University community responds to unprecedented political interference
For immediate release
(Ottawa, June 10, 2009) The organization representing more than 65,000 academic and general staff at 121 universities and colleges across Canada is calling for the resignation of Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear following his unprecedented efforts to interfere with funding for a major academic conference.
CAUT has learned that Goodyear telephoned the president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to ask him to reconsider a peer-reviewed decision to fund an academic conference called “Israel/Palestine: Mapping models of statehood and prospects for peace” being held at York University later this month.
“It’s unprecedented for a minister – let alone a minister from the department that funds the granting councils – to intervene personally with a granting council president to suggest that he review funding for an academic conference,” said CAUT executive director James Turk. “This kind of direct political interference in a funding decision made through an independent, peer-reviewed process is unacceptable and sets a very dangerous precedent.”
Turk said that a principal role of universities in democratic societies is to allow a full, open debate of controversial issues.
“For a minister to intervene in an effort to derail an academic conference on behalf of special interest groups is simply unacceptable, and compromises the integrity and public purpose of universities,” said Turk.
“That’s precisely what happened here – when you are the minister from the department that funds the granting councils, and you call the president of a granting council to ask him to reconsider funding, the message is very clear.”
- Open letter to the President of SSHRC, CAUT (June 12/09).
- “Goodyear questions Mideast forum funds: Science Minister draws ire of academics for intervening on controversial conferences,” Globe and Mail (June 11/09).
- “President’s statement on Academic Freedom and the Role of the University,” Mamdouh Shoukri, York University (May 21/09).