April 16, 2020

Dear OCADFA Members,

Many members have asked about the Letter of Understanding (LoU) between OCAD and OCADFA that was signed on April 3. We have made it available on our website. The LoU is an expression of goodwill. It is important that OCADFA work in collaboration with the administration during this difficult time. However, the LoU is not comprehensive and OCADFA would like to hear from you if you are encountering specific issues as a result of OCAD U’s response to COVID-19. 

One immediate concern is class sizes for Spring/Summer terms. I have been told that the Academic Pandemic Response Group has increased class sizes. This measure is being presented as a practical solution to potential revenue loss due to COVID-19. However, the reality of designing and delivering online courses on the ground paints a very different picture. As the term comes to a close, we are aware that the transition to online teaching has been difficult for faculty, students, technicians, and staff. In addition to rapid course adjustments, student’s access to necessary technology has not been smooth and faculty have reported that concluding Winter term courses in “emergency mode” has meant proceeding without protocols for online engagement, which includes a re-design of teaching methods and evaluation strategies. 

With the Spring/Summer term commencing on May 11th, faculty and students find themselves in a similar situation. Sessional faculty who are asked to teach large classes are especially vulnerable because they may not have the luxury to refuse these classes. In many cases, this increase in workload includes designing specifically for online teaching and training in digital pedagogy. Furthermore, we are concerned that equipment necessary for online teaching (including software, reliable internet access etc.) may leave some faculty scrambling to purchase equipment and software. 

OCADFA believes that increasing class sizes for remote teaching does not support the pedagogical goals to which the University aspires. These concerns have been communicated to the VPA’s office. All decisions on pedagogy, including class size, must include proper consultation with all stakeholders. This is clear in the MoA (7.3.1). Matters of class size must follow due process such as thorough discussion in the Senate with concrete pedagogical and digital supports.

Lastly, our President Min Sook Lee is offline, in bereavement as her sister has passed away. She will be online briefly next week to respond to emerging issues.

As always, please email me with your concerns at slawoti@faculty.ocadu.ca


Surendra Lawoti