An Ontario court docket has granted Western College permission to take away the identify of an emeritus historical past professor from six tutorial prizes funded by his property following criticism that he espoused radical, racist views.
Kenneth Hilborn taught historical past and worldwide relations on the London, Ont., college from 1961 to 1997. After his loss of life in 2013 at age 79, Hilborn’s property bequeathed $1 million to Western, together with $750,000 to the historical past division for 4 undergraduate and two graduate awards which have been handed out since 2016.
In 2019, students started calling on the varsity to intervene, linking the scholarships with the legitimization of maximum right-wing beliefs by universities.
“He brazenly opposed the equality of human beings,” mentioned Will Langford, who teaches historical past at Dalhousie College in Halifax.
Langford wrote a 2020 essay through which he referred to as Hilborn “a racist” and criticized Western for not acknowledging Hilborn’s views in awarding the scholarships.
A battle of essays
Langford, who realized of Western’s plans to take away Hilborn’s identify from the scholarships throughout a cellphone name from CBC Information, referred to as the event “a excellent news story.”
“I feel the division is taking the chance that’s earlier than them to interact with this historical past, the historical past of their very own division, their very own college, and I hope they’re educating in regards to the scholarships of their programs.
“I’d hope too for some form of acknowledgment, possibly on the division’s web site, so anybody within the public who desires to study extra can readily discover it.”
Francine McKenzie, an assistant professor at Western who additionally teaches historical past and worldwide relations, responded to Langford’s 2020 essay with certainly one of her personal that very same 12 months entitled “Western’s historical past division and the Hilborn pupil awards.”
“The Hilborn awards do good, now and eternally,” she wrote. “Whereas the Hilborn awards are on a way more modest scale than Rhodes scholarships, the comparability is beneficial: The Rhodes Belief doesn’t endorse Cecil Rhodes’ views; the historical past division does not endorse Ken Hilborn’s views.”
Within the essay, she famous Western’s historical past division “mentioned the implications of getting pupil awards created by means of his bequest and determined that the awards ought to keep.”
Three years later, Western College quietly made a 180-degree flip, making use of to an Ontario court docket this 12 months to take away Hilborn’s identify from the awards.
Hilborn’s work ‘did hurt,’ says group
A spokesperson for Western College mentioned they don’t seem to be capable of remark whereas the matter remains to be earlier than the courts.
However newly found court docket filings from the college, in its software to the Workplace of the Public Guardian and Trustee to take away Hilborn’s identify from the scholarships, do provide some perception into what might need prompted Western to alter its thoughts.
Based on the paperwork, Western’s historical past division created a analysis group to contemplate “whether or not the criticism levelled at Hilborn had benefit.”
The analysis group believed Hilborn’s tutorial work “did hurt” and precipitated “epistemic violence by suppressing, dismissing and trivializing individuals who have been oppressed, weak or discriminated towards.”
The court docket paperwork additionally state Hilborn’s work “bolstered white supremacist arguments, hooked up significance to the protection of white individuals, by no means Black individuals, and affirmed the goodness and superiority of white individuals explicitly.”
The historical past division analysis group beneficial eradicating Hilborn’s identify from the scholarships, court docket paperwork point out, as a result of if the varsity did not, Western would “be seen as tacitly condoning and endorsing his views,” one thing the researchers famous “runs counter to Western College’s objectives and values.”
Hilborn appeared to have died with out residing kinfolk. The court docket filings within the case make no point out of his household excluding his mom and father, who have been already lifeless in 2013. Hilborn’s obituary, which nonetheless exists on Western College’s web site, mentions no youngsters or mates, and the Workplace of the Public Guardian and Trustee is routinely referred to as upon to make authorized selections for estates when there isn’t a else to take action.
The court docket filings don’t point out how Western would rename the scholarships or when it could occur.
“Because the matter stays earlier than the court docket, it could not be applicable to remark at the moment,” Jordan Diacur, the Hamilton lawyer who represents Western within the authorized case, wrote to CBC Information in an electronic mail Friday.
Marcia Steyaert, the varsity’s government director of editorial technique and media relations, didn’t return a request for remark by publication time.