Hello Everyone –
As we move into the semester’s final month, I hope everyone’s year has been productive and invigorating so far. Of course, we’re now into hiring season, and so some of what I say below relates to that. However, you’ll also see a fair bit that expands on what I said in my email of February 3 regarding the academic plan’s relationship to the Memorandum of Agreement. Some faculty have asked for clarification about how much autonomy they retain in terms of teaching, scholarship and creative practice, while other faculty wonder about academic freedom’s scope: could it, for example, be used as cover for discriminatory behaviour? I’ll admit to being tempted to wax philosophical about these points. However, I’ll resist that temptation (you’re welcome) in favour of some bluntly pragmatic remarks. And you’ll see that the common thread is: if you have concerns, you should contact us so that we can advise you.
Before I get to all of that, though, a few words of thanks. First, in your email last Thursday you will have seen our first issue of “OCADFA Notes.” A lot of people worked on this excellent initiative and I want to thank them: Kathleen Morris, Fatimah Tuggar, Frederick Burbach and Chris Bennell. Kathleen also has jumped right into her new role as grievance chair. To help defray the considerable workload, Eric Steenbergen has joined the grievance committee, and we’ll have more news about Eric’s role in the near future. Meanwhile, if you are concerned that your rights may have been infringed, please contact Kathleen at email@example.com. And if you have questions about your rights more generally, you can contact Kathleen, or you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autonomy and the Academic Plan
It’s not useful to fret about whether the academic plan as a document limits your academic freedom or any of your other rights under the MoA. What matters is whether a particular directive or course of action infringes on your rights. For example (and this is where some concerns I’ve heard arise), deans can’t use the academic plan to override your rights as articulated in the MoA. Nothing has changed in that regard, so if your dean behaves as if something has changed, you should talk to us. That said, don’t assume you can simply ignore the academic plan. Rather, if you have questions about specific instances, if something feels wrong, get in touch so we can consider your particular case.
Academic Freedom and Discrimination
Here again, nothing has changed with the passing of the academic plan. The academic freedom provisions of the MoA continue to specify that creative practice, scholarship and teaching must respect human rights as defined by law. Statutes like the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code continue to prohibit discriminatory speech and discriminatory behaviour. As with the above point, I cannot emphasize too strongly that if you are concerned that you are experiencing discrimination, or have questions about how this legal landscape might affect you, you should contact us so that we can consider your particular case.
Discrimination and the Institutional Context
It’s worth emphasizing, following on the above, that OCADFA has concerns that equity-seeking groups experience discrimination at OCAD University (as they tend to throughout Ontario’s university sector) and is involved in several initiatives in that regard. For example, we have representation on the Presidential Task Force on Underrepresentation and the Education & Employment Equity Committee. Through the latter, we are directly involved in sponsoring—with ODESI and Human Resources—a multi-axial pay equity audit aimed at assessing pay equity across a range of axes, including gender, race and differential ability. We are complementing this audit with a longitudinal analysis of OCAD University’s compliance with Ontario’s pay equity legislation. And in addition to these large-scale initiatives, we routinely support our members on a case-by-case basis.
This concern also has much to do with our emphasis on improving the situation of contract academic staff. That is, we suspect that equity-seeking groups are overrepresented in the most precarious labour categories, and underrepresented in the most secure labour categories. That’s a big part of our emphasis—supported by our members—on using collective bargaining to shore up the situations of the most precarious groups and, related to that, to increase opportunities for entry into the tenure-track/tenured stream, as academia’s fullest form of enfranchisement. In other words, we hope that what we’ll see in the most stable labour categories is not just growth but, more specifically, inclusive growth.
The hiring process is laid out pretty clearly in the MoA, and if you’re involved in that process, I encourage you, as I do every year, to familiarize yourself with the language in the MoA. A word of caution: when a hiring process gets tripped up, nine times out of ten, it’s because of conflict of interest. We know that our communities can be small, and that’s not in itself a problem. But if two members of the committee have a relationship that’s particularly close or particularly fraught, or if a committee member and a candidate have had a relationship that’s either particularly close or particularly fraught, then those relationships need to be brought to the chair’s attention. If you’re wondering whether a connection you have or have had falls under this umbrella, then you should err on the side of caution and inform your chair. And, again, if you have questions or concerns, get in touch with us so we can advise you.
Worldviews Lecture on Media and Higher Education
Lastly, on Wednesday, April 5, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and the Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto will be hosting the 3rd Annual Worldviews Lecture on Media and Higher Education. Titled “Populism and the academy: on the ‘wrong side’ of history,” this year’s lecture features Professor Sir Peter Scott. Both previous lectures have been excellent, so I encourage you to attend. The talk is 1:30 pm in the OISE Library and is free but you must register, which you can do here.