C A U T BULLETIN A C P P
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Back to Academic Freedom Home Page ACPPU01.doc CAUT BULLETIN A C P P U COMMENTARY Vol. 42, No. 2 - February 1995 CAUT'S DEFENCE Of ACADEMIC FREEDOM UNDER ATTACK BY JOHN J. FUREDY The undermining of the traditions of freedom of speech by CANADIAN ACADEMIC ORGANIZATIONS have an the administrations of Canadian institutions of higher Important task in explaining and defending tenure and learning has been furthered, indirectly and sometimes academic freedom, and this task is especially critical in directly, by the trend to appoint an increasing number and these days of scarce resources and concerns about the variety of equity officers on college and university future restructing of academia. campuses. In her recent statement summarizing the nature of tenure Academic organizations like CAUT have not, apparently, and the significance of academic freedom, CAUT recognized the dangers inherent in the proposals for President Joyce Lorimer provided valuable clarification speech codes which assume that certain "offensive" when she wrote that "tenure has never been a sinecure" opinions should be suppressed. These measures have and that the "quality of Canadian academic staff can be been enthusiastically supported by most equity officers assured only if they have the right to pursue the frontiers who, indeed, have been given the task of interpreting the of their subject are a without fear or favour" (Letter on various speech codes in a way analogous to how "Tenure," The Globe and Mail, Oct. 27). commissars in totalitarian countries interpret what speech and thoughts are offensive to the state. Unfortunately, academic organizations like CAUT have apparently not noticed recent Canadian incidents and But aside from their negative impact on the freedom of trends that have been undermining academic freedom. enquiry in higher education, these officers and offices are costly as well. For example, the Canadian taxpayer may CAUT has done little to actually protect the principle of be interested to know that at the University of Toronto the academic freedom in practice. Looking at recent annual budget for the eight Equity Officers Advisory incidents, it has been stunningly silent in response to Groups is $1.5 million. This figure is conservative, as it Canadian abuses of the principle. There are several does not include the cost of analogous equity officers and examples of non-action by CAUT in the face of gross offices that exist at 'he lower, faculty level of university institutional attacks on academic freedom, but I shall cite administration. only two, both involving faculty with tenure. It is apparent that, sooner or later, Canadian institutes of One case involved the University of New Brunswick, which higher education will have to release some of their tenured in November, 1993, first suspended (and only afterwards, faculty on financial grounds. Before they do this, will they investigated) Prof. Matin Yaqzan for an opinion piece in a also trim the "politically correct pork" of their equity student newspaper (which, in the end, turned out not to bureaucracies? be prosecutable even under the university's own speech code). The Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (which was the only academic organization in Canada to The other example occurred in July of last year when the condemn the institutional attacks on academic freedom in administration of the University College of the Cariboo in the Yaqzan and MacKinnon cases) will be an interested Kamloops, B.C., not only suspended Prof. A. MacKinnon spectator. for "sexual harassment" (after this professor discussed, in his class, the issue of average or group differences in Will organizations like CAUT also raise their voices in cognitive abilities between the sexes), but also favour not only of academic freedom, but also of financial recommended that, when he returns to class, this responsibility? professor be subjected to the invasive and insulting practice of being monitored. (John J. Furedy is President of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship.) CAUT reply, p.2 ... -1- p.2 CAUT Reply Defending Academic Freedom & Members' Rights PROFESSOR FUREDY SEEMS not drawn. The president of CAUT these days of tight budgets, ensure to know how CAUT defends publicly attacked the suspension that there are no overlapping juris- academic freedom. The and supported the action by the dictions or wasteful uses of money. Academic, Freedom and Tenure UNB Faculty Association. There is, however, one impor Committee of CAUT handles Subsequently Professor Yaqzan tant change in the operations of dozens of cases at each of its meet- chose to negotiate a buy-out with these offices suggested by the ings. Currently there are 36 cases the administration. The faculty as- Independent Study Group on before the committee. sociation assisted him to get the University Governance sponsored This work involves the investi- best terms possible. Since one of by CAUT. That group recommend- gation of the merits of cases that the conditions of the settlement ed that these offices should report . come before it and lobbying univer- was its confidentiality along with not just ro the president but also to sity administrations to rectify in- all the circumstances surrounding the senate or senior academic body, justices. That, of course, is hard it, no one can know what it was nor not to discuss individual cases but work and seldom publicized be- the reasons for it. It was, however, for the review of their operations cause we have found over the years agreed to by Professor Yaqzan. and their annual reports. that universities are more likely to What, however, is true is that Regrettably few university senates rectify injustices through the confi- SAFS had nothing to do with the have followed up on this sugges- dential work of the committee than withdrawal of the suspension. tion. by shouting from the rooftops. In the case of the University The Study Group also recom- If, however, there is an impasse College of the Cariboo, the bar- mended that senates or senior aca- over a serious matter, we would gaining agent for its staff is the demic bodies should create an eq- their consider publicizing the case, College Institute Educators' uity committee, perhaps jointly or, in extreme cases, censuring the Association of British Columbia, with the board, to oversee the poli- university. and that organization is responsible cies and procedures in this area. CAUT also provides staff for the grievance and arbitration CAUT has always been an in- lawyers to argue arbitration cases of procedure, not CAUT nor any of dependent organization financed its members where local associa- its local associations. entirely by the members other than tions so request. Grievance and ar- CAUT has certainly recog- advertising revenue from the bitration procedures under a collec- nized the difficulty of ill-defined Bulletin. It is, therefore, not be- tive agreement are the most speech codes. It sponsored a study holden to governments, university effective way of ensuring that the of the framework document of the administrations, corporate spon- members can have their day in NDP government in Ontario sors, or ideological interest groups. court and their case heard fairly and which led the Council of CAUT to For more than 40 years the mem- impartially. That costs a lot of demand the withdrawal of that bership has supported CAUT in money — about $345,000 a year document. The study is a public its defence of the rights of its for CAUT. document, reported in the CAUT members even when this has This work is much more likely Bulletin, and available in all faculty involved the support of unpopular to assist members of CAUT than associations in Ontario as well as figures. the posturing of SAFS. In fact from the CAUT national office. CAUT will continue to serve CAUT promoted the adoption of On the other hand, CAUT its members as effectively as possi- articles on academic freedom in knows full well that sexual harass- ble through the Academic Freedom university collective agreements ment remains a significant problem and Tenure Committee, through its which give it a firm legal basis in universities as well as in the gen- arbitration service, and by public rather than depending on the eral workplace. University adminis- statements and documents in de- whims of boards of governors. It trations must address this and re- fence of academic freedom. It will would be interesting to know lated problems such as violence on also at the same time strive to en- whether or not SAFS supports or campus and need to have staff to sure that women and minorities are opposes collective bargaining for do so. In fact, in most provinces the treated equitably within the univer- faculty. law requires them to undertake se- sity community. CAUT normally works rious investigation of such allega- It is not always easy to balance through its local associations. In tions. these rights, but ill-informed the case of Professor Yaqzan, the Each university will, of course, rhetoric certainly will not get us UNB Faculty Association opposed have to decide itself how many there. It is a pity that SAFS cannot his suspension and had it with- staff are needed and should, in move beyond that.