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Mary Eberts - Professor as citizen

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Published on May 28, 2012

University faculty have specialized knowledge and a privileged position in society. But do they use that knowledge and privilege to inform their role as citizens, or are there constraints within the university that inhibit their full democratic engagement? Is it possible for idealism and a robust commitment to social justice to flourish, or even endure, in the modern Canadian university? Or are the roles of academic and citizen in fact contradictory? In her Big Thinking lecture at Congress 2012, Mary Eberts suggests that these questions hit hardest for junior academics who are dependent on the good opinion of colleagues for tenure and promotion, and on finding favour with funders.

Mary Eberts is currently the Ariel F. Sallows Chair in Human Rights at the University of Saskatchewan. In 2004--2005, she held the Gordon F. Henderson Chair in Human Rights at the University of Ottawa, and for the past several years she has taught in the summer program on International Women's Human Rights at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). She was involved in the crafting of the equality guarantees of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is a co-founder of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), and has been litigation counsel to the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) for twenty years. Recognition of her work includes the Governor-General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons' Case, the Law Society of Upper Canada Gold Medal and several honorary degrees.

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