Statement of support for Graduate Students’ Academic Freedom

The University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) supports the University of Lethbridge Graduate Association (ULGA) in its proposal for academic freedom provisions for their collective agreement.

ULGA is the union representing graduate student workers on campus, and academic freedom in Canada is a contractual right. The ULGA bargaining team has been in negotiations for almost 3 years now, and amongst other issues, the employer is refusing ULGA proposals on academic freedom. This is one particular issue where our Members have a direct interest, as academic freedom is one of the most important values our Members enjoy themselves.

ULFA firmly believes that the language in our own collective agreement on academic freedom is robust enough to also support academic freedom for graduate students. Fair and open debate, respect for a diversity of views, the ability to criticize practices or policies that interfere with the search for truth and knowledge, these are values essential in a modern post-secondary institution. 

Academic freedom is not absolute, with this right comes the responsibility to adhere to professional expectations in one’s field. We are unsure why there is any hesitation about providing these same rights to graduate students. 

We remind the Board that academic freedom is essential to the purposes of a university, something which both parties agree to in our collective agreement. The University’s strategic plan also mentions a commitment to and belief in academic freedom.

Other public post-secondary institutions where graduate students have academic freedom within their collective agreements include Western University, University of Saskatchewan, Simon Fraser University, and the University of New Brunswick.

Dan O’Donnell, ULFA President
Signed on behalf of the ULFA Executive Committee