Taking NotesTaking Notes: Eye on Education – Physics Professor Forced to Retire

Taking NotesTaking Notes: Eye on Education – Physics Professor Forced to Retire

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73-year old physics professor Ed Tomchuk has lost his battle against forced retirement, and will have to leave the university teaching job he has held for 44 years. This retirement came about as a consequence of a deal the University of Winnipeg reached in 2002 between the university and its faculty, which forces professors to retire at age 69. Although proponents of the deal argue that keeping senior staff stretches tight budgets and makes it difficult for young professors to get tenure, the University has argued that the forced retirement policy is causing them to lose good scholars as young as 55 to other universities. The University of Toronto faced a similar debate, and last spring, reached a deal with the faculty association that will allow professors and librarians who wish to work past age 65 to phase-in or postpone retirement.

Tomchuk fought the ruling on the basis of age discrimination. Manitoba, Quebec, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Yukon, and Northwest Territories ban mandatory retirement. Ontario has introduced legislation that will amend the human rights code to extend protection for discrimination based on age. Although mandatory retirement is banned in Manitoba, exceptions are granted to the universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg. In Alberta, the University of Alberta’s 1992 case against professor Olive Dickason was fought to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of forcing Dickason to retire at age 65 (Canadian Press, 2005, August 31).

Although schools argue that they need to renew their faculty, many suggest that merit, rather than age, should be the deciding factor in choosing faculty. The Tomchuk case will be heard on appeal, but the university has already planned for Tomchuk’s departure and says there is no longer funding available for him as a tenured faculty member.


Canadian Press (2005, August 18). 73-year-old physics professor fights forced retirement: Deadline looms for prof who has taught at U of Winnipeg for 44 years. Edmonton Journal, A8.
Canadian Press (2005, August 31). Professor must leave job, court says: Tenured Manitoba professor loses first round in forced retirement battle. Edmonton Journal.
Whiteside, J. (2005, March 14). End to mandatory retirement in sight for faculty, librarians. University of Toronto – News @UofT. Retrieved from http://www.news.utoronto.ca/bin6/050314-1116.asp.