Dear OCADFA members,

Please see a public letter below, addressed to Senators calling for our collegial governance structures to be strengthened, not weakened during the pandemic.  A new senate committee, the Academic Emergency Response Committee (AERC), has been convened and has made broad and far reaching decisions on issues that all of Senate should be debating and considering with the full tools of Senate that allow for transparency & accountability. 

OCADFA is requesting senate meet through the summer session, instead of allowing a committee of senate, with a minority faculty vote, to have the power to make unilateral decisions on curriculum and academic matters.

OCADFA  will bring this issue up at the next Senate meeting scheduled for Tuesday May 19th.  If you would like to add your name as a signatory to this letter please contact me directly. 

Please note, we raise concerns on the expanded class caps for Spring/Summer term in this public letter as an academic matter within Senate chambers. Separate to those concerns, OCADFA has challenged the increased workload issues that have arisen from the larger class sizes, which are taught primarily by sessionals, and has filed a group grievance to pursue a remedy to this situation.  

In solidarity,

Min Sook Lee



“There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.” – Lenin J

Friday, May 15, 2020

OCAD University Senators

Sent via email

Dear Senators,

A crisis compresses time. Urgent decisions need to be made, hastily assembled emergency bodies struck, and sometimes the rapidity of action is the metric of value. In these moments, a state of exception can prevail, and arguably the most efficient decision-making process is the most effective. But a crisis response needs to be followed by crisis management. The initial period of make-due COVID-19 classes is over. Two months in, it’s become apparent that COVID-19 is here for a while.

Most Canadian universities are planning for online delivery in the fall, OCAD U is no different.

As we grapple with the unprecedented challenges facing our sector, we need more democracy, not less. Amidst the pivot to online delivery, OCADU faculty must vigorously exercise our academic freedom to protect studio-based art & design learning, the cornerstone of our University. Unique to our institutional culture is the principle of collegial governance that enables the active engagement of faculty in academic governance structures such as departmental committees and the Senate. Now more than ever, the Senate, with its majority faculty vote, needs to exercise its power in directing academic matters through a transparent, accountable process inviting debate, critique, and diverse perspectives. Most important, the front-line workers, the faculty who understand the students and the educational goals best, must be allowed to adapt to the new circumstances in a way that best answers the needs of OCAD students.

OCADFA is concerned that the Academic Emergency Response Committee (AERC), the committee established by the AERP motion of Senate, is overreaching its approved powers. Particularly Article 3:

3. THAT the modes of delivery, assessment, and learning outcomes of courses be altered, if necessary, and as appropriately determined by faculty in consultation with academic support units and academic leadership, to a mode other than that stated in the course outline, syllabus, or catalogue. These modes of delivery include hybrid learning methods. (April 7)

When the Senate voted to establish the AERC, faculty members of the Senate were not expecting a one-sided approach to teaching. OCADFA is concerned about the unilateral decision-making power claimed by the AERC, which is dominated by Administration. Active, transparent channels for meaningful faculty involvement with the AERC are currently nonexistent. It is unclear to whom the AERC is accountable. The term limits for the committee are equally unclear. 

The AERC determined spring/summer classes should be delivered predominantly asynchronously. Spring/summer courses were posted without specific days/times assigned for each course.  Requiring asynchronous teaching, how evaluations are to be done, and what can be evaluated, and specifying how deadlines will be handled is not in the purview of the AERC. Asynchronous delivery requires even more intense preparation and creates time management issues that are particularly difficult for people juggling childcare or employment precarity.

Faculty are motivated to provide the best education possible in the unavoidable context of online learning, and are fully capable of deciding the best way to conduct their classes, and how to best accommodate students who may have access and equity challenges due to resources, abilities or time differences.

Providing resources to faculty, of which they may or may not choose to avail themselves, is in the spirit of academic freedom. Interfering with their teaching is not.  We are pleased to learn that course schedules have been restored, but their unilateral removal in the first place highlights why faculty voices need to lead decisions on academic matters.

The AERC mandated larger classes for the spring/summer term, and some faculty have been advised to expect larger class caps for the fall term. Class sizes have been historically determined at a faculty or departmental level, recognizing that class size is inextricably involved in modes of delivery and assessment.

OCADFA acknowledges the extraordinary commitment and work of the members of the AERC. However, we maintain this committee cannot operate in a silo. As OCUFA recognizes, our “foundational decision-making structures [are] not just an exercise in democratic accountability, but the most effective way for universities to address the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The choices we make today will irrevocably shape the future of OCAD U. These decisions require collegial governance. OCADFA recommends the following course of actions:

  1. Senate articulate term limits and clarify scope and accountability measures for the AERC;
    1. Fulsome discussion and a vote by the Senate be required to modify class sizes/capacities during the pandemic; and
    1. That the Senate convene as a full complement through the summer months to best prepare us for the fall term and to actively participate as teachers, thinkers, scholars, artists, and designers. 

We need a robust, critical, and intellectually dynamic dialogue on the issues we face. The Senate must be central to decision-making about all academic matters, which is, in essence, all matters essential to OCAD U.


OCADFA Board of Directors:

Min Sook Lee, President

Surendra Lawoti, Vice-President

Eric Steenbergen, Negotiations Chair

Richard Hunt, Interim Grievance Chair

Christopher Bennell, Secretary/Treasurer

Bogdan Luca, Director

JJ Lee, Director

Maria-Belén Ordóñez, Director

Laura Lovell-Anderson, Director

Faculty signatories:

b.h. Yael, Faculty of Art, former Chair of Senate

Charles Reeve, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Senator

Angelika Seeschaaf-Veres, Faculty of Design, Senator

Dot Tuer, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Graduate Studies, Incoming Senator

Kathleen Morris, Faculty of Design, Senator

Natalie Waldburger, Faculty of Art, Senator

Stephanie Power, Faculty of Design, Senator

Amy Swartz, Faculty of Art, Incoming Senator

Selmin Kara, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences

David McIntosh, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Ananda Chakrabarty, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Avi Dunkelman, Faculty of Design

Andrea Fatona, Faculty of Art, Graduate Studies

Maya Desai, Faculty of Design

Bruce Hinds, Faculty of Design, Senator

Isabel Meirelles, Faculty of Design

Lewis Nicholson, Faculty of Design

Ken Vickerson, Faculty of Design 

Bill Leeming, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Lynne Milgram, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Stuart Werle, Faculty of Design

Jessica Wyman, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Graduate Studies

Peter Sramek, Faculty of Art

David Clarkson, Faculty of Art

Diane Pugen, Faculty of Art

Pam Patterson, Faculty of Art

Sugandha Gaur, Faculty of Design

Kate Sellen, Faculty of Design, Senator

Nick Goso, Faculty of Design

Roderick Grant, Faculty of Design

Kevin Bae, Faculty of Design

Alexander Manu, Faculty of Design, Senator

Robert Mitchell, Faculty of Design

Frederick Burbach, Faculty of Design

Meera Margaret Singh, Faculty of Art

Amish Morrell, Faculty of Art

Catherine Black, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Senator

Dr. Spencer Harrison,  Faculty of Art

Michelle Astrug, Faculty of Design

Nicole Collins, Faculty of Art

Glenn McArthur, Faculty of Design

Lillian Allen, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Johanna Householder, Faculty of Art

David Griffin, Faculty of Art