On October 31, OCUFA held its first Board of Directors Meeting of the 2020-21 academic year. The virtual meeting focused on the numerous challenges faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Identifying priorities for 2020-21
With most academic staff and students still working and learning from home, the pandemic has fundamentally reshaped how postsecondary education is delivered in Ontario. OCUFA board meetings have also had to adapt, and this fall saw several new initiatives to engage board members in conversation virtually.
In advance of the board meeting, directors were invited to participate in special roundtable discussions about areas of concern for OCUFA, including: equity, working conditions, capacity building, funding, and contract faculty. A survey was also circulated to gather feedback on how the shift to emergency online teaching has impacted collective bargaining, member engagement, grievance trends, governance, and institutional budgets and operations.
At the meeting, the board confirmed OCUFA’s priorities for the 2020-21 academic year. This will see the organization continuing to focus on good jobs, funding, and capacity building among members. A further motion has committed OCUFA to reviewing its structures, priorities, and work with the goal of enhancing equity, diversity, and inclusion within the organization.
Taking action and showing solidarity
Inspired by the incredible work of the Black Lives Matter movement and #scholarstrikecanada, the meeting saw OCUFA strike a working group to examine policing on Ontario campuses. Board members spoke about their concerns with how policing threatens the safety of faculty, staff, and students who are Black, Indigenous, or people of colour.
A motion supporting the 1492 Land Back Lane Land Defenders currently protesting the development of Haudenosaunee land near Caledonia, Ontario was passed unanimously. The motion expressed OCUFA’s solidarity with the Six Nations Land Defenders and included a donation of $5,000 to their legal defense fund.
Bill 168, a new piece of legislation introduced by the Ford government, was a major topic of conversation at the meeting, with many board members expressing concern. The legislation, through the illustrative examples attached to the IHRA definition of antisemitism, conflates antisemitism with legitimate criticism of the State of Israel and, in doing so, threatens academic freedom at Ontario’s universities. As a result, members passed a motion expressing OCUFA’s support for academic freedom and condemning antisemitism and all forms of racism.
The discussions and motions at the OCUFA board meeting emphasized that professors and academic librarians have a responsibility to address issues arising in our communities, including colonization, racism, growing social and economic inequality, and threats to free political speech and dissent.
Celebrating excellence in teaching
During lunch, meeting participants were treated to a special video celebrating the recipients of this year’s Teaching and Academic Librarianship Awards. Since 1973, these awards have recognized the exceptional contributions made by professors and librarians to the quality of higher education in Ontario.
The 2019-2020 Teaching Award recipients are:
- William Cluett, Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto
- Joel Faflak, Professor in the Department of English and Writing Studies at Western University
- Kim Hellemans, Instructor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Carleton University
- Shoshanah Jacobs, Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph
- Aaron Langille, Master Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Laurentian University
Election of next OCUFA President
Congratulations are in order for Trent Professor Sue Wurtele, who was elected as the next President of OCUFA at the meeting. Her term will begin on July 1, 2021.
The next OCUFA Board of Directors meeting will be held on February 20, 2020.