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New articles from Academic Matters

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There is more to Academic Matters than just the print issue. New articles are being added to the Academic Matters website every week.

Healthy research ecosystem – healthy researchers? The researcher as an organism of focus within a ‘research ecosystem’
By Michelle L.A. Nelson and Ross Upshur
“The academic research environment is changing and researchers report struggling to adapt in order to be successful. Funding shortfalls are perennial, but what systemic shifts should occur to enable researchers at all career stages to be productive and successful?”

Université de l’Ontario français: a 21st-century university
By Marc L. Johnson, Francophone Hub of Knowledge and Innovation
“Ontario’s French community has been asking for a university governed by and for Francophones. Even without the support of the Ontario government, could the modern curriculum proposed for the Université de l’Ontario français provide a way forward?”

University of California’s break with the biggest academic publisher could shake up scholarly publishing for good
By MacKenzie Smith, University of California, Davis
“The University of California recently made international headlines when it canceled its subscription with scientific journal publisher Elsevier. The twittersphere lit up. And Elsevier’s parent company, RELX, saw its stock drop 7 percent in response to the announcement. A library canceling a subscription seems …”

Citizen science can help solve our data crisis
By Tarun Katapally, University of Regina
“A recent news article in the Globe and Mail highlighted Canada’s data crisis and identified at least 28 critical gaps. These gaps intersect multiple sectors, ranging from health and education to environment, justice and Indigenous issues — a dearth that leaves researchers and policy makers …”

Subsidized privilege: The real scandal of American universities
By Neil McLaughlin, McMaster University
“U.S. federal prosecutors have charged 50 people — 38 of them are parents — for allegedly being involved in fraud schemes to secure spots at Yale, Stanford and other big-name schools. Prosecutors accused some parents of paying millions of dollars in bribes to get their …”

Unrealistic striving for academic excellence has a cost
By Tanya Chichekian, Université de Sherbrooke
“In my past experience as an academic adviser, it was difficult to explain to a disappointed family why their child did not make an admissions cut-off when the student’s overall high school average was over 80 per cent. I also accompanied students who …”

Universities: increasingly stressful environments taking psychological toll – here’s what needs to change
By Luca Morini, Coventry University
“Every year, millions of international students travel to different countries to study at university. This, together with a lack of public funding for universities, has created an increasingly competitive market in which universities work directly against each other to chase students and the money they …”

McMaster University Faculty Association makes significant gains in faculty benefits in latest agreement

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The McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA) has ratified a three-year agreement with their university administration. Significant achievements include extensive improvements to benefits in areas such as mental health, hearing aids, and medical device coverage. MUFA also successfully negotiated increases to its professional development allowance and dependant tuition bursary program. Among other improvements, the association achieved across-the-board salary increases comparable to other faculty associations.

First OCUFA Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism awarded to Nicholas Hune-Brown

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Nicholas Hune-Brown has been awarded the inaugural OCUFA Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism. Hune-Brown is a Toronto-based magazine writer whose work has appeared in Toronto Life, Slate, The Walrus, The Guardian, and other publications. He is the winner of multiple National Magazine Awards and is the features editor of The Local.

The Fellowship was established to help address the shortage of informed investigative reporting on Canadian higher education issues in the Canadian media. Open to full-time, part-time, and freelance journalists, including students, the fellowship is designed to support those wishing to pursue in-depth and innovative journalism on higher education.

A year-long Fellowship, Hune-Brown will spend the next several months engaged in research and is expected to have his work published by early 2020.

You’re invited to Worldviews 2019: An unconventional convention

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This June, join participants from around the globe for the 2019 Worldviews on Media and Higher Education Conference in Toronto, Canada.

Register for Worldviews 2019: Democracy at risk? Reflecting on the future of higher education and media in a post-truth world.

Taking place June 12-14, the three-day conference will focus on democracy and the changing power relations of higher education and the media in the global north and south – specifically examining the concept of expertise in a “post-truth” world and the types of voices amplified by emerging technologies.

Watch the conference teaser video and learn more.

The conference will bring together a diverse group of academics, students, higher education leaders, communications professionals, and journalists with a wide range of experiences, insights, and opinions.

Through a series of keynote talks, panel discussions, interviews, and interactive exhibits, conference participants will focus on the challenges and opportunities presented by the democratization of higher education and the media, engage in an ongoing and lively exchange of ideas, and explore innovative possibilities for partnerships.

Register today to qualify for a special early bird rate.

