Hello Everyone –
As I write this, it’s minus 8 degrees outside. But it was plus 8 the day before and predicted to be the same tomorrow, and these wild fluctuations can mean only one thing: the semester’s almost over. In the meantime, if you need inspiration to stay warm and enthused, just keep reminding yourself that we’re all in this together.
And that, in fact, is what this note addresses: the being together, the solidarity, that grounds our union. We spend so much time dealing with day-to-day matters that the bigger picture often slips away. So this note discusses three important issues of solidarity, within and beyond our union, that the board is focus on and that we’d like to encourage you to focus on, too. And I also want to say that writing this note has been even more collaborative than usual and I’m grateful to the many people who have been generous with their time over the last few weeks.
Indigenization, Decolonization and OCADFA
OCADFA supports the principles of Indigenization and Decolonization. All unions rest on the idea that everyone should be treated equitably and fairly. Inequity and unfairness show up sometimes as exploitative labour practices, sometimes as discriminatory behaviour and often as the two combined (i.e. discriminatory beliefs justifying exploitative labour practices). And these exploitative and discriminatory practices perpetuate inequality and unfairness. For all of these reasons, but especially this last one—discrimination’s link to exploitation—labour has a stake in the progress of equity-seeking communities on these matters and in supporting a workplace that promotes fairness, equality and freedom from discrimination.
To have meaning, this stake must start with the issues closest to home. That’s why the cultural and academic communities at OCAD University and across Canada are pondering the principles of Decolonization and Indigenization, and why OCADFA’s board supports these principles.
If you want to think about what these ideas mean, a good guide is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action—specifically the sections on education, and language and culture (both sections are right at the document’s beginning). These calls promote ending employment and education gaps experienced in many Indigenous communities, and preserving, revitalizing and strengthening Indigenous languages and cultures. In our community, these ideas can pave the way to ensuring, for example, that evaluations for promotion, tenure and sabbatical account for and recognize Indigenous knowledges and cultural traditions, and to ensuring that resources are available to support these practices.
Even with that, though, and within the framework of the many conversations happening in our hallways, classrooms and faculty meetings, at meetings of Board and Senate, we need to explore what these principles mean for the OCAD community. What does they mean, for example, for teaching, learning, creative practice, scholarship and administration? OCADFA’s answers to this question must come from its members. We need to discuss these issues for ourselves, in venues that provide opportunities for all of our constituents to participate. So you’ll be hearing from us in the coming weeks about initiatives to support discussion regarding what these principles might mean for teaching, learning, creative practice and scholarship, meaningful student experience and our working environment.
OCADFA and OPSEU
You know that we’re in bargaining, but you may not know that our comrades at OPSEU Local 576 will enter bargaining this summer. And, not surprisingly, they have many of the same concerns: precarity; wage parity with sector norms; diversity and equity; student well-being and quality of education. For OCADFA and OPSEU both, our working conditions are the students’ learning conditions. For that reason, the two unions will be running a combined bargaining awareness table this coming Monday (March 27) from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the foyer of 100 McCaul Street. Drop by, say hello and show your support.
In the last few days, you will have got an email from Christine Crosbie with the subject line “Fight for fair funding for OCAD University!” I encourage you to do three things: (1) open the email; (2) click the box to send a message to Minister Deb Matthews; (3) forward the message to 10 reliable friends and family (the email makes this easy to do). Here’s what’s happening: as you know, Ontario universities’ two main sources of funding are tuition and government support. But the government does not support all students equally. Depending on what program and what university, some students attract substantially more government support for their universities than others.
We’re at the low end of the spectrum: the government values our students at 1.5 basic income units (bius). By contrast, Carleton’s industrial design students are weighted at 2.o bius, as are engineering and architecture students across the province. For over a decade, the administration has been lobbying the Ministry for the modest increase that would give us parity in this regard—which would add about $9.5 million to our operating budget. Not even a rounding error for them; transformative for us. To be clear: over the years, OCADFA has expressed considerable concern about wasteful spending, and those concerns continue. Nonetheless, it would be hugely helpful if the government would take this small step toward treating us fairly, so please consider lending your support to this campaign. (P.S. The government is adopting new lingo around this, so over time you’ll hear less about basic income units and more about weighted grant units. But it’s the same idea.)
I know there’s a lot in this note, and that you’re getting this note on a Friday (which I normally try to avoid, but all of these issues are time-sensitive), so thanks for reading, enjoy the weekend and remember that communication is a two-way street, so we’re always happy to hear from you.