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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 1999

Bavarian Battle over Academic Freedom Draws to a Close

The story of UBC professor Patricia Marchak and her dispute with German educational authorities is now in its final chapter. The dispute began when Professor Marchak, while at the University of Augsburg as a visiting scholar, refused to sign a declaration of non-membership in some 47 proscribed political and religious organizations. Although the Bavarian government shows no sign of rescinding the declaration, opponents of this outrageous infringement on academic freedom can take some satisfaction in the fact that the University of Augsburg's administration and the Bavarian government are blaming each other for the difficulties encountered by Professor Marchak. According to the university administration, it had to comply with a state law mandating that all professors sign the declaration. The Bavarian government, in contrast, claims that Professor Marchak, as a visiting scholar, was exempt from the requirement and that the administration erred in presenting the document to her in the first place.

Pat O'Neill, chair of CAUT's Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, says that Professor Marchak's principled stand seems to have placed some heat on the Bavarian government. "The attention this story has attracted, including from the German media, is quite remarkable. The whole affair should remind us that the hard won guarantees of academic freedom that many of us take for granted in Canada are the exception, rather than the rule."