University of Saskatchewan & Academic Freedom 0

The recent dismissal and then re-instatement of Prof. Buckingham at UofS has resulted in the termination of both the president Dr Busch-Vishniac and Provost Brett Fairbairn, see http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/university-of-saskatchewan-board-sacks-president-ilene-busch-vishniac-1.2650301 .

The penalization or termination of any faculty member or academic librarian, whether in a senior position or not, for openly discussing professional issues at any post-secondary institution in Canada is of great concern to our members as it contravenes fundamental, professional principles. Furthermore, those who lead, ‘above all others’, must genuinely uphold, respect and support the role of academic freedom in the quest for knowledge and truth in a democratic society.  These values, even in the most difficult times and at the highest levels, must be respected and supported. When core principles are threatened or there are attempts to conceal or obliterate truths, then, of course, the motives and values of educational institutions are scrutinized.

We should not forget that 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, as we have seen at McGill and McMaster Universities, and now more recently, at the University of Saskatchewan, how long-lasting the negative consequences can be for the whole community.