Hello everyone –

I wish I could say that 2017 is humming along. Sadly, it isn’t. We have internal challenges, which I’ll address in a second, and some important requests regarding colleagues abroad and at home.

First, as you know, there is widespread concern over the ban on entry to the United States for people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The Canadian Association of University Teachers asks that we oppose this discriminatory order by signing the petition of the American Association of University Professors. The petition is here; please consider joining me by adding your signature.

Second, Algoma University’s contract faculty face a difficult round of bargaining. For about $150,000 per year (out of a $29 million budget), the employer could adjust the salary grid so that Algoma’s contract faculty are not below everyone else—but the employer has dug in its heals. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations asks that we show our support by signing an open letter to Algoma’s administration and, again, I hope you’ll look at the letter and consider joining me by adding your name.

Internally, we have many issues, which means many reasons for you to contact us. So let’s start with how to do that. For general inquiries, you can contact Connie Reid, our executive assistant, at conniereid@ocadu.ca. You can contact me at ocadfapresident@gmail.com. And Kathleen Morris, grievance chair, is at ocadfagrievance@gmail.com.

The first of our two biggest issues is the on-going contract mediation. We’re still trying to schedule our next mediation day. Between our team, the Employer’s team, the various lawyers and the arbitrator, it’s tricky. However, we hope to have news there soon.

The other issue has many facets, which I’ll detail below, but the over-arching principle is this: many administrators seem to believe that the MoA is no longer in effect. So, to be clear: even though we are in mediation, all the articles of the MoA remain active and all violations thereof remain grievable. Or, as I like to say, if something seems wrong, it probably is, and you should contact us.

One key example of this is the process around the awarding of sabbatical. We have reason to believe that this year’s process did not comply with the MoA. So, if you applied for sabbatical and were denied, you may have grounds for a grievance. Now, the outcome of such a grievance likely would be that your application would be reconsidered through the proper process—not that you automatically would get a sabbatical. But we worry that the Employer may be using the contractually-specified annual allotment of sabbaticals inappropriately, and we’d like to hear from anyone who was denied sabbatical this year and is interested in us looking at whether they can grieve.

Another key example is the narrative that the academic plan overrides everything. But it doesn’t. So: when the academic plan is presented to you as grounds for an imperative that you change what you teach and/or how you teach it, that you change your creative practice or scholarship, that your program change its direction (at the level of program, faculty or senate), remember that the academic plan is policy and, as such, yields to our MoA. I suspect that many of us will agree with some parts of the academic plan and disagree with others, and will want to act accordingly. My point is that this is appropriate. And if you’re told differently, contact us immediately. (Our academic freedom language, in Appendix A of the MoA, says some interesting, even inspiring, things about our right and duty to criticize.)

Those are OCADFA’s major concerns, but we have others: efforts to circumvent the tenure process, to reduce the credit value of courses with low enrolment, to interfere with your right to assign grades (at both the undergraduate and graduate level) as you see fit, and to present the Faculty of Design’s post-up exercises as mandatory. All of these things violate the MoA. If they affect you, please contact us right away.

That’s it for now and, as always, thanks for everything you do, every day.