MOFA rejects political attempts to silence Manitoban academics
November 23, 2023
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Treaty 1 – The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) affirms the importance of academic freedom, particularly in times of conflict, and recognizes the vital role of scholars and educators in initiating and guiding what can be difficult conversations. MOFA also reiterates the freedom of academics to engage in both university-based and public debates.
MOFA is gravely concerned about comments made by prominent Manitoban politicians about an event scheduled for November 24 at the University of Winnipeg, entitled “Palestine and Genocide: Reflections on Imperialism, Settler-colonialism and Decolonization.” These comments suggest that such an event must be deemed “balanced” and “diverse” by Manitoba’s political leaders and university administrators in order to proceed. Such attempts to influence university administrators are a threat to the autonomy of scholarship and public debate, which depends on the ability of researchers and educators in Manitoba’s universities to share their opinions without threat of retribution from university administrators, or from politicians who make demands of those administrators. MOFA categorically rejects such interventions by politicians of all parties and in all levels of government.
Academic freedom requires neither neutrality nor ‘balance’ but entails engagement and commitment to an honest search for knowledge and understanding. MOFA stands in solidarity with UWFA colleagues and with all academics committed to public engagement and critical debate.
Further, MOFA calls on the administration of the University of Winnipeg to immediately affirm its commitment to academic freedom, including its contractual obligation to refrain from censoring or disciplining UWFA members for exercising their academic rights and duties to free expression and free inquiry into matters of public interest and importance.
MOFA President, Allison McCulloch, underscores that “political intervention puts undue pressure on the university to cancel critical events and on academics to censor their analysis.”
MOFA is comprised of four faculty associations, which represent over 2,000 faculty and academic staff at the University of Winnipeg, University of Manitoba, Brandon University and Université de Saint-Boniface.