Strategies for enhancing collegial governance and effectiveness in governance spaces

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Collegial governance has been increasingly under attack at Ontario universities over the last several years. Faculty and academic librarian associations across the province have raised alarm about how universities are being governed, including a lack of meaningful faculty and academic librarian input and involvement in university decisions, top-down management from increasingly corporatized boards and administrations, and an erosion of transparency and accountability.

The OCUFA University Governance Committee was tasked with developing a resource to assist member associations in protecting and enhancing collegial governance at their institutions. Given the range of governance models at universities across the province and the differences in size and resources among OCUFA member associations, this document provides a wide range of suggestions with the understanding that not all are possible at all institutions. The committee decided to provide a comprehensive list of possible interventions to give member associations a range of strategies to select from based on their individual contexts.

This document speaks to an overall erosion of collegial governance at Ontario’s universities due to increasingly overreaching boards of governors with corporate mentalities and composition. In addition, tenured faculty have become increasingly burdened with other responsibilities and casualized contract faculty—who are not compensated for research or service activities—now make up the majority of teaching faculty on many Ontario campuses. Further, many governance matters have shifted into the realm of administrators, which has led to a decreased awareness of the history and importance of shared governance as well as skepticism about its potential impact. The switch to remote employment during the COVID-19 pandemic only elevated concerns about the lack of faculty and academic librarian engagement in university governance. As faculty and academic librarians return to campuses when it is safe to do so, we must ensure that the shared governance models are respected, as they ensure the proper functioning of our public universities and are formally enshrined in policies and provincial university acts. This document suggests concrete steps that member associations can take to protect against some of the most pronounced threats to shared governance at universities in Ontario.

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