Valery Fabrikant

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Valery I. Fabrikant (born 28 January 1940[1] in Minsk, USSR), is a Belarusian émigré and former associate professor of mechanical engineering at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. On 24 August 1992, he shot and killed four colleagues and wounded one staff member, after years of increasingly disruptive behaviour at the university.

Background[edit]

Born in Belarus (in the Soviet Union) to a Jewish family, Fabrikant earned the equivalent of a doctorate in engineering. He emigrated to Canada in 1979. While he claimed to be a political dissident, journalists from the Montreal Gazette later researching his academic credentials found he had been dismissed from numerous positions in the USSR because of disruptive behaviour.

Fabrikant was hired at Concordia University in 1980, where he worked first as a technician under limited grant money. After several years, he was promoted to academic positions included in departmental funding. He taught students and conducted independent research, despite students, staff and faculty having reported behavioural problems ranging from "undesirable to intolerable".[2]

He attempted to collect information to blackmail officials into promoting him, threatened officials and colleagues and blamed others for all his problems. Fabrikant blamed his peers for his being denied tenure and for seeking to have his employment terminated.[3]

Over several months of escalating charges from late 1991 into 1992, he accused the university of tolerating the practice of academics' being listed as co-authors on papers to which they had not contributed. In 1992, in the midst of an email campaign against numerous university officials, Fabrikant went to court to try to have the names of several colleagues removed from research papers he had written in the 1980s. That case was not concluded until November 2007.[4] It was dismissed by Quebec Superior Court Judge Nicole Morneau under a provision of the Quebec Code of Civil Procedures designed to treat cases found to be frivolous or unfounded.[5][6] It was later reopened and eventually dismissed in March 2011.[7]

Shooting[edit]

By August 1992 Dr. Fabrikant faced a contempt of court charge due to his behaviour during his suit. In addition, he had been conducting an email campaign against numerous members of the university. He claimed fears of being killed in jail.

On 24 August 1992 Fabrikant took concealed weapons and ammunition with him to the Engineering Department of the university, where he went on a shooting spree on the ninth floor of the Henry F. Hall Building. He killed Department Chair Phoivos Ziogas and professors Matthew Douglass, Michael Hogben, and Jaan Saber; and wounded Elizabeth Horwood, a departmental staff secretary.

Phoivos Ziogas lived for a month in a coma before he died of massive internal injuries from the bullet ricocheting within his body.

Trial and psychiatric assessment[edit]

Fabrikant represented himself at his five-month-long trial, after firing ten lawyers in the process. His claim was that the murders were done in "self-defence" because members of the faculty were "trying to give [him] a heart attack". During the trial he also compared himself to the abused orphans in the Mount Cashel Orphanage.

After several weeks of observing his eccentric behaviour, the judge suspended the proceedings to conduct a hearing into Fabrikant's mental fitness to stand trial. After a month's review, the two court-appointed psychiatrists found him fit to stand trial, although "severely paranoid and hostile."[8] The judge ended Fabrikant's performances in the courtroom and sent the case to the jury. With the essential facts not in doubt, they found Fabrikant guilty of first-degree murder and the court sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Despite two psychiatrists ruling in his favor, Fabrikant thought he was insulted by them. According to Dr. Louis Morisette, Fabrikant asked to meet with him.[9] Morisette worked at Philippe-Pinel Institute (prison for the mentally disturbed) and specialized in legal psychiatry. Fabrikant spent several days there during the time of his trial. Morisette spent several hours over a few days with Fabrikant. "Fabrikant wanted my help to counter argue the two psychiatrists' opinion on him in court, and to help him argue that psychology has no scientific basis and proves nothing." [10]

Morisette disagreed with the conclusions of the two psychiatrists appointed by the court. "Mr. Fabrikant suffers, in my opinion, from more than a simple personality disorder, […] he could be treated by pharmaceutical products, a treatment he always refused." "We often push the trial dates of people who suffer from complications because of heart attacks. In my opinion Fabrikant is not fit to stand trial."[10]

Aftermath[edit]

