Oct. 6, 2020

Dear OCADFA Members,

Third-party External Review

I am writing with an urgent request that you attend the Faculty and Staff Townhall this Thursday. It will provide an update on the third-party external review and the 2020-21 operating budget.

Thursday Oct. 8, 3:30PM – 4:45 PM

Join Zoom Meeting


OCAD U hired David Trick and Associates to conduct a third-party review of OCAD U’s fiscal situation.  David Trick has completed the first stage of his review and will be entering into the next stage which is ‘community consultation’.  David Trick was an assistant deputy minister for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in the Mike Harris government. Trick has authored books and reports arguing for higher teaching loads for faculty, the creation of ‘teaching-only’ universities where faculty only teach and do no service or research.  Over the past decade he has hit one note repeatedly: “our university system can only be sustained if we create a new model, with new universities that offer just undergraduate degrees and employ faculty who spend the majority of their time teaching, performing little or no original research”.

That said I know Trick to be a  supporter of the arts and to have authored reports against satellite college campuses that drew criticism from Doug Ford that painted Trick as a “a political friend” of McGuinty’s Liberal government. In short, Trick is a civil servant who has a long, extensive history in public policy and higher education. OCAD U has hired him to deliver recommendations. We are the faculty on the frontlines who know our community best. And we need to present the necessary lens for this project: one that fights for academic integrity, champions the student learning experience, honours the values of our Academic Plan and more broadly, the mission statement of public education in society – to support scholarship, research and practice that strengthens democracy and holds truth to power. 

This week I attended the meeting of OCAD U’s Board of Governors where Trick and Associates presented their findings and proposed initiatives:


Expenses per students are growing.  

Expected reduction in government grants 


  • OCAD U’s ‘distinct mission’ leads to ‘weak economies of scale’. Translation: studio-based learning is expensive because we require small classes. 
  • the transition to university status carried costs still being paid
  • domestic student enrolment is down but offset partly by international student enrolment
  • our deficit began in the mid 2010’s
  • our real estate cost is small because we have small footprint
  • our faculty are the lowest paid in Ontario 
  • the transition to university status was expensive because of lots of reasons, but he highlighted that university faculty teach low course loads so are more expensive
  • international enrolment has provided the only reliable source of revenue generation  
  • our admin costs have risen over the years

Findings: “The solutions will almost certainly require radical transformation”

Potential Initiatives:

High Impact

  • Develop medium-term recruitment and enrolment plan to optimize tuition revenue and enrolment gased government grants.
  • Build on FLOW process to assess potential changes in program delivery including increasing average class size in undergraduate and graduate programs
  • Develop medium-term recruitment and enrolment plan for international students
  • Assess volatility risk and how to manage

Med/High Impact

  • Assess academic administration costs related to transition to university status
  • Review other service/activities that could be eliminated or delivered more efficiently
  • Assess potential of partnerships to achieve economies of scale on non-teaching costs

Med Impact

  • Assess needs for physical space post-COVID and potential impact on real estate costs

Low/Med Impact

  • Consider improvements on budget process to create flexibility to respond to revenue downturns, encourage multi-year planning and contingency planning

In discussion, the areas of consideration that drew the most interest from our Board of Governors

  • Cost sharing Partnerships, he didn’t rule out private partnerships, to share costs and  outsource, but did acknowledge the need for ‘cultural fit’. He cited a project he worked on that merged Guelph Uni/Humber College and increased student enrolment
  • Take advantage of technology in curriculum delivery 
  • Increase section sizes 

David Trick will be presenting his findings at the President’s Town Hall on Thursday afternoon. I am asking you to take time out of your schedule to attend. Please be a faculty voice to speak out against increasing class sizes, contracting out public education and demand more financial accountability from Administration. Instead of gutting OCAD and privatizing it out, why not:

  • cut down Admin expenses
  • focus on revenue generation like lobbying for changing the funding formula
  • respect the student learning experience and recognize retention will only take place if we ensure students get what they came to OCAD for: hands on, studio-based education in small cohorts
  • remind Trick & Associates that Universities are not businesses and Public Education is supported on universal principles not by profit
  • faculty salaries and research are NOT the reason universities are in debt or facing fiscal crises. It is bloated Administration, misspent dollars that privilege glitzy branding exercises rather than securing resources to support student learning and the abandonment of public education by successive governments. 

