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CAUT Bulletin Archives

April 2016

Investigation finds violations of academic freedom at Laurentian

An inquiry into Laurentian University has concluded that senior officials have routinely violated aca­demic freedom and principles of collegial governance.

CAUT established an investigatory committee following numerous faculty complaints against the university, including allegations that administrators changed grades without instructors’ agreement, blocked the appointment of elected chairs, interfered in hiring decisions, and improperly used discipline.

“(W)e were left with a disturbing picture of an environment in which the principles of academic freedom and collegial governance are not consistently adhered to,” the committee’s report concludes. “We found numerous incidents … in which university officials appeared to have acted outside of the applicable academic rules, failed to respect principles of collegial governance and improperly used or threatened to use disciplinary powers.”

Many of the issues the committee identified related to violations of principles of shared governance. In one case, the administration blocked the appointed of an elected departmental chair on three separate occasions.

“The exercise of academic freedom requires collegial self-governance with the full participation of scholarly members,” the committee notes. “The right and duty of faculty members to participate in collegial governance and take on administrative duties is fundamental to principles of academic freedom and univer­sity governance.”

The report found that the actions of university officials have led faculty members to conclude that their academic freedom is under threat.

The report makes several recommendations, said CAUT executive director David Robinson, including calling on the administration to re-affirm its commitment to academic freedom and additional training for senior officials about the importance of academic freedom.

“Academic freedom really is a foundational value of the univer­sity,” Robinson said. “Any institution worthy of the name ‘univer­sity’ has to respect it.”

Jim Ketchen, president of the Laurentian University Faculty Associ­ation, welcomed the report and called on the university to adopt the recommendations.

“We’re hopeful and I’d like to have some faith in the administration that they’ll take it seriously and act accordingly,” Ketchen said in an interview with CBC Sudbury.