Canadian Debate Over Academic Freedom

November 16, 2011

Canadian university leaders are defending their new statement on academic freedom, which has been criticized by faculty leaders for what they see as limits on the protections it provides for academics. Faculty leaders have said that the references in the statement to peer review suggest that ideas that have yet to capture a critical mass of support may not be covered (in the view of university leaders), potentially hurting those who challenge conventional wisdom in their disciplines. The Canadian Association of University Teachers recently released an open letter outlining concerns about the new statement, which it said would "undo many of the advances that have been achieved in the understanding of academic freedom over the past 100 years." Now the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, which prepared the academic freedom statement, has responded with a letter to the faculty group. The university letter states: "We have confidence in the peer review process and the standards of research and teaching in our academic disciplines. We do not share your concern that these processes and standards may not apply to 'ideas at the margin or ideas that are critical of the mainstream.' Our position is based on the rigor of inquiry, not the outcome."

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