The Canadian Association of University Teachers is preparing to launch an investigation into the controversial departure of Professor Andrew Potter as Director of McGill University’s Institute for the Study of Canada.
In a letter to McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier issued today, CAUT says recent public statements made by Ms. Fortier renew concerns about the circumstances of Professor Potter’s resignation, and the University’s obligation to protect the academic freedom of its staff.
“Principal Fortier has said that academic freedom is not a consideration in this case because Professor Potter held an administrative position with the University,” explains CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “This flies in the face of the well-established principle and practice that administrators who also serve as academic staff enjoy the full protection of academic freedom.”
In its letter, CAUT is seeking further details about the University’s role in the controversy that erupted after Professor Potter wrote an on-line article for Maclean’s Magazine in which he argued the response to a recent snow storm in Montreal was reflective of a “pathologically alienated and low-trust society” in Quebec.
“Academic freedom is central to a university’s mission in a democratic society,” Robinson wrote. “If the University did indeed cave in to external pressure and Professor Potter was pressured or coerced into resigning, this would represent one of the most significant academic freedom cases in recent decades.”
Robinson says that, subject to any further information provided by McGill University, CAUT will establish a committee of inquiry to determine if Professor Potter’s academic freedom was violated.
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