Statement from McMaster Board Chair Jane Allen and President David Farrar

We are writing to share with the McMaster community the outcome of a difficult situation that has had significant impact on our university.

McMaster University’s Board of Governors has officially removed associate professor Scott Watter from the university’s faculty. This decision is on the grounds that his conduct and pattern of behaviour involving students was an abuse of his position as a faculty member, amounting to a serious and fundamental breach of trust. He was found to have violated the University’s Code of Conduct for Faculty and the Conflict of Interest Policy.

The decision to remove Dr. Watter was made by the Board’s Executive and Governance Committee, as the designated committee of the Board of Governors in accordance with the University’s Tenure and Promotion Policy.

The Board accepted the recommendation made by a Senate Hearing Committee, comprised of three Senate appointed tenured faculty members. That Committee found Dr. Watter’s conduct to be unethical, inappropriate and in some instances exploitative. In engaging in sexual relations with a number of students, one of whom was in a vulnerable position and relying on him for support, the Hearing Committee found that Dr. Watter abused the responsibilities and authority of his position as a faculty member. He also violated the university’s Conflict of Interest Policy by not disclosing that he was using research funds to hire a graduate student with whom he was having a sexual relationship.

In making these findings of serious misconduct against Dr. Watter, the Hearing Committee unanimously concluded that having breached the trust inherent in his appointment, removal was the only reasonable outcome. This recommendation was made following a formal hearing that took place over fourteen days and included legal representation for both parties and the opportunity to present evidence and give testimony.

Following the Hearing Committee’s recommendation, the Board received representations from Dr. Watter in writing and in person and, after considering these, the Board made the decision to remove him as a faculty member with immediate effect.

Given the serious nature of the Board’s decision, the severe impact that this process has had on members of the McMaster community, and the need to reassure the broader community of the university’s commitment to a safe and respectful environment for students, faculty and staff, the Board is making the hearing summary public. Releasing the summary will enable the campus community, as well as the public, to have access to factual information relating to this matter, as well as the rationale for the decision for removal.

A summary of the Board’s decision, including the findings of the Hearing Committee, the decision by the Board’s Executive and Governance Committee, and McMaster’s Tenure and Promotion Policy are available on the Secretariat’s website.

This process has been a long and challenging ordeal for all those involved. This was an extremely serious matter, and the university has a responsibility to allow the time necessary to ensure the process is thorough and fair to all parties.

Removal of a faculty member is not a decision that is made lightly but it is critically important that the university is able to act to safeguard the safety of our students and all other members of the campus community, and to uphold the high standards of our institution.

We are grateful to the Hearing Committee and the Board Executive and Governance Committee members for their time and commitment to this process, and for their diligence in considering the matter and reaching their findings.


David Farrar
President and Vice-Chancellor

Jane Allen
Chair, McMaster Board of Governors


For anyone who needs extra support, a list of resources available to the McMaster community can be found here.