Learn more about the conference sessions and speakers by visiting the Worldviews website or downloading the conference application for your phone and using the code wv2019.

UOITFA reaches collective agreement on behalf of newly consolidated bargaining unit

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The University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association (UOITFA) has ratified a three-year agreement with their university administration. This is the first agreement UOITFA has achieved with its newly merged unit after they consolidated bargaining units last year. The agreement applies to tenured and tenure-stream faculty and teaching faculty (who previously had separate agreements), as well as limited term faculty, for whom this is their first agreement. The association achieved across-the-board salary increases comparable to other faculty associations. Significant achievements included extensive improvements to benefits in areas such as vision care, paramedical, and hearing aid coverage. The UOITFA also successfully negotiated increases to the contributions for its defined contribution pension plan as part of its effort to enhance the retirement security of its members.

OCUFA faculty associations participate in constituency week advocacy

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During the week of March 11th, OCUFA member associations from across the province participated in a series of advocacy meetings with MPPs in their ridings. These meetings were organized during a “constituency week” – a week when the provincial legislature is not sitting and many MPPs return to their ridings to hold meetings with their constituents.

Constituency week provided an important opportunity for faculty to discuss important postsecondary issues with MPPs, including:

  • committing to a faculty renewal strategy that supports full-time hiring at universities while creating pathways to secure jobs for contract faculty;
  • moving away from punitive university funding models based on performance metrics and urging greater consultation with faculty about university funding frameworks; and
  • improving access to postsecondary education through protecting and expanding funding for postsecondary education in Ontario.

This is the first time that OCUFA faculty associations strategically engaged in a series of coordinated meetings with MPPs in their ridings during constituency week. Faculty association representatives have provided positive feedback on the meetings with their MPPs. It is an important step in building a strong relationship with their local representatives and increasing the awareness of faculty priorities. Moving forward, OCUFA will continue to support faculty associations wishing to participate in constituency week meetings with their MPPs.

Watch the 2019 Worldviews Lecture by Tanya Talaga: Truth and reconciliation in higher education and the media

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At the 2019 Worldviews Lecture, Ojibway author and journalist Tanya Talaga addressed the need for better education for Indigenous students in Canada and how higher education can be a part of the solution. After her lecture, Talaga joined a panel discussion about the responsibilities higher education and the media have regarding truth and reconciliation.

Watch the 2019 Worldviews Lecture by Tanya Talaga on truth and reconciliation in higher education and the media.

Talaga’s started her lecture by stating that the history of what has happened in this country needs to be remembered when searching for paths forward. Many of the problems Indigenous students face when trying to access education stem from the generations of oppression that First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples have endured. She reminded the audience that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action were particularly meant for non-Indigenous Canadians to embrace as steps toward reconciliation.

Talaga noted that while promoting her book, Seven Fallen Feathers, after every event at least one audience member would come and tell her that they did not know about Canada’s residential school system. She pointed to the omission of this history in Canada’s schools as the cause of this lack of awareness. Talaga recalled that even in her history classes at the University of Toronto, Indigenous peoples were only reference in a couple of paragraphs about the fur trade. This historical ignorance feeds into how and why many Canadians fail to understand the issues preventing Indigenous students from accessing education today.

Talaga explained that there are very few high schools in Indigenous communities, forcing young teenagers to move away from home to receive an education. These students have to leave their family, their culture, and their languages to attend high school in cities hundreds of kilometres away.

Even though education is a fundamental right in this country, the schools Indigenous youth attend are often understaffed and underfunded. Talaga referenced Journalists for Human Rights’ most recent report Emerging Voices, where they reported that a lack of internet and computer access, as well as distance and funding are some of the main barriers that Indigenous students face when trying to access education.

Talaga suggested that, in order to get Indigenous students better access to postsecondary education, universities and colleges need to reach out to nearby Indigenous communities. For example, in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School has partnered with Confederation College so high school students can get college credits to help them transition to Lakehead University through a bridge program. Talaga said that if postsecondary institutions want to learn about creating a better relationship with Indigenous communities, they should pick up a phone, make an appointment, and go and talk to members of the community to figure out how they can improve their programs, services, and supports.

To conclude her talk, Talaga urged the audience to use their knowledge and tools to try to make a change. She said that Senator Murray Sinclair, the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, once told her that education got us into this mess, but education will also get us out.

Talaga’s lecture was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Jesse Wente and audience questions.

