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Wilfrid Laurier University professor honoured with OCUFA’s Award of Distinction for advancing and promoting equity

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TORONTO, February 8, 2019 – Lianne Leddy, an assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, has won the 2018 Status of Women and Equity Award of Distinction, presented by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).

The award, sponsored by OCUFA’s Status of Women and Equity Committee, recognizes faculty whose work has improved the lives and working conditions of academics who are Indigenous, women, racialized, LGBTQ2S+, living with disabilities and/or belong to other historically marginalized groups. 

“It is clear that Lianne’s leadership has greatly improved the lives and working conditions of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, staff, and faculty at Wilfrid Laurier University and beyond,” said Cathy Chovaz, Vice-Chair of the Status of Women and Equity Committee. “Her dedication is inspiring as she contributes incredible amounts of time, energy, and expertise towards the advancement of equity.”

As a mentor to Indigenous students and an ally to other faculty and staff, Professor Leddy is widely respected for her knowledge and expertise. She served as the Indigenous Studies Program Coordinator for three years, was a member of the Indigenous Research Ethics Conference organizing committee, and actively supports other departments and programs in the university with their efforts to incorporate Indigenous curriculum. Dr. Leddy has been instrumental in the creation and administration of a program at Laurier called the Indigenous Knowledge Fund. This fund provides financial and logistical support for faculty to bring Indigenous knowledge holders to speak to their classes, which has greatly increased Indigenous content taught across the university.

 “OCUFA is committed to advancing and protecting the personal, professional and academic interests of women in the academy,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of OCUFA. “That is why we are so thankful for Lianne Leddy’s leadership, and so proud to present her with this honour for her exceptional commitment and contributions to the struggle for equity.”

Professor Leddy will receive her award at a ceremony hosted by OCUFA in Toronto on February 9, 2019.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 29 faculty associations across Ontario.

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To arrange interviews or for more information, please contact:
Ben Lewis, OCUFA Communications Lead
416-306-6033 | blewis@ocufa.on.ca

Trent University professor honoured with OCUFA’s 
Award of Distinction for advancing and promoting equity

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TORONTO, February 8, 2019 – Susan Hillock, an associate professor at Trent University, has won the 2018 Status of Women and Equity Award of Distinction, presented by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).

The award, sponsored by OCUFA’s Status of Women and Equity Committee, recognizes faculty whose work has improved the lives and working conditions of academics who are Indigenous, women, racialized, LGBTQ2S+, living with disabilities and/or belong to other historically marginalized groups. 

“Susan has shown an inspirational motivation to make a difference in the lives of her co-workers and her community,” said Cathy Chovaz, Vice-Chair of the Status of Women and Equity Committee. “She has been steadfast in her commitment to equity throughout her career through her research, service work, and advocacy.”

Professor Hillock is the founding director of the Department of Social Work at Trent University. In her work, she uses a feminist lens to explore gender, sexuality, and anti-oppression training in social work. She has worked tirelessly to engage Trent staff in discussions of equity in terms of gender and queer equality. In particular, she has focused on recruitment, hiring, and retention of faculty and staff, as well as the recruitment and retention of students. Susan organized a campus-wide “Queering the Academy” campaign with the goals of making the campus climate more welcoming and inclusive for all community members. 

She is currently working on the first Canadian textbook about teaching sexuality in higher education, with a focus on queer sexualities, boys, masculinities, sexualities, sexuality and disability, and Indigenous views on sexuality.

“OCUFA is committed to advancing and protecting the personal, professional and academic interests of women in the academy,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of OCUFA. “That is why we are so thankful for Susan Hillock’s leadership, and so proud to present her with this honour for her exceptional commitment and contributions to the struggle for equity.”

Professor Hillock will receive her award at a ceremony hosted by OCUFA in Toronto on February 9, 2019.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 29 faculty associations across Ontario.