The recommendations I heard yesterday reverberate with the concerns laid out by CAUT on the new realities of Remote Delivery.  A big question for us to have difficult conversations about:  As a university can we afford to deliver all the programs we currently do. Is it possible to scale down our size of operation and protect what we do best? Studio-based creative praxis.

Please know this about university funding:

Since 2008, per-student funding in the province has been trailing the rest of Canada and in steady decline, leaving Ontario in last place nationally. Years of chronic underfunding of postsecondary education are impacting the quality and sustainability of Ontario’s world-class universities. As a result, our province now ranks last in Canada when it comes to the student-to-faculty ratio and we are ninth in the affordability of tuition, while having the country’s highest percentage of provincial funding tied to unstable and punitive performance metrics”.   

We need to speak loudly against recommendations that threaten to take our university down a privatization pipeline that will gut everything we have fought for and built at OCAD U.   Plans that threaten to turn this university into an outsourced diploma mill brought to you by Private Inc. & Associates.  

Initial Results from OCADFA Survey on Increased Class Caps

As you know we are currently building a grievance/bargaining strategy to respond to Administration’s consistent move to increasing class sizes. They did it in the Spring/Summer term and argued it was because students needed to graduate.  They did it in the Fall term and argued it was a combination of FLOW and unexpected enrolment numbers.  They’ll do it again in the Winter term.  We need to push back. The costs are: degrading academic integrity, increased workload and impoverishing student learning experience.

We sent out a survey to find out how the increase in class sizes have been experienced by OCADFA members teaching this fall.   If you haven’t filled it out yet, please take the 8 minutes it takes to complete this short survey.

The survey is intended to gather information about how these increases were communicated to the affected faculty, and how they are affecting the faculty and student experience. While you must authenticate to complete the survey, it is anonymous, and names are not being collected. We WANT TO USE YOUR COMMENTS and will ensure to anonymize details to protect members’ privacy and identities. 

The information we gather will be used to build a campaign against the expanded class sizes, and anonymized comments and aggregated data may be used in support of either the grievance or negotiations process. The survey is available until Wednesday, Oct 7th.

So far, only 83 members have responded and the results are disturbing. This is a picture of what who has so far responded:

There were three areas of concern for us: Academic Integrity, Student Experience and Workload.

 Academic Integrity: 

  • My ability to support students has radically diminished as well as coach them through their term projects which is both frustrating for me and them. It has radically impacted by experience and I would say that of students as well.
  • It creates a huge burden for grading and commenting on discussions. Students are more likely to fall through the gaps and not receive the help they need.
  • I teach studio courses as a sessional that are usually capped at 21. I now have 32 and 27 in my two courses this term, that’s 11 and 6 more students that require correspondence, feedback, and evaluation on a now weekly online basis, in addition to project assignments. My contact time is significantly reduced on all levels
  • A 50% increase in a 4th year seminar completely undermined the purpose and function of the seminar format.
  • The students are not getting the attention they deserve. The extra work on me is stressful. It’s barely October and I’m already burnt out.
  • Yes – being a sessional studio instructor, when feedback, critique, and discussions are imperative to how the class is run, and also to the development of the students – there simply isn’t enough time or mental capacity on the part of the instructor or the students, to be able to have proper engagement. Especially when all is already online – students who normally would benefit from being in a class environment are being left behind – and the increased number makes it impossible for the instructor to be able to keep proper tabs.
  • I need to deliver the course material in a seminar format in which conversation, discussion, exchange, etc. among students should be key dynamics. And the course is designed that way. BUT delivering it is another story with 65 students and on the online platform. By the way, this course used to be capped at 25.
  • Yes. It is an almost 40% increase, making the classes now too large to conduct any conventional group critique more than once a term.
  • The academic integrity of my courses with these larger sizes is lost, unless I devote at least 3-10 times the amount of time I normally would. 

Student Learning Experience: Does the cap expansion impact the student learning experience? If so, in what ways?

