The OCADFA Monthly Newsletter keeps you in the know with information about our Association’s activity, articles that address emerging membership issues, and details about our involvement in coalitions and broader campaigns. If there’s something you want covered in our newsletter, or you want to contribute a piece, please contact Mary Eileen Wennekers at


Information about our Association’s activity

OCADFA Changes

OCADFA says a regretful goodbye to Vice President, photographer Surendra Lawoti, who has taught at OCAD U for over a decade as a sessional instructor in the Faculty of Art. This term Surendra didn’t have a teaching contract so he started new employment outside of OCAD U.  Said Surendra:  

“I have been officially involved with OCADFA for the past five and half years. During this time, I have learned a great deal – about issues related to our members, university governance and larger politics that comes with being involved with a union, among other things. I am also grateful for strong bonds I have been able to build during this time.  I have to say OCADFA has a strong leadership and a team. And with addition of Graeme as our ED,  and incoming new Board members, I feel the team’s going to be even stronger. As OCADFA member, I feel that my FA will represent me well. And thank you for all you do!”

We’d like to thank Surendra for his many years of service to OCADFA and this University.  His commitment, integrity and creativity have been truly appreciated.  We wish Surendra the best in his new job and hope to see him back teaching in the next academic calendar year.

Many thanks to OCADFA Director at Large, Bodgan Luca, a sessional instructor in the Faculty of Art, who departed the OCADFA Board at the end of the Fall Term. Bogdan continues to teach painting at OCAD U and is an active member of our community.   We are grateful to Bogdan for his many years of commitment and service!

We are pleased to welcome Mary Eileen Wennekers, sessional instructor in FoLASSIS as our new Vice President.  Mary Eileen has been an OCADFA activist for many years and most recently as an active member of our current Negotiations Committee.  She brings years of labour organizing and social movement mobilizing experience to this role. We are lucky to have her join us. 

Monthly General Membership Meetings

OCADFA typically meets twice a year – once during the Fall AGM, and once during the Spring General Membership Meeting. There’s often a lot of business to conduct during these meetings, and our experience is that not everything people want to bring to the agenda is addressed. 

To that end, OCADFA will begin to hold general membership meetings (GMMs) once a month, on the last Friday of every month. Our next GMM will be February 26th, 2021 (time TBA). We’ll begin with a half hour social component, before moving on to conduct the meeting for the next hour. This format will continue for all monthly GMMs, with the exception of the longer Spring GMM. 

The format of these GMMs will be more informal than our AGM and Spring GMM.  We invite you to drop in with questions and see these meetings as your opportunity to shape our policy and organizing agendas.  We hope this will help mitigate any barriers to Association participation that the less frequent meetings present, and help us respond more actively to membership concerns as they arise.

Call for Committee Members: Communications Committee

We are building our Communications Committee and are looking for members! Maybe you?

The Communications Committee develops membership engagement through social, print, and image-based media. We launch and publicize OCADFA campaigns and initiatives, keep our membership connected and informed about our Association’s actions, and celebrate our community and its achievements. 

If you are interested in participating in this committee, please sent a note to OCADFA Communications Committee Chair, JJ Lee, at

Negotiations Chair Update

The Negotiations Committee is still meeting regularly with the administration to achieve the priorities in our Bargaining Mandate. We are currently in mediation. In this stage of the process we continue to exchange proposals as we did at the bargaining table, but both parties now work with legal representation with us and a mediator whose goal is to broker a deal between OCADFA and the university administration. It’s our hope that we can achieve an agreement on our outstanding items through mediation.  

Sessional Organizing Update

Many thanks and best wishes to Bodgan Luca and Surendra Lawoti for their efforts and leadership building the OCADFA sessional community, and for the foundational work they’ve done with the Sessional Committee.

When Surendra stepped down, Mary Eileen accepted the role of Vice President for OCADFA and will work to continue the initiatives that Bogdan and Surendra established through years of hard work. Mary Eileen will continue the work to build logistics to reactivate our ongoing sessional mobilization work, so if you’ve been involved and haven’t heard from her yet, please look for an email next week. And if you want to become involved, please feel very welcome to email Mary Eileen at 

Following up on our Membership Survey, we’ll be holding a few drop-in discussion sessions for sessional instructors where we can share our stories about being precarious faculty at OCAD: 

  • Tuesday February 9th 9:45 AM
  • Wednesday February 10th 6PM
  • Friday February 12th 2PM

Please email Mary Eileen at if you’re interested in participating.

