Any discussion of expanding teaching-stream faculty should adhere to certain principles, says OCUFA’s Lawson

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Soaring enrolments mean that more teaching has to be done at Ontario’s universities, but it cannot be done on the cheap, OCUFA Vice-President Kate Lawson told a conference at McMaster University, December 8.      
 
Government underfunding has meant constrained finances for Ontario universities, she said, and that context makes a discussion around the expansion of teaching-stream faculty positions worthwhile.
 
“But it is important that this discussion adhere to certain principles,” she emphasized.
 
Lawson first pointed out that teaching-stream faculty are already a component of Ontario’s university system. “Many of our member associations represent teaching-stream faculty, and we are well aware of the exceptional contributions they make to our institutions.”
 
Lawson then outlined a set of principles for teaching-stream appointments.
 
“Teaching-stream appointments need to be good appointments,” she said. “Those appointed need job security. They need to be able to advance in their careers, through a rank system. Their academic freedom must be protected. And they must be paid equal to other full-time faculty.”
 
Personal choice is another principle, Lawson emphasized. “A teaching-stream faculty member should not be prevented from moving into the research stream. Nor should a research-stream faculty member be prevented from entering the teaching stream, should they wish to do so. No professor with a current appointment should be forced to enter a particular stream.”
 
The third vital principle is the preservation of space in teaching-focused appointments for scholarship, Lawson said.
 
Scholarship is central to the university, she said, and the teaching-and-scholarship equation is not zero-sum. “Teaching is scholarship, and the two are inextricably linked,” she said.
 
“You cannot have university-level teaching without intellectual inquiry,” she said. “Scholarship is what allows teaching-stream faculty to remain current in their fields, to explore new pedagogical techniques, and engage with their communities.
 
“If you remove scholarship from the professoriate or from our universities, you are no longer giving students the education they expect.”
 
Lawson told the conference that if these principles are honoured, “we have a recipe for more quality teaching at our institutions, not a recipe for cheaper teaching.”
 
But, Lawson emphasized, educational quality ultimately depends on consistent and adequate public funding. “Without this, no faculty member – teaching stream or otherwise – can provide a high quality learning experience to every student,” she said.
 
Lawson is an associate professor of English at the University of Waterloo.
 
Clarification: In a recent paper from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, OCUFA is quoted as saying that teaching stream-faculty “represent a dangerous precedent.”This quote is incorrect, was made by an individual external to OCUFA, and was cited to indicate the diversity of views on the teaching-stream issue. It is unfortunate that this quote is used in the paper to mischaracterize OCUFA’s position on teaching-stream faculty.

This article originally appeared in the OCUFA Report. To receive stories like this every week in your inbox, please subscribe.

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