OCUFA Board discusses impact of COVID-19

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On Friday, May 8, OCUFA held its final Board of Directors meeting of the 2019-20 academic year, and the organization’s first ever virtual Board Meeting. The meeting took place in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended every aspect of academic life, including the learning and teaching process.

Throughout the day, board members discussed the pandemic’s impact on their institutions and on OCUFA’s priorities – good jobs, university funding, and capacity building – with a focus on challenges to the postsecondary sector and to public education as a whole during the pandemic. In particular, members discussed the additional workload resulting from the sudden move to remote teaching, the conflation between remote and online teaching, concerns around intellectual property rights, student evaluations of courses and teaching, and job security for contract faculty.

Given the pandemic’s impact on postsecondary institutions, participants discussed the state of postsecondary funding prior to the pandemic. In particular, members discussed the chronic underfunding of public services, including postsecondary education, as well as how institutional responses would impact equity on and off campus. As members noted, this pandemic demonstrates the flawed policy approach that has seen universities increasingly relying on international tuition fees to make up for dwindling public funding.

OCUFA members also discussed the growing use of invasive technologies to proctor exams remotely, and the importance of robust privacy protections for faculty, students, and staff.

There was also discussion about how university administrations are circumventing existing collegial governance processes, and why those processes are crucial for addressing the the pandemic’s impact on our institutions, and in planning for reopening campuses following public health guidelines.

OCUFA members elect new Executive Committee

During the meeting, the OCUFA Board of Directors elected the organization’s executive for the 2020-21 academic year. As of July 1, the new executive will be comprised of:

Mikael Eklund (University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association)

Kate Lawson (Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo)
Gautam Das (Lakehead University Faculty Association)
Michelle Webber (Brock University Faculty Association)

Chair of the Board:
Gyllian Phillips (Nipissing University Faculty Association)

The newly elected Executive Members will join current President Rahul Sapra (Ryerson Faculty Association) and Vice-President Sue Wurtele (Trent University Faculty Association) to guide OCUFA’s work for the coming year.

Recognizing the recipients of the 2020 Mandelbaum Fellowship

As the meeting was virtual, awards for the 2020 Mandelbaum Fellowship for Excellence in Social Sciences, Humanities, or Arts were presented in absentia.

Established in 2011 to honour former OCUFA Executive Director Henry Mandelbaum, the fellowship is awarded to two full-time graduate students (one master’s, one doctoral) who have demonstrated academic excellence, provided significant community service, and shown exceptional academic promise in their university careers.

This year’s recipients were Fitsum Areguy, a Masters student at the University of Guelph, and Prerna Subramanian, a doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University.

The next OCUFA Board of Directors meeting will be held October 17-18, 2020.

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