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Report uncovers academic freedom violations at the University of Manitoba

An investigation into the University of Manitoba’s Department of Economics has found serious violations of academic freedom and a climate that has become “corrosive and dysfunctional to the point of crisis.”

The Canadian Association of University Teachers created an investigatory committee in response to allegations of efforts in the Department to reduce or eliminate approaches and views outside of mainstream economics. The Department traditionally had a reputation of making room for both mainstream and heterodox views in hiring and in its curriculum.

“A change of direction or emphasis within an academic unit does not intrinsically implicate academic freedom,” the committee notes in its report. “However, it is our conclusion that decisions and actions within the Department cumulatively constituted violations of academic freedom by producing an environment within which the scholarship of heterodox colleagues was undermined.”

The committee found evidence that heterodox faculty and graduate students were poorly treated and undermined, and that attempts were made to re-assign courses to orthodox proponents.

“It was a violation of academic freedom when orthodox members of the department behaved in ways that discriminated against doctoral students being supervised by heterodox economists,” the committee concludes. “This included treatment at oral examinations, advice about potential areas of study, funding decisions, and advice that their choice of heterodox supervisors was unwise in terms of their future careers.”

The report makes a series of recommendations, including that a search be held for a new head of the Department, that an external review of the graduate and undergraduate programs in economics be conducted, and that there is a commitment to ensuring both heterodox and mainstream traditions remain viable in the Department.

“The atmosphere and relations within the Department of Economics remain divided and embittered,” states the report. “The status quo cannot be maintained.”

Members of the investigatory committee were: Allan Manson, Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University; Pamela McCallum, Professor, Department of English, University of Calgary; and, Larry Haiven, Professor, Department of Management, Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary`s University.

The full report is available here.