  • Concordia's Board of Governors had earlier adopted a policy banning firearms on the university campus. After Fabrikant's murders, the university joined the Coalition for Gun Control and gathered signatures for a petition calling for tougher national gun laws. In March 1994 Concordia representatives presented members of Parliament with a 200,000-signature petition to ban the private ownership of handguns in Canada.[11]
  • Concordia University commissioned two independent inquiries into events surrounding the murders. This followed university review of scholarship guidelines. The university improved its administrative procedures and research ethics guidelines, as did Canada's research funding agencies. An investigation of faculty research in Fabrikant's department revealed that some of Fabrikant's claims about mismanagement of grants funds were factually correct. But, he did not challenge colleagues' work until he was well into his attacks against the university.
  • The Cowan report, which studied the interactions between university officials and Fabrikant from a personnel management perspective, found that "The warnings and strictures placed upon him [Fabrikant] which directly related to his behaviour, (when they existed at all), were too mild, too vague, or (finally) too slow and ponderous."
  • In addition, the university adopted new rules governing financial accountability and scientific integrity, improvements already in process at the time of the August 1992 events. The Internal Audit function was also restructured.[12]
  • In 1995 the university adopted "The Code of Rights & Responsibilities" and named an Advisor on the Code. It set out standards of conduct for all members of the University. Further work was done on a new code of ethics, resulting in adoption in 1995 of a partial version of "The Code of Ethics: Guidelines for Ethical Actions". In 1997 the full version was adopted.[11]
  • The university created initiatives related to civil behaviour and conflict resolution, including the Peace and Conflict Resolution Series that began in 2003.[11]

Fabrikant is serving his sentence at Archambault Institution in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec.[citation needed]

Fabrikant is a usenet user known for posting in newsgroups, particularly can.general and can.politics, as well as on his website,[13] which contain trial transcripts, as well as his version of events. He has claimed to be the innocent victim of a conspiracy. From prison, he has managed to circumvent restrictions on his communications[14] to argue his case through a website and other media. He filed numerous legal proceedings with the court system until 2000, when the Quebec Superior Court declared him a vexatious litigant. The Court dismissed his bid to clear that status in 2007.[15]

In part because Fabrikant carried out his assault on a university campus, and societies have witnessed rising workplace violence, the case has been extensively studied. Later analysis concluded that "Fabrikant often displayed classic behavioural warning signs indicating potential violence."[16] Within three years of the university's hiring him, Fabrikant had established a reputation of being "a difficult, argumentative and unpredictable individual- and one who seemed to set no limits on his own behaviour."[16] The university failed to address his behaviour early on, and his harassment of students and colleagues increased over the years.[16] The university attempted to change its guidelines for dealing with personnel. The case showed the problems of academic institutions, whose administrators were more used to assessing research, than in managing the behaviour of difficult staff.

References[edit]

  1. ^ (French) Noël, André (1992-08-26). "Valery Fabrikant, un Don Quichotte paranoïaque". La Presse. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  2. ^ John Scott Cowan, Lessons from the Fabrikant File: A Report to the Board of Governors of Concordia University, May 1994, Concordia University Records Management and Archives, accessed 4 April 2012
  3. ^ H.W. Arthurs, Chair; Roger A. Blais, and Jon Thompson, Integrity in Scholarship: A Report to Concordia University, April 1994, Concordia University Records Management and Archives, accessed 4 April 2012
  4. ^ "Concordia killer in court for 15-year-old lawsuit". CBC News. 2007-11-05. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  5. ^ "Judge dismisses Concordia killer's lawsuit against former colleagues". CBC News. 2007-11-26. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  6. ^ Montgomery, Sue (2007-11-26). "Judge puts end to Fabrikant suit". The Gazette. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  7. ^ Former Concordia professor who killed 4 colleagues loses lawsuit, March 30, 2011.
  8. ^ D. Kelleher, Profiling the lethal employee: case studies of violence in the workplace, p. 70, Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997, accessed 24 Aug 2009
  9. ^ Louis Morissette, M.D., FRCPC – Psychiatry doctor, responsible for the teen unit, Philippe-Pinel Institute of Montreal
  10. ^ a b Christainne Charette, "Dr. Louis Morisette, interview", SRC, 14 Nov. 2007 (quote translated from French by author).
  11. ^ a b c "The Fabrikant Affair", 24 August 1992, Concordia University Records Management and Archives, accessed 3 April 2012
  12. ^ "The Fabrikant Affair", 24 August 1992, Concordia University Records Management and Archives, accesssed 4 April 2012
  13. ^ V.I. Fabrikant's website
  14. ^ Gravenor, Kristian (2001-01-25). "No cheerful earful: Multiple murderer Valery Fabrikant sneaks his message through prison bars". Montreal Mirror. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  15. ^ "Quebec judge quashes motions by Concordia killer". The Canadian Press. 2007-11-07. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  16. ^ a b c D. Kelleher, Profiling the lethal employee: case studies of violence in the workplace, p. 67, Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997, accessed 24 Aug 2009

Additional reading[edit]

  • Mathieu Beauregard, La folie de Valery Fabrikant: une analyse sociologique, Paris: L'Harmattan, 1999 (in French)

External links[edit]