Western College is searching for permission from an Ontario courtroom to take away the identify of an emeritus historical past professor from six educational 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 dying 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 college to intervene, linking the scholarships with the legitimization of maximum right-wing beliefs by universities.
“He brazenly opposed the equality of human beings,” stated Will Langford, who teaches historical past at Dalhousie College in Halifax.
Langford wrote a 2020 essay during which he known 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 by means of the courts to hunt removing of Hilborn’s identify from the scholarships, throughout a telephone name from CBC Information, known as the event “a excellent news story.”
“I feel the division is taking the chance that’s earlier than them to have interaction with this historical past, the historical past of their very own division, their very own college, and I hope they’re instructing 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, a professor at Western who additionally teaches historical past and worldwide relations, responded to Langford’s 2020 essay with one in every of her personal that very same yr entitled “Western’s historical past division and the Hilborn scholar 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 would not endorse Ken Hilborn’s views.”
Within the essay, she famous Western’s historical past division “mentioned the implications of getting scholar 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 courtroom this yr to take away Hilborn’s identify from the awards.
Hilborn’s work ‘did hurt,’ says group
“Because the matter stays earlier than the courtroom, it might not be acceptable to remark presently,” Jordan Diacur, the Hamilton lawyer who represents Western within the authorized case, wrote to CBC Information in an e-mail Friday.
Newly found courtroom 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 supply some perception into what might need prompted Western to vary 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 educational work “did hurt” and induced “epistemic violence by suppressing, dismissing and trivializing individuals who had been oppressed, weak or discriminated in opposition to.”
The courtroom paperwork additionally state Hilborn’s work “bolstered white supremacist arguments, connected significance to the security of white individuals, by no means Black individuals, and affirmed the goodness and superiority of white individuals explicitly.”
The historical past division analysis group advisable eradicating Hilborn’s identify from the scholarships, courtroom paperwork point out, as a result of if the college 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 courtroom filings within the case make no point out of his household excluding his mom and father, who had been already useless in 2013. Hilborn’s obituary, which nonetheless exists on Western College’s web site, mentions no youngsters or pals, and the Workplace of the Public Guardian and Trustee is routinely known as upon to make authorized choices for estates when there isn’t any else to take action.
The courtroom filings don’t point out how Western would rename the scholarships or when it might occur, if the applying is granted.