Thursday, May 15, 2014

Academic freedom still alive in Canada

It's been a heady 24 hours since the news broke that tenured University of Saskatchewan prof Robert Buckingham had been fired for firing off a letter critical of his school's austerity measures.

Condemnation of the firing was virtually universal.


Sad to say, there is such a thing as a free speech hierarchy in this country. University professors are pretty much at the top of it. While guys like Phillipe Rushton and Tom Flanagan have found out the hard way that even that hierarchy has its limitations, overall it seems that Canadians are comfortable with the idea that those who work in the world of ideas need to be able to voice unpopular ideas without fear of losing their jobs.

That's why Buckingham's sudden dismissal was such a shock. If a tenured university professor cannot publicly voice dissent about his employer's policy decisions, then the rest of us are truly screwed.

Today the President of U of S went public with an apology to Buckingham. She referred to the firing as a blunder and offered him a tenured position at the school. Since Buckingham was mere weeks from retirement anyway, this may be more symbolic than anything else, but it's a symbolism that has real import.

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