CHEC Executive Director, Justin Cooper responds to the recent investigations of four CHEC universities by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). He has extended an invitation to CAUT leaders to dialogue on the issue of academic freedom within faith-based universites, something they have so far been unwilling to do.
The below response appeared in the National Post as a letter to the editor, Feb 19, 2011.
Saturday, Feb 19, 2011
Re: CAUT Responds to "Bigotry" Charge, Feb 12
It is not clear why the leaders of a national academic association have chosen to step outside the mainstream and take a rather narrow and restrictive position about faith-based universities. The more widely held view is that such institutions are bona fide universities which uphold legitimate academic freedom and contribute to teaching and scholarship that benefits our pluralistic society.
It would have been helpful if the leaders of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) had simply notified the relevant institutions about its intention, without taking the unnecessary step of a questionable investigative process. An even more constructive approach would have been to engage in a dialogue with these institutions and their professors to explore what clearly are different philosophical views. This would have allowed CAUT to test its assumptions and to constructively engage those institutions in reviewing their own.
Unfortunately, CAUT's leaders have been unwilling to do so, even though specifically asked by each of the four institutions "investigated" to date. These universities remain open to such a dialogue.
CAUT is entitled to its viewpoint. Without such interaction, however, CAUT's assertions seem somewhat self serving and raise the question as to whether CAUT itself has acted in an academically responsible manner.
Justin D. Cooper, executive director, Christian Higher Education Canada, Dundas, Ont.
For further references to this issue, including the petition against CAUT's actions and its decision to drop the step of an investigation, see these links.