Ontario court authorizes Western University to remove ‘racist’ professor’s name from 6 scholarships | TBEN News

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An Ontario court has authorized Western University to remove the name of a history professor emeritus from six academic awards funded by his estate, after criticism that he held radical, racist views.

Kenneth Hilborn taught history and international relations at the University of London, Ontario from 1961 to 1997. After his death in 2013 at age 79, Hilborn’s estate donated $1 million to Western, including $750,000 to the history department for four undergraduate and two graduate awards presented since 2016.

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In 2019, scholars began calling on the school to intervene, linking the scholarships to the legitimization of far-right beliefs by universities.

“He openly opposed human equality,” said Will Langford, who teaches history at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Langford wrote a 2020 essay calling Hilborn “a racist” and criticizing Western for failing to acknowledge Hilborn’s views in awarding the scholarships.

A battle of essays

Langford, who learned of Western’s plans to remove Hilborn’s name from the exchanges during a call from TBEN News, called the development “a good news story.”

Students are shown participating in orientation events Tuesday at Western, a school where Hilborn taught from 1961 to 1997. (Colin Butler/TBEN News)

“I think the department is taking the opportunity that is ahead of them to engage with this history, the history of their own department, their own university, and I hope they teach about the scholarships in their courses.

“I’m also hoping for some kind of acknowledgment, maybe on the department’s website, so anyone in the public who wants to know more can easily find it.”

Hilborn’s name is associated with six scholarships at the university, bequeathed by his estate. (Western University)

Francine McKenzie, an assistant professor at Western who also teaches history and international relations, responded to Langford’s 2020 essay that same year with one of her own essays entitled “Western’s history department and the Hilborn student awards.”

“The Hilborn awards are doing good, now and forever,” she wrote. “While the Hilborn Awards are on a much more modest scale than the Rhodes Scholarships, the comparison is helpful: The Rhodes Trust does not endorse Cecil Rhodes’s views; the History Department does not endorse Ken Hilborn’s views.”

In the essay, she noted that Western’s history department “discussed the implications of creating student awards through his bequest and decided the awards should stay.”

Three years later, Western University quietly made a 180-degree turn and this year filed a petition with an Ontario court to remove Hilborn’s name from the awards.

Hilborn’s work ‘has done harm,’ says group

McKenzie did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment from TBEN News.

But newly discovered court filings from the university, in its application to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee to have Hilborn’s name removed from the grants, do offer some insight into what might have led Western to change his mind.

Students returned to Western on Tuesday for the 2022-2023 academic year. (Colin Butler/TBEN News)

According to the documents, Western’s history department set up an investigation group to “consider whether the criticisms of Hilborn were justified.”

The research group believed Hilborn’s academic work “damaged” and “caused epistemic violence by oppressing, dismissing and trivializing people who were oppressed, vulnerable or discriminated against”.

The court documents also state that Hilborn’s work “strengthened white supremacist arguments, gave importance to the safety of white people, never black people, and explicitly affirmed the goodness and superiority of white people.”

The history department’s research group recommended removing Hilborn’s name from the scholarships, court documents show, because if the school didn’t, Western would “be seen as tacitly approving and approving his opinion,” something what the researchers noted is “contrary to Western University’s goals and values.”

Hilborn appeared to have died with no living relatives. The court files in the case make no mention of his family, with the exception of his mother and father, who had already passed away in 2013. Hilborn’s obituary, which still resides on Western University’s website, does not mention any children or friends, and the office of the public guardian and trustee is routinely called upon to make legal decisions for estates when there is no other option. to do this.

The court files do not specify how Western would rename the exchanges or when this might happen.

“As the case remains pending in court, it would not be appropriate to comment at this time,” Jordan Diacur, Hamilton’s attorney representing Western in the lawsuit, wrote in an email to TBEN News on Friday.

Marcia Steyaert, executive director of the school’s editorial strategy and media relations, did not return a request for comment before publishing time.