In light of the racist and other ad hominem attacks against U of A Associate Professor Ubaka Ogbogu, the AASUA has issued the following (and attached) public statement.
AASUA Statement in Defense of Academic Freedom and Dr. Ubaka Ogbogu
November 30, 2020
The Association of Academic Staff at the University of Alberta (AASUA), the union representing 3,800 academics at the U of A, stands in defense of academic freedom and of Dr. Ubaka Ogbogu, who has recently faced racist and other ad hominem attacks for publicly sharing his extensive knowledge and expertise.
Academic freedom is a fundamental right in our society and is a cornerstone to the quality and independence of intellectual discovery, creative thought, and civilized discussion and critique. Academics play an integral role in evaluating, explaining, and critiquing the actions of government. Societies and governments that seek to muzzle academics are typically the most repressive, oppressive, and authoritarian.
The AASUA vigorously condemns the ad hominem attacks made against Dr. Ogbogu by Alberta Government spokesperson Steve Buick. Intellectual debate and questioning of ideas is fundamental and critical to a free society. It is the responsibility of the elected government and its agents to respect the sanctity of academic freedom, and to model appropriate debate with its public and online actions and statements. If the government feels a critic has provided "incorrect information" then it is the government’s responsibility to provide correct information, not to insult the critic. This behaviour is inappropriate. It is a debasement of proper public discourse.
When the government makes unprofessional and unfounded attacks and insults toward academics, it encourages the public to distrust academic institutions and attracts unwarranted insults and attacks from irresponsible members of the public. Mr. Buick’s twitter comment calling Dr. Ogbogu "biased" instead of engaging in informed and civil debate, was a dog whistle tactic. A tactic that has resulted in racist and aggressive attacks from anonymous individuals that have forced Dr. Ogbogu to fear for his safety and remove part of his profile from the U of A website. The Government of Alberta has a responsibility to avoid fomenting this type of mob reaction. It should issue a public apology to Dr. Ogbogu and take immediate action to instill a tone of respectful discourse.
We also call upon the University of Alberta to express publicly its support of academic staff who embrace the role of public intellectuals and who engage in public debate. This requires robust support of academics who speak out, a more serious engagement with the ways race, gender, sexuality, and indigeneity expose some in our community to more serious attacks, and internal actions to ensure the university is a safe environment.
Ricardo Acuña, President