As a former university professor, and as a historian of higher education, I’m gratified (mostly) by the vigilant defence of academic freedom proffered by journalists and others in the wake of the Andrew Potter episode at McGill University. Academics who speak or write controversially should be protected, not sanctioned.
Still, there is too little understanding of what academic freedom means. It is not absolute and it is not the simple equivalent of “freedom of speech.” All citizens have, or should have, the latter, but only individuals who have specified educational and professional qualifications are entitled to academic freedom within universities. In the words of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), they are granted the “freedom to teach and discuss; freedom to carry out research and disseminate and publish the results thereof; freedom to produce and perform creative works; freedom to engage in service to the institution and the community; freedom to express one’s opinion about the institution, its administration, and the system in which one works.”