Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Here is the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada's response to the Canadian Association of University Teachers' complaint against the revised statement of academic freedom that the AUCC issued a few weeks ago.

The key set of claims comes in the middle of the AUCC statement:

"Academic freedom is constrained by the professional standards of the relevant discipline and the responsibility of the institution to organize its academic mission. The insistence on professional standards speaks to the rigor of the enquiry and not to its outcome. The constraint of institutional requirements recognizes simply that the academic mission, like other work, has to be organized according to institutional needs. This includes the institution’s responsibility to select and appoint faculty and staff, to admit and discipline students, to establish and control curriculum, to make organizational arrangements for the conduct of academic work, to certify completion of a program and to grant degrees." (emphasis mine)

This statement is an important corrective to the heavily politicized notion of academic freedom that issues forth from CAUT, in which no presuppositions whatsoever are to be admitted in inquiry. CAUT defends academic freedom on the basis of historical cases that are a century old. From CAUT, one would have hoped for a more robust and specific citation of contemporary evidence of threats to academic freedom. (This would be especially possible in cases where industry is funding and biasing certain scientific research. One thinks of the pharmaceutical industry right off.) CAUT's position also depends on a completely untethered understanding of tenure, something which ought to be up for rigorous debate among academics given the tremendous scepticism that reigns in our society over the utility of tenure. 

I have not heard this stated in the media, but it seems plausible to consider the AUCC's decision to revise its statement on academic freedom as a response to the CAUT bullying of Christian universities last year. The above selection from the AUCC statement seems to go out of its way to talk about institutional autonomy and mission, even to the point of faculty hiring. Good for the AUCC! (And, not coincidentally, some Canadian Christian colleges and universities are members of the AUCC.) But, have you heard anything? Send me an email: paul.allen @

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