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Geneviève O’Meara, a spokesperson for the University of Montreal, told The Globe and Mail that the school is aware of the petition.Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

Two University of Montreal students have launched a petition against a long-time history professor over “shocking” comments he made on social media that supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The petition, which had received more than 175 signatures by Sunday evening, accuses Prof. Michael J. Carley of spreading Russian propaganda to students and demands that the university both rebuke the professor and strip him of his role as a thesis adviser and supervisor.

“Considering that Mr. Michael Jabara Carley has deliberately misled hundreds, if not thousands, of students and members of the scientific community regarding the war Russia has been waging against Ukraine since 2014, having taken on a much greater magnitude on February 24, 2022, he is liable to reprimand, suspension or dismissal from the University of Montreal,” states the petition.

Tweets from Prof. Carley’s Twitter account had quoted Russian state media outlets, such as Sputnik, using the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The tweets claimed that the country was cleansing Donbas and Mariupol against “a rotten fascist government in Ukraine” and “Ukrainian Nazis” that had “infiltrated into every level of Ukr gvt & armed forces.”

His Twitter and Facebook accounts have since been deleted. Mr. Carley did not respond to a request for comment about the petition.

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Geneviève O’Meara, a spokesperson for the university, told The Globe and Mail that the school is aware of the petition, and that Mr. Carley has “expressed opinions on Twitter about the war in Ukraine that diverge from the contributions of most experts on the subject.”

“Although he is a professor at the University of Montreal, Prof. Carley is expressing his opinions in his personal capacity, not in the exercise of his duties as a professor,” she said in an e-mailed statement on Sunday. “Like any citizen, [Mr. Carley] is free to express these opinions on social networks.”

“In keeping with the principle of academic freedom, the University of Montreal believes that the search for truth must be based on a rigorous, fact-based method from which divergent perspectives can be confronted.”

Mr. Carley is on sabbatical this year, and therefore not teaching or acting as a supervisor, said Ms. O’Meara.

His comments were “purely based on Russian propaganda, which personally, for a history teacher I find shocking,” said Katia Sviderskaya, a 21-year old University of Montreal student of Ukrainian descent who co-wrote the petition with a fellow student.

“Being in the academic field doesn’t give you all the freedom of speech that you want,” she said, adding that Mr. Carley’s social-media accounts all listed him as a University of Montreal professor, which gave his tweets more credibility and “impacts the reputation of the university.”

The United Nations on Sunday reported at least 1,119 civilian deaths in Ukraine since the war began on Feb. 24, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees recording more than 3.8 million Ukrainians having fled to other countries.

With a report from Reuters.

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