David Newhouse, a professor of Indigenous Studies in the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies at Trent University, focused on the importance of using Indigenous knowledge at universities and in research. He said that there is now a foundation that can be used to move forward, but universities need to do better. He was critical of universities that create Indigenous programming that only meets some of the needs of Indigenous communities and that, without using Indigenous knowledge, universities are continuing the work of the residential schools. He hopes that by including Indigenous knowledge at universities, Indigenous students can see what they can contribute to the world.

Susan Hill, Director of the Centre for Indigenous Studies at the University of Toronto, spoke about the importance of restitution in order for there to truly be reconciliation. Hill illustrated that there are many uncomfortable conversations that have to happen. In order to achieve reconciliation, Indigenous peoples need fair compensation for the dispossession of their lands and resources. As well, there need to be more educational supports for language revitalization and a recognition of our collective environmental responsibility. She said the reality is that no one is going anywhere, so we need to find a way to make this work.

Hayden King, Executive Director of the Yellowhead Institute and Advisor to the Dean of Arts on Indigenous Education at Ryerson University, echoed Talaga’s frustration with the lack of settler knowledge around Indigenous history in Canada. Even though Indigenous leaders have been speaking out about the atrocities that their peoples have faced for generations, King said it is Canadians’ willful ignorance and colonial amnesia that has allowed this history to go unacknowledged for so long. He argued that Indigenous history is not a story of victimization but of resistance and that in order for reconciliation to happen there needs to be meaningful action.

Jesse Wente, an Ojibwe writer, broadcaster, producer, and Director of the Indigenous Screen Office in Canada, spoke about the fact that Canadians are stuck in the “truth” part of truth and reconciliation. He said that the truth part is easy but it also forces Canadians to confront the fact that they benefit from what has happened, and continues to happen, to Indigenous peoples. Reconciliation is harder and fundamentally challenging for Canada – a country known as a respectful, free, and inclusive nation, but which, in reality, was built through killing, stealing from, and oppressing Indigenous peoples. Wente also pointed out the role that education and media have played in supporting colonialism and hundreds of years of injustice and suffering. He challenged educators and journalists to teach the truth and tell different stories that build understanding and help envision a path forward that recognizes the rights of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

Ontario’s university faculty troubled by results of Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey

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TORONTO – Ontario’s university faculty were troubled to learn the results of the Ontario Government’s Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey released today. It is deeply disturbing that over 63 per cent of university students surveyed disclosed an experience of sexual harassment and that sexual violence remains so pervasive on campus. These results point to the hard work still needed to create campuses and communities free of sexual harassment and violence.

“It’s deeply disturbing to see just how pervasive sexual harassment and violence is for students attending Ontario’s universities,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “As faculty, and as members of the university community, we are committed to continuing to work with students and universities towards eliminating sexual violence on our campuses.”

University faculty are pleased to see the provincial government focusing on efforts to support universities and students, including increasing funding for the Women’s Campus Safety Grant. However, the money will do little to make up for the hundreds of millions of dollars pulled out of the university system earlier this year. Faculty will be looking for the government to demonstrate a commitment to postsecondary education and the vital support services universities provide by increasing investments in Ontario’s universities in the coming budget.

It is also important to acknowledge that it is campus students’ unions and campus media who have been leaders in pointing out the shortcomings in university, college, and government policy on sexual violence and sexual harassment campus. They have been at the forefront of the work to create better sexual violence prevention policies on campus. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the government made today’s announcement while continuing their attacks on the very student organizations that have been so instrumental in raising awareness and driving progress on these issues.

“The government should stop undermining the ability of students’ unions to support and advocate on behalf of their members through the Student Choice Initiative,” said Phillips. “Instead, this government should support students by investing in postsecondary education and ensuring that universities and students’ unions have the resources to support a campus free from sexual violence.”

Sexual violence is unacceptable. The results of this survey demonstrate the severity of the problem on university and college campuses and the need for substantial resources and strong students’ unions and campus media to effectively address these issues. Faculty are committed to this work and to partnering with students, staff, university administrators, and the provincial government to create safer campuses.

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


For more information and to arrange interviews, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or

New OCUFA video highlights the importance of faculty mentorship

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Students come to university to learn, but only so much can be learned from a textbook. Active, engaged learning happens in the classroom when professors get to know students – their interests and their goals. In this new video from OCUFA, Ontario students talk about how their professors have helped them succeed. Their stories illustrate the importance of public funding, small class sizes, and good jobs for ensuring faculty have the time to support their students outside of class.

Watch it now:

OCUFA – The importance of mentorship from OCUFA on Vimeo.