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To arrange interviews or for more information, please contact:
Ben Lewis, OCUFA Communications Lead
416-306-6033 | blewis@ocufa.on.ca

St. Jerome’s University professor honoured with Lorimer Award for outstanding work advancing faculty rights

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TORONTO, February 8, 2019 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is pleased to announce that St. Jerome’s University professor Steven Bednarski is the recipient of the 2018 Lorimer Award. This honour recognizes individuals who have worked to protect and promote the interests of Ontario’s academic staff through collective bargaining.

“Steven fought tirelessly to improve the working conditions of faculty at St. Jerome’s University,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of OCUFA. “The gains made under Steven’s leadership have been inspirational and have greatly benefited both full-time and contract academic staff at St. Jerome’s.”

The Lorimer Award was established in honour of Doug and Joyce Lorimer, who were instrumental in advancing faculty association collective bargaining in Ontario. Winners of the award all share the Lorimers’ commitment to advancing Ontario’s university system through strong faculty associations and fair collective agreements.

Over the past ten years, Steven has played a pivotal role as a negotiator or chief negotiator in four rounds of bargaining. With a remarkable sense of solidarity, Steven has fostered a sense of community, both on the team and within the broader association membership. His capacity for research, sharp intellect, meticulous record keeping, and generosity is well known among his colleagues at St. Jerome’s and across. 

“OCUFA is extremely proud to recognize the exceptional individuals whose commitment to the bargaining process is improving the working conditions of professors and academic librarians,” said Phillips. “High-quality education and vibrant campus communities are built on the foundations established by these collective agreements. Through the Lorimer Award, we recognize the outstanding contributions and leadership of those who work tirelessly to ensure faculty have the protections and resources they need to thrive.”

Steven Bednarski will receive his award at a ceremony hosted by OCUFA in Toronto on February 9, 2019.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 29 faculty associations across Ontario.

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To arrange interviews or for more information, please contact:
Ben Lewis, OCUFA Communications Lead
416-306-6033 | blewis@ocufa.on.ca 

OCUFA report reveals systemic discrimination and harassment in use of university student questionnaires

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TORONTO, February 6, 2019 – A new report published by a working group of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations exposes substantial issues with student questionnaires on courses and teaching (SQCTs), including endemic bias and systemic discrimination. These end-of-term student questionnaires are common practice at universities across Canada.

The report finds that student questionnaire scores fail to accurately reflect teaching quality and that their results are not suitable for determining faculty pay, promotion, tenure, or contract renewal. Student questionnaire results are skewed by many factors outside an instructor’s control, including class size, time, subject, and the professor’s race, gender, or accent. Additionally, the report finds that current SQCT practices facilitate the harassment of faculty, compromise educational quality, and are not an appropriate metric for determining university funding levels.

“Faculty understand that student feedback is vital for improving teaching and course development,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of OCUFA. “But, as this report clearly demonstrates, using student questionnaires to evaluate faculty performance is counterproductive and harmful, and it raises serious equity questions. The goal of student questionnaires should be to inform a better understanding of the teaching and learning experience, not to penalize faculty for their class size, instructional innovations, gender, or skin colour.”

The report is one of the most exhaustive of its kind in Canada and examines the methodological, research ethics, and human rights implications of student questionnaires. It finds that:

  • Women, racialized, and LGBTQ2S+ faculty, as well as faculty with disabilities, receive lower scores than their white male colleagues. Using SQCTs to determine pay and promotion risks marginalizing these equity seeking groups even further, impacting their career prospects and limiting academic diversity.
  • It is impossible to adjust SQCT scores to account for their bias.
  • Anonymous SQCT comments are regularly used to target faculty members with abusive, harassing, and harmful comments.
  • Students are not adequately informed about how SQCTs are used, or how their information can be shared.
  • Using SQCT scores to evaluate teaching discourages innovation and undermines student learning.

