Below: Lisa Wood, Joyce Lorimer and James Cairns at the Brantford Campus forum, The Politics of Academic Freedom on April 6, 2010.
Academic freedom is both a right and responsibility of faculty members – but it is also a principle that is under attack as universities become increasingly beholden to corporate and political interests. That was the over-riding message of Tuesday’s Brantford Campus forum, The Politics of Academic Freedom. Dr Joyce Lorimer (WLU-W), Dr David McNally (York) and Dr Lisa Wood (WLU-B) spoke to a room of two dozen full- and part-time faculty members. Weaving specific accounts of reprisals for speaking out on issues of civic and social justice into a broader discussion of the principles and politics at play, the speakers emphasized that faculty’s academic freedom is firmly enshrined in university mission statements and collective agreements across Canada – and it is often fear of debate and reprisal from an administration tied to outside interests that leads to faculty self-censorship. Faculty need to be made aware, they also suggested, not only of their rights, but of their responsibilities to the wider community as well. The principle of academic freedom complements the university’s social mission: to engage in affairs of public interest, even – or especially – when difficult and unpopular questions and opinions must be aired. The forum was organized by WLU-B’s Contemporary Studies program and WLUFA.
Sue Ferguson Assistant Professor, Journalism and Contemporary Studies Wilfrid Laurier University – Brantford