Statement on academic freedom

September 01, 2020

At SFU, curiosity and critical inquiry are central to fulfilling our academic purpose and our drive to engage with the world around us.

The pursuit of knowledge and understanding requires the freedom to question conventional thinking and inherited truths, including ideas that are held beyond reproach. 

These debates can result in controversy and, at times, cause offense. When that happens, we must draw a line between what some might find offensive and hateful. As SFU President, I will not tolerate hate speech and will be guided in my response by federal legislation and processes designed to protect those at whom hate speech is aimed.

At the same time, it is also my responsibility as President to vigorously protect the principles of academic freedom that animate the life of our community and allow us to pursue ideas, advance knowledge and change the world. 

These principles are laid out by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. They are also embedded in the SFU Faculty Association Collective Agreement where academic freedom is described as “the freedom to examine, question, teach and learn, and involves the right to investigate, speculate and comment without reference to prescribed doctrine, as well as the right to criticize the University, Association and society at large.” This freedom includes members of the University as well as those invited to participate in its fora.

This commitment to academic freedom grounds our ability to shape decisions and advance social progress. Indeed, it has helped push forward the frontiers of justice, contributing both to the character of this university and to a more inclusive and accountable society.

In the end, academic freedom carried out within a culture of respect and inclusion defines a vibrant academic community and reflects the civic health of a democratic society. As President of SFU, I am fully committed to advancing these principles so that SFU can fulfill its purpose and promise to the communities we serve.