Fabrikant Affair

On August 24, 1992, an armed man opened fire on the ninth floor of the Henry F. Hall Building resulting in the death of four professors. That day, two professors died: Civil Engineering Professor Matthew McCartney Douglass and Chemistry Professor and President of the Concordia University Faculty Association Michael Gorden Hogben. Mechanical Engineering Professor Aaron Jaan Saber died of his wounds the next day. Phoivos Ziogas, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Chair, succumbed to his injuries a month later on September 23. Mechanical Engineering Secretary Elizabeth Horwood, also wounded on that day, recovered and was discharged from the hospital.

Mechanical Engineering Professor Valery Fabrikant was arrested and later convicted for the murder of his colleagues.

This incident led the university to launch two Independent Committees of Inquiry. The first inquiry was conducted by John Scott Cowan of the University of Ottawa. The report of this inquiry is entitled Lessons from the Fabrikant Files. Released in May 1994, it studied Fabrikant's employment history at Concordia. This report is frequently referred to as the Cowan Report. The second inquiry was led by former York University president Harry W. Arthurs. It investigated Fabrikant's charges against colleagues within the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science. This inquiry report was called Integrity In Scholarship. It was released in April 1994 and it is frequently referred to as the Arthurs Report.

A permanent memorial commemorating the four professors has been erected in the lobby of the Hall Building.

The events surrounding the Fabrikant Affair led to much re-evaluation of internal policies and procedures as well as examination of larger questions such as ethical standards for scientific research and creation of a safe and civil University environment.

Concordia took direct action to ensure vigorous enforcement of accountability procedures, conflict of interest guidelines and work obligations, put into effect rigorous financial controls, and made administrative changes to ensure a climate of mutual trust and collegiality.

Strict new policies and procedures were implemented for more effective control and acceptable standards of financial management of functions such as: purchasing, accounts payable, travel and allowable expenses, approval of contracts and signing authority. These policies continue to evolve and be updated. The Internal Audit function was also restructured.

The  Code of Rights & Responsibilities was adopted in December 1995 and an Advisor on the Code was named. This Code replaced the former Code of Conduct (Non-Academic) and it set out standards of conduct for all members of the University. In April 1995, after broad community consultation, a partial version of The Code of Ethics: Guidelines for Ethical Actions was adopted; the full version was adopted in 1997. Work on The Code of Ethics had been initiated in 1991, but these early efforts were reinforced by the events of August 1992.

There have been many initiatives at Concordia around civil behaviour and conflict resolution, including the Peace and Conflict Resolution Series that began in 2003.

In the wake of the December 6, 1989 shootings at École Polytechnique, Concordia's Board of Governors adopted a policy banning firearms on the university premises. After the tragic events on August 24 however, Concordia University also joined the Coalition for Gun Control in a petition signing campaign that called for the Federal Government to legislate tougher gun laws. In March 1994 Concordia representatives presented to members of Parliament a 200,000-signature petition to ban the private ownership of handguns in Canada.

The August 1992 events at Concordia generated debate and led to some re-examination within the larger Canadian scientific research landscape in matters of fiscal accountability and ethical standards. In Canada, policy for standards of ethical conduct in scientific research continues to evolve.

 

© Concordia University Archives, revised April 16, 2008