Academic Freedom

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What is aca­d­e­m­ic freedom?

Aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom is a fun­da­men­tal right that sup­ports the aca­d­e­m­ic mis­sion of post-sec­ondary institutions. 

This demo­c­ra­t­ic form of expres­sive free­dom allows aca­d­e­mics to engage in debate and research with­in the scope of their work with­out fear of reprisal. Aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom and free­dom of speech are dif­fer­ent, although the two are some­times confused.

Aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom is not auto­mat­ic — it is a nego­ti­at­ed right that comes from our union’s col­lec­tive agree­ments. That’s why URFA is always work­ing to improve exist­ing lan­guage through bar­gain­ing. Lan­guage has been nego­ti­at­ed into col­lec­tive agree­ments with Cam­pi­on Col­lege, First Nations Uni­ver­si­ty of Cana­da, Luther Col­lege, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Regina.

Why is aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom important?

Aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom is essen­tial to the per­for­mance of our duties as schol­ars and teach­ers, and in the col­le­gial gov­er­nance process. Work­ing con­di­tions and mem­bers’ rights can be neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed by a lack of aca­d­e­m­ic freedom.

Our right to aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom needs to be con­stant­ly defend­ed. The Cana­di­an Asso­ci­a­tion of Uni­ver­si­ty Teach­ers (CAUT) recent­ly pub­lished a state­ment on how aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom can quick­ly erode in times of war, con­flict, and social unrest, which can be read here.

Where can I learn more about aca­d­e­m­ic freedom?

There are lots of edu­ca­tion­al resources about aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom which can be accessed for free online.

Demys­ti­fy­ing Aca­d­e­m­ic Free­dom Pod­cast by Marc Spoon­er (U of R) and Stephen Hur­ley (voicEd Radio Cana­da) explores aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom in Canada’s post-sec­ondary land­scape, high­light­ing cur­rent ten­sions, new oppor­tu­ni­ties, and ongo­ing chal­lenges. Lis­ten to the pod­cast here.

The Four Com­po­nents of Aca­d­e­m­ic Free­dom is a brief overview of aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom in Cana­da writ­ten by CAUT. Read it here.

Schol­ars at Risk (SAR) is a glob­al net­work and man­ages the Aca­d­e­m­ic Free­dom Mon­i­tor­ing Project. Their lat­est Free to Think report doc­u­ment­ed 409 attacks on schol­ars, stu­dents, and their insti­tu­tions in 66 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries from 2022 – 2023. There was one doc­u­ment­ed inci­dent in Cana­da. Learn more here.

Jour­nal of Aca­d­e­m­ic Free­dom, pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­fes­sors, is an open access and peer-reviewed jour­nal about aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom and its rela­tion to shared gov­er­nance, tenure, and col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. Learn more here.

Aca­d­e­m­ic Free­dom Index Project is a research team from Ger­many and Swe­den that pub­lish­es an annu­al glob­al index on their website.

What do URFA’s col­lec­tive agree­ments say?

URFA’s col­lec­tive agree­ments rep­re­sent­ing aca­d­e­m­ic mem­bers all have lan­guage regard­ing aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom under Arti­cle 2 — Aca­d­e­m­ic Free­dom & Respon­si­bil­i­ties.

Cam­pi­on Col­lege (2017 – 2021)

https://​www​.urfa​.ca/​f​i​l​e​s​/Camp… (page 3)

First Nations Uni­ver­si­ty of Cana­da — Aca­d­e­m­ic (2018 – 2022)

https://​www​.urfa​.ca/​f​i​l​e​s​/FNUn… (page 3

First Nations Uni­ver­si­ty of Cana­da — Ses­sion­als (2020 – 2022)

https://​www​.urfa​.ca/​f​i​l​e​s​/FNUn… (page 2

Luther Col­lege (2017 – 2021)

https://​www​.urfa​.ca/​f​i​l​e​s​/Luth… (page 3)

Uni­ver­si­ty of Regi­na — Aca­d­e­m­ic (2017 – 2021)

https://​www​.urfa​.ca/​f​i​l​e​s​/2017 (page 3)

Note: Col­lec­tive agree­ment lan­guage may change through sub­se­quent rounds of bar­gain­ing. Please always refer to the URFA web­site for the most recent doc­u­ments at: urfa​.ca/​b​a​r​g​a​i​n​i​n​g​-​units