Academic Freedom is the freedom to be heard

The Provost is quoted on the Academic Freedom page. I’ll post the whole quote here:

“UBC must be an open forum where members of the university have the freedom ‘to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion’. While engaging in such discussion, I encourage our students, faculty and staff to uphold the university’s values in creating a positive and respectful environment, even when considering opinions that may fundamentally differ from their own.”

Andrew Szeri, Provost and Vice-President, Academic, UBC Vancouver

Beautiful words. But my opinions were “craft is both important and necessary” and “the UBC policies apply to staff, too” and they broke the University of British Columbia. (I should also point out that the reason the Chair wasn’t disciplined for their actions in 2020 was that not having a respectful environment isn’t technically illegal.)

Academic Freedom is the right to expect a response from someone who has the right to ignore the question in every other aspect of their life. Canada’s Freedom of Expression means that every conversation has to be opt-in. Someone in Canada, citizen or not, has the right to say anything and to promote almost anything but absolutely no one has the obligation to listen to them.

It’s the right to speak openly in an empty room with an open door so anyone who doesn’t agree with you can leave.

Academic freedom shuts the door until the person responds to what was said. In a school setting, the response could be “that fact doesn’t agree with my world view so I’m going to reject it and remain in my ignorance” but not responding is not an option.

The person quoted on the Academic Freedom page did everything he possibly could to make sure that when I spoke, no one even had to hear me because he was apparently terrified of what I could say. Which, to remind everyone again, are the dangerous beliefs that craft is important to the skill of writing and staff are obliged to follow the policies even if they aren’t illegal.

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