“Given the serious problems with student questionnaires detailed in this report, it is evident that universities must stop using these questionnaires to make decisions about promotion, tenure, or the reappointment of contract faculty,” said Phillips. “Instead, our universities should invest in more effective and accurate, qualitative methods for evaluating teaching, particularly peer evaluation. The government should abandon any idea of using these flawed metrics to determine university funding levels – research has clearly shown that SQCT metrics not only don’t work, they perpetuate inequity.”

The report proposes several recommendations for refocusing student questionnaires so they can be used to improve student learning and education quality. First and foremost, the report recommends limiting the use of student questionnaires to formative purposes to provide instructors with student feedback on how to improve their teaching and course development. The report also recommends using peer evaluation, where trained faculty members audit classes and evaluate instructors.

Putting these principles into practice will require resources and the willingness of both the provincial government and university administrations to support faculty and students and invest in the effective evaluation of teaching as a vital component of the academic mission.

OCUFA thanks the members of the working group for their hard work in putting together this comprehensive report. The full report can be downloaded here: https://ocufa.on.ca/assets/OCUFA-SQCT-Report.pdf

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 29 faculty associations across Ontario.

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To arrange interviews or for more information, please contact:
Ben Lewis, OCUFA Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca
Michael Conlon, OCUFA Executive Director at 416-306-6030 or mconlon@ocufa.on.ca

Briefing note: Report of the OCUFA Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching Working Group

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The report of OCUFA the Working Group on Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching (SQCT) has now been released. Prompted by increasing reports of the misuse of results and the harassment of faculty through anonymous comments, and by suggestions in the policy community that SQCT scores be used as university “performance” metrics, OCUFA established the working group in 2016 to examine these issues.

Since the working group made its initial observations – that results are skewed by factors outside faculty control, and by endemic bias and systemic discrimination; and that the SQCTs facilitate harassment, compromise educational quality, and are not appropriate for funding allocation – more doubt has been cast on the use and value of SQCTs. The University of Southern California Provost is reported to have said “I’m done. I can’t continue to allow a substantial portion of the faculty to be subject to this kind of bias.” Closer to home, the arbitrator in a case between Ryerson University and the Ryerson Faculty Association accepted expert evidence and found that SQCTs cannot be used to measure teaching effectiveness.

The working group’s mandate was broader than most reviews of SQCTs. In addition to their scrutiny of methodological matters, they also examined the use of student questionnaires in Ontario through research ethics and human rights lenses. Starting from the premise that student learning must be at the centre of why student questionnaires are used in the first place, they found:

Methodology: SQCT scores are affected by endemic bias against women, racialized, and LGBTQ2S+ faculty; the “halo effect” whereby broader impressions of an instructor manifest themselves in responses to specific questions renders any attempts to unscramble the many biasing factors impossible; focus on scores discourages innovation and affects student learning and academic diversity.

Research ethics: SQCTs are not required to pass research ethics review, but should be administered according to similar standards; students need more information to meet standards of active and informed consent; results should be confidential by default; formative SQCTs refocus on teaching and learning and are more conducive to use for the development of courses and teaching.

Human rights: SQCTS are not intentionally biased, but clearly are discriminatory in effect for women, racialized, and LGBTQ2S+ faculty, as well as faculty with disabilities; in addition to the stress and harm it causes, harassment also taints SQCT scores; effects on career prospects and progress limit academic diversity; the best solution is an equity approach limiting use to formative purposes.

Faculty association agreements with universities already articulate and embody a number of principles important for teaching. The working group proposes seven guidelines for refocusing student questionnaires and placing faculty and students, teaching and learning in the foreground. Their adoption must be consistent with faculty agreements and negotiated with faculty associations.

  • Limit the use of SQCTs to formative purposes

    SQCTS are only suitable for informing faculty about students’ understanding of their learning experience, and most valuable for the further development of courses and teaching. Summative versions for performance evaluation are not equitable and not appropriate for determining pay, tenure, permanency, or promotion for full-time faculty, or appointment and renewal for contract faculty.

