barricades and were preventing anyone from teaching or attending classes. Jeff and his supporters together with some Renison faculty had blocked the entrance to the classrooms and were forcing any students who wanted to get to class to crawl under a table while the protestors kicked them and brandished clubs. The students were terrified.

Some did manage to get to class but found Marlene Webber writing “you are scabs” on the blackboards and attempting to lock them into the classrooms. They were able to stop her however it was impossible to teach anyone who had braved the barricades as the protestors brought in a stereo and played it so loudly that no one could hear anything.

I managed to get to my office and found that someone had unlocked the door and let a very large male student into my office. “Good morning, “he said. “This is a sit-in.”

This was the beginning of a very unusual and bizarre relationship between this fellow and me. Our students were really quite pleasant and he was no exception. Over the next few days we got to know each other rather well.  He was a nice lad and followed me everywhere carrying a huge sign telling the world that I was “A Fascist Pig’”

We shared coffee and cookies and if I received a confidential telephone call, he excused himself, and stepped out of the office until the call was over. We became a familiar sight on campus as I walked to the library, meetings or the Faculty Club for lunch. The first time we went to the club, I invited him to come in and have lunch with me.  He came in but declined the lunch since he felt the Renison protest organizers wouldn’t approve. The manager came over, offered to put his sign in the cloak room and we had a pleasant conversation. It was quite strange.

The boycott lasted a few days and gradually withered away. Most students wanted to get back to class and the protestors were losing support, so they turned their attention to the university itself. They organized marches across the campus, carrying a huge coffin marked “The death of academic freedom” through classrooms, meeting halls, cafeterias and the Faculty Club. I got used to them following me everywhere, but it did unsettle my colleagues somewhat. The sit-in in my office ended when the student refused to do it anymore. The next day I got a call from the office of the Dean of Arts on the main campus.

“This is the Anti-Imperialist-Alliance,” a voice said. “We want you to know that we’ve taken over the Dean’s office.”

“Great,” I replied, pleased that they were now in someone else’s office. “Feel free to stay there as long as you like.”

I think I was supposed to be embarrassed about this, but it was better to have them there than in my office.

There were many attempts to force some sort of confrontation with me, but I never succumbed. People often asked me how I stood it and why I never seemed to get excited. I didn’t tell them it was because I was in a state of shock and speechless at what was going on. I must have been a great disappointment to the protestors. Others weren’t as fortunate and some students were roughed up and professors who wanted to teach were threatened. Students who wanted to attend class were warned not to do so; one had his car firebombed, another had his garage burned down, the College’s truck was vandalized and my family and I all received death threats. This was getting pretty serious.

After a few days things cooled down, the barricades were dismantled and students and faculty returned to class. However the opposition mobilized their forces and tried new tactics. I didn’t call any faculty meetings because the Faculty Council had disbanded itself and was now replaced by something called the “Renison Academic Assembly” patterned after The National Assembly of the French Revolution. Everyone was to be equal. Jeff told the cleaning staff that they were as good as he was and that they could come and teach his classes and he would vacuum the halls. I wish it had happened that way but I was a bit concerned about the other excesses perpetrated by the National Assembly. Was this to be the start of another reign of terror? Did they know how to build a guillotine?

Jeff and his supporters were a clever lot and they devised a strategy that caught us completely off guard. Jeff and Marsha announced that they were being fired for political reasons because they were members of the Communist Party. This was news to us. As far as we knew, Jeff wasn’t a member of any organization. He certainly didn’t belong to any professional academic association but that’s all we knew. Then he demanded that we publicly disclose the reasons why we were not going to continue his contract. This put us in a terrible bind. If we remained mute about the reasons, everyone would assume that there really were political undertones. But we were unwilling to air our dirty laundry in public and disclose the fact that this Church College had hired someone who was unqualified to teach what he was teaching; that he was sexually harassing students, and then there was all that business about the vibrators. We were damned if we did and damned if we didn’t. In retrospect, we should have disclosed everything, but the Board of Governors opted for what they hoped would be discrete silence and no embarrassment. It didn’t work.

In their naiveté or stupidity some Board members met with and entertained the people who were causing such chaos. Apparently these Board members believed that these were fine upstanding people, popular teachers, completely blameless and that we were making some kind of error trying to get rid of them.

The Anti-Imperialist-Alliance or the Renison Academic Assembly or whatever they were calling themselves swung into action and we were deluged by statements of support for the people we wanted to get rid of. We received letters from student unions, student federations, student societies, various university departments and several labour unions in Canada and the United States. None of these people had any of the facts and very few knew what Renison College actually was nor even where it was located.

The letter from the legal secretaries of Copeland, King in Toronto, members of the Office and Professional Employees’ International Union, Local 343 was typical of the nonsense we received. Their letter said that they wished to “express their resolute support for the faculty and students of Renison College in their struggle to oppose the repression and intimidation directed against them by the reactionary administration.” They went on to say that they supported “those faculty members and students who are taking a concrete stand for the struggles of the working class, the Native People, National Minorities and oppressed nations of the World.”[9] Well I guess in their minds it was reactionary to fire people for being unqualified, abusing students and not teaching what they were supposed to teach, but how did the working class, native people and the oppressed nations of the world get into it?

fist

[10]
RAA demands final

[11]

arts backs RAA final

[12]

carleton final

[13]

fac tenure report final_edited-1

[14]

ren dismissals investigated final

[15]

4Towler warns senate final

[16]

marsha not rehired final

[17]

U mass court action adjusted_edited-1
U mass occupied adjusted
U mass sit in adjusted

The University of Waterloo Federation of Students Enters the Fray

All of this was grist for The Chevron, the scurrilous student newspaper and it filled page after page with news, articles, allegations and rumours about what had become known as The Renison Affair. The Chevron was a creation of Federation of Students and it delighted in publishing anything regardless of the facts which seemed to be of little interest to them. I invited Andrew Telegdi, the president of the federation to meet with me so that I could set the record straight. He agreed that this would be a confidential meeting and off the record and fool that I was, I believed him. However, after our meeting and under his leadership the Federation passed a motion in support of the culprits, voted to give them $1000 and distributed a 49 page document containing all the same lies and innuendoes plus the confidential papers that had been stolen from the College files.[18] So much for integrity, truth, reason and confidentiality.

Did They Really Say This and Believe It?

The comments by these people and the items in the university papers seem ludicrous and even humorous. In speaking with Tom Brzustowski, Vice President of the university, Jeff told him,

”I am a saviour of the world’s people! I stand for all the oppressed nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and we all do, and that’s why we are your enemies – because you stand for this monopoly capitalism and US imperialist domination.” “The masses make history” Jeff continued. “You’ve opposed yourself to 800 million Chinese … There’s a small handful of you that are left and you’re on your last days.”

