Notes on Academic Freedom Dialogue hosted by UBCFA
Robert Lee Auditorium in the Alumni Center, UBCFA Fall General Meeting:
My central takeaway from the discussion below and the preceding actions by the Sr. Advisor on Academic Freedom is that faculty at UBC should be concerned. Guppy's Historical Note on academic freedom at UBC references the Smith report but presents no analysis of the issues surrounding the Berdahl Case. Why? When asked about the lack of consequences to senior and honorific administrators who collectively violated academic freedom at UBC, Professor Guppy confirms that the history shows that there are no consequences. His position is not equipped with any authority other than to provide guidance. When pressed, Professor Guppy pointed out that his role is to advise the Provosts and that he was not appointed by the President. However, the position that Guppy presently occupies was created by M. Piper. The terms of reference in the announcement of the position promises that UBC will hire a "specialist who will proactively work with faculty, staff, and governors to ensure that academic freedom is safeguarded and preserved at UBC." Guppy has previously reported that he does not have access to the full Smith report. Why? And why wouldn't he demand access to that document to carry out his charge? Between the time of Piper's promises and today, it seems that the important role of the Sr. Advisor on Academic Freedom has been directed to avoid interacting with any aspects of the Berdahl/Gordon/Helsley/Montalbano case that launched the position.
UBCFA Fall General Meeting, Tues. Oct. 24
Posted on October 10, 2017 at 1:00 AM. Technical delays led to the meeting actually starting at 1:13pm.
Join us for a Dialogue on Academic Freedom,
presented by Dr. Neil Guppy, Professor of Sociology &
Senior Advisor to the Provost, Academic Freedom
The UBCFA Constitution requires that a general meeting be held every Fall term. This year, the first order of business will be to appoint Hedden Chong LLP as auditors for the 2017 fiscal year. Following this, Professor Neil Guppy will lead a Dialogue on Academic Freedom.
Date and Time: Tuesday, October 24th starting at 1:00 p.m. Locations:
Robert H. Lee Family Boardroom, Alumni Centre
(6163 University Blvd)
UBC Okanagan (Video Conference) – Sci 331
We hope you can join us!
Nancy Langton brings the meeting together at 1:12p. The agenda is approved. The auditors are approved. The business actions are carried out very efficiently.
- Neil Guppy is introduced as a Professor and as the Sr. Advisor to the Provost on Academic Freedom. Neil gave a discussion of academic freedom to the Board of Governors. They were perhaps not as enthusiastic as this audience will be to hear this presentation.
- The creation of the Sr. Advisor on Academic Freedom postion was announced by Interim President M. Piper on <2015-10-15 Thu>. In the same announcement, Piper reported that "UBC accepts and will be guided by the findings" of the Smith Report.
- Neil Guppy was appointed Sr. Advisor on Academic Freedom on <2016-05-25 Wed>. The announcement of this appointment was made by Provost (pro tem) Angela Redish and Provost Cynthia Matheson.
- Neil Guppy wrote Academic Freedom at UBC: Historical Notes.
- Another page on Academic Freedom at UBC.
This is (essentially) identical to the presentation I gave to the Board of Governors. He highlights the intial tasks:
- lead a dialogue
- education program
- online tool
- formalized module
This presentation was delivered many times across campus. The one thing that has changed up about this....I did not know that much about academic freedom when I stepped forward for this role. Many things come out of the blue and I've found the topic to be expansive and surprising. Does academic freedom apply to staff? I'd say yes at this time.
What is academic freedom?
- (a) freedom to pursue knoledge claims in whatever directions they take
- (b) tenure to protect knowledge-seeking activity of all legitimate kinds
- (c) collegial governance and scholarly critique of the admininstration
- (d) ability of the scholar to participatge freely in public life
At what point should a Dean be able to criticize a strategic plan for the university? Is there a line where the critique of the administration should not be allowed? cites the Potter case at McGill. M. Piper, wrt this line, would not be able to speak her personal opinion since she would be speaking on behalf of the university.
My own view is that UBC is good on a, b and not so good on c, d.
Smith report remarks
Gupta....Montalbano/Berdahl.....slide changed too fast for me to keep up.
The public version of the Smith report is up online. Key points
Who has academic freedom?
Who controls academic freedom?
- contexts/units in which we develop and disseminate knowledge -- what is "academic"?
- questioning accepted wisdome key but within set boundaries -- questioning, boundary setting
- duty to uphold standards and monitor disciplinary ranks
Restrictions and Responsibilities
- Are there restrictions on academic freedom?
- How does academic freedom coexist with academic responsibilities?
Is academic freedom more than "freedom of expression"?
- If yes, how does it differ?
- quality control -- academic modifies the freedom
- Is it less than "fredom of expression"?
- Example: Why is the theory of evoution taught but not creationism?
Specific Issues of Academic Freedom
- Scholarly work
- Donor relations
How do we handle the collision between the university and an individual?
What are the consequences for the failure to defend of academic freedom? When Justice Smith finds that Mr. Montalbano, Chancellor Gordon, and the leadership at Sauder contributed to a collective failure of academic freedom at UBC, why are there no consequences? OK, Mr. Montalbano resigned by the Chancellor, a position that is meant to be honorific, was reappointed to the Board. What is the impact of violating academic freedom?
- "It appears that there are no consequences."
- "I am not able to provide further input on any specific case."
- Why not? "I was appointed as a special advisor to the Provost, not by the President. You seem to know more about this issue than me..."
What would you do now if a case like Berdahl/Montalbano arose again?
- Based on the principles, I'd provide guidance. I'm not in a position in which I have disciplinary or punitive power.
- The conclusion I see here is that the creation of this position has no authoritity to provide defense or intervention.
- Based on what I see today, I wonder what UBC considers by the term "positive obligation" to protect academic freedom?
Buckingham case at USask
- Media attention on the Buckingham case led to his reinstatement.
- Quick resolution led to a legal non-disclosure agreement. There should have been a complete analysis.
Issue with grade changes case
Who owns the content created for online courses?
The meeting closed at 1:59pm.