The Rants of Issachar

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Trinity Western University attacked over academic freedom

A friend of mine sent me a link to this article today.

It seems that the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), which I had not heard of before today, doesn't believe that Trinity Western University (TWU) has academic freedom for it's professors. Furthermore, CAUT thinks that the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) should "rethink TWU's membership". Now that's rather chilling for academic freedom isn't it?

A brief tangent before I get started, are there any S.M. Stirling fans out here who almost read that acronym as CUT? Funny that CAUT would make me think of a cult that I read about in a novel. (And I'm also surprised to learn that Stirling didn't invent it for his novels.)

Anyway, back to the real CAUT and TWU.

It seems that the basis of CAUT's argument is that a university can't put Christian beliefs first. But by extension, this means that according to CAUT, you cannot have a Christian University because Christian beliefs ARE that Christian beliefs come first. One almost wonders if CAUT would accept the idea of a Christian academic who put his Christian beliefs first.

And of course there hasn't been a single complaint against TWU over academic freedom. This is little more than a drive-by smearing. Not that TWU isn't correct to take this very seriously. TWU is an excellent university, but attacks like this can damage an otherwise stellar reputation.

CAUT claims to support academic freedom. And yet they would use their influence to marginalize voices that they don't agree with.

:: posted by issachar, 5:05 PM


Posted by: Blogger <b>Claire Colvin</b>

All communities, whether social, political, religious or geographical have rules. If the community in question is entered into by choice, then as long as the laws of the land are not being violated, what gives one group the right to tell another group "your rules stink"? If you don't like the rules, go be communal somewhere else. With the exception of a few misguided parents, no one is forcing anyone to go to Trinity.

I could understand CAUT's view IF teaching at Trinity was the only option and it was a case of "believe this or you have no way to earn a living" but that's not the case here. Profs, and students, choose to enter into the community and in so doing choose to live by the rules of the community.

If Trinity was trying to hide its agenda, then CAUT might have a claim, but again that is not the case. Trinity goes out of its way to say "this is who we are, this is what we believe". Everyone has a bias, a perspective from which they approach knowledge and life in general. If anything, Trinity is more upfront than most about its own.
Blogger <b>Claire Colvin</b>, at Wed Jan 27, 12:11:00 PM PST  

Posted by: Blogger issachar

I'd also add that we should admit there's a distinction between restrictions we consider legitimate and ones we don't.

Religious beliefs are an area we generally allow restrictions on hiring if it's part of the character of the institution, so TWU can base hiring decisions on that.

But as a society we don't accept racial motivations for the similar behaviour. So you won't find Racism U accepted in the academic community. (Which is a good thing in my opinion.)

I was asked by Harebell on Adrian MacNair's blog what I would think of a school that required that all faculty be not have any religious beliefs.

As I said there, I think that this would be a legitimate thing to do if they wanted an explicity non-religious character to the school. And I should hope that we would be just as upset at a theocratic CAUT trying to shut them out because they didn't believe in God.
Blogger issachar, at Wed Jan 27, 08:28:00 PM PST  

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