The unimpeded search for knowledge and its free exposition are vital to a university and to the common good of society. To this end, [UNB and AUNBT] agree to strive to uphold and to protect the principles of academic freedom and not to infringe upon or abridge academic freedom as set out in [Article 14 of full-time and contract academic Collective Agreements].
Academic Freedom: A Summary
Jon Thompson (Professor Emeritus, AUNBT President 1980-82)
“Academic freedom is a central value, arguably the central value, of university life,” law professor and former university president Harry Arthurs declared in 1995 . What are the nature and purpose of this value? By what means is it protected in Canada? When did it arise? How did it develop?
In its most clearly characterized and defensible form, academic freedom is a right of university academic staff held by virtue of their institutional employment. In outline, its purpose is to ensure they can challenge received wisdom, put forward new ideas, participate freely in collegial governance, and exercise fully their rights as citizens without suffering any institutional penalties . As such, it differs from general freedom of expression for all citizens protected through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial human rights codes. In Canadian universities the right to academic freedom is protected through articles in collective bargaining agreements.
Academic freedom is not absolute. It must be exercised within the law and in accordance with the collective agreement. It does not empower one academic to infringe the right of another.
The concept has ancient origins: in societies across the globe it was often accepted that, for the common good, deeply learned persons should have freedom of expression. In the Western world, universities long had religious restrictions and thus modern forms of academic freedom began to arise only in the nineteenth century when ideas of the Enlightenment entered universities from the wider society. Freedom of expression was widely practised and promoted by public intellectuals such as Germaine de Staël, Wilhelm von Humboldt and John Stuart Mill, noted scholars but not academics.
The most comprehensive and best protected characterization of academic freedom developed in Canada, for several reasons. First, the response of academic staff from coast to coast to the summary dismissal of historian Harry Crowe in 1958 was to build CAUT into a strong national faculty association. Second, the similar nature of employment and collective bargaining legislation across the provinces facilitated uniform policy establishment by CAUT. Third, robust exercise of academic freedom during the past half century by many courageous academics with the support of their colleagues and CAUT demonstrated repeatedly that academic freedom is for the common good.
Below you will find a list of resources and further reading on the subject of academic freedom.
- Arthurs, Harry. Academic Freedom: When and Where? Speech at the AUCC conference, October 1995.
- Bruneau, William, and James L. Turk, Ed. Disciplining Dissent: The Curbing of Free Expression in Academia and the Media. 2004.
- Drummond, Susan. Unthinkable Thoughts: Academic Freedom and the One-State Model for Israel and Palestine. UBC Press, 2013.
- Giroux, Henry A. “Public Intellectuals Against the Neoliberal University”, Ttruthout, Op-Ed, October 29, 2013.
- Healey, David. Let Them Eat Prozac. 2003.
- Hockenos, Paul. “University Watch’ Scrutinizes Corporate Influence.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (Feb 9 2014).
- Thompson, Jon, Patricia Baird, and Jocelyn Downie. The Olivieri Report: The Complete Text of the Report of the Independent Inquiry Commissioned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. 2001.
- Thompson, Jon. No Debate: The Israel Lobby and Free Speech at Canadian Universities. 2011.
- Tudiver, Neil. Universities for Sale: Resisting Corporate Control over Canadian Higher Education. 1999.
- Turk, James L., and Allan Manson, Ed. Free Speech in Fearful times: After 9/11 in Canada, the U.S., Australia & Europe. 2007.
- Turk, James L (ed). Academic Freedom in Conflict: The Struggle Over Free Speech Rights in the University. 2014.
- Turk, James L., (ed). The Corporate Campus: Commercialization and the Dangers to Canada’s Colleges and University. 2000.
- Turk, James L., (ed). Universities at Risk: How Politics, Special Interests and Corporatization Threaten Academic Integrity. 2008.
Bibliographies and Other Resources
- Karran, Terence. Academic Freedom: A Research Bibliography. 2009.
- Bibliography from the Harry Crowe Foundation
- Bibliography from the Centre for Free Expression (Ryerson)
- UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel. 1997. (International statement on academic freedom and academic staff rights, adopted overwhelmingly by the member countries of the United Nations)