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2018 Worldviews Lecture addresses challenges fostering free speech on campus

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At this year’s Worldviews Lecture, Professor Sigal Ben-Porath addressed the increasingly heightened debate around free speech on campus. Her lecture was followed by a panel discussion that explored challenges for democratic values and minority rights in academia and beyond.

Video of the entire lecture, including the panel discussion, can be viewed online here.

In her lecture, Professor Ben-Porath reflected on campus free speech controversies of recent years – from cancelled speakers to physical fights – and suggests that campuses need to reaffirm their commitment to both free speech and inclusion, with the understanding that both are tightly linked to the academic mission.

Referring to ideas she wrote about in her book, Free Speech on Campus, Professor Ben-Porath presented three levels of the debate for discussion:

Substance: What can be talked about, and are there things that should not be said? Must universities stay neutral regarding campus speakers?

Impact: Are certain views too hurtful to voice? Must they be silenced to avoid negative psychological or social consequences? Are universities considering the impacts of their decisions around these issues?

Public perception: Campus speech debates are often inaccurately portrayed and ineffectively addressed in the media. Open inquiry and the discussion of controversial ideas are an integral part of the academic mission, even if institutional practices could be improved. How can postsecondary institutions ensure the public’s understanding of their work reflects their academic mission?

Professor Ben-Porath argued that universities must become places that protect inclusive freedom, where ideas can be challenged, but where all feel safe to make their opinions heard. She distinguished between intellectual safety and dignitary safety, stating that, while university campuses are places where students should be challenged intellectually, challenging the abilities, rights, or legitimacy of a group of people (particularly those whose voices are already marginalized) actually suppresses speech. Further, she noted that the attempt to weaponized the issue of free speech actually chills speech itself.

Pointing out that debates around speech are not unique to our era, Ben-Porath argued that universities must maintain public standing as institutions that serve the broader community and public interest, not just a small group of loud voices.

She concluded by stating that inclusive campus speech requires understanding:

  • the existing norms for disseminating knowledge on campus (the voices and speech currently accepted);
  • who is responsible for including people and speech topics;
  • the resources available to community members if their expressive or dignitary needs are not being met; and
  • how to ensure university campuses are spaces where a productive dialogue can be sustained.

Professor Ben-Porath’s lecture was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Globe and Mail higher education reporter Simona Chiose, and which featured questions from members of the audience and those watching online.

Jasmin Zine, Professor of Sociology and the Muslim Studies Option at Wilfrid Laurier University, observed that allowing white supremicists space on campus to speak legitimizes their views, regardless of attempts by universities to distance themselves from the debate and claim neutrality. She argued that universities must take responsibility for the consequences. Professor Zine spoke of the need to distinguish between controversial speech and hate speech, and to balance speech rights with human rights. She also spoke to the emotional and intellectual labour required to counter intolerant racist and sexist speech – labour that often has to be undertaken by those already struggling to have their voices heard.

Paul Axelrod, author, retired York University professor, and former Dean of York’s Faculty of Education, agreed with Professor Zine that Canadian hate laws should be applied on campus, but that if there are any doubts about the type of speech, we should err on the side of allowing the speech. He discussed the new dimensions of the debate, which has seen increased harassment online. He believes that the values and practices of free expression and inclusivity can and should be reconciled, and that the policies we adopt should reflect these commitments.

Shree Paradkar, a Toronto Star journalist who writes about discrimination and identity issues, pointed out that many of these controversial speakers already have well-establish platforms, and that denying them the right to speak on campus has very little impact on their ability to make their voices heard. She argued that speech rights are far too important to be used to protect bigotry and that human rights should not be up for debate. Paradkar illustrated how free speech advocates don’t come to the defense of all speech, revealing that this debate isn’t necessarily about speech but about ensuring only certain groups have the right to speech.

Scott Jaschik, CEO and Editor of Inside Higher Ed, started by pointing out that speech laws in the United States (where there is less protection against hate speech) are very different than those in Canada, and so comparing developments in both countries can be problematic. He argued that we need to reject the idea that free speech is disappearing from campuses and that it continues to thrive. He described how, in the US, the free speech issue is often tied to money and controversial speakers are paid to tour college campuses to promote their views. Without the financial incentive, Jaschik argued these individuals would be far less likely to travel around disseminating their views. He also agreed with Paradkar that free speech defenders seem to be very selective about who they choose to defend. Jaschik concluded by stating that he thinks blocking speech is counterproductive, and actually boosts the notoriety of the speaker, affirming and enabling those who want to sensationalize these issues.

Watch a video of the full lecture and panel discussion.

