Dear OCADFA members, an update, an invitation and a call to action:

OCUFA supports 1492 Land Back Lane

This weekend I attended the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Annual General Meeting.  One of the motions I spoke to that successfully passed was support for the Haudenosaunee land defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane.  The Board of Directors unanimously voted to donate five thousand dollars to their legal defense fund.  COVID-19 has amplified the economic disparities in our society, widening the gap between the haves and have-notes. At the height of the crisis, from April to July, billionaires ‘increased their wealth by more than a quarter (27.5), just as millions of people around the world lost their jobs or were struggling to get by on government schemes’.  ‘Canada’s 20 richest people saw their fortunes grow by $37 billion during the pandemic’.   If we learn ONE lesson from this pandemic, let it be this: the current economic and political system is not designed to benefit most of us. It’s been engineered to amass wealth for 1% of the elite.  The Haudenosaunee land defenders are fighting for a better world, one that rejects the commodification of life, colonialism and the systems that support it.  I am proud to be proud to be part of a university faculty association confederation that will stake our lot with Indigenous land defenders against the ongoing dispossession of sovereign territory and the weaponization of colonial judicial systems to bypass treaties. 

OCADFA’s New Executive Director

OCADFA is pleased to announce the appointment of Graeme Reniers as our new Executive Director.  Graeme is a labour relations expert with a passionate commitment to defending high quality post-secondary education & scholarship, and experience advancing the interests of education and cultural workers.  

As an Executive Officer of CUPE 3903 at York University, Graeme, in collaboration with other Executive Officers and staff,  designed, organized, and implemented a broad membership engagement strategy that included  new member orientation sessions, the development of bargaining mobilization campaigns and strategic messaging for social media and public space advertising; and spearheaded the most successful strike vote campaign in the Union’s history.   Drawing from his experience working as a National Representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and most recently as a Labour Relations Officer with the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan (HSAS), Graeme will be supporting OCADFA’s Executive Board on the application of contract language, labour law, and human rights legislation; in grievance investigations and advocacy.  

Throughout his career as a labour activist and as a labour relations professional, Graeme has demonstrated a fierce commitment to providing effective representation, negotiation, and advocacy for post-secondary faculty and public sector workers.  Graeme will be working with OCADFA’s executive leadership to empowers its membership to achieve collective goals at OCAD University and in the academic sector.  Graeme begins his work with OCADFA Nov 5th, 2020.  

OCADFA Annual General Meeting

Please join us for our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Nov 5, 2020 from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM. You will have a meeting invitation in your TEAMS calendar from Vice President Surendra Lawoti.  The meeting agenda and our Annual Reports were shared with you last week. 

In addition to the annual reports, we will have an update from Gerald Grison and Nicole Collines, our OCADFA reps on the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) and an update from the Sessional Committee that has been organizing in the past few months with board director Bogdan Luca.  Mary Eileen Winnekers, a member of our Negotiations Committee, will share the results of the membership survey that we conducted earlier in the year. You will also have an opportunity to meet our new OCADFA Executive Director, Graeme Reniers.

There will be elections for 4 Board of Directors positions and 1 position that is not part of the Board. The Nominations Committee consisting of Charles Reeve and Elaine Chan-Dow will be running the election process. 

OCADFA Board positions up for elections

Grievance Chair (term ends 2021)

Negotiations Chair (term ends 2023)

Director at large (terms ends 2023)

Director at large (terms ends 2023)

Non-Board position

Interim Grievance Chair (term ends 2023)

Workload Grievance on Class Cap Expansion

Recently we met with VPAP Caroline Langill and Nicky Davis, interim Academic Relations Director, to discuss increased class sizes. A combination of FLOW and unexpected student demand resulted in larger section sizes for faculty this fall term.   

