Academic Freedom



In Canada

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) statement on academic freedom states that universities serve “the common good of society, through searching for, and disseminating knowledge, and understanding and through fostering independent thinking and expression in academic staff and students. It defines academic freedom as the “right, without restriction by prescribed doctrine, to freedom to teach and discuss; freedom to carry out research and disseminate and publish the results thereof; freedom to produce and perform creative works; freedom to engage in service; freedom to express one’s opinion about the institution, its administration, and the system in which one works; freedom to acquire, preserve, and provide access to documentary material in all formats; and freedom to participate in professional and representative academic bodies. Academic freedom always entails freedom from institutional censorship”.

The CAUT policy also states that academic freedom “does not require neutrality on the part of the individual”and that “All academic staff members have the right to fulfill their functions without reprisal or suppression by the employer, the state, or any other source”.

In Quebec

In late 2021, the Quebec Independent Scientific and Technical Commission on the Recognition of Academic Freedom in Universities was created to further examine some of the issues raised in a report on universities previously submitted by Dr Rémi Quirion, Chief Scientist of Quebec. The Commission conducted surveys of students and of academics, and heard testimonies from numerous individuals and organizations. Their conclusions were unequivocal: professors and students alike self-censored on a regular basis, especially in the English-language universities.
In their final report, the Commission defined the mission of Quebec universities as producing and disseminating knowledge through such activities as research, creation, teaching and service to society. It defined academic freedom as the right to teach, discuss, research, create, publish on any academic topic without doctrinal constraints; to express one’s opinion about one’s institution or the system one evolves in; to not be subjected to institutional censorship; and to participate freely in the activities of professional and academic organizations.
The Commission recommended that:

  • Quebec introduce legislation to define academic freedom as well as the mission of all universities in Quebec, to make academic freedom and the autonomy of universities sine qua non conditions for universities to fulfill their mission, and to ensure that universities promote and protect academic freedom;
  • Each university be required to implement a policy on academic freedom;
  • Each university be required to establish their own committees to promote academic freedom to students and staff, and to hear complaints and grievances when academic freedom is not respected and to report such breaches to the government;
  • The Ministry of Higher Education of Quebec produce a yearly report on situations in which academic freedom was not respected.

The Commission also stated that:

  • The classroom is not a safe space, that there is no right not to be offended, and that all idea and theories can be addressed, discussed and debated in a classroom;
  • That the use of trigger warnings is entirely up to the professor or instructor;
  • That universities should  implement policies to avoid cyberbullying;
  • That universities should actively defend academic freedom, and defend any academic against whim legal action is taken as a result of him or her exercising their academic freedom;
  • That the university, as an institution, should show some reservation when expressing an opinion on a matter that is being debated.

In 2022, the Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 32, An Act respecting academic freedom in the university sector. This bill protects academic freedom in Quebec universities. 

In the U.S.

Following a number of incidents where students sought to prevent what they considered to be controversial lectures, the University of Chicago President, Robert J. Zimmer, and Provost, Eric D. Isaacs, formed the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago. The Chicago Principles outline the university’s overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation among all members of the university’s community.

Furthermore, Dean of Students John Ellison stated that the University does not support the use of trigger warnings or safe spaces.

More specifically, the University of Chicago states that while the university “greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community (...).  In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose”.
The Chicago Principles have now been adopted by many American universities.



Below are some links to groups who are attempting to promote constructive dialogue and that wish to help people -particularly at colleges and universities- foster open, honest, and trustful engagement.

In Canada

In the U.S.

In Europe