OTTAWA, Thurs Feb 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) will no longer be sending teams of investigators to probe alleged violations of academic freedom at Christian universities that require professors to sign a statement of faith as a condition of employment.
CAUT executive director James Turk told the National Post that while the sole purpose of their in-depth investigations was to establish whether the Christian schools required their faculty to sign statements of faith. But critics of the investigations pointed out that this piece of information is readily available on the schools’ websites and academic calendars, and can be easily confirmed in a matter of minutes by an email or phone call.
“In hindsight we started out using our elaborate investigative procedures because we wanted to be fair to the institutions,” said Mr. Turk. “We didn’t want to say the schools were doing something inappropriate without checking it out carefully.”
The National Post reported that since 2006 CAUT has issued “lengthy reports ... that took months to complete” on three schools: Trinity Western University (TWU) in British Columbia, Crandall University in New Brunswick, and Canadian Mennonite University in Manitoba. The reports concluded that the schools did in fact oblige faculty to sign a statement of Christian belief as a requirement of employment.
In its report on Trinity Western University, dated October 2009, CAUT stated, “TWU’s Statement of Faith, its Responsibilities of Membership statement and the university’s policy on academic freedom allow for unwarranted and unacceptable constraints on academic freedom. On the basis of these documents alone, there is no question that Trinity Western University violates the commitment to academic freedom that is the foundational bedrock of the university community in Canada and internationally.”
Although TWU’s literature states clearly that it is “committed to academic freedom in teaching and investigation from a stated perspective, i.e., within parameters consistent with the confessional basis of the constituency to which the University is responsible,” Turk claimed in a National Post report at the time that “a school that requires its faculty to subscribe to a particular religious belief or ideology cannot be practicing academic freedom.”
CAUT had begun an investigation of Ontario’s Redeemer University-College (RUC), which also requires a statement of faith; however, RUC president Dr. Hubert Krygsman said in a statement last week that the school will not participate in the investigation, because the findings are a “foregone conclusion.”
“It’s not an open-ended inquiry into the truth because it begins with a definition that is self-fulfilling,” Dr. Krygsman told the National Post. “It’s a definition of academic freedom that says it cannot be faith-based. So by definition any faith-based approach strikes them as contrary to their definition. ... All of the other findings are really fodder for their own beliefs.”
A petition, the “Faculty Statement on CAUT” launched January 24, which currently has 225 signatories, calls CAUT’s investigations “invasive and unwarranted,” says that “bullying” is evident in CAUT’s publicized reports, and demands an end to the “harassment” of religious or faith-based post-secondary institutions “for which there is no mandate from the membership at large.”
Jonathan Raymond, president of TWU, remarked to the National Post that he is suspicious that CAUT’s decision to curtail its investigations was driven by a hidden agenda.
“I have no idea what their game plan is but this feels like it is tied to a larger agenda. It should not have taken them years to figure out they didn’t need an investigation into something they could have gotten from an email or a phone call,” Raymond said.
Canadian Association of University Teachers
James Turk, Executive Director
2705 Queensview Drive
Ottawa Ontario K2B 8K2
Phone: (613) 820-2270 Ext. 176
Fax: (613) 820-7244