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Editor’s Note, March 2018 issue

Paranormal activities
Is the truth out there?

The truth is out there” is the tagline of the long-running TV series The X-Files, currently in its 11th season (the series originally ran from 1993 until 2002, but was rebooted starting in 2016). The show revolves around Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who investigate unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena. Agent Mulder believes in the existence of aliens and the paranormal while Scully is a skeptic who uses scientific methods to try to debunk such phenomena.

As our cover story recounts this month, the paranormal continues to stimulate the public’s imagination – as evidenced, perhaps, by the continued success of The X-Files. But, in reality, there are few researchers – in academia, at least – who are seeking to prove or disprove the veracity of paranormal activities. Such research has become the purview of amateur investigators.

Academics haven’t forsaken the study of the paranormal, but they’re approaching it with a different lens. Rather than trying to debunk the existence of UFOs, sasquatches and other unexplained phenomena, academics in the humanities and related disciplines are mining the stories and experiences of believers for their deeper revelations about the human experience. It’s a fascinating story, as told by our regular contributor Diane Peters.

Elsewhere in this issue, we have an essay on academic freedom by Paul Axelrod, an educational historian and retired York University professor. It’s a topic very much in the news today, but Dr. Axelrod tries to make sense of current controversies by placing the concept of academic freedom in a historical context.

And speaking of controversies, I suspect our third feature this month – on student gun clubs – may put a few noses out of joint. For many readers, the idea of gun clubs is anathema to universities. But, as these students proclaim, shooting is a legitimate and legal hobby, and their aim is to teach gun safety and have fun. Also, the shooting events take place at gun ranges off campus – no guns are ever brought to campus or stored there. Let us know what you think.

Léo Charbonneau