Hello Everyone –

While I have several important items to address in this note, I’d like to begin, by underscoring something I’ve learned: if you feel like something is wrong, it probably is…and, in any case, you’ve got nothing to lose by asking. So if you have concerns, please contact Connie Reid in our office – conniereid@ocadu.ca – and she’ll connect you with the right person.

Although a lot of important things are happening right now, I’m going to save some of those for later so that I concentrate on some labour situations that are of concern to us, some external and some – related to on-line learning – that are internal. So, here we go:

1) Labour actions: As I’m sure all of you know, academic staff at York University and the University of Toronto currently are involved in important labour disputes. At York, CUPE Local 3903 Unit 2 (contract faculty) has returned to work, while Unit 1 (graduate students who teach tutorials and direct courses) and Unit 3 (graduate students who do graduate assistantships and research assistantships) remain on strike. Meanwhile, at the University of Toronto, CUPE Local 3902 Unit 3 (sessional lecturers) only narrowly averted a strike, while Unit 1 (teaching assistants, exam invigilators and other academic staff) remains on strike, having voted over the weekend to reject the employer’s latest offer.

These situations are important because the labour contexts of all Ontario universities are closely linked. So, when locals at York and the University of Toronto stand firm, it subtly but importantly strengthens our position. In addition, several of OCADFA’s members also belong to Locals 3902 and 3903. That’s one of sessional labour’s many challenges: the need to work at several institutions simultaneously to knit together a living. So these circumstances have a special significance to us, and lend a particular urgency to our hope that both disputes end fairly and as quickly as possible. For that reason, we’ve reached out to representatives of CUPE 3902 and 3903 to ask how we can support them, and we will pass along their responses as soon as we hear back.

Such displays of solidarity are an important part of OCADFA’s work, and not only within Ontario, because the broader context of academic labour similarly affects our situation. That’s why we circulated the NAAW petition when CAUT requested that we do so. Similarly, many of you will know about the current dispute at the University of Northern British Columbia, where the employer is trying to take advantage of the faculty association’s new status as a union—which means that they have a fairly slim strike fund—to break their resolve. So faculty associations across the country have answered UNBCFA’s request for financial support, and I’m pleased to say that OCADFA is part of that. And I’m equally proud to have participated, again through CAUT, in the production of a report on the behaviour of the dean of architecture at the University of Manitoba, which led to that dean stepping down. As our sisters and brothers go, so we go, and so we must do what we can to help.

2) On-line learning: we have noted in the past that anyone who is considering signing a “developer contract” with OCAD University (i.e. a contract to develop an on-line course) should contact us first. The reason is that these contracts generally contain a clause that requires you to give up your claim on the intellectual property in the course. As you’ll see in a report from Bill Leeming later this week, this point is more important now than ever before, partly because the situation at OCAD hasn’t changed, but also because it fits into a push that is province-wide (and, indeed, reaches far beyond that) to use this on-line content to turn education into entirely pre-set curriculum, learning outcomes, lesson plans, weighted assignments and set criteria to evaluate student work. The people delivering the courses will have no academic freedom to change anything in the course that they are hired to “facilitate.” (This is the point of a recent dispute at Athabasca University.) So, please, continue to consult with us before signing any such contract, so that we can help you ensure that you’re not giving away the farm.

We’ll be back with more on this and some other timely issues in the next few days. And, as always, thanks to everyone for all you do for the quality of education at OCAD University.