The viewpoint diversity crisis at Canadian universities: political homogeneity, self-censorship, and threats to academic freedom

Higher education Academic freedom Universities Freedom of information Censorship Freedom of speech Canada

Academic freedom is at the core of the pursuit of higher learning. But in our modern social and political climate, have Canadian universities created a culture hostile to intellectual diversity? Are such concerns to be taken seriously, or is this merely an overblown talking point?

In this report, Professors Christopher Dummitt and Zachary Patterson corroborate the findings of studies performed in the United States, United Kingdom, and elsewhere.

According to the authors, academic freedom is a key tool in a liberal society to protect the disadvantaged and a mechanism for correcting the illiberalism of repressive and conformist majorities. That academic freedom and viewpoint diversity are under threat suggest that existing protections at universities are insufficient in preventing the formation of a monoculture. The authors warn that this has significant negative impacts on the quality of education that students receive, and that external intervention is necessary to reverse the trend.

Key findings:

  • Forty-four percent of right-leaning professors are worried about facing negative consequences if colleagues, students, or others on campus learned of their political opinions.
  • Forty percent of right-leaning professors feel like they face a hostile work environment.
  • Fear of negative consequences has led to self-censorship being exercised by 57 percent of right-leaning professors and 34 percent of left-leaning professors.
  • Over 30 percent of professors are prepared to limit academic freedom and 'cancel' their colleagues out of a commitment to their political views on social justice.
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