Register to stream the 2019 Worldviews Lecture by Tanya Talaga

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Next Tuesday, March 19, Tanya Talaga will be delivering the 2019 Worldviews Lecture on Media and Higher Education. The lecture is sold out, but we are streaming it online for free.

Truth and reconciliation in higher education and the media:
What are the responsibilities? What is needed to overcome the legacy of colonialism?

When: Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 7pm to 9pm.

In 2015, the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was released, resulting in many universities and media outlets attempting to address the report’s calls to action. There are concerns that the initiatives undertaken have been ad hoc and do not address the ongoing legacy of colonialism.

Join us for an engaging talk by Tanya Talaga about the legacy of cultural genocide in Canada and her hope for a more inclusive and equitable future.

Her talk will be followed by a panel of media professionals and academics (including David Newhouse, Chair of the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies at Trent University; Jesse Wente, Director of the Indigenous Screen Office; Hayden King, Yellowhead Institute and Ryerson University; and Susan Hill, Centre for Indigenous Studies, University of Toronto).

The discussion will further explore issues of reconciliation in the media and higher education.

Register to stream the lecture for free:

Students to hold walk out at noon on March 20

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Join students from across Ontario in a walk out on Wednesday, March 20 at 12 pm. The walk out is designed to demonstrate to the Ontario government that attacks on students and student union democracy will not be tolerated.

Students will be walking out of classes and calling on the government to:

  • provide more grants, not loans,
  • eliminate tuition fees for all students,
  • increase public funding for public education,
  • protect students’ independent voices, and
  • demand the right to organize.

Walk outs have been organized across Ontario. Click here to see if there is a walk out being organized near you.

For more information, please email

OCUFA publishes research findings on university governance in Ontario

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In early 2018, OCUFA formed an ad hoc committee on university governance with a mandate to collect data on the current governance practices of Ontario universities and articulate a vision for collegial governance. This initiative resulted from an increasing concern among faculty associations about the erosion of collegial governance at Ontario’s universities.

The committee’s research work commenced in the spring of 2018 with a detailed survey that collected comprehensive governance data from every university faculty association in Ontario. The data entailed information about governance structures and processes including senate and board structures and practices, searches for senior administrators, budgets and finances, and general university governance.

The survey results supported many concerns among faculty associations regarding the state of collegial governance, including:

  • a growing prevalence of closed, secretive searches for senior administrators;
  • a lack of meaningful consultation with campus community members regarding senior administrative searches;
  • a growing trend in the use of professional hiring and consulting firms to administer search processes;
  • a lack of accountability and reporting procedures for the internal members of Boards of Governors/Trustees;
  • a lack of diversity and proper representation on Boards of Governors;
  • practices and policies that require faculty and staff members to relinquish their union membership to sit on Boards;
  • a lack of meaningful training and orientation for members on Boards of Governors and Senates; and
  • a lack of proper, meaningful consultation regarding university budgets and finances.

Read the full interim report on collegial governance at Ontario universities here.

Power of Many: Take Back Ontario Conference

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On March 25, the Ontario Federation of Labour is hosting a province-wide conference in Toronto that will bring together labour leaders, activists, and community allies. At the conference, participants will develop strategies for mobilizing our workplaces and communities to more effectively push back against the regressive agenda of the Doug Ford government.

This one-day conference will roll out the OFL’s full campaign strategy and outline plans for a series of escalating actions leading up to June 7, the one year anniversary of the provincial election. The conference will feature engaging speakers and the launch of new organizing and educational tools.

The conference will provide a good opportunity for faculty to connect with other university and education labour leaders and plug in to a broader campaign to protect good jobs and education quality in Ontario.

Anyone interested in attending can register online for only $25.

QUFA ratifies a new collective agreement

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The Queen’s University Faculty Association has ratified a three-year agreement with the Queen’s University administration. Members of QUFA also voted yes in the consent vote for the conversion of the pension plan to the University Pension Plan. If the UPP is created, the expiry of the Collective Agreement will move from April 30 to June 30 of 2022. The negotiations for the renewal of the Collective Agreement and the University Pension Plan consent vote were tied together because of the proximity of the expiry of the Collective Agreement and the consent vote. The Association achieved across-the-board salary increases comparable to other faculty associations. Other achievements included harmonization of the normal retirement date, recognition of Queen’s service for the unreduced early retirement option of the UPP, offsets for UPP contribution increases, and voluntary phased retirement as well as enhanced post-retirement benefits such as drug cards for retirees.