What might the 2018 Ontario Budget mean for university faculty?

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On March 28, the 2018 Ontario Budget was tabled. Given the upcoming election, it is widely understood that this is as much a campaign platform document as a budget. While the continued implementation of reforms to student assistance in this year’s budget are expected to further improve access for students, faculty are concerned that operating funding for universities remains stagnant, threatening the high-quality education students expect and deserve.

The lack of increased funding to support the government’s stated goals of providing fairness for contract faculty and encouraging faculty renewal is disappointing. Operating funding over the next three years is now on track to decline slightly (by 0.1%), which, when adjusted for inflation and enrolment, amounts to an even larger reduction in funding. Ontario’s universities already receive the lowest per-student funding in Canada and this budget will leave our province further behind.

The changes to student assistance announced in 2016 continue to be implemented, with parental and spousal contributions reduced as expected in the 2018 budget. This will result in more students qualifying for the grants and loans they need to afford the cost of tuition fees, which continue to increase. Investments in access are welcome, but they must be matched with operating investments in quality that support improved student-faculty ratios, smaller class sizes, full-time faculty hiring, and fairness for contract faulty. Investments in quality were missing from this year’s budget.

Postsecondary-related budget announcements that will be of interest to faculty include:

  • Funding new labour laws: A one-time “support quality programs and student outcomes” fund is allocated in 2018-19, including $32 million for universities and $125 million for colleges. While not specified in the budget, it is our understanding that these funds are intended to fund implementation of new labour laws passed in Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. In the university sector, we understand that it is expected to fund a portion of the cost of new minimum wage, vacation pay, and leave provisions, but no funding has yet to be allocated to support the implementation of new equal pay provisions. It is also concerning that this funding has only been allocated for a single year, since supporting fair working conditions will require ongoing investment in Ontario’s universities.
  • Experiential learning and labour market focused programming: A new Talent Advantage Fund will provide $132 million over three years to support programming that is responsive to the needs of students and the labour market, including partnerships with employers to provide more experiential learning opportunities, dual curriculum programs that partner with employers, and increasing STEM grads by 25 per cent. An additional $12 million has been allocated to support the Career Ready Fund, which was established in 2017 to support experiential learning.
  • Capital funding: A new investment of $500 million over ten years starting in 2020–21 is targeted at helping to renew and modernize Ontario’s university and college campuses. Two-thirds of this funding is expected to be allocated to universities. This is part of a $3 billion commitment over ten years to capital funding for postsecondary education, which includes facilities renewal and major capacity expansion funding, announced in previous budgets.
  • Mental health: A portion of the $2.1 billion investment in mental health services over four years will be dedicated to postsecondary education. The annual $6 million investments in on-campus student mental health services announced in the 2017 Ontario Budget will continue.
  • International strategy: An Internationalization Fund has been announced, but no money has been allocated in this budget to support it. Once funded, the strategy will aim to support programming to enhance students’ international competencies and knowledge, study‐abroad scholarships for domestic students, bolster support services for international students, expand support for students with social service and settlements needs, and promote French‐language institutions in Ontario as study destinations.

Other ongoing initiatives were also noted in the budget, including continued support for eCampusOntario’s Open Textbooks Library and continued progress towards the proclamation of a French-language university.

This budget also included the expansion of OHIP+ prescription drug coverage to seniors, which will result in cost savings for benefit plans that provide drug coverage for employees over 65 or retirees. Through negotiations, this could lead to benefit improvements or premium reductions for faculty associations.

Overall, this budget leaves important faculty concerns unaddressed. Following the June 7 election, OCUFA will continue working with the new government to advocate for re-investments in universities to support improvements in per-student funding levels; establish a more robust consultative process for Strategic Mandate Agreements; ensure core operating grants are not linked to performance metrics; establish funding to support fairness for contract faculty, including equal pay; and develop a faculty renewal strategy that supports full-time faculty hiring.

Once the full platforms of all three parties are released, OCUFA will provide a more detailed analysis of those documents to you.

If you have any questions about the 2018 Ontario Budget, please contact Brynne at .

Ontario faculty gather at Queen’s Park for OCUFA’s annual Advocacy Day

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Each year, dozens of faculty from universities across Ontario travel to Toronto to participate in OCUFA’s Advocacy Day. The event provides an opportunity for faculty to meet with their local Members of Provincial Parliament and brief them about faculty priorities for Ontario’s universities. In addition to local MPPs, OCUFA representatives also met with Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) Mitzie Hunter, New Democratic Party Advanced Education Critic Peggy Sattler, and Progressive Conservative Advanced Education Critic Lorne Coe.