Work continues on our Sessional Know Your Rights project. Clifford Caines and Mary Eileen have been collecting information to answer the question, “What do you wish you knew when you started teaching at OCAD U?” We’ve scheduled information interviews with people who can give us reliable information about policies, rights, and how-tos and are reviewing all the relevant documents. By bringing all of this information into one place, we’re creating a one-stop shop that gives concrete explanations for navigating our workplace, where you can find out what you need to know, when you need to know it. Watch for that to be released at February’s General Membership Meeting. 


Emerging membership issues

Note to Sessionals Applying for EI

If you’re a sessional and you did not get a contract this term, you are certainly eligible for EI benefits. In response to COVID 19 economic conditions, the Federal government has drastically reduced the threshold for qualifying to 120 insurable hours (which a single course contract would express).

When HRIS processes your final payroll, they automatically send an electronic Record of Employment to Service Canada. So, all you have to do is make sure you have your direct deposit information handy, and apply here:

You don’t have to call and take in that beautiful hold music unless you have received a grant, in which case: 

  • You should still apply for EI
  • When you complete your biweekly report for the first time, state that you will be receiving “other money”
  • You’ll receive a notification that your application is pending and that you need to speak to an EI case worker
  • CRA considers arts grants a combination of operational cost support and employment income, so be ready with your breakdown of how much of your grant you will use to create the project, and how much you will use to support yourself while you create the project
  • The agent I spoke with didn’t want to explicitly say when the best time to call is, but mentioned that many people do not know that the EI line is open on Saturday: 1-800-206-7218  

Workload Grievance MOS

As you may be aware, OCADFA filed grievances with the administration on May 13, 2020 and November 2, 2020 outlining faculty concerns related to increased course enrollments, increased course caps, and remote delivery of courses for Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter courses. We were able to come to an agreement on a Memorandum of Settlement for those grievances just before the end of the Fall Semester.

Amongst the items agreed upon is the ability of faculty to opt out of performance reviews during the 2020/21 academic year. Faculty who choose to opt out will receive their career progress increment only for this year, and will undergo performance reviews in 2021/22, at which point they may qualify for a merit increase. Faculty whose renewable contract is set to expire may still need to undergo a review before that contract gets renewed, although we have heard of instances where that review has been waived. If you’re on a renewable expiring contract and are unsure of the process for renewal this year, please contact your Chair.

This memorandum of settlement also includes the following provisions:

· Sessionals are eligible to receive $650 to complete FCDC training on remote teaching delivery in the Fall 2020 or Winter 2021 semester.

· Support of individual claims for home office expenses for faculty undertaking remote teaching for the 2020 tax year.

· Ability for tenure-track faculty to extend their probationary period for one year.

· Deans to consult with non-sessional faculty on rebalancing responsibilities.

· Consultation with OCADFA on development of guidelines with respect to TA qualifications, hiring and orientation, as well as training for faculty who supervise TAs.

· An increase in TA support for courses enrolled above 2019 course capacities.

· A commitment to accommodate members experiencing health impacts associated with teaching in a remote environment.

We recognize that this does not adequately remedy all aspects of the increased workload and difficulties with teaching remotely during this public health crisis, and we continue to advocate for better working conditions on your behalf. If you have any individual issues, or any questions or concerns about the implementation of any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

New CRA Rules for Claiming Home Office Expenses

We need to preface this by acknowledging we are not tax experts and cannot provide specific tax advice to members. However, we want to ensure that members are aware of changes from the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) that may benefit you. On December 15, 2020, the CRA announced details of a simplified process for claiming expenses related to working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members claiming up to $400 of expenses can follow a new flat rate method. Those claiming more than $400 can a simplified detailed deduction. The CRA has also launched this calculator to assist your assessment of which method to follow.

New Flat Rate Method: members who worked from home more than 50% of the time for at least four consecutive weeks due to COVID-19 are eligible to claim expenses associated with working from home but aren’t covered by OCADU using a simple rate of $2 per workday, up to a maximum of $400. This flat rate can be claimed under Option 1 of a new T777S Statement of Employment Expenses for Working at Home Due to COVID-19. Unlike the standard T2200 form, you will not have to provide supporting documents, calculate the size of your home workspace, or have the University sign the form.