We sent out a survey to find out how the increase in class sizes have been experienced by OCADFA members teaching this fall.   99 members filled out the survey.  The overwhelming majority reported frustration with larger classes, increased workload and concerns over academic integrity and student experience. In short you reported:

  • Increased workload, on average 40%
  • Downgraded student experience
  • Compromised academic integrity
  • No consultation about class cap expansions  
  • No offer of extra TA support
  • Additional expenses incurred

Here’s a snapshot of your answers:

We asked you to describe the increased workload and impact on student experience. Here are some of your answers:

  • Not enough time for student feedback. Currently teaching 30-120 minutes extra per class per week. This is unsustainable and student experience will be impacted.
  • My studio course has increased from 18 to 29 with no communication. As I attempt to be a responsible teacher – there appears to have been very little consideration of how difficult it is to teach art online. To increase student caps and remove TA allocation’s is simply to add insult to injury. It is a direct contravention of how, I believed, the MOA works. The teaching conditions are outrageous. My colleagues at other institutions have professionals making online teaching content with them. At OCADU, we’re over-scheduled with convoluted workshops and fundamentally left to our own devices. Is this a university education?
  • It seems like there is are a lot of presumptions of what faculty can or should handle in under our current circumstances. The increased grading should have been considered alongside the inflated prep times, student contact time, captioning and videoing, etc. It’s just so much more work all around.
  • The last minute increase of class sizes was stressful for me because it’s already challenging teaching online the added students made it even more challenging. There are too many students to provide individual feedback. I’m experiencing the physical repercussions of long hours working online
  • For some 2nd year large format classes the tutorials were eliminated a few years ago. This is very detrimental to student learning. Students in large format classes need to have time allotted for smaller tutorial group discussions re: course material to enable more informed learning and develop a sense of community.
  • 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.
  • the matter of course caps is crucial at many levels, it would seem that the financial problems of the university are being addressed through increased workload for faculty. This is unacceptable.
  • Next year when it increases further, it’s going to be impossible to teach them. Students are barely getting 5 minutes each per week, next week it will be about 3 minutes. How can you provide education in mere minutes to a student? You can’t.
  • the amount of work that has gone into prepping, delivering class, communicating the students, and marking has become almost overwhelming.
  • I am currently teaching a studio class with 30 students. The last time I taught it, I had 17 students. I have decided to not have critiques because of this. It has also reduced the amount of feedback I can give students.
  • 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. Remote teaching is contributing to the problem in a hugely significant way. 
  • It is an almost 40% increase, making the classes now too large to conduct any conventional group critique more than once a term. It also will hinder my ability to work one-on-one with students during class once we resume in-person teaching.
  • Feels neither studio nor lecture format now, due to delivery adjustments to accommodate the larger # of students (~60% increase!) –
  • From 17 students to 63. Changing the course from four instructors to one and given a limited amount of TA hours to support
  • We are all spread so thin, and to have a studio class cap go from 18 to 25 is a huge increase. It means more time grading and consulting with students when so much time is already going into course prep, filming videos, and remote teaching.
  • I cannot meet with students (nor remember students as individuals) to advise them educationally as required. I cannot see their artwork, the materiality of it, for a proper evaluation. Finally, I spend more time resolving how students engage with Canvas and solving my own technological content, then I do teaching.
  • 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
  • going from 18 students to 73 students online. 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Students want to meet one on one – that’s impossible with the huge number of students. It is difficult to engage in a full class discussion, with student questions and comments, when numbers are high and students are fragmented into learning groups due to large enrolment numbers. 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.
  • 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.
  • There are 2 problems: Flow and Remote Teaching. Flow targeted class sizes even in a regular physical environment are unrealistic. It is not an exaggeration to say that the preparation and delivery of a course of these new caps remotely has consumed 10 times what I would spend.
  • 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. 
  • 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 – I don’t have words to describe what this feels like.
  • Cap increases have been arbitrarily decided by the Provost’s office without any attention paid to delivery models and with TA support only offered at ~60% class size increase. The Flow targets of an average of 30 students/class by 2023 represent an existential threat to the success of studio teaching and the successful outcomes provided by smaller class size
  • 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.
  • I do not want to hear about the importance of “self care” from senior administrators. If the expression of care was earnest, a class size would not increase by more than 30% at this time. Many faculty are working flat out to ensure our online courses are effectively delivered, and investing considerable time doing so. I fear we will all be burned out by December.
  • The massive increase in workload due to FLOW and the Covid related remote teaching hasn’t been addressed properly. Not just in direct teaching but in the hundreds of meetings and hours of course redesign. I’m seeing professional practice disappear and be replaced by service and higher prep load and student communication demands with students. Some faculty have virtually no professional practice or legitimate research going on because of the pressure. What’s the point of teaching if you’re not current in what your teaching? We need to remind the admin that practice and research are fundamental to the quality of our teaching.
  • The state of my health is suffering substantially. There appears to be little concern for Faculty’s welfare despite it being one of the pillars of the Academic Plan. The new President’s assertion that we must all get behind it strikes me as a sign of indifference to both faculty and students. Students are being deprived of a proper education. It is simply impossible to provide a quality education with these caps in studio courses. Eventually, the word will get out to prospective applicants how OCAD is no longer competitive with programs at Sheridan and elsewhere.
  • I am very worried about this situation and it is very unfair that I’m basically teaching two sections of a course but getting paid for one.
  • I’m concerned that the financial issues of the institutions is being projected on professors and we are pinching funds from the quality teaching and research rather than looking elsewhere in the institution to save money

