Book Reviews

Book Review: Inventing Academic Freedom.

Tenured university professors enjoy academic freedom to a large extent, at least in North American universities and possibly many European universities. University professoriate in today’s Iran is deprived from academic freedom, as we know it. The same is true in many other Middle Eastern universities.

Few only know how hard professor and students fought in 1970 to achieve their objective to institutionalize these freedoms across the country. Even so university administrators try to circumvent academic freedoms and silence faculty. Sometimes ruses are employed, including out-and-out lies to silence professors, who dare to speak the truth.

1968 was a year of political ferment everywhere. In Paris there were demonstrations on the streets, civil rights activists protested against the draft in the U S A, and Jewish-American professor at the University of New Brunswick sparked controversy that established the principles of academic freedom on Canadian universities campuses; This was done with considerable help from students, and professors in Ontario and elsewhere in the country.

Norman Strax was an unlikely professor to spark controversy, when the president of the University of New Brunswick decided to control, by means of identification cards, access to the library of the university.

Colin Mackay was the young scion of the local establishment and used his connections to Lord Beaverbrook to run the university as his private fiefdom.

President MacKay was opposed by most of the faculty, but Norman Strax and hundreds of students were successful in their fight to “see the light”. After achieving his objective N. Strax resigned his post.

The author was at the centre of the Strax affair as he happened to be the assistant to the president and lived through the tumultuous days that led to the resignation of Colin Mackay in disgrace.

He tells the story well. This book deserves the attention of all faculty throughout Canada to safeguard the hard-won freedoms all enjoy.

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