  • SQCTs should provide useful feedback for instructors

    How different the design of formative questionnaires will be from summative end-of-course versions currently in use will vary, but summative questions do not have a place. Nor will a one-size-fits-all model provide instructive feedback if SQCTs are intended to shed light on different iterations of a course. Common questions follow from, rather than guide, the design of formative instruments.

  • SQCT results should be confidential except at the instructor’s discretion

    Results and scores should not be made public, or shared with anyone other than those whom the instructor chooses. They are dubious guides for students choosing courses. If the questionnaires are formative, the responses should matter to no more than the faculty member, and perhaps those competent to help interpret them and inform teaching strategies. Any departure from this default must be subject to the terms of faculty association agreements.

  • SQCTs must seek informed and active consent from students

    If harassment is to be challenged wherever it appears, student comments on questionnaires cannot be an exception. Students must be advised of their institution’s policy on harassment, and the scope of confidentiality in the event of an investigation of alleged harassment or threat of violence.

  • Surveys for other reviews should be separately administered

    To avoid double counting, canvassing respondents not in the relevant population, and tainting results with bias endemic to SQCTs, surveys for program and institutional reviews should be administered separately. Further, no other methods of teaching evaluation should be reduced to numeric scores and used as metrics for program or institutional performance.

  • Teaching evaluation requires a suite of tools

    If SQCTs are included as part of teaching evaluations, they should be only one tool in a bigger toolkit. The principal methods are the careful examination of teaching dossiers and in-class observation by peers. If SQCT results feature, it is not the scores which are informative but the instructor’s explanation of how the responses figure in the faculty member’s own evaluation and development of their courses.

  • Peer evaluation should be the rule

    No student graduates with a university credential having taken courses from only one professor: university education is a collective responsibility. Evaluating teaching is a collegial responsibility that should not be contracted out. There is no substitute for peer knowledge of the content, the nature and value of teaching activities outside the classroom, and differences between courses and modes of delivery.

Putting these principles into practice will require resources. A renewed commitment to teaching excellence and academic achievement will require more funding and less focus on metrics from the provincial government. It will also require the willingness of university administrations to allocate resources to support faculty, students, and teaching as vital to the academic mission.

OCUFA thanks the members of the working group for this comprehensive report. The full report can be downloaded here: https://ocufa.on.ca/assets/OCUFA-SQCT-Report.pdf

February 11 is the Fairness for Contract Faculty Social Media Day of Action

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On Monday, February 11, faculty, staff, and students from across Ontario will participate in OCUFA’s annual social media day of action in support of fairness for contract faculty.

Tenure-stream faculty and contract faculty issues are two sides of the same coin.

Many contract faculty have to reapply for their jobs every twelve weeks, are hired to teach courses for which they are paid less than their full‐time tenure‐stream colleagues, and lack access to benefits.

Because contract faculty do about 50 per cent of all teaching with no expectation of service, 100 per cent of service work falls on the shoulders of tenure-stream faculty. This service work is vital for our universities, which depend on departmental, faculty, and university committees that enable universities to function.

The biggest issue facing tenure-stream faculty is fair workload.

The biggest issue facing contract faculty is contract and precarious work.

On February 11, we will take to Twitter and Facebook to call for fair workloads and good jobs for all faculty.

We can solve both these challenges by investing in postsecondary education as a province and hiring more permanent university faculty. Make sure to use the hashtags #Fairness4CF and to include the account of your local university in the message for maximum impact.

For more information on how to get involved, contact OCUFA’s Engagement and Campaigns Coordinator Andrea Calver at acalver@ocufa.on.ca.

Professor’s Association of Saint Paul University makes governance gains

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The Professor’s Association of Saint Paul University has reached a three-year agreement with their employer. The agreement includes significant advances in collegial governance, including enhanced consultation and information sharing with the faculty association on issues such as supervisory rights and Professor Emeritus status. The association also achieved competitive across-the-board salary increases.