For the second year in a row, faculty gathered the day beforehand to discuss approaches to this year’s advocacy priorities and review strategies for making the most of their meetings.

With a provincial election only months away, faculty were focused on lobbying MPPs in their roles as policy makers and pushing all political parties to take strong positions on improving the quality of education at Ontario’s universities. These priorities include:

  • increasing investment in Ontario university operating grants to return to 2008-2009 levels of per-student funding;
  • investing in smaller class sizes and improving education quality by increasing the full-time faculty complement at Ontario’s universities; and
  • providing the leadership and funding needed to support fairness for contract faculty across the postsecondary sector.

Following a long day of meetings, faculty joined MPPs and their staff for a special reception to continue these important conversations. The reception featured speeches from OCUFA President Gyllian Phillips, Mitzie Hunter, Peggy Sattler, and Progressive Conservative MPP Bill Walker, as well as several posters highlighting some of the research conducted by faculty members in attendance.

In addition to meeting with their MPPs, faculty were also active on social media, reporting back on their meetings and the issues discussed. It is hoped that these conversations will continue in the lead-up to the election, as faculty meet with MPPs and candidates in their own ridings and host campus events.

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

Remembering longtime LUFA Chief Negotiator Jerry Phillips

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It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Gerald (Jerry) E. Phillips, the longtime Chief Negotiator for the Lakehead University Faculty Association.

Following 49 years of service at Lakehead University, Jerry will be remembered by his colleagues for the important and inspiring contributions he made as a Professor in the Faculty of Business and an advocate for Lakehead’s faculty members.

For those who had the opportunity to work with Jerry, they will recall his caring spirit, his humble honesty, and his tireless passion for improving the working conditions of his colleagues at Lakehead.

He will be missed.

The obituary for Jerry Phillips can be read on the Lakehead University website.

Becoming a more reflective teacher by serving on a university teaching awards committee

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As a faculty member, being nominated for and receiving a teaching award can be career-altering, but serving on a teaching awards committee provides its own benefits. In a new article for the journal Transformative Dialogues, two members of OCUFA’s Teaching and Academic Librarianship Awards committee summarize their experiences as committee members.

Judy Bornais and Andrea Buchholz reflect on every step of the process, including the review of nomination dossiers, the selection meeting, preparing citations and feedback letters, and the awards ceremony. They describe how their committee work has encouraged them to view their teaching through an “autobiographical lens”. It has improved their understanding of excellence in teaching, the student learning process, and how to incorporate this new understanding into their own approaches to teaching. As they state in their article, “serving on a university teaching awards committee has encouraged us to evolve, both professionally and personally.”

Read the article, Becoming a More Reflective Teacher by Serving on a University Teaching Awards Committee, for free online.

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

Livestream today’s Worldviews Lecture: Free speech on campus – Challenges for minority rights and democratic values

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Today, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and the Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto are hosting the fourth annual Worldviews Lecture on Media and Higher Education.

Professor Sigal Ben-Porath will deliver a lecture title “Free speech on campus: Challenges for minority rights and democratic values” followed by a panel discussion featuring Sigal Ben-Porath, Paul Axelrod, Shree Paradkar, Scott Jaschik, Jasmin Zine, and moderated by Simona Chiose.

The livestream will start at 1:30pm.

To learn more about today’s lecture and watch the livestream, visit: worldviewsconference.com

 

Southwestern Ontarians believe fair university workplaces are key to high quality education

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LONDON – According to a recent poll commissioned by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), 68 per cent of those who live in Southwestern Ontario want professors with job security and benefits teaching university courses. Among Ontario youth considering a postsecondary education, support was even higher, with 71 per cent stating this as their preference.

“This poll reaffirms the public’s support for fairness for contract faculty,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of OCUFA. “With an election on the horizon, it is time for all political parties to make postsecondary education a priority and commit to investing in good jobs at our universities.”

The poll surveyed 2,001 individuals across the province, including 500 in Southwestern Ontario. The regional results show strong support for better working conditions for contract faculty, with 89 per cent supporting equal pay for those teaching the same courses as their full-time colleagues and 85 per cent supporting equal access to benefits, including health insurance and pensions. Further, three out of four individuals living in Southwestern Ontario agreed that declining faculty working conditions would negatively impact education quality.

As part of the poll, youth across the province were asked for their perspectives on precarious academic work. Precarious work is a significant concern for them, with a majority worried they won’t be able to find a well-paid, full-time job upon graduation. These results show that students firmly support improving working conditions for contract faculty.

