It’s no secret that the tensions around the Presidential Review Process are escalating, so I’ve worked with some of our other board members to write some comments about an “open letter” that, on October 15, Sara Diamond sent to the OCAD University community. I’ll also comment on a rather clumsy attempt by Carole Beaulieu to dampen public criticism of the president and her review, and then I’ll use that as a chance to say some general things about the grievance process. Lastly, I’ll comment on some helpful museum resources.
1) Sara Diamond’s open letter: Sara’s open letter has four goals. First, it suggests that concern about her renewal process is limited to a handful of faculty members and me. As most of you realize, this is false—not only because, as we know from various forms of feedback, this concern is widespread throughout the faculty, but also because the worry goes beyond faculty. As Sara knows from her participation in Senate, numerous administrators, student representatives and alumni share this concern.
Second, Sara wants to set the stage for people who voice such concerns to be blamed for shortfalls in fundraising and recruitment, suggesting that the university has just hired a terrific new head of fundraising and we’ve torpedoed him before he’s even started. However, this is at least the fifth time we’ve heard this story in the last nine years—the fifth time that we’ve heard about a fantastic new fundraiser who’s going to lead a campaign to raise tens of millions of dollars, only to have them leave after an average stay of 18 months.
When fundraisers—and other senior administrators—come and go in rapid succession once or twice, that’s one thing. When it happens repeatedly, that’s something else, and it’s the Board of Governors’ job to fix it. And that leads to the third point: this is not about branding. It’s about governance, or the lack thereof, and the Board of Governors’ breathtaking disregard for fundamentals of bicamerality (i.e.: that the Senate is equal, not subservient, to the Board) and basics of governance.
One might wonder, for example, where the board was when the school bought 230 and 240 Richmond—which it now acknowledges it can’t rent and which will, because of an ill-advised interest rate swap, cost $6 million to dump.
Finally, Sara writes that “we” continue to “grow our dedicated faculty cohort”, but there’s no “we” about it. Since her arrival at OCAD University, all rounds of MoA bargaining have failed, ending up in mediation/arbitration. So, while it’s true that there have been advances—like course load reduction and removal of the five-year cap on sessionals—it’s also true that the Employer’s negotiators under the instruction of Sara Diamond and the Board of Governors bitterly resisted both these advances. And it’s also predictable that the Employer will resist further course load reductions despite the fact that, even with this latest decrease, our studio faculty still have the province’s highest course load. Further, it is noteworthy that University negotiators fought hard to create a Teaching Intensive Stream (TIS) in the last round, which they then implemented in a way that we believe violates our agreement, and will be taking to mediation as soon as possible.
This last point is particularly apposite, given that we’re now in Fair Employment Week—a week designated by the Canadian Association of University Teachers to raise awareness that far too many professors don’t make a living wage or have an office, and can’t afford to give their students the attention that they want and need.
2) Carole Beaulieu and Academic Freedom: About ten days ago, some OCADFA members (including me) got an email from Carole Beaulieu entitled “Media protocol enquiry reminder,” which has become the subject of various rumours. (If you want to see it, drop me a line—I’d be happy to forward it to you.) So, it’s worth revisiting what you can and cannot say. In her email, Carole says that “All inquiries from the media should be referred to the office of Marketing & Communications for appropriate response and support,” that, while faculty and staff are free to comment to the media “in their area of research or work,” they are required to let Marketing & Communications know, and that, if the issue affects the wider campus community, has political sensitivities, or is controversial, then you are required to refer the matter to M&C.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but in terms of faculty members—and this goes for everyone from one-time sessionals to tenured full professors—this is rubbish, and it’s rubbish that directly contravenes the academic freedom provisions of the MoA.
To be clear: you can’t present yourself as a spokesperson for the university. The right to “express views without fear of retribution”, however, is clearly stated in the academic freedom principles of our Memorandum of Agreement. Indeed, addressing the issue of fiduciary oversight and good governance, the introduction to Appendix A (which covers academic freedom) specifically charges faculty with the “obligation” to ensure that “shortsighted or ill-advised political, corporate or personal” pressures do not unduly influence the running of the university. (p. 185)
So, what to do if you feel you’re being pressured not to speak out, or if you feel you’re being punished for having spoken out? That leads to my next topic: the grievance process.
3) Complaints, Grievances and so on: The Memorandum of Agreement establishes a process for OCADFA to try to resolve employment-related disputes through a grievance procedure.
If you feel like something’s wrong in your employment relationship with OCAD University, it may well be. So come and talk to us. We can’t help you if you don’t ask. While it’s sadly not the case that things always turn out how we’d like, often we can help—but only if we know something’s wrong. So, tell us when something goes wrong, and tell us right away, because if we’re going to do something, we normally have to make a complaint within 21 days.
It’s important to understand that the grievance process has real teeth: if an internal discussion doesn’t resolve the grievance, it can go to mediation or arbitration. The outcome of arbitration is a decision by a third party that is binding on the Administration. It is similar to a court decision or order.
Not everything needs to be a grievance, of course. Sometimes you just need support in a tricky meeting—an associate dean wants to discuss an incident in one of your classes, for example. Here, too, OCADFA can help. You have the right to have someone with you in some meetings, to monitor the discussion and ensure that you aren’t bullied or coerced. Moreover, if a supervisor tells you that you can’t bring an OCADFA rep to a meeting, that in itself may be a MoA violation, and be grieveable. Similarly, if you find yourself in a meeting that suddenly gets sticky, you may request that the meeting be reconvened at a time when you can have OCADFA representation with you.
4) Museum Resources: It seems to be a well-kept secret that students and faculty get in free to most exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Textile Museum of Canada. These institutions can be great teaching resources, either for individual projects or for class visits. If you’ve got a big class, you probably want to warn these organizations that you’re coming. But for smaller classes, you can just walk right in.
Sorry for the long note, but there was a lot to discuss. Don’t forget that OCAD University hosts the UAAC annual conference October 23 to 26. And please remember Fair Employment Week, because all OCAD faculty deserve a fair deal.
Ontario College of Art & Design Faculty Association