CAUT is highly influential on a national and international scale. That influence has direct benefits at the local level.
One of CAUT’s founding purposes was the defence of academic freedom. CAUT has been the primary protector in Canada of “the right to teach, learn, study, and publish free of orthodoxy or threat of reprisal and discrimination.” Several leading cases regarding academic freedom are described on the CAUT web site. These major incidents represent the benchmarks of academic freedom that guide post-secondary institutions on a daily basis. CAUT’s work has determined how disputes are decided on issues regarding the conduct of research, the ownership of course materials, control over decisions about how classes are conducted, the ability of faculty to speak freely to their areas of expertise, and the ability of faculty to participate in academic decision making. CAUT’s policy statement on academic freedom and bargaining is so well recognized that BCIT agreed to language based on it without any change in wording.
For FSA members, issues relating to academic freedom have arisen in a number of ways. Ownership of course materials is probably the most frequent example that comes up, with departments or colleagues claiming rights to materials without compensating the instructors who developed them independently. Expression in the classroom also arises as an issue at BCIT from time to time. Managers have pounced on Faculty when students have complained about statements made in class. We have handled issues relating to intellectual property, requiring us to delve into a complex and specialized area of law that has significant financial consequences for members.
Another aspect of academic freedom that impacts FSA members regularly is collegial governance, including departmental decision making, FSA selections, management selections, and program head responsibilities. Many files dealt with by the FSA office are about members who are at odds with decisions made by their colleagues. Many university faculty members face similar issues, and CAUT is a place to seek guidance on handling those disputes. CAUT also monitors the appointment of academic managers on a national scale.
Each member faculty association can decide how much participation from CAUT negotiators they want during the bargaining process. That might range from drawing on model language, accessing data on funding or wages, providing training for bargaining teams using the CAUT bargaining manual, advising as issues arise, appearing at the bargaining table, or even more substantial involvement.
The FSA has already drawn on CAUT model language regarding academic freedom. CAUT’s authority in this area is so well established that the language was adopted in the last round of bargaining as we proposed it. CAUT also maintains a database of collective agreement language, providing a range of examples on any particular topic. CAUT’s new salary database is the most reliable source on academic salaries in Canada.
A great example of what CAUT can accomplish in bargaining is the Thompson Rivers University Faculty Association (TRUFA). When the University College of the Cariboo became Thompson Rivers University in 2005, the faculty association was already unionized and had a collective agreement. CAUT was instrumental in transforming that agreement so that it was more compatible with those at other universities. That included changes to provisions for workload to recognize research and service as faculty responsibilities along with instruction. CAUT was also actively involved in setting expectations for the university administrators about what it takes to be a university. Although TRU is still considered part of the colleges and institute sector, its agreement more resembles the agreements at major universities and more of their faculty are paid above the sectoral pay scale. Because TRUFA was so successful with CAUT’s support, much more stringent limitations were put on the regional teaching universities created in 2008.
Contract Academic Staff
Almost all CAUT members struggle with an increasing dependence on contract academic staff (CAS) to deliver instructional programs. At BCIT, this issue is particularly represented by the fact that 60% of our students are taught under contracts that offer no office hours, no professional development, no sick leave, no job security, no participation in departmental processes, and rates of pay that are only 60% of the regular instructional rate.
The dependence on precariously employed faculty is an issue across post-secondary education in Canada, the United States, and beyond. CAUT has taken a lead in attempting to co-ordinate a sector-wide response by faculty associations, highlighting the issue as one of their key campaigns. They have sponsored Fair Employment Week across Canada, which has successfully created public awareness and raised the issues with reliance on CAS in the media. They have held and participated in events and conferences bringing faculty and their representatives together to share information about working conditions and strategies for improvement. CAUT maintains a standing committee on CAS to provide information and support on CAS issues.
Some of CAUT’s most high profile interventions for member associations have involved issues around institutional governance. CAUT has made news recently in BC by calling into question the appointment of former Conservative cabinet minister James Moore as Chancellor of the University of Northern BC. CAUT was also a defender of the rights of UBC faculty member Jennifer Bardhal when her comments on the resignation of UBC’s president were questioned by the chairman of the Board of Governors, who stepped down as a result. CAUT has supported members, like the Association of Professors at the University of Ottawa, in challenging executive pay increases.
As the national body representing post-secondary faculty, CAUT has a censure process that identifies institutions that are not abiding by basic academic standards such as academic freedom, collegial governance, and human rights. When CAUT censures an institution, using a rigorous process of investigation and deliberation, faculty around the world are put on notice that their basic rights to teach and conduct research might not be respected. Many faculty, particularly those most in demand, may be reluctant to take positions or event visit institutions subject to censure. Censure by CAUT is taken very seriously by Canadian universities.
A demonstration of this power was seen in BC a few years ago when Kwantlen threatened to remove provisions regarding class size from the Kwantlen Faculty Association (KFA) collective agreement. In 2002, the BC government enacted Bill 28, empowering public employers to unilaterally remove language relating to class size and composition from collective agreements. This law was famously and successfully challenged by the BC Teachers’ Federation. The law also applied to colleges and institutes but was never used in our sector. The threat of CAUT censure and the potential to discredit our post-secondary system was a factor in that decision. When Kwantlen advised KFA that it intended to use its powers under Bill 28, the KFA was immediately on the phone with CAUT who advised that no other BC post-secondary institution had invoked this provision and that censure proceedings would be considered if that were to happen. When the administration was advised of this, they withdrew the proposal. Bill 28 was already being challenged in the courts. The threat of this negative national attention was more compelling to administrators than the risk of legal action.
CAUT has stepped in and taken on representing faculty in major cases that have the potential to set precedents across the sector. In addition to cases relating to academic freedom, such as the Capilano University Fine Arts instructor whose effigy of the university’s president was destroyed by campus security, examples of arbitrations where CAUT has become involved include cases involving promotion and tenure, respectful workplace policy, and management rights.
CAUT also maintains a database of arbitration decisions relevant to academic staff, including many unreported cases. CAUT’s staff representatives are also able to advise member associations and their counsel on matters where CAUT has special expertise.
CAUT is recognized as the national organization that speaks for academic staff in Canada. CAUT presidents and executive directors are key contacts for the media on post-secondary education issues. CAUT and its provincial affiliates actively participate in government consultations on issues relating to funding, education policy, and research. CAUT was a lead sponsor of the Get Science R!ght campaign challenging the marginalization of research in policy and funding decisions under the previous Conservative government.
CAUT has the expertise, recognition, authority, and infrastructure to speak out on post-secondary education issues from the perspective of academic staff. When we need our voice heard, CAUT provides a ready and effective platform for doing that. When CAUT’s voice is heard, we want to make sure it reflects our interests.