“As a faculty association, we have been working hard to improve working conditions for our contract faculty members,” said Stephen Pitel, President of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association. “When we invest in the faculty who teach our students, we invest in the quality of education, we invest in London, and we invest in Southwestern Ontario.”

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 28 faculty associations across Ontario. You can read the poll results here.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or
OR Mark Rosenfeld, Executive Director at 416-306-6030 or

Education quality at risk as expanded access to university not matched with additional funding in Ontario Budget

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TORONTO – Ontario’s faculty and academic librarians are concerned that the 2018 Ontario Budget continues to underfund the province’s universities. Ontario’s universities receive the lowest per-student funding in Canada and the government’s decision not to meaningfully invest in core operating grants threatens the quality of education. The lack of increased funding to support the government’s stated goals of providing fairness for contract faculty and encouraging faculty renewal is disappointing.

“We are pleased to see expanded investments to improve access for students,” said OCUFA President Gyllian Phillips. “But, as government funding for universities erodes, Ontario’s faculty are reaching the limits of our abilities to provide the high-quality learning experiences our students expect.”

Faculty and students already feel pressure from underfunding. Over the past decade, student enrolment at Ontario universities has increased seven times faster than full-time faculty hiring, Ontario currently has the highest student-faculty ratio in Canada, and more than half of the province’s university faculty are now working on contracts without job security. Leadership from government is needed to close the student-faculty gap and convert more contract faculty into secure, full-time positions.

“Faculty have been active in calling for the government to address precarious academic work,” said Phillips. “Now that Ontario’s labour laws have been updated, new public funding is required to implement these laws at universities across the province and bring fairness to contract faculty.”

A new poll commissioned by OCUFA shows that 93 per cent of Ontarians believe that universities should be model employers and over 84 per cent support fairness measures for contract faculty, including equal pay and access to benefits. Additionally, 85 per cent support providing contract faculty with pathways to full-time, secure positions. OCUFA has been calling on government to launch a faculty renewal strategy and it’s disappointing that there is no funding for this popular initiative in the budget.

“A commitment to investing in full-time faculty hiring would represent a strong complement to the government’s priority of increasing access,” said Phillips. “Until then, class sizes will keep growing, reducing the time and support faculty are able to provide. Our students deserve better.”

Ontario’s 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. Robust public funding is the foundation upon which our postsecondary institutions thrive for the benefit of everyone in the province, and that’s why it is important the government invests in a fair future for the province’s universities.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 28 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033, or
Mark Rosenfeld, Executive Director at 416-306-6030, .

Eastern Ontarians believe fair university workplaces are key to high quality education

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KINGSTON – According to a recent poll commissioned by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), 65 per cent of those who live in Eastern Ontario want professors with job security and benefits teaching university courses. Among Ontario youth considering a postsecondary education, support was even higher, with 71 per cent stating this as their preference.

“This poll reaffirms the public’s support for fairness for contract faculty,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of OCUFA. “With the provincial budget tomorrow and an election on the horizon, it is time for the government to make postsecondary education a priority and invest in good jobs at our universities.”

The poll surveyed 2,001 individuals across the province, including 500 in Eastern Ontario. The regional results show strong support for better working conditions for contract faculty, with 86 per cent supporting equal pay for those teaching the same courses as their full-time colleagues as well as equal access to benefits, including health insurance and pensions. Further, three out of four individuals living in Eastern Ontario agreed that declining faculty working conditions would negatively impact education quality.

As part of the poll, youth across the province were asked for their perspectives on precarious academic work. Precarious work is a significant concern for them, with a majority worried they won’t be able to find a well-paid, full-time job upon graduation. These results show that students firmly support improving working conditions for contract faculty.

“The public understands that faculty working conditions are student learning conditions,” said Kayll Lake, President of the Queen’s University Faculty Association. “As a faculty association, we will continue to do everything we can do to improve working conditions for our contract members.”

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 28 faculty associations across Ontario. You can read the poll results here..

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or
OR Mark Rosenfeld, Executive Director at 416-306-6030 or

Northern Ontarians believe fair university workplaces are key to high quality education

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SUDBURY – According to a recent poll commissioned by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), 68 per cent of Northern Ontarians want professors with job security and benefits teaching university courses. Among Ontario youth considering a postsecondary education, support was even higher, with 71 per cent stating this as their preference.

“This poll reaffirms the public’s support for fairness for contract faculty,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of OCUFA. “With the provincial budget next week and an election on the horizon, it is time for the government to make postsecondary education a priority and invest in good jobs at our universities.”

