The ongoing debate over vaccinations has caused a rift at Queen’s University in Ontario, where a professor who came under fire for using anti-vaccination material in a health course will no longer be teaching that course.
A spokeswoman told the Star that Melody Torcolacci will not be teaching Physical Determinants of Health (HLTH 102) for the remainder of the term.
In an email, communications officer Rosie Hales said discussions are ongoing about the other classes Torcolacci teaches. Torcolacci is an adjunct professor in the university’s school of Kinesiology and Health Studies and she has not yet replied to requests for an interview with any media outlets.
The university made headlines last week when a PowerPoint presentation from Torcolacci’s first-year class showed what looks like a heavy anti-vaccination focus in her teaching.
University principal Daniel Woolf appointed Provost Alan Harrison to investigate the situation, which a number of students have said they have complained about for the past several years.
Harrison said neither he nor Woolf was aware of the concerns about Torcolacci’s vaccine views. But the local medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Gemmill, said he wrote to the director of the Kinesiology department two years ago to voice objections to Torcolacci’s teachings after reviewing course materials shown him by a friend’s child who was in the class.
Gemmill did not receive a written response but did later speak to the department head, Jean Cote.
Woolf promptly posted a bland statement on the university website:
“I became aware today of the situation regarding HLTH 102 and have asked the Provost and Vice- Principal to work with Arts and Science to look into this matter and gather more information. The university is committed to the academic freedom of our faculty members; at the same time, the university expects that faculty members will present intellectually rigorous research and course material and that they will present available scientific evidence objectively and declare their biases. The university also expects that courses meet the needs of our students in terms of prompting critical thinking, independent judgement, and discussion.”
Torcolacci herself has not replied to media inquries. She is a former Queen’s student and athlete who acquired a master’s degree in physical education. She teaches courses such as Physical Fitness and Wellness, The Art and Science of Coaching, and Physical Determinants of Health, the course where the current controversy arose.