OCUFA makes recommendations for 2019 Ontario Budget

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OCUFA has set out its priorities for the 2019 Ontario Budget in a written submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

Strengthening Ontario’s universities through meaningful investment in university education is essential to support high-quality accessible education for Ontario students, continued strength in research, and fairness for contract faculty.

As part of the consultation process, OCUFA President Gyllian Phillips presented the priorities of Ontario’s faculty and academic librarians to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on January 29 in Toronto.

OCUFA is recommending that the Government of Ontario:

1. Increase per-student public investment in Ontario’s universities to improve Ontario’s rank among other provinces in per-student funding by 2020-21.

The state of funding for Ontario’s universities is not on the right track. Since 2008, per-student funding in Ontario has been declining and trailing the rest of Canada by a substantial margin. It is time to break from years of stagnated funding and invest meaningfully in postsecondary education. A sensible plan that begins with investments to enhance Ontario’s per-student funding would put Ontario universities in a stronger position to provide the accessible, high-quality education our students deserve and that our economy needs.

2. Offset the cost associated with reducing tuition fees through an increase to university operating grants.

Tuition fees are a barrier to access that prevent students from pursuing a postsecondary education and OCUFA supports the call from Ontario’s students’ unions that tuition fees should be reduced and replaced with increased public funding for universities. The government’s recent decision to cut tuition fees by 10 per cent in 2019-20 and freeze fees in 2020-21 is a welcome step, but it must be matched with an increase in core public funding to ensure university budgets are not reduced.

3. Ensure that the university funding model does not link performance metrics to funding.

The government’s planned shift towards performance-based funding will create inequities and slowly but certainly undermine the integrity of Ontario’s postsecondary education system. By design, performance funding rewards those institutions that meet specific performance targets and penalizes institutions that do not by withholding the resources they need for improvement. Rather than employing this unnecessarily risky and destabilizing approach, available data should be leveraged to improve policymaking decisions and outcomes.

4. Make meaningful consultation with faculty a requirement in the third round of Strategic Mandate Agreement negotiations.

Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) negotiations must include adequate consultation with the university community and incorporate faculty input into the SMAs. While it is the responsibility of local university administrations to undertake local consultations, the government must take a leadership role and set enforceable standards for the negotiation processes. This will ensure the SMAs reflect the perspectives, experiences, and priorities of the entire campus community – not just administrators.

5. Launch a faculty renewal strategy for Ontario universities that achieves the dual goals of supporting new full-time tenure-stream hiring and creating pathways for contract faculty to more secure positions.

Every student’s learning experience and every university’s capacity to produce research relies on the faculty members who teach, research, and engage in their communities; but the growing gap between enrolment and faculty hiring is putting a strain on the system. By investing in accessible postsecondary, this year’s budget can start Ontario on a path that prioritizes quality education for students, innovative research, and fairness for the province’s contract faculty.

Universities are vital institutions within our communities, delivering education to thousands of students, producing thought-provoking and ground-breaking research, and providing good jobs that support local economies. Government commitment to robust public funding for postsecondary education is essential for sustaining the capacity needed to ensure these contributions in the future.

Read OCUFA’s 2019 pre-budget submission.

Reckless government announcement threatens education quality and students’ rights

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TORONTO – Without increased public funding for Ontario’s universities and colleges, the Progressive Conservative Government’s announced tuition fee reduction is nothing more than an ill-conceived political gimmick designed to distract Ontarians from damaging cuts to the province’s already under-funded postsecondary education system. OCUFA has long advocated for tuition fee reductions but not in the absence of increased core funding and sound student financial aid policy.

OCUFA is concerned that the fee reduction, OSAP cuts, and changes to ancillary fees were announced without consulting any stakeholders at the province’s universities or colleges. This demonstrates a government pursuing a political agenda, not one interested in good public policy or helping students.