We are adamant that class sizes cannot continue to be increased.  We know the impact: degraded academic integrity, increased workload and impoverished student learning experience. We are seeking remedies for faculty who’ve taught increased course loads this fall and some who did so in the spring/summer terms.  Our membership is mixed: we have TAs, sessionals, limited term faculty and permanent faculty teaching in studio, seminar and lecture courses.  We recognize a one size fits all remedy won’t address the diverse needs of our members.  The increased workload has different implications on different members.  

We are advocating for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to be signed with Administration which will be a wholistic response, one that reflects the diverse needs of our membership to include a variety of remedies:

  • increased TA hours
  • RA support for those who can use it
  • reduction in service expectations
  • temporary abeyance of performance review
  • stopping the tenure clock
  • $650 for sessionals teaching this fall, who enrol in the online teaching workshops offered by FCDC. This amount is offered only once, so if you have already received it then you cannot receive the payment twice.

Once this MOU is confirmed we will share details with you.  This MOU is only for the fall term. We will be pressuring Administration to maintain existing caps. Increasing class sizes is not an option OCADFA will put up with. 

Tax Credit for Home Office Expenses

It is likely you will be able to receive a tax refund when you file your taxes in 2021 for expenses you’ve incurred from working from home.  You will need to get a T2200 form signed by Administration in order to claim the expenses.  We have raised this with Admin and they will be making an announcement in early 2021 on how members can secure the form.  For now, please keep all receipts and stay tuned. 

Political Advocacy

There are two issues that have emerged from Queen’s Park that you should be aware of.  OCADFA’s Executive has taken positions on these issues and have written to the provincial government with our concerns. 

Bill 168:  MPP Roman Baber, Chair of the Committee on Justice Policy has introduced a bill, that if passed, will re-define Ontario’s definition of anti-semitism to include criticism of the Israeli state. Bill 168 adopts a definition of antisemitism adopted used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).  The original draftee of the definition of antisemitism used by the IHRA, Kenneth S. Stern has rejected the definition the bill employs and has warned against legislation like Bill 168 as it would “restrict academic freedom and punish political speech”. Click here to download OCADFA’s letter.

Amongst our members are scholars, artists and educators who engage in research and cultural production that addresses the complex dynamics of the conflict and occupation in Palestine and Israel.  If this bill were to pass, our members can be unjustly penalized, possibly criminalized.  The bill itself will act as a deterrent to research in this issue, censor and possibly criminalize necessary intellectual and creative work, lead to legal harassment and intimidate academics and artists from addressing an issue that must be openly discussed and urgently engaged with. The political climate has highlighted the need to be vocal on this issue, two Ontario universities have been the site of false and destructive charges of antisemitism against respected international human rights scholars. 

