Few concepts are as misunderstood as academic freedom. Today, the Centre for Free Expression is publishing James L. Turk’s paper, “Understanding Academic Freedom in Canada” to provide a detailed understanding of academic freedom.
The paper addresses many aspects – academic freedom’s origin, history in Canada, components, and limits. It then looks at issues of academic freedom and social media, respectful workplace policies, and collegial governance.
Turk argues that without a clear understanding and recognition of academic freedom within the academy, amongst arbitrators and judges, and by the public, academic freedom cannot survive in any meaningful way.
“It is not a perk, a luxury, a bonus, or an option,” he writes.
“Academic freedom is an essential right so that academic staff can fulfil their societal mission to educate students and advance knowledge. That means … the right to question the unquestionable, to explore new territory, to advance new ideas, to subject conventional wisdom – whether scholarly or popular – to rigorous critique, to challenge the status quo in the name of advancing our understanding of the world, and to share one’s views with students, colleagues, and the public at large.
“These are not easy things to do,” Turk concludes. “They make people, often powerful people, uncomfortable. Without academic freedom, these societally vital tasks mostly will not be done, and society will be the worse for it.”
A pdf of the paper is available here.