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Academic Freedom and Artistic Expression

CAUT Policy Statement

This Policy Statement specifies that artistic activity at post-secondary institutions may require special provisions and protections to safeguard the fundamental academic freedom of creative scholarly work.

Freedom of thought promotes the search for knowledge and its expression, and this is essential for the common good of society. Freedom of imagination is an inherent part of this freedom. The application of the principles of academic freedom to the creative arts ensures imaginative exploration and expression and best serves the academic community and the public at large. Artistic expression in post-secondary contexts therefore merits the same assurance of academic freedom as is accorded to other post-secondary scholarly and teaching activities.

Academic Freedom and Artistic Expression
Academic staff members in creative disciplines have academic freedom in determining the content of classroom, studio or workshop activity.

Any regulations concerning studio practices and the subsequent display or performance of artistic works should be drawn up collegially and in accordance with disciplinary best practices and professional standards. Any such regulations should be neutral with respect to content and media.

It is particularly important that extramural and community-engaged artistic expressions by academic staff and students under their tutelage be safeguarded by academic freedom protections.

The Public Audience
Since academic staff and student presentations to the public are integral to teaching, learning and scholarship in the arts, these presentations should be protected by the principle of academic freedom.

When academic institutions offer exhibitions or performances to the general public, they should ensure that the rights of the presenters and the audience are not impaired and that those who choose to view or attend may do so without interference. Institutions may reasonably designate specific places as generally available or unavailable for exhibitions or performances.

Direct or indirect attempts to impose tests of propriety, ideology or religion are acts of censorship which deny the freedom to explore, to teach, and to learn. Academic staff members have a duty to resist such attempts. The academic community has the responsibility to ensure that artistic activity is guaranteed the protection of academic freedom.

Approved by the CAUT Council, April 2016.