Marsha piped up with “We will be sitting in these offices – and students – running this university to serve the people, especially the working people of Canada.”

I imagine that all of this was news to Dr. Brzustowski and I don’t know how he kept a straight face especially when Jeff added

“You’re part of a dying class. You’re a monster which is in its death throes, an alligator thrashing around blindly, fascist, bankrupt.”

I certainly felt that I was up to my ass in alligators but I hadn’t come across any that were bankrupt or fascists. Perhaps Jeff knew something I didn’t. [19]

Jeff and Marsha weren’t the only ones making silly statements.  Doug Wahlsten, a professor at the university, said

“Today Mao Zedong Thought is the highest development of dialectical materialism. We can now read how peasants in China study philosophy in order to increase agricultural Production.”  I wish he had gone on to explain just how this worked, but he just left it at that.

The Tenor of the Times

It is difficult to understand the events that occurred during the Renison Affair without knowing something about what had preceded it at other universities. The things that happened during the 1960s seem even more bizarre than our experiences at the University of Waterloo. That period was marked by student radicalism, idealism, turmoil, and protests throughout Canada and the USA. Sometimes these were peaceful confrontations but several erupted into violence. It was an era of irresponsible excess and flamboyance.

In the late sixties young people everywhere were revolting against the conservative norms of the time, questioning authority, demanding more say in affairs as well as demanding more freedoms in society. Many of their demands were reasonable and long overdue. They attacked current attitudes towards women and minorities and the Vietnam War. This period saw the rise of women’s liberation, civil rights and civil disobedience. Initially the protests were student led and peaceful. However, authorities were terrified and often over reacted. Students were arrested, beaten and even shot and killed. Student reactions became more disruptive, more widespread, more numerous and more violent. This was also a period of social revolution, counterculture, drugs, and hippies. The counterculture movement was most prevalent during the second half of the 1960’s. The Summer of Love took place in San Francisco in 1967, and the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Psychedelic drugs, especially LSD were widely used medicinally, spiritually and recreationally, and were popularized by Timothy Leary with his slogan ”Turn on, tune in and drop out.” Students dabbled in Eastern religions and philosophy and founded communes supporting free love.

One of the strangest and most bizarre manifestations of the times was the creation of Rochdale College at the University of Toronto. Opened in 1968 it was an experiment in student run alternative education and co-operative living for 840 residents. It was also a free university where students and teachers would live together and share knowledge. Some areas were divided into independently operated communal units of about a dozen bedrooms called ashrams. There were collective washrooms, kitchens and dining rooms and bachelor, one and two bedroom apartments, common areas for socialization, education, and commercial purposes. The students were responsible for collecting rent and housekeeping. Clothing was optional. The opening of Rochdale was delayed and instead of filling it with carefully screened applicants associated with the university, Rochdale accepted anyone off the street.

In keeping with political idealism and experimentation Rochdale College was established as an alternative to traditional paternalistic and non-democratic university governing bodies. Policies were decided at open meetings where everyone was equal and could engage in consensus decision making. There were no traditional professors or structured classes. The University of Toronto did not offer degrees and anyone could purchase a B.A. by donating $25 to the college and answering a simple skill-testing question. An M.A. cost $50, with the applicant choosing the question. A Ph.D. cost $100, with no questions asked.

Rochdale was originally a refuge for idealists. But the governing body was unable to reach agreement on how to expel those who failed to pay their rents or otherwise live up to its ideals. Soon the counterculture moved in including homeless squatters and bikers who dealt hard drugs. Rochdale became known as North America’s largest drug distribution warehouse.  This led to a substantial number of undercover officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police moving in as students. Consequently the students set up a security force but it included members of biker gangs. Rochdale’s educational focus and student population declined as the drug business increased.

After increased clashes with police, and unable to pay its mortgage, political pressure forced financial foreclosure. Rochdale closed in 1975. A number of residents refused to leave. On May 30 the last residents were carried from the building by police and the doors to the college had to be welded shut to keep them out. This was probably the best known and most outstanding failure of student idealism in Canada.

Nearly every university experienced some form of disruption. Berkley in California was shut down by thousands of students who took to the streets and caused millions of dollars in damage; the National Guard was called out at Kent State and opened fire on the students killing several; at McGill University in Montreal more than 6000 students occupied university buildings and offices. Canada’s largest student riot took place at Concordia University where students occupied the ninth floor computer centre in protest of a professor who consistently gave lower marks to black students. The students ultimately destroyed much of the computer lab, set fire to the building, rioted in the streets, and caused over two million dollars worth of damage.

Protests were not always violent or disruptive. At Purdue University where I was teaching, the students showed their concern by throwing marshmallows at the university administration building and Time Magazine characterized the university as “a hotbed of contentment.” By the time I accepted the Principal’s position at Renison, student protests were largely a thing of the past. Campuses were quiet. Changes had been made and students and faculties had moved past this. Or so I thought.

The important point to note is that there were legitimate concerns when most student protests started and all of the disruptions were initiated by the students. This was far from the case at Renison where we had a group of faculty who firmly believed in being able to do whatever they wanted, refused to be accountable to anyone, and operated the college as if it was a mini Rochdale. Any attempt to interfere with them made them crazy and it was the faculty who planned and organized the students to protest, riot and cause damage. They were years out of date. Things had changed and it was the unwitting students who took the heat and suffered the most.

Another unusual factor at Renison was that the Forests and Marlene were avowed Marxists.  I didn’t know this at the time and it had no bearing on the actions we took with them. When they found themselves pitted against the legal system and losing, they engaged in militant, radical and violent rhetoric and claimed that everything that was happening to them was due to the fact that they were Marxists. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Under different circumstances we might have found it rather amusing, but too many people believed them to allow us to laugh it off.

The Marxist approach to the struggle of students in defence of their interests typically involved their participation in political scuffles. Student involvement in public, political, and social issues had become an important factor in Western European countries by the first half of the 19th century when politically active students from the bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie took part in the struggle against feudal and monarchical systems. Based on the political theories of Marx, Lenin, Engels and others the movement gave rise to organizations and political parties. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Black Power, the Black Panther Party and other campus radical groups all traced their roots to Marxist thought. Initially the SDS was one of the largest and most active of these organizations but it eventually split and became more and more radicalized and turned towards Maoism. One of the splinter groups was the militant and often violent Weathermen Underground Organization.

Jeff and Marsh subscribed to these approaches and had been involved in violent attacks and protests before they came to Renison. However, there was a major difference. In the Marxist tradition it was only the students who protested. Students were the initiators, organizers and protestors. But at Renison it was the professors who initiated, organized and led the protest and it was entirely designed to coincide with the professors own particular interests. They subverted the process to further their own purposes and used the students to accomplish this.

