Skip to main content

After beating back Kin-Yip Chun's complaints that he was denied tenure because of prejudice, the University of Toronto has given the physicist $100,000 in compensation, $260,000 in research funds and what could be a lifetime job if he meets certain conditions.

The negotiated settlement announced yesterday came after a university victory in July before the Ontario Human Right Commission, which rejected its own staff's findings and declined to refer Dr. Chun's case to a board of inquiry.

University of Toronto president Robert Birgeneau dismissed questions about whether the deal is an admission that Dr. Chun had been treated unfairly. "The Ontario Human Rights Commission cleared us of any wrongdoing," he said.

He called the case "a human tragedy," and said that "we just want to help him start his career again."

Dr. Chun, 54, was hired as a research associate in the university's physics department in 1985 and was awarded $1.4-million in research grants over nine years.

Dr. Chun was bypassed in favour of white candidates in four academic competitions for a tenured position. He filed a human-rights complaint in December, 1992. He was fired in 1994.

In February, an investigator for the Human Rights Commission reported evidence of racism in the university's hiring practices, but the commission later vetoed the idea of an inquiry.

Dr. Chun, a father of two, has been on social assistance since 1996, and has rejected previous offers from the university, calling them insulting.

Yesterday he said he will put his problems with the university behind him.

"The past is the past, and we're looking forward," he said. "Both sides are happy, and it's a win-win situation. Having said that -- justice, you have to struggle for it. I'm tenacious."

The deal does not give him the equivalent of the tenure he sought. Tenured professors normally cannot be dismissed except for misconduct.

Dr. Chun, who specializes in seismology, will be a research scientist and "non-tenure-stream" associate professor until December, 2004, when he will face a review. If he passes it, his job will continue until retirement.

In the next five years, he must write four papers that are published or accepted for publication and secure a peer-review research grant. His salary is retroactive to July 1, and he will get $260,000 in start-up funding to resume his research.

"This is the first time the university has put forth an offer that would make it possible for Dr. Chun to really have a career, and it was very reasonable," said Peter Rosenthal, a mathematics professor and a member of a team that negotiated the settlement on Dr. Chun's behalf.

The deal was reached on Thursday night after a full day of talks. Dr. Chun has withdrawn a lawsuit against the university and his complaint to the Human Rights Comission.

Mr. Birgeneau said Dr. Chun can still hope to become a tenured professor.

"Many things can happen now. He is welcome to apply for tenure here or at any other university. His salary is equivalent to that of any other research scientist at his level of accomplishment."