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Monday
Feb082010

CAUT Initiates a 21st Century ‘Witch-Hunt’

Clearly the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has determined that it is tasked with tarnishing the reputations of faith-based educational institutions, the Christian schools in particular.

It seems to have started last year, when CAUT started an unsolicited investigation of Trinity Western University (TWU). The investigation didn’t follow CAUT’s own internal process (i.e., informal negotiations) and, until the “witch-hunt” was well developed, TWU administration was completely unaware that it was even occurring. CAUT claims to have snail-mailed one letter to TWU advising them of the investigation, which TWU didn’t receive.

However, CAUT did choose to use email to contact some, if not all, of its members requesting that they contact them if they currently or previously worked at TWU, or had ever applied to work there. CAUT wanted to chat about the faith requirement of a faith-based and fully accredited university whose teaching faculty had not joined CAUT. It was from these CAUT members that TWU administration finally heard of the investigation.

All of this was done seemingly arbitrarily – CAUT has admitted that it had not received any complaints about TWU. The TWU President has stated that he cannot recall ever receiving a complaint on the issue of academic freedom.

CAUT’s final report found that TWU fails to meet its standard of academic freedom as instructors are required to sign a statement of faith. As a result, CAUT put TWU on a blacklist of schools which allegedly violate academic freedom.

Now three additional Christian institutions are under the biased and arbitrary microscope of CAUT.

While CAUT has no jurisdiction or regulatory or accreditation powers, it determined that it was in its members’ best interest to fund an investigation of TWU of which no instructors are actually members of CAUT. In a recent interview, CAUT stated that they undertook this “investigation” because it was time for their organization to become “proactive” rather than “reactive”.

During the course of its “investigation,” CAUT disregarded the fact that TWU is an accredited member of the Association of University and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), which requires their members to subscribe to the AUCC definition of academic freedom. Also ignored was the fact that TWU is the only Canadian university to receive the highest grade in quality of education from The Globe and Mail’s Canadian University Report and was ranked #1 in Canada by Maclean’s for “Enriching Educational Experience” in their National Survey of Student Engagement.

CAUT’s team appears to have arrived at several conclusions prior to launching out on their quest. First, they believe that academic freedom can only be achieved when institutions are in compliance with CAUT’s own broad and circular definition of academic freedom. Second, they begin with the false assumption that there is only one legitimate means of pursuing higher education, and that is in non-religious institutions (an issue the Supreme Court of Canada disagrees with CAUT on based on the SCC’s 2001 decision in a case involving the same Trinity Western University). Additionally, CAUT’s investigative team pays no attention to the rights that flow from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or the protection from discrimination on the basis of religion found in the B.C. Human Rights Code.

It would have saved everyone time, money and trouble if CAUT’s investigative force took the time to read the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Trinity Western University v British Columbia College of Teachers before launching out on their mission.

Yes, the witch-hunts that took place in the Middle Ages or Salem, Massachusetts are an historic embarrassment to Christianity as a religion. But the current witch-hunt being conducted by CAUT is an embarrassment to CAUT, with the risk of dragging the broader academic community, the process of university accreditation and Canada’s reputation along with them. Does anyone recall the consequences from the “investigations” conducted by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy?

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