The Faculty Association Gets Involved

The university senate was being pressured to get involved as were other bodies at the university and we felt that we could not withhold the facts much longer. We accepted an invitation from Professor Mike McDonald, the President of the University’s Faculty Association, to attend a private meeting with him and Professors Ashworth and Ord, members of the Tenure Committee. The College’s lawyer, the former acting Principal, the Chairman of the Renison Board of Governors and I went to the meeting and disclosed all of the facts. We presented documented evidence and written statements from Renison students and faculty to prove our case.

Our efforts were a complete waste of time.  They had already decided we were guilty but wanted to go through the motions of giving us a fair hearing. Within hours of leaving the meeting, the Faculty Association distributed a 13 page report in which they found that we had illegally dismissed people for political reasons and stated that we had admitted that this was the reason for our actions! They also included “evidence” about events that had never taken place and ignoring everything that had been presented to them, they complained that it was inappropriate for us to have collected evidence after we had taken the actions we did. Professor McDonald even went so far as to say that “the Renison Administration is not interested in settling it. They don’t seem to be at all willing to follow university guidelines or CAUT guidelines.”

This was particularly egregious since we were in fact following guidelines; something McDonald and his committee didn’t do. They chose to ignore the fact that professors had refused to teach, had set up barricades, organized a boycott and were harassing and manipulating students. They were more interested in protecting faculty than students and they saw nothing untoward about fondling students, having inappropriate qualifications or teaching them about bombs and vibrators. They also took up the cudgels for Marlene Webber who must have complained to them about her involvement and participation in the boycott and barricading of classes. This was a surprise to us as we were completely ignoring her.

 Then the Faculty Association overreached itself and published a warning to faculty and students everywhere to not accept any kind of appointment to Renison. This was quite beyond their mandate. This action could only come from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) after it had undertaken a thorough investigation and held a special meeting. [20]

This so incensed some faculty members at Renison that they wrote a letter to the Faculty Association pointing out that it was entirely inappropriate that Professor McDonald was representing the opposing parties while at the same time acting as a judge and the chair of the Tenure Committee which reported to the Executive where McDonald was also the chair and that body reported to the Association where McDonald was also the President.

How on earth did they think that justice could be served if Renison appeared before a person representing the opposing party when that person was one of the judges deciding the issues? Yet this was the same body that found fault with Renison’s procedures and then moved to supersede their own mandate by censuring the College. It just seemed to get stranger and stranger and little things like truth and facts were totally ignored. I thought that it was indicative of their bias and lack of professionalism that McDonald, Ashworth and Ord sent their report to the student newspaper which gleefully published it.

The CAUT Supports the Opposition

Based on the report from the University’s Faculty Association, the CAUT changed their attitude and had a sudden memory lapse concerning my conversations with them when we had agreed on the stand I took. Believing that people had been fired for political reasons and ignoring the unprofessional conduct and other shenanigans they had engaged in, the CAUT deluged us with letters demanding that we submit everything to a panel of three mediators. Considering the treatment we had received from the so-called independent Faculty Association we had no desire to leave everything in the hands of yet another academic body. This led to a protracted series of negotiations, more bad publicity, a renewal of protests and more disruptions at the College.

The university senate and the Arts Faculty Council were urged to get involved to close down the College. Leo Johnson, a professor of History and Ron Lambert, a Sociology instructor presented a motion to suspend Renison’s programs and sever all academic ties with the College. The motion didn’t pass, but Leo Johnson became a major player in Jeff’s legal battle later on and earned just as much notoriety, if not more when the facts about him came out.

 At the next meeting of the senate I pointed out that they had granted Renison the right to manage its own affairs and that they should not get drawn into issues that were not their legitimate concern. I also told them that they should have exercised their prerogative to investigate what was happening at the College before I arrived. They were not accustomed to anyone addressing them in this manner and were quite taken aback. However, this put an end to senate interference. I was amused to see that the headlines in the next day’s newspaper read, “Towler Warns Senate”. Well I guess I had, and it worked.

Choosing an Arbitrator

We negotiated a settlement with Miller and he resigned. The students who were supporting the Forests got tired of the disruptions and returned to their studies. The CAUT continued to support Jeff Forest and demanded that Renison reinstate him. Our legal advisors maintained that we were within our rights to act as we had and we suggested that the matter be submitted to the Supreme Court for a ruling on this matter. CAUT refused to allow this and demanded arbitration. We suggested a Supreme Court justice as single arbiter, but CAUT refused this too. Apparently they felt that neither the Supreme Court nor a Justice of the Court would see things their way.  Eventually we agreed to use a single arbitrator provided that he or she was an academic and a lawyer. We settled on David Johnston who at that time was the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Ontario. The arbitrator was to decide four questions:

1. Was the contract with Jeffrey Forest a legal contract?

2. If the answer to question one was no, what relationship existed between Renison College and Jeffrey Forest?

3. If the answer to question one was yes, did Renison have the right to exercise the provision in the contract respecting termination?

4. Did adequate cause exist for the termination of Jeffrey Forest?

The Hearing

The hearing began in June and lasted until the middle of July. I appeared for the College together with our counsel Reg Haney Q.C. Jeff conducted his own defence assisted by Professor Leo Johnson. Both sides called a number of witnesses and various letters and documents were entered into evidence. On the first day of the hearing, Jeff agreed that the contract he had signed was a legal document. This answered question number one and eliminated question two.

The arbitrator found that the College had the right in law to exercise the provision concerning the termination and that we had done it properly. This answered question three and left only question number four, was there adequate cause? This is where things became very interesting.

We presented our case and called our witnesses. The students were still terrified of Jeff but bravely told about what had happened to them. By this time rational thinking had begun to surface in the minds of the students who had been manipulated. Several who had initially supported Jeff were having second thoughts and appeared in support of the College. On the other hand several of our part time instructors, various faculty members from the University of Waterloo and a professor of Religious Studies at Renison appeared on behalf of Jeff. Apparently they not only saw nothing wrong in anything he had done, but they supported him doing these things.

The arbitrator applied the Waterloo Senate guidelines concerning Conduct as a Professional, Research and Scholarship, Teaching Ability, and Service to the College. The evidence against Jeff was overwhelming and we wondered why on earth Jeff had bothered to go to the hearing at all. If it was to get up on a soap box and say everything all over again, it was a pretty small soapbox. I had heard it all before as had Reg Haney and we knew that Leo Johnston had too. The only person to whom it was new was the arbitrator. He seemed surprised, incredulous but not very impressed.