The announced OSAP cuts and changes to eligibility criteria mean it will be harder for many students to access postsecondary education. While faculty are reassured that the Minister’s remarks signaled the government’s commitment to not cutting core operating grants for postsecondary institutions, the announced changes mean that universities and colleges will struggle with less funding and students will be burdened with less financial assistance, more expensive loans, and higher debt.

“These reckless changes will shrink university budgets, increase class sizes, encourage further tuition fee hikes for international students, and threaten both the accessibility and quality of postsecondary education in Ontario,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “We should be accelerating investment in postsecondary education in Ontario. Instead, this government has slammed on the brakes and put the car in reverse.”

In addition to cutting OSAP funding, the government’s unnecessary and anti-democratic decision to make many ancillary fees voluntary undermines students’ rights on campus and increases administrative costs and red tape for universities. Many of the fees the government has identified as non-essential were introduced by students through democratic votes. Students’ unions in particular are democratically elected, not-for-profit organizations founded by and for students. This is an attack on the ability of students’ unions to represent and support their members.

“Students’ unions provide numerous crucial services and support for students on campus, and, through their advocacy work, they play an important role holding universities and governments accountable for decisions about issues including tuition fees and student financial assistance.” said Phillips. “It is no coincidence that this government is cutting support for students’ unions at the same time they are cutting OSAP. Ironically, this appears to be another attempt to stifle political debate, dissent, and speech on campus.”

Ontario’s universities are vital institutions that produce amazing graduates and research. But maintaining this level of excellence will require that the government actually sit down and talk to students, faculty, staff, and administrators, instead of continuing to make uninformed decisions in secret, behind closed doors.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 29 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca

Reminder: OCUFA is currently accepting applications for Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism

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The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is currently accepting applications for the inaugural $10,000 OCUFA Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism.

In recent years, there has been a marked shortage of informed investigative reporting on Canadian higher education issues in the Canadian media. The OCUFA Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism is intended to help address this gap, and support those wishing to pursue in-depth journalism on higher education.

The Fellowship is open to full-time, part-time, and freelance journalists, including students, who wish to pursue an investigative research project in the area of Canadian higher education. Applications focusing on any topic within this area are welcomed, including public policy, labour relations, the academic labour market, governance, financing, teaching, research, librarianship and information management, demographics, education quality, free speech and academic freedom, equity and diversity, indigeneity, and reconciliation.

The deadline for applications is Friday, February 22, 2019. The Fellowship is valued at $10,000 and administered by OCUFA, with the first half payable at the start of the project and the second half upon completion. The winner will have to complete and publish and/or broadcast the project within a year of being granted the Fellowship. OCUFA will not exercise any editorial control or judgment over the work produced.

To learn more about the fellowship and to apply, please visit: https://ocufa.on.ca/awards/journalismfellowship

Latest issue of Academic Matters explores campus speech debate

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Over the past few years, the debate about freedom of speech on university campuses has intensified. Often sparked by high profile and provocative speakers from outside the academy, this debate has focused on expression rights, whether some groups have more privileged rights than others, how exercising these rights can harm certain individuals or groups, and whether reactions to certain speakers or events constitute censorship.

Does inviting a provocative speaker to campus really provide the best test of whether free speech is alive and well at our universities? Does threatening to discipline individuals and cut institutional funding create better speech on campus or silence faculty, students, and staff?

In the latest issue of Academic Matters, we have brought together a stellar group of scholars to consider these questions and what the answers mean for the future of the academy.

 


Free speech and the battle for the university
Speaking from personal experience, Shannon Dea recounts how the Faculty Association at the University of Waterloo responded to a controversial speaker who came to campus. How did the faculty association avoid the “free speech trap”?

 

Understanding the right to freedom of expression and its place on campus
As campus speech controversies flare up in the media, Richard Moon provides insight into the legal landscape of the debate. How can universities foster an inclusive campus that balances the expression rights of different community members?

