A recap before we get started…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve linked and highlighted various articulations of academic freedom. For the Canadian academic, the most important and influential of these are UNESCO’s, AAUP’s, AUCC’s, and CAUT’s.

At this point, rather than sharing more academic freedom policies from various universities, I think it would be useful to synthesize what we’ve learned, and compare and contrast the various accounts of academic freedom.

In general, the fullest statements of academic freedom include the following elements:

  • a statement of the source or purpose of academic freedom
  • a list of the types of freedom that fall under the category of academic freedom
  • a discussion of the responsibilities associated with academic freedom and/or the limits of academic freedom
  • an assertion of the autonomy of individual scholars
  • an assertion of the autonomy of educational institutions
  • specification of who (professors? students? librarians? staff?) has academic freedom.

All academic freedom statements contain at least a couple of these features; one or two contain all of them. And, we can see some patterns.

For example: statements of academic freedom by faculty associations tend to emphasize individual autonomy, and tend not to discuss institutional autonomy. By contrast, accounts of academic freedom by the associations that universities and university presidents belong to tend to spell out the details of institutional autonomy. These differences (which are found, for instance, in the CAUT and AUCC statements) are owing to faculty members’ (and their unions’) desire to have as much individual freedom as possible, and their university administrators’ desire to retain some control over the scholarly emphases of the institution.

Ok. So there’s lots to compare. And we’re going to do it step by step.

Tomorrow, we’ll compare the academic freedom statements of UNESCO, AAUP, AUCC, CAUT, and my own university (University of Waterloo) with respect to what they all say about the source or purpose of academic freedom. The next day, we’ll compare them on the types of freedoms. And so on, working through each bullet point in the above list, one day at a time. Once we’ve worked through all the bullet points, I’ll combine all the results in a single table for handy reference. Exciting!