Simplified Detailed Method: for members with larger claims, you can claim them under Option 2 of the T777s form. The CRA has expanded the list of expenses eligible to claimed for the 2020 tax year, most pertinent to many of our members would be the inclusion of internet costs. This option requires supporting documents and the University must complete and sign (electronically) a simplified T2200S Declaration of Conditions of Employment for Working at Home Due to COVID-19, which the Administration has agreed to support under the terms of our recently signed Workload Grievance Memorandum of Settlement.

Concerns About Funding Offered for Online Course Development (VLS Strategy)

Faculty are being encouraged to apply for funding to develop/adapt courses for online and hybrid delivery from a newly announced fund, the eCampusON Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS).  It is hard to see the upside in submitting to this fund. Applications are due Feb. 3, but contract details won’t be available until Jan. 25th. So you are applying to a fund in which the contract is non-negotiable and also unknown to you until days before you submit the application.

What are the licencing parameters of course materials that are developed through this fund? As it stands, there is nothing to guarantee that you will have control over your intellectual property. The guidelines state: “VLS funding-driven content will be available to all Ontario learners and PSEs, hosted by eCampusON”. 

Writing an application like this takes a lot of work. We ask: ‘how is this labour being calculated in relation to the course development duties outlined in teaching related responsibilities in our MoA?’ A faculty member’s compensation is unclear, as is the way the funds are to be allocated.

What is clear is that once a contract is issued to deliver or develop a course that leads to an OCAD university credit, or a component of a credit, that contract is with an OCADFA member, and OCADFA is your bargaining agent. Even if this isn’t the case, if you are awarded a contract to develop a course as part of this initiative, or are considering applying for this funding opportunity, we strongly encourage you to connect with our Grievance Chair, Natalie Waldburger, before you commit to anything. This way, we can ensure that you are represented and have good advice before you sign. You can connect with Natalie at

On a broader level, we are very concerned that the pressure to adapt existing or write new curriculum for online delivery quickens what seems unstoppable: The march to making online delivery a permanent feature of art/design education at OCAD, which can feed the erosion of funding/prioritization of studio based education. 



Campaign and community organizing updates

OCADFA opposes the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA)’s working definition of Antisemitism.

OCADFA unequivocally supports the academic freedom of its members. This freedom includes the right to pursue research and open inquiry in an honest search for knowledge that is free from institutional censorship, including that of the government. While OCADFA opposes antisemitism and all forms of racism and hatred, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism poses a serious threat to academic freedom in OCAD University.

We firmly believe that it is possible, desirable, and necessary to both protect academic freedom and adopt an anti-racist framework within our universities. Students, staff, and faculty deserve an academic environment that is open, representative, inclusive, safe, equitable, and fair.

We therefore strongly believe that all universities require vigorous policies to counter and deal with antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all other forms of discrimination.  Unfortunately, the IHRA definition fails to offer a robust definition of antisemitism within an anti-racist and decolonial framework.

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism misconstrues antisemitism to include a broad range of criticism of the State of Israel. The IHRA definition thus undermines important anti-racist and decolonial initiatives in Canadian educational institutions. It can also be used to censor political speech and restrict the academic freedom of teachers and researchers who have developed critical perspectives on the policies and practices of the State of Israel. Such targeted attacks will have a chilling effect on the academic freedom of our members in the classroom, in their research, and in campus politics more broadly.

The definition was adopted in 2016 and reads as such:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The contentious aspect of this definition is not this brief 38-word definition, but its accompanying 11 illustrative examples of antisemitism. Seven of the 11 illustrative examples refer to Israel.  Read critically, it appears as if this definition is more intent on silencing critics of Israel, suppressing support for Palestinian rights, than it does halting antisemitic threats from far-right white supremacists. For example, one of the illustrative examples in the IHRA definition explicitly states that referring to Israel as a ‘racist endeavour’ is tantamount to antisemitism.

Critics of the IHRA definition note that it is vague. It is not grounded in a contemporary anti-racist and decolonial framework. It is not deployed within the frames of international law and human rights. It also treats antisemitism as if it occurs in isolation from other forms of racism, including Islamophobia, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism.

