The letter by Jan Konvalinka to the President and Vice-Chancellor of the Brock University regarding the retracted article of Prof. Tomáš Hudlický
/ 24.06.2020 /
“Opinions could and should be challenged, questioned or refuted but never silenced. In order to be able to think, we have to have the right to inquire, question and even offend or be mistaken,” writes Assoc. Prof. Jan Konvalinka, a biochemist at the IOCB Prague and the Vice-Rector of the Charles University, to Gervan Fearon:
Dr. Gervan Fearon
President and Vice-Chancellor
1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way
St. Catharines, Ontario
Dear Prof. Fearon,
Two years ago we were exchanging letters celebrating lifelong achievements of Professor Tomas Hudlicky at the occasion of him being awarded Silver Medal of Charles University in Prague for his outstanding service to organic chemistry. I am sorry to say that now I have a much less felicitous reason to contact you again. I am writing you in response to the "Open letter to the Brock community", published on the web page of your university on June 8, 2020. In this letter prof. Greg Finn, Provost and Vice President, condemns an opinion paper by Prof. Tomas Hudlicky that appeared in Angewandte Chemie Int. E. as "hurtful and alienating" and being "utterly at odds with values of Brock's mentors". The letter also warns that "further steps are being considered and developed".
In his assay, prof. Hudlicky shares his views of the current state and future development of his field, synthetic organic chemistry. He suggests, for instance, that some hiring practices based on preferential treatment of certain groups might lead to discrimination against the most meritorious candidates, and discusses his views on the proper relationship between students and a mentor.
The views and ideas of Prof. Hudlicky may well be wrong. Unfortunately, we will never find out, since his paper disappeared from the web page of the journal and cannot be tracked by its digital object identification (doi) anymore. Surprisingly, it is not displayed in the Brock University web pages either, even though his views and ideas described in that paper are heavily criticized by the administration of the university. As scientists and fortunate citizens of free democratic countries we know very well that free inquiry of ideas, based on freedom of speech, is an absolute prerequisite of any scientific endeavor. Universities have been for centuries the strongholds of free inquiry and questioning even the most sacred ideas has always been the very purpose of their existence. Opinions could and should be challenged, questioned or refuted but never silenced. In order to be able to think, we have to have the right to inquire, question and even offend or be mistaken. Freedom of speech is the most precious of all the freedoms since without it, no other freedom could be defended.
In their journey to freedom, Hudlicky family escaped communist Czechoslovakia many years ago and built their new home in the free West. It would be ironical and very troubling if the very same forces of censorship and intolerance that forced Tomas Hudlicky out from his homeland would silence him in Canada. Please, protect academic freedom, protect freedom of speech, protect professor Hudlicky and his team.
Yours very truly,
cc: Prof. Gregory C. Finn
Prof. T. Hudlicky