The BCIT FSA arrived as guests at the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) 81st general council in November and left as active members. We received a warm welcome from delegates and quickly began contributing to decision making at CAUT.
The CAUT general council allows all member associations to participate in decisions about association policies and model clauses and to receive reports on operations. It’s a densely packed two and a half days.
CAUT is the leading advocate for academic freedom in Canada, and council heard a comprehensive report on active academic freedom cases. One theme that we are familiar with at BCIT is academic managers acting summarily against instructors when students complain. When Laurentian University discovered that they had acted in haste against an instructor for allegedly offensive comments, the administration put out a public call looking for students who had been offended to come forward. Participation in academic governance is another major issue. Council passed a motion warning Carleton University that censure shall be imposed if it does not back down from its insistence that an elected faculty representative on the Board of Governors sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting them from reporting to their faculty association on any matter before the board. Niagara College may also face censure for failing to respond to concern about operating gender segregated campuses offering gender-specific disciplines in Saudi Arabia. CAUT was successful at arbitration in defending three McMaster University professors who were suspended from one to three years for ‘acting in concert’ and ‘rallying troops’ to oppose actions of their dean. The professors will not be reinstated but will be compensated. CAUT was also awarded costs by the court. Faculty associations at the University of Toronto and Laval University brought cheques totalling $45,000 for the Academic Freedom Fund, which now tops more than $1.4M.
CAUT’s general accounts reported a surplus of $223,000 for the year ending June 30, 2016 on income of $8,437,000. Income exceeded budget by 4% and $300,000 were saved by delaying hirings. The CAUT mortgage is due for renegotiation in the coming year. The auditor has advised the association to increase its reserves. With the return of Stats Canada’s University and College Academic Staff Survey (UCASS), CAUT dues will again be indexed against the percentage change in average salaries by rank rather than by the Consumer Price Index.
CAUT staff are unionized members of COPE 225 and their collective agreement expired earlier this year. Staff leafleted the council in support of their 96% strike mandate. Conciliation meetings were held on the Friday of the council and broke down Friday night. A long in camera discussion occurred in council Saturday morning, with the result being ratification of a motion supporting the CAUT bargaining team. Efforts to reach a settlement will continue. The union committed to not strike before January 8, 2017.
Council considered 16 policy statements. These statements represent council’s aspirations relating to each of these topics. Of particular relevance to the BCIT FSA, delegates endorsed the following:
- Indigenizing the academy may require amendments to collective agreements to establish equitable policies and practices to involve Aboriginal peoples and the incorporation of Aboriginal content and Indigenous knowledge across the curriculum
- Member associations should promote equity within their associations and governance structures (such as designated board positions for equity seeking groups)
- The assessment of academic program should only be driven by academic needs, including accreditation, and not by financial imperatives
- Institutional security services must be managed by the institution, overseen by a joint committee, and governed by policies that address discrimination, racism, and hate crimes and descriptions of reported incidents that threaten the safety and security of community members must be immediately reported to the community
- The academic freedom of each individual instructor in a team-teaching situation must be protected, including the right to refuse to team-teach
- Like all academic staff, contract academic staff have the right to assert academic freedom and intellectual property rights and the scope of their work should include course preparation, student supervision, scholarly activity, research, and participation in governance
- Student surveys cannot be relied upon for career procedures and decision making because ‘they serve as vehicles for transmitting prejudices to the disadvantage of equity-seeking groups’
- Service to an institution by sitting on committees and decision making bodies is part of academic work and not a conflict of interest
- A working group will be struck to consider issues relating to on-line and distance education
Before council began, unionized faculty associations met at the National Union of CAUT (NUCAUT) and received reports from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Belgian trade unionists who recently visited the CLC reported that the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement remains unlikely to be signed given opposition in Europe despite Trudeau government’s efforts to keep it on track. Early signs of federal support for the labour movement are waning. Not only has the repeal of Harper’s anti-union legislation stalled, but Liberals have also targeted federal defined benefit pension plans without even consulting with unions. The CLC campaign for improved public pensions built support leading to the federal-provincial agreement to expand the Canada Pension Plan. The triennial NUCAUT convention will be held in Toronto in May.
The Equity Committee is hosting a forum and preparing a video on the theme of Mobilizing Intersections. They also conducted a brief survey of affiliates on equity practices.
The Librarians’ and Archivists’ Committee is fighting cuts to public libraries in Newfoundland. Council also passed a resolution condemning the Board of Governors at the University of Ottawa for canceling 6,000 journal subscriptions and cutting $500K from budget for monographs even though president called the cuts ‘stupid’ and they have accumulated a surplus of $800M.
The Aboriginal Post-Secondary Working Group will be developing a train-the-trainer program toward implementation of policy statement on Indigenization. They are also updating the guide on acknowledging Aboriginal territory and planning a conference for the fall of 2018.
The CAUT Defence Fund supported 16 unions with strike benefits this year and three unions have not yet completed bargaining. Twenty unions contributed picketers to the strike at the University of Manitoba. Job action is increasingly being used by faculty associations to settle collective agreement and strikes seem to be getting longer.
The Political Advocacy Committee reported that participation in Fair Employment Week was stronger than ever with more events in more places and an emphasis on solidarity with regular faculty. The federal government panel on fundamental science has poor representation from researchers and lots of representation from administrators who have not always been friendly to academic freedom and who have favoured Big Science. The Copyright Act is subject to review in 2017 and business groups are already very active lobbying on this.Leave a reply →