Tenure and Academic Freedom in the 21st Century

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1997 UNESCO recommendation concerning the status of higher education teaching personnel which expressed concern about the vulnerability of the academic community to untoward political pressures that could undermine academic freedom, and declared member states to have an obligation to protect higher education institutions from threats to their autonomy.

The many faculty that have joined this institution in recent years might be surprised to find that academic tenure is not defined in the University of Saskatchewan Act or any other piece of federal or provincial legislation.

The only document defining and protecting tenure is the Collective Agreement between the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association, and the Board of Governors.

The old slogan—“Think globally, act locally”—applies. The UNESCO recommendation reflects a broadly-based and worldwide collective aspiration for intellectual freedom.

But its practical implementation happens in the writing of hundreds of collective agreements like our own, and their defence, and by members like you. Bargaining has been stormy in Canada, and academic freedom has risen to the forefront of several academic collective bargaining actions in Canada, most notably during the strike of 12,000 Ontario college faculty.