NOTES FOR JOHN FUREDY'S TALK AT THE SAFS ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (May, 2004).

 

John Furedy, University of Toronto

 

John was unable to attend the meeting and a summary of his scheduled talk was presented by Phil Sullivan.

 

Fifteen years of de jure and de facto encroachments on academic freedom and power at the University of Toronto: Growth of the Canadian campus culture of comfort John J. Furedy, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto (Furedy@psych.utoronto.ca and www.psych.utoronto.ca/~furedy; references are to papers  either available by request from my email address, or available in section II [1-9] of my web site.

At panel on “The limits of academic freedom”, annual meeting of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (see www.safs.ca), London, Ontario, May 8, 2004.

 

Note.  Because of a health problem I regret I was unable to be present at the 2004 meeting, and am particularly grateful to Prof. Philip Sullivan of the University of Toronto for conveying, at very short notice, the gist of my presentation as well as adding his own perspective on academic freedom.  John Furedy, June, 2004.

 

INTRODUCTION: U of T’s relevance as an academically prestigious Canadian university; no clear (media-reportable) cases of abuse of academic freedom in last 15 years, but steady growth of the culture of comfort—(semi-transparent) budget of Equity Offices from 1.5 million (5 years ago) to 3.5 million (current).

 

PROPOSAL FOR DISCUSSION—THREE IMPORTANT DISTINCTIONS:

1.       Comfort searching (indoctrination of feelings)  vs. truth searching (education about ideas) missions of the university—OH1 & OH2 (two office notices).  In the latter, there are no limits on opinions (i.e., academic freedom is absolute for all members of the university community); in the former, as in totalitarian regimes, the comfort of some people set the limits).

REF.  Paper on velvet totalitarian regime of early 90s at UofT, entitled “Political correctness: Dispatches from the frontlines”, click on #2 on my web site.

2.      Academic freedom vs. academic power, where the latter should vary as a function of the individual’s expertise in the relevant discipline(s).  So, for example, no students should be on tenure committees, and equity officers should have no say in either faculty hiring or the curriculum.

REF.  For academic freedom vs. power, paper entitled “Seven principles of higher education: A primer”, Academic Questions, 2000 (for full text, request attached “seven” from my email).

3.       De jure vs. de facto encroachments.  The former (e.g., a speech code: OH3, Ginsbergen cartoon) can survive as long as it is not implemented in such a way that the media can see its evil effects (e.g., 1995 suspension of the entire political science department by UBC administration).  But it can have significant real effects (de facto) when a sensible administrator (see my 2003 letter “Central issue is one of academic freedom” over the page) is replaced by a committed ideologue.

REF. For UBC 1995 case, see paper entitled “In assessing UBC’s suspension of its political science department, think of Salem witch hunts”, click on #4 on my web page.