 

Debwewin: To speak the truth – Nishnabek de’bwewin: Telling our truths
David Newhouse offers a thoughtful overview of indigenous perspectives on truth, academic freedom, and tenure, which have only recently started to be meaningfully reflected in academic discourse.

 

Freedom with limits? The role faculty associations play protecting the speech rights of their members
Although the campus speech debate presents new challenges, Michelle Webber and Linda Rose-Krasnor describe the tools faculty associations already have to protect the rights of their members and support other members of the campus community.

 

A manufactured crisis: the Ford government’s troubling free speech mandate
Examining the directive from the provincial government requiring universities and colleges to develop new free speech policies, James L. Turk questions the political agenda driving these policies and whether they are even needed.

 

The alt-right and the weaponization of free speech on campus
Jasmin Zine provides a compelling argument that, far from providing space for new voices, the free speech debate is actually being used to normalize hate and bigotry and suppress already marginalized voices on campus.

 

We were a strong union before Janus, and we will be a strong union after Janus
Andrea Calver discusses her time working with the California Faculty Association in its efforts to mobilize its membership and build a stronger union in the shadow of a recent US law that weakens union rights.

Job posting: Assistant to the Executive Director

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Duties and responsibilities:

  • Provide administrative support to the Executive Director and coordinate the work in the Executive Director’s office, including scheduling, travel and oversight of correspondence
  • Coordinate production and distribution of material for OCUFA Board and Executive Committee meetings
  • Record minutes of Executive, with the possibility for voluntary overtime opportunities
  • Maintain and update OCUFA policy archives database
  • Other duties may be assigned from time to time as the needs of the Executive Director’s office evolve

Skills required:

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Excellent organizational, administrative and secretarial skills
  • Proficiency in basic graphic design
  • Advanced skill using Word, Outlook, Excel and file management software
  • Demonstrated ability to work with tight deadlines, frequently changing priorities, and to handle multiple tasks simultaneously
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work as part of a team, with minimal supervision, while exhibiting strong initiative and judgment

Qualifications:

  • A diploma, university degree, or relevant education and experience
  • Understanding of labour relations in a unionized workplace
  • Understanding of and commitment to OCUFA policies, practices and objectives

Experience:

  • Demonstrated experience related to the duties and skills above, including a minimum of 5 years as an executive assistant or equivalent to senior officials

The position is within Level A of the Administrative Category as set out in the collective agreement between OCUFA and CUPE 1281. The annual starting salary for the position is between $61,928 and $65,862. OCUFA also offers a pension plan along with a generous benefits and vacation package.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. OCUFA welcomes and encourages applications from qualified individuals from equity-seeking groups, including women, members of racialized groups, Indigenous persons, persons with disabilities, persons of any sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

To receive full consideration, submit a letter of application and CV by 4 pm January 18, 2019.

Applications should be submitted as a single pdf document and directed to Michael Conlon PhD, Executive Director at mconlon@ocufa.on.ca.

Auditor General’s claims about OSAP inaccurate and irresponsible

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The recent Ontario Auditor General’s Report on the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) should concern Ontarians. In its analysis, it misrepresents the value OSAP provides to students and families and draws premature and inaccurate conclusions based on incomplete data. Most alarmingly, it dramatically oversteps the expectations of the Auditor General’s office by making recommendations seemingly intended to pave the way for government cuts to student assistance for low-income families.

In response, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations President Gyllian Phillips wrote a letter to the Auditor General detailing why the report on OSAP is both inaccurate and irresponsible.

The grants that OSAP provides help tens of thousands of Ontario students attend university and college without taking on unreasonable student debt that will weigh them down for decades. Programs like OSAP operate as both financial assistance and as long-term policy levers to shift the perceptions and expectations of low-income families.