Jeff gleefully admitted everything and seemed to delight in giving us more details. He readily admitted the threats, and proudly explained his involvement in the trouble at the University of Massachusetts. The arbitrator had no trouble concluding that I had correctly viewed the threats as serious, premeditated and real. It was all the more astounding since the threats were made within one week of my taking office. I hadn’t even done anything yet! Witnesses testified that Jeffrey had called me a “fascist pig”, said there was no room for a new principal and bragged about how the Dean at Massachusetts “didn’t do what we wanted, so we closed the campus and we can do it here if we want.”

Much to our amazement, Jeff was his own worst enemy and furthered our case against him at every opportunity. He testified that there had been some talk about beating somebody, but attributed that comment to his wife Marsha. Some of the lengthiest testimony concerned what the arbitrator called “The Bizarre Incidents”. This included evidence of Jeffrey fondling his wife in front of students, attempts to do the same with female students, the vibrator incident, entering and searching a student’s residence room and illegally copying textbooks and selling them. The arbitrator’s conclusion was that “Dr. Forest has fallen substantially below the minimum standards of professional conduct”. In addition, he found that Jeff’s conduct during the boycott and his teaching methods were “offensive” at times. [21]

Turning to the question of research and scholarship, we learned that Jeff did not belong to a single professional association and did not subscribe to any professional journals. This is unheard of for most academics.  Jeff had been the junior author of an article with his wife dealing with their relationship to each other, but it had been rejected for publication. He was not and had not been engaged in any research. Jeff had been an enthusiastic teacher but overzealous, pushing his own political views and abusively intolerant of anyone whose views did not coincide with his. There was a great deal of testimony concerning the manipulation and bullying of students, including his policy of collecting personal information and then using it against students.

We Get a Favourable Decision

A forty page arbitration report was handed down on July 28th 1975.  The College was found to have been correct in terminating Jeff’s contract and for good reasons. We were delighted to have been exonerated but still didn’t want to disclose all of the things that had taken place at the college. We handled the report with discretion and did not release it to the media, just the results. As I explained to the University of Waterloo Gazette a few days later, “It contains information which I don’t think would do the academic community or Renison College any good.” 

The report was clear, concise and very factual and I learned later that David Johnston had written it that way to eliminate any chance that it might be used by Jeff in an appeal against the decision. I also learned that Jeff and Leo Johnson had confronted our Lawyer Reg Haney in his office before the arbitration and warned him not to take on the case.  These guys thought they could intimidate anyone.

However, we still hadn’t plugged the leak at the College or within the Board of Governors and the entire report had already been given to the Kitchener Waterloo Record newspaper and the University Gazette three days before. But I breathed a sigh of relief. Jeff was gone; Miller had resigned and Marsha who had refused to comply with our request that she not participate in Jeff’s classes, never appeared again. At last, I thought, we are vindicated and I can concentrate on building Renison into a first class institution. I should have known better.

Although The Renison Affair had generated pages and pages of newspaper space, the news that we had won was relegated to a few inches on a back page. We never heard again from CAUT or the Faculty Association. I suppose it was unrealistic to have assumed that anyone from either of these professional organizations would have contacted us about the outcome of the hearing and they didn’t. After all they had been proven wrong and both had egg on their faces so I imagine that they must have been feeling rather embarrassed. However, it would have been professional to have at least acknowledged the facts. [22]

It was summer; most of the students were gone as were the faculty members. The Board of Governors was relieved and Professor Fred McRae, the only university academic on the Board, expressed his appreciation for what I had done and added that the Board had very little understanding of what had been accomplished and what dangers had been avoided.  By the time classes started again in September, the Renison Affair was old news and quite forgotten. We had won, they were gone and I was pleased and relieved.

Jeff Moves On and Does it Again

This wasn’t the last that we heard of Jeff or Marsha. After leaving Renison, Jeff taught briefly at Ontario’s Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) where he taught Sociology. Obviously they hadn’t bothered to check his credentials or references. In November I received a telephone call from Ian Macdonald, the President of York University in Toronto. He explained that Jeff was teaching at York and had been involved in a number of scuffles at the university. He was alleged to have punched a student on November 4th and another student on November 18th when his organization, the York Student Movement (YSM), faced off with people from a Zionist organization. Several people were arrested by the Metro Toronto Police.

          The YSM described itself as a student wing of the Communist Party of Canada whose platform included opposition to Zionism. This seemed particularly strange since Jeff was Jewish himself. According to Assistant Vice President John Becker, all of the allegations had been proved. Jeff had been suspended and told to stay away from the campus. It sounded all too familiar to me.[23]

“How did you manage to get rid of him? Macdonald asked.

 “How did you manage to hire him?” I replied. “He certainly didn’t have a letter of recommendation from Renison.”

I was sympathetic but somehow it was comforting to know that other universities were still making the same mistakes that Renison had made. Eventually York lifted Jeff’s suspension, reprimanded him and asked him to undertake to “keep the peace and maintain good conduct.” They had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

Unrest and Resentment Continue to Smoulder

Meanwhile, back at the College, very little had changed. Having dealt with the most serious difficulties, put policies in place, revised our record keeping system and been exonerated and upheld by the academic hearing, I was ready to turn my attention to other matters. We hired new full time faculty and made sure that they had Ph.Ds. appropriate qualifications and sound recommendations. We also replaced some part time faculty with better qualified instructors. Unfortunately we also lost some of our best faculty. They were well respected throughout the University and held joint appointments with other departments outside Renison. These people had been bullied, pressured and threatened by other faculty members. Some had appeared at the hearing and testified against Jeff but they were very uncomfortable about working with those who were left as they were still being subjected to demands to work against the administration. Some part time people stopped teaching for us and those who held full time positions left or moved elsewhere within the University. Who could blame them?

Our faculty meetings continued to be difficult since it was unclear who could attend, who could vote and who would take minutes. Faculty members refused to take minutes so I asked one of our secretaries to do the job hoping that I wasn’t selecting someone who was the source of information leaks. The University Faculty Association, the CAUT and the University Senate were silent and it seemed that I could get on with the job for which I had been hired. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

The same group of faculty and staff that had helped to create the College’s problems were still with us. While some of the major players had gone, their supporters were still in place and their goals and opinions hadn’t changed. This group continued to work hard behind the scenes to re-establish the country club atmosphere in which academic accountability and performance would be unimportant. I also learned that some members of the Board of Governors were continuing to meet privately with disenchanted faculty and staff. Apparently the evidence and outcome of the hearing was meaningless for them. I now found myself in the position of trying to manage the College and help the Board of Governors understand their role and mine.

The Well Intentioned But Naïve Board of Governors

Members of Renison’s Board had to be Anglicans and it consisted of Anglican Clergy and lay persons appointed from the churches in the Diocese of Huron. These were kind, gentle people with a strong faith and the belief that good would prevail and that most people were honest and sincere. The Chairman of the Board was Bill Townshend, a layperson who was a Director of Education for the local school Board. Dr. McRae was a board member and happened to be a professor at the University of Waterloo. With the exception of these two, no one else had any experience in an educational institution especially at the university level.

