Our Interests

An image of graffiti with a poster stating "post no hate".

In the 19th century, Wilhelm von Humboldt’s educational reforms explicitly enshrined the freedom to teach and the freedom to learn under the umbrella of academic freedom, excluding extra-mural speech (Altbach, 2001). As the idea of the research university expanded internationally in the late-19th century, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) established its first statement on academic freedom – the 1915 Declaration of Principles. Although this declaration focussed almost solely on freedom to teach, it did also extend special protection to professorial expression outside the university (Horn 1999a).

The terms have been revisited since, and other organizations have developed similar frameworks (e.g. UNESCO) but these original essential elements of academic freedom have remained and in turn served to inform the development of the concept of academic freedom in Canada.

A national representative organization for faculty members analogous to the AAUP only emerged in Canada in the 1950s with the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). It developed its own statement on academic freedom, in the wake of the infamous case of the 1958 dismissal of Harry Crowe (from what is now the University of Winnipeg) for his perceived ‘lack of loyalty’ to the institution (Horn, 1999b).

CAUT’s present definition of academic freedom offers broad protections for teaching, research, and extramural speech as well as explicit freedom from institutional censorship (CAUT, 2011). This statement contrasts with the one from Universities Canada (est. 1911), a national organization representing 96 member universities through their upper administrators (typically university presidents). It put out a new statement on academic freedom in 2011 that affirmed faculty freedom to research and teach, as well as students’ freedom to learn. In addition, this statement also explicitly distinguished academic freedom from freedom of speech, underscored institutional autonomy and outlined a detailed list of the responsibilities of academic freedom for university leadership and faculty members (Universities Canada, 2011). However, notable in this definition is the silence on protection for extramural speech or for criticizing the university.

Currently, it is CAUT’s language on academic freedom, in some form or another, which is found in most university union or faculty association agreements across Canada.