  • Not only is my individual contact time reduced, the amount of time that I can provide to each student for feedback is also reduced, especially as sessional paid on a contract basis with no additional compensation for the additional time not only for online delivery in general, but for the increased number of students.
  • Students are getting a watered down experience and will not thrive the way they would have in classes of 20-22. There is just not the time for the prof to be attentive to individual needs of the students.
  • The students do not get to know the full class, and we are not able to develop a tight-knit social dynamic that can help us connect and share more about the work. Students miss out on learning opportunities when they don’t see the work of their classmates or aren’t present in feedback sessions.
  • It is much harder to offer students access to me directly; they lose the chance to have deeper and more engaging conversations. Even if they are split into small discussion groups so that they can engage with each other, the sheer number of discussion groups prevents the instructor from entering into deep ongoing conversations. Therefore courses are very hands-off.
  • They are getting an inferior education.
  • When I have 3 hours of class time for 70+ students vs 25-30 students in years past, the math already explains the problem. The teacher-to-student ratio means that students who are struggling with a learning accommodation, a mental wellness difficulty or a language barrier suffer disproportionately from lack of available time from the instructor. My class sizes were more than doubled this year even though I have roughly the same number of students overall. Obviously cutting my salary in half (while doing far more work in delivering the course online) serves no benefit to the students but saves OCADU money. Overloading classes to cut faculty pay cannot possibly be framed as beneficial in any way to the student learning experience.
  • I have students that simply never engage in the online environment (discussions, Teams meetings, etc). I have contacted them and they confirm that they are accessing the information, yet I have what they are learning (I do consult analytics but this policing is no way to teach).
  • Grading time has increased making giving proper feedback something that goes way over the allotted time. It’s a money grabbing scheme that is at the cost of the teachers, but especially students – many of whom already pay exorbitant amounts to attend. Given the circumstances – if you want quality – classes should stay as they were or lower – not increase. But clearly a quality learning experience is not the priority.
  • Absolutely. For one thing, it is harder for quiet students to participate in discussions. To a certain degree, it defeats the purpose of taking a seminar class if you don’t get to take part in a discussion. Another important thing (this is one of the key elements in art education in my opinion) is that there won’t be a group critique of their final work. It simply won’t be possible to hold a group crit with over 60 students. This isn’t just a remote delivery issue. Even in a face-to-face class, it won’t be possible. I have my class divided into 10 small groups. So they will have to present within their own groups. I don’t know how I can be present and share my inputs for 10 groups at the same time..
  • We are no longer teaching students but processing them!


  • Teaching online is harder and takes more time than in-person, add a 5% class size increase and I now find myself working nearly twice as long overall. There should have been a decrease for the online classes this semester, not an increase.
  • If I stick to a 40 hr/wk as approximated in the MOA, I would have only 7 minutes/wk for each student. And I will have to apply this, despite students’ needs because of the toll it is taking on my mental and physical wellbeing.
  • I’m teaching two section of the same course with 30 and 31 in each. This 61 students was approximately the size of three classes in the past
  • While my class sizes haven’t increased, workload has exploded! I don’t see any recognition about how preparing engaging online materials is the equivalent of preparing five NEW courses. This includes developing new pedagogical concepts, prepping learning materials in a very different fashion, and a steep learning curve through the new Canvas, video recording software, editing videos, creating capture etc. Workloads this year are insane.
  • I can’t keep up with course prep for one course, where I am creating content/demos/slides and mark 50 weekly 1st year assignments.  For every 30-60 minutes of an in class, in person demonstration, it takes me 8 to 10 hours to prepare, film, edit, close caption, render – I don’t have words to describe what this feels like. And that we are not being compensated for this labour or equipment! 
  • Note that class size increase does not only mean class size increase in a pandemic semester. We are already charged with handling class content change, conversion, additional assignments built into courses to compensate for canceled exams, increased accessibility requests, and endless emails from students, who are trying to figure out how online courses work and are requesting extensions or accommodations due to computer and internet problems.
  • it would seem that the financial problems of the university are being addressed through increased workload for faculty. This is unacceptable.
  • Online has added so much more labour with less support.
  • I would say this impacts my mental health. I am really stressed. 
  • While the numbers have increased 5 to 10 percent, I am spending double the amount of time. 3 hour classes become 6 hour classes. On-line classes are split classes, because of time zone differences. If I include prep time, teaching time, office hours, time zone changes and one-on-one teaching, my 3 hour class becomes an 7.5 to 9.5 hour class regularly. On-line sole teaching time is doubled in every class.
  • I feel that OCADU has put the needs of the budget and the school ahead of the students, and most definitely ahead of health and well-fare of the sessional instructors. There has been no statements made indicating any kind of acknowledgement of the impact of these decisions on sessional instructors. No offer of increased compensation for additional work allotted.
  • The impact is considerable and it is negative. The amount of work converting a studio class to an online experience is MASSIVE, and adding 6 students to last year’s cap of 24 is a 25% increase in size. I simply do not have time to grade all of these students. The amount that I am being paid to teach the course has not increased. The hours of expected work that must be done to teach these courses has not expanded in the eyes of OCADU. However, the usual 6-8 hour per week time commitment has expanded to 12 to 14 hours per week. 

