For recent developments over the dismissal of Prof. Robert Buckingham due to his open criticism of proposed changes in the TransformUS plan, see the termination of the president, Dr. Ilene Busch-Vishniac, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/university-of-saskatchewan-board-fires-president-ilene-busch-vishniac-1.2650301 .
We need to think about what constitutes ‘academic freedom’ today at our post-secondary institutions. At UofT in the Memorandum of Agreement, Article 5, “Academic Freedom and Responsibilities” includes:
“The parties to this Agreement acknowledge that the University is committed to the pursuit of truth, the advancement of learning, and the dissemination of knowledge. To this end, they agree to abide by the principles of academic freedom as expressed in the following statement: academic freedom is the freedom to examine, question, teach, and learn, and it involves the right to investigate, speculate, and comment without reference to prescribed doctrine, as well as the right to criticize the University and society at large. Specifically, and without limiting the above, academic freedom entitles faculty and librarians to:
(a) freedom in carrying out their activities:
(b) freedom in pursuing research and scholarship and in publishing or making public the results thereof; and
(c) freedom from institutional censorship. Academic freedom does not require neutrality on the part of the individual nor does it preclude commitment on the part of the individual. Rather academic freedom makes such commitment possible.
A librarian’s professional obligations and responsibilities shall encompass (i) the development of his or her professional knowledge and performance, (ii) contributions to scholarship, (iii) service to the University. While the patterns of these duties may vary from individual to individual, they constitute the librarian’s principal obligation during the employment year. A librarian shall cany out his or her responsibilities with all due attention to the establishment of fair and ethical dealings with library users, colleagues and staff taking care to be properly accessible. A librarian shall foster a free exchange of ideas and shall not impose nor permit censorship. A librarian shall ensure the fullest possible access to library materials.”
But, lest we forget, Canadians are guaranteed the fundamental right of “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression” in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which forms the first part of the Canadian Constitution Act (1982). As we have read recently, Canadian courts have ruled in a number of cases involving the University of Calgary, that the institutional guidelines cannot supersede upon or deny these fundamental rights. In addition, we should not forget that Canadians have a long-standing tradition for supporting the principles of academic freedom in the history of Canadian universities, as in the example of the well known Harry Crowe case, and the subsequent establishment of Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). Previous cases concerning academic freedom issues over the decades have illustrated how deeply felt these principles are within our public, post-secondary institutions and when denied, how long-lasting the negative consequences can be for the whole community.