If you would like to If you would like to join over 400 academics in Canada who have signed the Independent Jewish Voices’ open letter opposing the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism, please sign.

Omnibus Bill 213 (schedule 2):  The provincial government has slipped into an omnibus bill, a proposal to grant university status to the Canadian Christian College.  No university in Ontario should have hate as its mandate.  Canada Christian College is run by Charles McVety, a publicly reviled and controversial televangelical who has trafficked hateful messages chock full of homophobia, transphobia, racism and Islamophobia on every platform he has access to.  McVety is so disturbing that even the ultra-conservative Christian Television Station (CTS) removed his program from their channel for being ‘malevolent, insidious & conspiratorial’. Discrimination should never be the backbone of educational curriculum.  McVety has been public in broadcasting an ideological agenda that sows fear, incites hate and spews ignorance. Click here to download the letter.

OCADFA is not only concerned with the proposal that McVety’s College may secure University status in Ontario, but we also deeply offended at the undemocratic process deployed by your government to fast track, what appears to have been considered a ‘done deal’.  The proposal for redesignating the name change for the College into a University, is crammed into an omnibus bill and yet the college has not even completed the process of applying for the redesignation to the Post-secondary Education Quality Assessment Board.  The assumptions imply the review process is itself a sham.  Recent news reports have also revealed McVety has taken personal loans from the college, raising doubts about its fiscal transparency. 

Finally a third political issue has arisen in our sector related to academic freedom, its uses and abuses.  The recent incident at University of Ottawa concerning Dr. Verushka Lieutenant-Duval’s intentional use of discriminatory and racially-charged language in her ART 3317 Art and Gender course, combined with CAUT’s solidarity of such language under the guise of academic freedom, is deeply concerning. OCADFA supports the statement of the caucus of the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) Professors and Librarians at the University of OttawaClick here to download the letter.

It is the position of the Ontario College of Art and Design Faculty Association (OCADFA) that:

i. The social, political, economic, and environmental systems, in which academia is situated, champion imbalances that largely target and disadvantage Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities to directly impede the fundamental human rights of inherent dignity and of equal and inalienable rights for all. Recognizing that social illiteracy and insensitivity only compound such inequity and exclusion, the pursuit of equal rights is our collective responsibility. Language developed to discriminate and persecute—spanning enslavement, exclusion, racial ridicule, racist terrorism, and segregation—is in stark conflict with dignity and intolerable. 

ii. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights guarantee inclusion of specific human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, and are the philosophical basis for academic freedom. However, these provisions are limited and not absolute; they restrict statements that express an intention to discriminate, imply discrimination, or intend to incite others to discriminate. Academic freedom must not be misappropriated as a mechanism to impose harm or violate other universally protected human rights. 

OCADFA’s statement on this can be found on our website and our letter to CAUT is attached to this message.  

If you would like to support the BIPOC faculty at University of Ottawa, please take a moment to sign their petition

This summer we saw man organizations issue statements of solidarity with Black Lives Matters.  It was duly noted that statements are not enough. We must take action. It is clear that anti-Black racism thrives in our society, in the work place and in our classrooms. Anti-racist education and action is urgently needed.  Anti-Black racism kills.  When non-Black faculty use racial slurs without understanding the violence these words unleash, it is not a time for faculty associations to claim academic freedom, it is a time for us to stand with our BIPOC students and colleagues and demand change, take action and refuse to allow academic freedom to be presented as a shield to deflect racial illiteracy, ignorance or outright white supremacy in our classrooms, research and practice.  

In solidarity,

Min Sook

President, OCADFA 

Associate Professor, Faculty of Art, Integrated Media and Art & Social Change

President, OCADFA

Migrant Dreams

Scholar Strike Canada