I realized that the Board didn’t have a clear understanding of the way universities operated and the relationship between boards and the people they hired to be presidents or principals. I was also more than a little annoyed that the Board has never told me about the problems that existed at the college before I came, the difficulties they were having with the faculty and the lack of leadership provided by Don. They had never developed a Principal’s job description and didn’t seem to understand my role or relationship with the Board. It would have seemed presumptuous for me to instruct them on these matters, so I discussed the problem with Burt Matthews, the President of the University of Waterloo. He generously agreed to come to a meeting of our board where he pointed out that it was the Board’s responsibility to set the goals and directions for the institution and the Principal’s role to manage the college to achieve those goals. He also said that it was not the Board’s prerogative to become involved in the day to day operation of the institution or to interfere with the Principal’s decisions. He went on to say that if this happened to him, his Board would find his resignation on their desk within 24 hours.

To say that this was news to some of Renison’s Board members would be an understatement. They were determined to be more involved on a regular basis and to oversee any and all aspects of the College operation. Their degree of insistence was demonstrated by one Board member who said that he refused to be relegated to a rubber stamp for the Principal’s decisions and tendered his resignation on the spot. So the problems continued.

Will He or Won’t He?

Every time I thought I had something under control, something happened to prove me wrong. Don M’Timkulu’s retirement was a case in point. It had been unwise and unfair of the Board to have appointed Don to be Wyn Reese’s acting replacement and to have left him in this position for so long. Don was the person in charge when many of the problems were created and I’m sure that he felt some degree of responsibility and blame. As things calmed down after the hearing, our offerings changed and the courses Don taught no longer fit within the program. Don seemed interested in getting out of the spotlight and began talking about retirement. We had several conversations about this and considered the possibilities and the procedures. He had been born in Africa and maintained that he didn’t have any record of his birth date and so didn’t really know his exact age. He and I met with the Human Resources Department of the University and arrived at an agreement on a retirement date and the financial arrangements.

At the next Board of Governor’s meeting I informed them of Don’s decision. But the next day Don claimed that he had never agreed to retire and that this was nothing more than an attempt to get rid of him. Many people were sympathetic to Don and I was cast as the evil perpetrator. There was nothing to be gained by asking the HR Department to contradict him; no one had put anything in writing, so Don remained at the College and I learned to be wary of anything that wasn’t signed and sealed. I had some sympathy for King Henry who wished for someone to rid him of Thomas Becket.

Internal Difficulties Continue

Even though we had gotten rid of the most troublesome faculty, things did not improve. Some of the faculty and the college staff continued to be difficult, uncooperative and obstructive. The one person I felt I could trust was our chaplain Father David Hartry. In an effort to defuse the situation, the Board appointed a team of three people who were to act as my advisors. This group was comprised of the College’s Administrative Assistant, the Registrar and the former Principal.  They couldn’t have selected a more uncooperative group. All three were extremely resistant to change and I didn’t expect much support or assistance from them. I was not wrong in my assumptions. I learned that these three had approached the Board with complaints about how the College was being run and the Chaplain’s role.  I discovered that they had created a new course and had hired a new part time instructor without my knowledge and had kept the information from me. Dr. M’Timkulu had created and signed a contract with this instructor even though the person was not eligible to teach the course. Hadn’t they learned anything? They seemed to be motivated mainly by their dislike of me and of the Chaplain who had dared to disagree with them and by their allegiance to Don M’Timkulu who had been in charge when all the problems began. Somehow they still seemed to be confused about procedures and who had leadership authority.

Our enrolments were dropping and there was a high degree of distrust, rivalry and non-cooperation throughout the college. Our academic offerings were still suspect, illegal in some cases and it seemed that every student received grossly inflated marks. The University had just gone through a comprehensive review of the Department of Human Relations and Counselling Studies which was experiencing similar problems and had shut it down and cancelled its courses. It was probably no accident that this was the department where Marsha Forest taught. I was concerned that the University would undertake a similar action at Renison and that this would lead to a similar outcome. I reported this to the Board, but they did nothing. I was left to continue on as best I could.

The problems continued and in April I wrote a confidential report to the Board pointing out the need for them to develop a clear statement of goals for the college and a definitive job description for the Principal. This had been brought to a head by the presentation to the Board of a new constitution created by the faculty. This document was designed to enable the faculty to make all decisions without the input or knowledge of the Principal and to pass these on to the Board for approval. In other words, the Principal would be powerless and unable to exercise any kind of leadership. In addition, the part time faculty members (many of whom were still related to the full time faculty) would be granted full and equal voting rights on all matters including salaries, promotions and appointments. Finally, they wanted to restrict the Chaplain’s involvement in College matters, to limit his influence and contact with the students and make him a “warden” of the residences.  What kind of insanity was this? Had they learned nothing? Once again the Board didn’t take any action. Clearly nothing was going to change.

Marsha and Marlene Move On

          Meanwhile Marsha continued on at the University in the Department of Human Relations and Counselling Studies until it was closed. She never appeared at Renison again. Marlene was on a probationary contract at Renison. But she had angered a great many people at the college and had lost the support of the faculty. When it came time to consider her renewal, our new procedures were in place and her peers recommended against giving her another contract. She left the College but before she went, she published an open letter in the Chevron explaining her view of why she wasn’t renewed.      

          It makes wonderful reading as she rails against political repression and the need for “basic protection from reactionary administrations which are part and parcel of universities under capitalism.”  She complains that her non-renewal was unfair but notes that “I do, of course, have recourse to appeal to arch reactionary John Towler.” She also points out that “Stripped of its jargon, what is happening at Renison College is a straight forward class struggle where the board of governors, Towler and their puppets are vigorously defending the interests of the bourgeois minority over the majority.” Marlene complained that the board of governors and   “the degree of their interference in the everyday workings of the college reduces Renison to the status of a private boys school where the most authoritarian rule pervades.”[24]

Marlene accepted a two year contract at Memorial University of Newfoundland but it was not renewed because the University said that during her classes she “espouses and actively promotes a political doctrine which has as its objective the overthrow of our system of government by revolutionary means.”

          I guess some things never change. Of course Marlene claimed that this was an infringement of her academic freedom and appealed to the CAUT. She charged that the reason was political, stating that “The reactionary MUN administration has tried … to prevent the presentation of Marxist-Leninist ideas.”[25] Unbelievably, the CAUT censured the President and the Board of Regents of Memorial University saying that they had not produced admissible evidence. Once again CAUT seemed more interested in defending a professor who was not doing what she was hired to do, than protecting students who were taking courses that were mostly proselytizing. This had a disturbingly familiar ring.

