Speaking at the University of Lethbridge in late February, Professor Tom Flanagan made comments about child pornography that many found understandably objectionable. The reaction of his employer, the University of Calgary, was to publicly condemn Flanagan’s remarks, and to distance itself from him by identifying his imminent retirement date.
The PLG-GTA calls upon the University of Calgary to observe its responsibilities in upholding the tenets of academic freedom. Professor Tom Flanagan was speaking in his role as an academic of that institution. While he put forward controversial claims about the level of criminality involved with looking at child pornography, and while many people find his remarks offensive, he should be free as an academic to raise uncomfortable and controversial questions.
The ability to make such remarks and pose such questions is a hallmark of academic freedom and must be defended in cases even where one vociferously disagrees with the claims being made. The University of Calgary’s swift response of condemnation, especially before Professor Flanagan was allowed to fully respond, represents a chill to academic freedom and should be challenged.