The Responsibilities That Attach to Academic Freedom — Part 4

It’s Monday – time to resume our project of summarizing the main elements of academic freedom policies at UNESCO, AAUP, AUCC, CAUT and University of Waterloo. (New readers might be wondering why I include University of Waterloo on this list. It’s simple: I work there!)

We started by looking at at the source/purpose of academic freedom, and the particular freedoms that make up academic freedom. Now, we’ve moved on to scanning what each of the five groups say about the responsibilities that go along with academic freedom.

It’s been a slow process (because academic freedom is way more complicated than lots of folks seem to realize!). So far, we’ve worked through what UNESCO says (UNESCO says a whole bunch; so that took a while) and what AAUP says. On Friday, I provided some long excerpts from AUCC. Today, I’ll boil those AUCC excerpts down and go over what CAUT says.


In a nutshell, here are the responsibilities AAUP lists in the longish excerpts I posted on Friday:

  • academic freedom must be exercised in a reasonable and responsible manner;
  • institutional integrity and autonomy;
  • rigorous standards for enquiry: reasoned discourse, rigorous extensive research and scholarship, and peer review;
  • best available evidence;
  • professional standards of the relevant discipline;
  • respect for the rights and freedoms of others;
  • highest ethical standards in teaching and research;
  • responsibility to ensure that pressures from funding and other types of partnerships do not unduly influence the intellectual work of the university.



CAUT has very little to say about any responsibilities that might be associated with academic freedom. Here it is: “Academic freedom requires that academic staff play a major role in the governance of the institution.” Whoa. That’s it!


Universities Versus Professors?

Notice the dialectic that emerges when we compare what the AUCC and CAUT, respectively, say about, on the one hand, the freedoms that fall under the broader rubric of academic freedom, and the responsibilities attached to academic freedom. AUCC has less (than CAUT) to say about freedoms and a lot to say about responsibilities, whereas CAUT has LOTS to say about freedoms and precious little to say about responsibilities. This contrast makes sense when we remember that AUCC represents universities as institutions and employers, and CAUT represents faculty members (via their faculty associations). The institutions caution about limits and duties; the faculty associations lobby for freedoms.

My own judgment is that the wisest path lies somewhere between these two contrasting positions. (I won’t argue for that in this post, but I am revving up for some future argumentative posts once we’ve finished synthesizing all of the policy language. So, stay tuned!) In fact, I suspect that the dialectic we have in Canada – universities emphasizing responsibilities, faculty associations defending freedoms – is a fairly healthy one that, when all is said and done, lands on a more or less sensible calibration.

While I’m noting the contrast between the AUCC and the CAUT, let me note that we’ll continue to see that contrast playing out as we move on in the coming days to look at what the various academic freedom policies say about institutional and individual autonomy. But we’ll get to that soon enough…


Ok. That’s enough for today. Tomorrow, we’ll see what Waterloo policies have to say about the responsibilities that attach to academic freedom, and then we’ll update our chart with all that we’ve learned.