A few months later I told the Board that I would complete my term of office but would not serve as Principal after that. I’d had enough. I was exhausted and disheartened. I felt that I had won the battle, but lost the war. Things were not improving and I was unable to elicit effective cooperation from the faculty and administrative staff. The only people I could trust were the members of the cleaning, maintenance and kitchen staffs who were scarcely in a position to do anything. I continued to push for reforms which only served to make the opposition crazy. Ultimately I realized that as the Irish saying goes, sometimes when you climb to the top of the ladder, you realize it is leaning against the wrong wall. I had risen to be the Principal and CEO of the college, but there was no way that I was going to be able to lead this institution forward given the existing atmosphere, faculty and Board of Governors. It was at this point that I stepped down and stayed on as a regular faculty member until I could decide what to do next.

However, I received a wonderful letter from the Right Reverend Morse C. Robinson, Bishop Suffragan and Renison’s Chancellor.

           “I understand that you made your position very clear to the Board last month and are quite definite on the course you are proposing to take. Now that this has happened, I would like to express my gratitude to you for the gifts of your life during these last few years with the experience, skills and concerns you have brought. It is most unfortunate that you came into a situation which I must confess I had no idea existed.

           You not only had very little to work with in the way of authority, but an antagonistic faculty which were unified in their objective of taking over the college. I believe that you are responsible for stopping them and bringing back the concept of a Church College.

           You will certainly be able to build on what you have sacrificed to achieve. History is filled with similar experiences with how it has taken one man or a group of people to give themselves to halt an evil movement and after their sacrifice others have been able to come in and rebuild. It seems to me that you are cast in this role and having arrested the take-over of Renison, taking so much as you say, aggravation, we will be able to build a college all of us will be proud of in the future.

           I am truly happy that you are going to remain with us, as I am sure that your influence and outlook as well as teaching ability and background will be most appreciated as the years go by.

           On behalf Bishop Ragg and the Diocese, may I express our gratitude to you for the gift of these last few years and pray that your future career will be happier and enriched by this experience. I remain,

         Very sincerely yours,

         Morse.”[26]

The Fallout Continues and I move from the Fire into the Deep Freeze

          After I informed the Board that I would not continue as Principal but would stay on as a faculty member they started the search for a new Principal and eventually offered the position to Ian Campbell. Normally a candidate’s background and curriculum vitae (CV) would be widely circulated for everyone to see, but this didn’t happen with Ian. None of the faculty saw his CV and it only surfaced later when someone distributed a copy across the campus.

          It was viewed with some incredulity as people learned that Renison’s new Principal was the only college head at the University of Waterloo without a Ph.D. and that his research and publication record was extremely thin. I think that Ian’s lack of a Ph.D. and research background may have been a concern to him. He seldom if ever hired anyone with a doctorate in the years that followed nor anyone with a good research or publication record. In my opinion, this further delayed the College’s ability to achieve its full potential since research and publication are the cornerstones of all higher education and the standards against which courses, programs and faculty are judged.

I completed my term of office and I took a six month sabbatical funded by a Canada Council grant I had won. We arranged a house exchange for the summer and left to enjoy a seven bedroom manor house in Bath, England. The question of what to do with our sons who were 7 and 11 and how to handle their schooling was resolved by placing them in a British boarding school. In September I headed for the continent and the Middle East. I had been given letters of introduction to the Canadian Embassies and Consulates on route and was welcomed and cared for very well. The trip was very successful and generated a number of professional publications and speaking invitations.

When I returned to the College I found much to my surprise that I had not been appointed to any committees. This was to become the pattern for the duration of Ian’s principalship. Ian prevented my involvement in any aspect of the college while he was Principal. He scheduled my courses to be offered two days a week in the first term and as evenings in the second term. This seemed to be designed to keep me away from the college as much as possible. My new office was the smallest in the college and was located at the furthest possible distance from the main office. I realized that rather than use my experience, Ian was determined to isolate me as much as feasible.

I concentrated on my courses, research and writing. I redesigned and improved my courses, wrote several textbooks, continued to write articles and obtained several research grants. I was twice nominated by my students for distinguished teaching awards at the University of Waterloo.

Bullied by a Fool

Life was proceeding along quite nicely for me at Renison now or so it seemed. Ian had effectively stymied all my attempts to contribute to the ongoing operation of the college and I still wasn’t sitting on any committees, but my classes were completely filled every semester and I had to turn away students who couldn’t get in to them. My senior class on Adult Development had been made a recommended course for the Gerontology program at the university and it was attracting more students every time it was offered. I concentrated on teaching, research and writing and was quite enjoying myself. This came to an abrupt halt when Professor Lahue with whom I was sharing my office, warned me that Ian was going to try to get me fired. I could scarcely believe it. Ian and I hardly saw each other, had little or nothing to do with each other, my teaching evaluations were consistently high and my research and publication record was as good as or better than anyone at the college. Besides, I was a tenured professor and the senior ranking member of faculty. It would be interesting to see what Ian thought he could do. Duly forewarned, I awaited further developments.

They weren’t long in coming. Ian sent me a letter saying that he was about to freeze my salary because of certain problems. What problems? I went to his office and he told me about issues going back several years involving my teaching, students, marking, inappropriate remarks, refusal to grade papers and inadequate publications. Our procedures required him to bring these to my attention when they occurred, but he had never done so. He also mentioned that he had written notes about some incidents as told to him by two co-eds and had sent this on to the Executive committee. All of this was news to me and I asked to see the note.

He said he had lost it. I asked about the co-eds. Who were they? He couldn’t remember. What class had they been in? He didn’t know. What did they look like? He couldn’t say. When had this taken place? He had forgotten. Why hadn’t he given me the opportunity to conform them as required by the regulations? He had no answer. I pointed out that my students had twice recommended me for distinguished teaching awards. Ian said he knew nothing about this. I reminded him that my teaching evaluations were very high and had been for years. He said he knew nothing about this either and was completely unaware of it. No wonder, I thought. My evaluations were always returned to me from his office unopened. He never looked at them.  As for publications, I had just completed a book of readings in Psychology containing articles from world renowned psychologists and it had just been published by a major publishing house.

He hadn’t seen it, he told me. How strange, I had personally taken one to his office. But it got even more unbelievable. Ian said that the committee didn’t know about the book either. The college must have been in the midst of some sort of attack by aliens in which they erased people’s memories. They hadn’t erased mine and I clearly remembered giving a copy to the chair of the committee as he was going into a meeting. Ian said that it hadn’t been mentioned nor was it brought it to the attention of the committee. The chairman was the one who had threatened me when I didn’t rehire this brother. I guess I had never been forgiven.