The fear of taking on more debt is a well-documented barrier for those considering a postsecondary education and any analysis based on only a single year of data (as is the case with the Auditor General’s Report) could not possibly measure the effectiveness of the program.

Contrary to the Auditor General’s flawed claims, there is ample evidence to suggest that, in the long term, increasing the amount and availability of non-repayable grants are the best means to remove the financial barriers faced by students wishing to pursue a postsecondary education.

Further, the Auditor General glosses over one of the defining equity policy goals of the program: to reduce the debt of those students forced to borrow money to afford a postsecondary education. As the previous government came to understand, the high levels of student debt being taken on by low-income students is an equity issue government must address.

The criticism that only two per cent more students are attending university or college because of the new grants programs is also misleading. If the stated goal of OSAP is to increase access for low-income students, properly measuring the effectiveness of this initiative would require dis-aggregated data that demonstrates if the proportion of low-income students has increased. The Auditor General does not have the data to make that case.

In fact, the higher than anticipated uptake for the program signals the opposite. If one were auditing the program based on whether it was achieving its stated policy goals, surely increased uptake would be a positive outcome. Since the program is income tested, it should be inferred that the 25 per cent increase in uptake is, in fact, from families who would otherwise be incurring high levels of debt.

The new grants program was specifically designed to address the fact that Ontario has been a national laggard when it comes to non-repayable student financial assistance. A significant portion of the funding for these new grants was reallocated from existing ineffective financial assistance programs and tax credits. In effect, less money is being wasted on red tape, and more money is being invested in making university and college a reality for thousands of students. That the demand for the program has exceeded expectations demonstrates the real financial struggles Ontarians face paying for a postsecondary education.

Tuition fees in Ontario are the highest in Canada and continue to increase year after year. Each time the provincial government allows tuition fees to rise, they increase the financial burden of pursuing a postsecondary education and create more demand for student financial assistance through OSAP.

The recommendations made in the report on OSAP extend beyond the jurisdiction of the Auditor General’s office, the mandate of which is to conduct audits and value-for-dollar analyses of government programs. As a result, this report veers heavily into policy analysis and encroaches on a public policy debate best left to elected representatives, academic and policy experts, and the communities impacted.

Given the flawed data and inappropriate recommendations, this report represents an ill-informed political pronouncement rather than an expert opinion rooted in the principles of value-for-dollar auditing.

Due to its historic independence and vigilant accounting, the office of the Auditor General has garnered a great deal of respect, influence, and trust. This latest example of the Auditor General blurring the lines and expanding her mandate into areas outside her jurisdiction undermines this trust and distorts an important policy discussion.

Brescia Faculty Association consolidation approved in nick of time

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Congratulations are in order for the Brescia Faculty Association (BFA). The BFA managed to organize Brescia contract faculty and get them consolidated into the main bargaining unit just two days before Bill 47 passed. Introduced by Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives, Bill 47 wiped consolidation language from the Ontario Labour Relations Act.

The previous Ontario government introduced the now deleted consolidation language in 2017. It made it easier for the province’s unions to streamline and strengthen their bargaining units. Despite the objections and delay tactics of the Brescia University College administration, the Ontario Labour Board determined that the BFA’s application was in order and approved the consolidation of the existing unit with the new unit.

The BFA follows the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association (UOITFA) as only the second faculty association granted consolidation between the passing of Bill 148 in 2017 and Bill 47 in 2018. All new consolidations can only result from negotiations with the employer.

Both faculty associations saw an opportunity and, by moving quickly, were able to organize new contract faculty members into their existing bargaining units.

UWOFA makes progress on use of SQCTs and fairness for contract faculty

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The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) has reached a four-year agreement with the Western University administration. The agreement includes significant advances towards expanded job security provisions for contract faculty and important improvements and clarifications on the uses of Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching in the faculty appointment, evaluation, tenure, and promotion processes. The union also achieved across-the-board salary increases competitive with other faculty associations.