In recent years, a number of controversies have emerged from inside Canadian universities. While some of these controversies reflect debates occurring at a broader societal level, others are unique to the culture of universities and the way in which they are governed. In University Commons Divided, Peter MacKinnon provides close readings of a range of recent incidents with a view to exploring new challenges within universities and the extent to which the idea of the university as ‘commons,’ a site for open and contentious disagreement, may be under threat.
Among the incidents addressed in this book are the Jennifer Berdahl case in which a UBC professor alleged a violation of her academic freedom when she was phoned by the university's board chair to discuss her blog on which she speculated about the reasons for the university president's departure from office; the case of Root Gorelick, a Carleton University biologist and member of the university’s board of governors who refused to sign a code of conduct preventing public discussion of internal board discussions; the Facebook scandal at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Dentistry in which male students posted misogynistic comments about their female classmates. These and many other examples of turmoil in universities across the country are used to reach new insights on the state of freedom of expression and academic governance in the contemporary university.
Accessibly written and perceptively argued, University Commons Divided is a timely and bold examination of the pressures seeking to transform the culture and governance of universities.