What a load of malarkey. Obviously I was being set up and all of this was a figment of Ian’s imagination. Fortunately, I was well experienced at how the system worked so I contacted the CAUT and the university’s Tenure Committee. It was strange to be on the other side of the fence this time. They were aghast and recommended that I make a formal complaint and start legal action against him. I did so and sent Ian a letter with copies to my lawyer[27] who sent Ian a letter pointing out my very strong case for both slander and libel.

Ian backed down, my salary was never frozen and the issues were never raised again. However, I did take the opportunity to review everything in my personnel file. I was astounded. Material I had submitted to Ian was missing as were letters of commendation from colleagues at other universities. But there were a variety of notes from him that were complete fabrications. I found out why my student’s nominations for a distinguished teaching award hadn’t achieved anything. Although he had denied knowing anything about it, Ian had written to the university objecting to the nominations. I also found out why I had not been able to get a travel grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council when I was invited to go to Amsterdam to present a paper. Ian had written them objecting to them giving me the funds. I made copies of all of this material but insisted that it be removed from my file. Ian and I had even less to do with each other after this.

My Experience Lead to New Ventures

The Renison Affair had attracted a great deal of media attention and during it I was the subject of several items on national radio, television and newspapers. This was especially the case after our successful hearing. As soon as it was known that I had stepped down as Principal, I was approached by a private consulting firm with an offer to become a trouble shooter. They wanted to hire me as a change agent to go into organizations that were in difficulty and re-organize them. My role would be to do whatever was necessary to straighten them out. It would not be an easy job but it would pay extremely well. They proposed a recurring three year cycle; two years as a change agent followed by a paid year off for rest and recuperation. I was pleased to have been asked but I knew just how taxing this would be. The cost to my family would be high, several moves would be involved, the children would have to change schools and I didn’t think I could put them through that. I didn’t accept the position. I thought about moving elsewhere and had been approached by other institutions, but in the meantime, the news about what I had accomplished had attracted the attention of the business community and I was receiving invitations from local and national corporations to speak about leadership issues.

Three things happened quite coincidentally at this time. I was earning money as a speaker and my accountant suggested that I treat it as a business and form a company; my wife started a career development consulting practice and I was approached by a management consultant to work with him in a new partnership. This evolved into a corporation with a staff of people offering custom designed management training, testing and surveys to major Canadian and US companies. Meanwhile back at Renison, things progressed without my input.

On one hand this wasn’t unusual since the actions taken by a change agent often make it difficult for that person to effect the changes that have been instituted. On the other hand I was no longer in a management role. However, it did seem bizarre to be working with the managers and CEO’s of major corporations, advising them on leadership issues and developing strategic plans for some of Canada’s largest organizations and municipalities while my input at Renison was limited.

What Can Be Learned From The Renison Affair?

There are a great many things to be learned. It was a difficult and uncomfortable episode in the history of the College but as unpleasant as it was, the College could not have developed to where it is today without it. It was more than simply a strange aberration at a time when people did very stupid things, made incredibly dumb statements and acted in a manner that wouldn’t be tolerated today. When I arrived at Renison it was in danger of being closed. Regardless of why this was the case, there was more than enough blame to go around and I expect that some of the well intentioned but naïve professionals involved would be happy not to be reminded about what they did.

          While the Renison Affair may have been an unique occurrence peculiar to the circumstances and the time when it happened, there are important lessons to be learned. These pertain to Boards of Governors, administrators, applicants for positions, change agents and victims of bullying or academic mobbing.

          Boards of governors and administrators must not allow these kinds of situations to develop. It happened at Renison because there were no rules, no regulations, no standards and no procedures. In their absence anything could happen and it did. The college administration was not exercising any authority and had allowed control to pass into the hands of others, some of whom had nothing to do with the College. The Board had not defined the goals of the college nor did it have any mechanism to ensure that goals were being met. Boards and Board members must understand the organization they are serving and ensure that it has rules, policies and procedures and that they are properly followed. When I accepted the position I had no idea that there was such deep mistrust and organized resistance. The Board ought to have forewarned anyone taking on a leadership role.

          It is easy to see how the nature of the Principalship developed at Renison. Wynn Reese was the first Principal and must have been a powerful driving force in the creation and operation of the College. I imagine the lack of a job description didn’t bother him at all. He simply went ahead and did what he thought was right and led in his own way. He may have been a bit autocratic, but he was an effective leader and brooked no nonsense.

          His successor, Don M’Timkulu, was a very different kind of acting Principal with a leadership style that was anything but autocratic. In the absence of clear goals or a job description spelling out his responsibilities, authority and accountability, Don made decisions that kept most people happy and the Board was none the wiser.

          When I took on the role of Principal and was forced to make changes and adopt policies this upset both the faculty and the board of governors and neither group had any appreciation of the way a College should operate or what the role of a Principal ought to be. No wonder they found it disturbing.

          One of the major factors that contributed to the problems at the College was the complete lack of confidentiality everywhere. It was impossible to write a confidential letter or have a private conversation without having the information distributed to anyone who wanted it. This applied to the Renison office, our confidential records and even the Board of Governors private deliberations. We ought to have established some way to ensure confidentiality. If this meant hiring a private secretary, it should have been done. If it meant firing staff for beaching confidences, that should have happened. One thing that Ian did and I envied him for it was that a condition of his coming to the College was that he could bring his own private secretary.

          It may seem strange to advise job applicants to distrust anything they hear or are told until they have an opportunity to verify it. Normally one doesn’t doubt the people who are offering you a position. However, as was the case in The Renison Affair, those doing the hiring suppressed the true state of affairs and chose not to divulge this information. The lesson is that applicants ought to interview the interviewers and find some way to verify what is being said.

Whatever Became Of –

The story of the Renison Affair doesn’t end with the events described here. What happened to some of the players is just as interesting and in some cases, equally bizarre. Some have been very successful, others have disappeared, some have changed their names and some are in jail.

Jeffrey Forest – Jeff left York University, his marriage to Marsha ended and he changed his name back to Goodman. It is unclear where he is now or what he is doing.

Marsha Forest – Marsha left the University of Waterloo in 1976. She moved to Toronto and became involved in the Centre for Integrated Education and Community, a Canadian Charity. Marsha wrote several books about teaching adults who had been labelled ‘bad, sad, mad and can’t add’ who had been pushed out, kicked out or dropped out of traditional education. Marsha died in 2001 and the centre was renamed in her honour.

Hugh Miller – Hugh left Renison and taught for a time at the University of Waterloo. Later he ran for political office but was not elected.

Marlene Webber – After leaving Renison, Marlene went to Memorial University in Newfoundland. Later she returned to Toronto in the Social Work field teaching and working with street kids.

