The two men are just doing their jobs. Goodyear represents the people of Canada. He had reason to believe that “Israel/Palestine Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace” might be more a propaganda exercise than an academic conference, and so he questioned whether Canadians should pay for the event.
For his part, Turk represents university teachers. His job is to get as much money as he can for the country’s universities and professors, preferably with no questions asked and no strings attached.
Speakers at the supposedly academic conference represented a rogue’s gallery of anti-Israel activists. For example, no one would mistake Ali Abunimah for an academic. He’s a professional propagandist and the co-founder of Electronic Intifada, a website that glamorizes terrorism as "resistance" and considers all of Israel occupied Palestinian territory.
Abunimah didn’t merely give a talk at the York conference. He was a member of the advisory committee, responsible for recommending the conference speakers. I'm not as familiar with the other organizers, but I'm confident that if David Duke (former Grand Wizard of the Klan) were on a committee recommending speakers for a conference about the future of the American South and what to do about tensions between Blacks and Whites, nobody would be saying, "But he's only one of the organizers – the rest aren't as bad."
Of course, when he called for Goodyear’s resignation, Turk didn’t go into details about what Abunimah and other anti-Israel activists were doing at a supposedly academic conference. He simply wrapped himself in the banner of academic freedom. This isn’t a convincing stance.
First, there’s bad blood between the CAUT and Goodyear. When the government budgeted an extra $2 billion for university infrastructure, the CAUT chose to complain about a $148 million cut to research funding. The CAUT met with Goodyear to press their case, but according to a CAUT official, Goodyear eventually: “stormed out of the room warning that we’ve burned all our bridges with them.”
With this fight over money already poisoning the relationship, it’s not surprising Turk found an excuse to call for Goodyear’s resignation.
Second, CAUT stands up for academic freedom only if it fits their self-interest or political bias. When the University and Colleges Union in Britain called for the blacklisting of Israeli scholars, most university presidents across Canada and hundreds of Canadian professors decried the move as an outrage against academic freedom (not to mention a clear cut case of bigotry). But the CAUT kept quiet.
I could understand if the CAUT felt they had no business meddling in Middle Eastern politics, but in fact, the CAUT issued a statement just this past January condemning Israel’s offensive in Gaza.
Strangely, in the year preceding the offensive, as thousands of Palestinian rockets and mortars rained down on Israeli towns, the CAUT issued no statements condemning this terrorism, nor even a friendly warning that sooner or later the Israelis were sure to respond.