There are already numerous examples, both in Canada and internationally, of the IHRA definition of antisemitism being invoked in order to brand support for Palestinian rights and criticism of Israel as antisemitic.

Scholars who conduct research into the dynamics of the conflict and occupation in Palestine and Israel, including those who hold perspectives critical of Israeli state policies and practices, could be unjustly penalized, possibly criminalized, if the IHRA definition were to become law.  If adopted, the IHRA definition will place Canadian academics, especially those conducting anti-racist and decolonial scholarship, at great risk of being falsely accused of being antisemitic, which could result in intimidation, censorship, job precarity, and costly litigation.

As of writing this text, no university or college has adopted the IHRA definition in Canada, and several municipal councils have rejected efforts to implement it (including Calgary, Montreal, and Vancouver).

In Ontario, the IHRA definition came under the spotlight with the debate over private members’ Bill 168 “Combating Antisemitism Act.” This Bill sought to re-define the province’s definition of antisemitism, guided by the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and the list of illustrative examples of it. On October 26, 2020 an order-in-council was used as an alternative to Bill 168 in Ontario, which was abandoned on the eve of scheduled public hearings. The order-in-council circumvented public hearings and adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism despite claims that this would be “non-binding.” The fact that the Ontario government circumvented democratic processes to enact the IHRA definition set a troubling precedent.

The vague language of the IHRA definition and the problematic examples, combined with its ineffectiveness as a tool to combat antisemitism has even led Kenneth S. Stern, the original draftee of the examples in the IHRA definition, to warn against legislation on the grounds that it would “restrict academic freedom and punish political speech.” 

There is already pressure on several university administrations, such as the University of Toronto, University of Winnipeg and York University to adopt the IHRA definition, which would have disastrous consequences for everyone who is committed to anti-racist and decolonial scholarship and politics. 

OCADFA is mandated and entitled to protect our members’ rights to pursue and disseminate their research free from institutional censorship. We condemn any adoption of the IHRA definition with its illustrative examples on the grounds of academic freedom, anti-racism, and decolonization.

As an individual scholar, you may join the +460 scholars who have signed the Open Letter by Canadian Academics Opposing the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism, organized by the Independent Jewish Voices of Canada. Please also disseminate this open letter amongst your colleagues.

More information can be found here :  ​

OCUFA Established an Equity Steering Committee

During the October 2020 OCUFA Board meeting a motion was passed to establish a steering committee (comprised of board representation from the OCUFA Executive, Committee Chairs, Board members and others engaged in equity-related work amongst member associations) tasked with developing an action-oriented mandate to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion within OCUFA.

The focus is to build on the work OCUFA has being done and move beyond a research project to engage in tangible actions to bring in more and varied voices in OCUFA spaces. They’re seeking help in identifying experts who can help identify barriers to full participation within OCUFA’s existing structures in order to make recommendations on how to move forward. They’re also hoping to populate this steering committee with a variety of perspective – ranging from job status, to type and size of institution, to personal identity and stage of career.

If you’re interested in joining OCUFA’s newly established Equity Steering Committee, please message, so he can recommend you to OCUFA’s Special Projects Coordinator.

Education for All Campaign

The Education for All Campaign is a national mobilization confronting the reality that our post-secondary education system is not set up to ensure that as we recover from COVID-19 we are not entrenching systemic injustices. CAUT, the CFS, CUPE national, and PSAC national are partnering on this campaign, which has enormous potential: These four organizations represent more than one million students and workers in colleges and universities across Canada.

During the campaign launch event on January 21st, Allanah McKay of the CFS expressed very clearly what’s at stake: “Education for all is a matter of racial justice, of gender justice, and of climate justice.”

OCADFA members are welcome to participate in this campaign, and the OCADFA Board will be following as it unfolds to see where we can most effectively engage. You can find out more here and sign up to join here: https://www.educationforall.c


Min Sook Lee, JJ Lee , Graeme Reniers, Eric Steenbergen, Mary Eileen Wennekers

Your OCADFA Monthly Newsletter is edited by OCADFA VP Mary Eileen Wennekers. Feedback, editorials and other contributions are welcome at