Leo Johnson – Leo was a Professor of History at the University of Waterloo when he served as Jeff’s counsel during the Renison Affair. He was involved in several protests and disruptions and survived on the faculty until 1982, when he was charged and pled guilty to nine counts of indecently assaulting young girls, and one count of having sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 14. He was sentenced to prison and dismissed from the university in 1983.

Sami Gupta – At the time of the Renison Affair, Sami was member of the full time faculty of the University of Waterloo and a part time faculty member at Renison. Renison did not renew his contract. Sometime later he changed his name to Sehdev Kumar and continued to teach at the university. In 1995 one of his students complained that he had sexually harassed and sexually assaulted her. He was subsequently suspended with pay for a period of six months but retained his position at the university.

Andrew Telegdi – Andrew served back-to-back terms as President of the Federation of Students, continued to be very political and was a Member of Parliament for the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo until his defeat in 2008.

Ian Campbell – Ian served as Principal for fifteen long years. He finally resigned in 1992 and died in 2007.

Tom Brzustowski – After serving as Vice President at Waterloo, Tom was appointed President of NSERC, served as deputy minister in the Government of Ontario, and became an Officer of the Order of Canada and a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and of the Royal Society of Canada.

David Johnston – When David became involved with the Renison Affair he was Dean of Law at the University of Western Ontario. In 1979 he became Principal (President) at McGill. In a strange twist of fate, he was appointed President of the University of Waterloo in July 1999 where he was a very popular and well respected administrator. He held tenured appointments in both the department of computer science and in the faculty of applied health sciences. He has more than eleven honorary degrees and went on to become the Governor General of Canada.

John Towler – As for me, I continued to teach at Renison, was made an Honorary Fellow of the College, received several research grants, published more books and professional articles and accepted speaking engagements at professional meetings in Canada, the USA, the UK and the Middle East.  I wrote for several business magazines and was the editor of a business column in one of them contributing to it monthly for more than five years.  We invested in real estate, eventually acquiring more than a dozen properties in Canada, the USA and Spain. Our management consulting company grew to become a major supplier of custom designed training programs. We added sales, secretarial, managerial and training staff and moved to a separate office location. One of our sons joined the firm and it began to focus entirely on tests and surveys. We eventually sold the business to him and he has developed into one of Canada’s largest independent suppliers of industrial tests and surveys with clients in more than 50 countries around the world.

          I took early retirement from the University of Waterloo and Renison in 1995 but continued to teach via the internet for the University of Waterloo, Breyer State University, the American College of Pre-hospital Medicine and Andrew Jackson University until 2007. I travel widely, write for travel magazines, and became an award winning photographer

Epilogue

          I was ultimately successful as Renison’s second full time Principal. I stopped the rot, eliminated the worst practices and got rid of the people who were working to ruin the college. The college returned to its academic roots and its relationship with the Anglican Church.

Renison weathered its difficulties, has grown into a first rate educational institution and is an important part of the University. It now offers undergraduate and graduate courses and has developed a wonderful international reputation. It has expanded its facilities, improved its courses and attracted excellent faculty and outstanding students. The College has recently been granted the right to add University to its name and is now known as Renison University College.

The college survived as did I and we became stronger and better because of the experience. I’m glad that I came to Renison and pleased to have played a part in its growth and development.


[1] Renison College Calendar, 1974-75

[2] Memorandum from R. K. Banks, Department Chairman, University of Waterloo, November 5, 1974

[3] This student testified about this incident during her appearance at the Academic Hearing for Jeffrey Forest, June and July 1975.

[4] This student provided a signed statement and testified about this incident during her appearance at the Academic Hearing for Jeffrey Forest, June and July 1975.

[5] This student provided a signed statement and testified about this incident during her appearance at the Academic Hearing for Jeffrey Forest, June and July 1975.

[6] This student provided a signed statement and testified about this incident during her appearance at the Academic Hearing for Jeffrey Forest, June and July 1975.

[7] This information was presented at the Academic Hearing for Jeffrey Forest, June and July 1975, together with a statement signed by Irv Zentner dated November 7, 1974.

[8] The Daily Collegian, University of Massachusetts, Chandler Center of Controversy, December 6, 1972.

The Daily Collegian, University of Massachusetts, Letter to the Editor, Paul Chandler, December 7, 1972.

The Daily Collegian, University of Massachusetts, Chandler Decision Still Up In The Air, December 8, 1972.

The Daily Collegian, University of Massachusetts, Chandler A Severe Test, December 8, 1972.

The Springfield Union, Protest Group Remains Inside UM Building, December 9, 1972.

The Springfield Union, Black Group Holds Building at U of M, December 9, 1972.

The Greenfield Mass Recorder, UM Building Occupied in Ed School Protest, December 9, 1972.

The Greenfield Mass Recorder, UM Take Over Political, December 9, 1972.

The Daily Collegian, University of Massachusetts, Dean Allen’s Statement, December 11, 1972.

The Springfield Union, Dean Allen Bars Student Activist From UMass Graduate School, December 12, 1972.

The Boston Evening Globe, UMass warns court action to end takeover, December 12, 1972.

The Boston Evening Globe, UMass may sue to end protest, December 12, 1972.

Holyoak Transcript-Telegram, Police Action Is Considered To Oust UMass Sit-In Group, December 12, 1972.

[9] The Chevron, Solidarity With RAA, January 11, 1975 page 20.

[10] The Chevron, Tuesday November 5, 1974

[11] The Chevron, Tuesday November 5, 1975

[12] The Chevron, February 6, 1976

[13] The Chevron, Friday, January 3, 1975

[14] The Chevron, Friday January 11, 1975

[15] The Chevron, Friday November 8, 1974

[16]  The Chevron, February 6, 1976

[17] The Chevron, April 6, 1976

[18] Documentation of Available Material on the ‘Renison Affair’. From A.P.Telegdi, President, Federation of Students and U of W. Senate Executive member. 49 pages.

[19] The Gazette, Who Is The AIA – and why have they been saying all those terrible things about imperialism and capitalism?  March 8, 1976. pgs. 6 and 7.

[20] Tenure Committee Report, December 9, 1974.

[21] In the Matter of an Arbitration Between The Board of Governors of Renison College and Professor Jeffry Forest, July 28, 1975.

[22] The University of Waterloo Gazette, Renison Ruling Upholds End to Forest’s Contract, August 6, 1975, pgs. 1, 2.

[23] The University of Waterloo Gazette , January, 1975, pg. 6

[24] The Chevron, Friday, November 21, 1975 pg. 25.

[25] The University of Waterloo Gazette, Dec 1978 pg. 3.

[26] Letter from Morse Robinson, July 26, 1976

[27] Letter to Ian Campbell, September 10, 1991.

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