Controversy erupted over an opinion piece authored by Andrew Potter, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, published on the Maclean’s website Monday. Potter connected a winter storm stranding hundreds of commuters on a Montreal highway to what he argued was the “almost pathologically alienated and low-trust society” in Quebec. The next day, Potter posted an apology on Facebook, stating that he went too far in some of his analysis and that he extrapolated too much from personal anecdotes with respect to some of his claims.
But the real scandal came at about the same time, in the form of a statement from McGill University’s official Twitter account that distanced the university from Potter’s op-ed. “The views expressed by @JAndrewPotter in the @MacleansMag article do not represent those of #McGill,” it read.
This may seem, on the surface, a relatively innocuous statement. But it is in fact a reprehensible attack on the core of the academic mission, and specifically on academic freedom.