The poll surveyed 2,001 individuals across the province, including 500 in Ontario’s north. It shows strong support for better working conditions for contract faculty among northern Ontarians, including 88 per cent supporting equal pay for those teaching the same courses as their full-time colleagues and 85 per cent supporting equal access to benefits, including health insurance and pensions. Further, four out of five Northern Ontarians agreed that declining faculty working conditions would negatively impact education quality.

As part of the poll, youth across the province were asked for their perspectives on precarious academic work. Precarious work is a significant concern for them, with a majority worried they won’t be able to find a well-paid, full-time job upon graduation. These results show that students firmly support improving working conditions for contract faculty.

“At Laurentian, the faculty association has been working hard to improve working conditions for our sessional members,” said Jim Ketchen, President of the Laurentian University Faculty Association. “We are pleased to see that Northern Ontarians strongly support policies that would address precarious academic work and ensure fairness for contract faculty at Ontario’s universities.”

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 28 faculty associations across Ontario. You can read the poll results here.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or
OR Mark Rosenfeld, Executive Director at 416-306-6030 or

An open letter to the President of Carleton University in support of CUPE 2424

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Dear Alastair Summerlee,

On behalf of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and the 17,000 full-time and contract university professors and academic librarians we represent at 28 member associations across the province of Ontario, I am writing to urge you to return to the bargaining table with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 2424 to negotiate in good faith, and reach a fair deal.

The administrative, technical and library staff who are members of CUPE Local 2424 do important work that keeps Carleton University running. We offer our fullest support to these workers who are seeking to protect their pensions and their bargaining rights around pensions. Faculty across the province understand the importance of campus workers retaining a voice in how their pensions are structured.

All workers deserve to retire with dignity and security. Together, we should be strengthening our pension plans and expanding access to pensions, including to workers in precarious jobs, not seeking rollbacks that put workers’ retirement security in jeopardy.

A recent public opinion poll found that over 90 per cent of Ontarians expect universities to be model employers in their communities. Now is a time to support more good jobs for Ontarians, not fewer. Faculty across the province support workers at Carleton University in their effort to defend good jobs and retirement security.

Sincerely,

Gyllian Phillips
President, OCUFA

Ontario contract faculty mobilizing for provincial election

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OCUFA’s Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee has been busy since December. Members have been identifying ways to mobilize their members in the lead-up to June’s provincial election.

With the momentum generated by Bill 148, there has never been a better time to fight for fairness for contract faculty and keep postsecondary issues on the agenda for political candidates. Faculty associations across Ontario will be hosting election events on campus, including candidate meet-and-greets and debates.

One of the priorities identified by faculty associations has been to build stronger coalitions on campus that increase solidarity with other campus workers, students, and communities. With that in mind, many faculty associations are organizing these events in cooperation with other campus staff and student unions. By building solidarity with other campus groups, faculty associations better position themselves to make gains in bargaining.

To date, the Lakehead University Faculty Association, Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association, Queen’s University Faculty Association, and Windsor University Faculty Association have all committed to hosting election events on their campuses. If you want to help organize an event at your university, contact your local faculty association or reach out to OCUFA’s Engagement and Campaigns Coordinator Alexandra Pinosa at .


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

Faculty from across Canada participate in OCUFA’s fourth Social Media Day of Action

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This year’s Social Media Day of Action in support of fairness for contract faculty and other precariously employed campus workers was a huge success! On Wednesday, February 28th, OCUFA and allies from across Canada tweeted and shared posts on Facebook raising awareness about precarious work on our campuses and asked Ontario MPP’s how they plan on supporting postsecondary workers.

More than a dozen Ontario faculty associations joined with CUPE and OPSEU locals, CAUT, CFS–Ontario, OECTA, the Fight for $15 and Fairness, and even the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators in BC to make it clear that quality postsecondary education relies on good campus jobs. NDP MPP and critic for Advanced Education and Skills Development Peggy Sattler retweeted our messages, recognizing that fairness for contract faculty means equal pay and job security.

Because of our work, the hashtags #Fairness4CF and #15andFairness were trending for much of the day. Thank you to all of the faculty, campus workers, and students who participated. This is a sign of our collective strength in the lead-up to the Ontario election on June 7.


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

$15 and Fairness provincial strategy session

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On March 23 and 24, the Fight for $15 & Fairness Provincial Strategy Meeting will be held in Toronto. This event will bring together over two hundred supporters of the $15 & Fairness campaign from across the province to assess the campaign’s work to-date and collectively determine next steps. This year, the agenda will include sessions that focus on fairness for contract faculty and on-campus organizing for good jobs. The meeting is open to anyone interested in attending and faculty association representatives are encouraged to register. The online registration form is available here. If you have any questions, please contact Brynne Sinclair-Waters at .


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