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CAUT Bulletin Archives

November 2009

Academic freedom defence inconsistent: CAUT replies

It is important to get the facts straight.

Gary Goodyear’s chief of staff threatened a cutoff in new funding for SSHRC because of a peer-reviewed decision to fund a conference on Israel and Palestine sponsored by Osgoode Hall Law School, York University and Queen’s University — the first time to our knowledge that a minister has ever threatened a granting council over a peer-reviewed decision.

The speakers at the conference reflected a variety of views, with Israeli academics accounting for almost 25 per cent of presenters. Be that as it may, CAUT is not in the practice of being silent when a minister’s office threatens to cut off funding for a conference because the minister dislikes the politics of invited speakers.

CAUT did refuse the call to denounce our British counterpart, the University and College Union over its alleged call for an academic boycott. The fact is the UCU never called for an academic boycott of Israel.

The UCU general assembly, when faced with a motion to support a boycott, refused to support the motion but did suggest the issue should be debated and that the union would arrange regional meetings with representatives of both sides to debate the issue.

It was, and is, CAUT’s view that the academy is a place where we should encourage debate of controversial issues, not try to suppress them.

Penni Stewart

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