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Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is the right of post-secondary academic staff, without restriction by prescribed doctrine, to use their best professional judgment in their teaching and research; to be able to disseminate the results of their research and scholarship; to acquire, preserve, and provide access to documentary material in all formats; to express their opinions about the institution in which they work; and to exercise their rights as citizens without institutional sanction or censorship.

Blog May 9, 2017

Our Anxious Supreme Court

One gets the sense that the Supreme Court of Canada does not have a good feel for free speech questions. It took some time, for instance, for a majority of the Court to acknowledge that legal constraints might ‘chill’ free speech. The Court confidently proclaimed, on more than one occasion, that civil and criminal legal prohibitions should not be expected to deter speakers.
Blog April 20, 2017

How to Stand on Your Head

The Free Speech movement at Berkeley in the 1960s is within the memory of many of us. In Canada as in Europe, the 60s saw lasting improvement in the way universities run themselves, along with important reforms in the whole society. There was a push for access, equality, and fairness, a campaign led as much from below (the growing popular sentiment for egalitarian policies in health care and education, for instance) as from above (Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society).
Blog February 28, 2017

Authority and Freedom at UCLA, Toronto, and UBC

March in Los Angeles is a sweet month full of sunny, windless, dry days. In 2016 just after Presidents’ Day, I was at UCLA to visit two museums. The weather was fine and the university was outdoors. To get from one museum to another, I passed through the central campus where students staffed busy kiosks flogging popular causes—complete with boom boxes and street dancing. Soon I was nose to nose with four energetic students, two men and two women who wanted my signature on petitions.
Blog December 5, 2016

The Rhetoric of Rape Culture

“Rape culture” has become a surprisingly elastic term.  It stretches beyond perceived injustices, like the acquittal of Jian Ghomeshi, to include things like a catchy hit by Justin Bieber, or a call from CanLit authors for due process in the Steven Galloway firing.  The ambitious concept purp
Blog October 25, 2016

Language that is narrowing the public sphere

Opera houses, universities, public schools, civic libraries, and civic museums, all express and explain the societies and cultures from which they come. You might think their antiquity would protect such places from the ups and downs of the economy and the changeable opinions of politicians. And you would be wrong. If you look past the placid exteriors of the Royal Ontario Museum or the British Museum, Columbia University, l’Opéra de Paris, the University of Toronto, and the rest, there is a tale of continuous change and occasional disruption.