December 12, 2006
Dr. Judith Woodsworth
Dear President Woodsworth:
I am writing to you on behalf of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship. We are a national organization of scholars and interested others, whose goals are to promote academic freedom in teaching, research, and scholarship and to uphold the merit principle as the basis of academic decision-making regarding students and faculty.For further information, please visit our website at: www.safs.ca.
We understand from several sources that your administration has denied Professor Michael Persinger the opportunity to have the representatives from the Discovery Channel come to your campus to film a demonstration of his prior research. We have read about this episode in a statement by the Laurentian University Faculty Association (dated November 30), in a copy of a letter sent to you by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (dated November 29), and in an article in Northern Life (dated November 30).
Based on the information contained in these documents, we have reached the conclusion that your actions constitute a violation of Professor Persinger’s academic freedom, specifically his academic freedom to disseminate the results of his research in a manner that he deems appropriate. Your stated objection to the filming is based apparently on the assumption that the procedure used in the demonstration must undergo a research ethics review. As Professor Persinger is not proposing at this time to actually conduct research using this procedure, but rather is merely planning to demonstrate a result that has already been reported in the scientific literature, your demand for a research ethics review is both misguided and an impediment to open communication of research results.
We call on you to reverse your directive and to invite the Discovery Channel to visit the campus to conduct its interview with Professor Persinger and to film the demonstration.
To do less would be a personal injustice to Professor Persinger, a violation of his academic freedom, and a counterproductive message to the public that the administrators at Laurentian University, and not the individual researcher, determine what research results are worthy of media coverage.
We look forward to your reply. We will post our letter to you and your response on our website.
Clive Seligman, President