 We are still accepting responses until Wednesday Oct. 7th.  If you haven’t filled it out yet, please take the 8 minutes it takes to complete this short survey.

Compensation for Sessionals 

OCADFA negotiated a Sessional Training MOU with Administration to compensate contract faculty $650 upon completion of an online teaching course offered by FCDC.  The fourth iteration of the Teaching Art and Design Online course, will be offered in November, for all faculty who are interested. The course will be promoted to sessional faculty who are teaching in the Winter term only.  All who complete the course will receive the stipend. Please contact your faculty office to get details on the course in November. 


Our Annual General Meeting will take place on Thursday November 5th from 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM. You will be getting a TEAMS invite soon.  We will introduce you to our new Executive Director and hold elections for vacancies on our Board of Directors as well as sharing annual reports from our executive members. More information on our AGM will be shared in the next few days. 

Gradual Re-opening at OCAD U

Administration has announced the continuation of the ‘Working from home’ policy to be extended to January 1, 2021.   OCAD U will continue to deliver most of its curriculum remotely for the Winter 2021 term.  Today Administration announced:  we will deliver a small number of undergraduate “hybrid” courses. A hybrid course includes some online content and some in-person learning on the OCAD U campus. This is the first OCADFA has heard of this.  We will be clarifying the status of these courses with Admin immediately. 

OCAD U’s Health & Safety Environmental Supervisor is on a short-term leave. The University has chosen not to fill this vacant position.  We are grappling with critical questions related to workplace health and safety in the midst of a global pandemic.  OCADFA maintains and has vigorously argued that OCAD U needs a Health & Safety Environmental Supervisor to direct any re-opening discussions of campus facilities.  Additionally, Administration has raised the possibility of a voluntary Gradual Return to the Workplace Pilot Program.  This would apply only to employees who have workstations in 230 Richmond St. OCADFA rejects this proposal. Employees should not be asked to individually ascertain if they feel safe to return to work. The worksite needs to be declared safe for everyone. Full stop. 

OCAD U’s gradual re-opening plans can be found here. The plans are presented as a ‘living document’ and approved by the Management of COVID-19 Group (MOCG) led Alan Simms, VP, Administration and Finance.  OCADFA has been an active voice on the development of the Gradual Reopening Plans and have advocated for the inclusion of the Joint Health and Safety Committee at the table.  Our OCADFA rep is Nicole Collins and the co-chairs are Sarah Mulholland and OCADFA member Gerald Grison, INTM Technician.   

OCUFA is now tracking reports of COVID-19 cases on Ontario campuses CAUT is tracking institutional plans for delivery of courses during the pandemic.  CAUT has also developed a checklist for measuring institutional re-opening plans based on recommendations from member associations and public health-informed guidance.  

Teaching Resources

OCUFA’s Status of Women and Equity Committee presented an excellent workshop Combatting anti-Black racism in the academy: A primer for faculty”

Faculty member Tannis Nielsen generously shares this teach-in ‘Decolonizing Site’ with OCADFA members which speaks to key concepts, references the reading ‘Processes of Decolonization’ by Poka Laenui and artists such as Kent Monkman amongst others.  

 Thanks for reading and hope to see you all on Thursday’s townhall. If you have any questions regarding this email, please don’t hesitate to write to me.

In solidarity,

Min Sook Lee