Research & Submissions - Governance

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This primer is intended to provide a wide variety of examples of how to imagine and incorporate an equity lens into the work you are already doing, depending on the size and capacity of your association.

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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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November 25, 2021

To the Ministry of Colleges and Universities-Postsecondary Accountability Branch,

On behalf of over 17,000 full-time and contract university faculty and academic librarians, including faculty at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University, OCUFA is writing to provide feedback on the proposed summary of regulation under the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University Act, 2021.

We are extremely concerned with what may be an oversight in the “NOSM Summary Regulation” and strongly recommend amending the NOSM regulations in order to protect collegial governance at the institution and to ensure the new university is truly based on a bicameral model of governance. This amendment would ensure that the governance at NOSM remains consistent with all other universities in the province. Our recommendation matches the recommendations of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University Faculty and Staff Association.

In section 4 of the regulation, entitled Senate, the item describing the Senate powers says, “The senate has (subject to the approval of the board) the power to determine and regulate the educational policy of the University and has the power…”

We request that this language be replaced with, “The Senate has, subject to the approval of the board with respect to the expenditure of funds, the power to determine and regulate the educational policy of the University and has the power…”

This language would be consistent with that of other Ontario public university acts. In accordance with the foundational principles of shared governance and academic freedom, every public university act in the province provides for Board approval of the Senate’s decision with respect to “the expenditure of funds” and in some instances “the expenditure of funds and the establishment of facilities”. The new NOSM University must not be an exception. Collegial governance, carried out through the bicameral system, is a fundamental tenet of Canadian universities. Granting the Board additional powers, as the current language in the regulations implies, would undermine collegial governance at the newly formed NOSM University from the onset.

Further, as the NOSM University Faculty and Staff Association has outlined in their submission we too are deeply concerned that if the language in the regulations remains as is, there will be serious consequences for the future of NOSM as a reputable university.

The change in language we propose would ensure that the newly formed Northern Ontario School of Medicine has a bicameral governance structure, like all other universities in the province, and would establish the infrastructure for a healthy university.

OCUFA’s members 17,000 members await your response on this important issue.


Dr. Sue Wurtele,
President, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA)


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Summary of recommendations

Schedule 16 of Bill 276 as it pertains to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine’s Act be amended to:

  • Include, in line with other public university Acts, language on the composition and powers of the university’s Board of Governors and Senate. This amendment is essential to ensure the autonomy, good governance, and long-term viability of the new independent university.
  • Remove any reference to collective agreements being subject to change by regulatory powers. This amendment is needed to make the Act constitutionally valid with regards to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In addition to the written submission, OCUFA presented to the Standing Committee on May 19, 2021.

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March 15, 2021

Postsecondary Education Division
Postsecondary Accountability Branch
315 Front Street, 16th Floor
Toronto ON M5V 3A4

Comments sent via email:

OCUFA Response to the O. Reg. 131/16 consultation

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) represents over 17,000 professors and academic librarians at 30 faculty associations and at every university in Ontario. OCUFA represents full-time tenure-stream faculty, and at many universities also represents contract faculty members who work either on a limited-term contract or on a per-course basis. OCUFA is responding to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities’ proposal that the following two requirements be added to the regulation, that if approved, would be reflected in public college and university sexual violence policies:

  • A complainant acting in good faith, who discloses or reports sexual violence, would not be subject to actions for violations of the institution’s policies related to drug and alcohol use at the time the alleged sexual violence took place.
  • During the institution’s investigative process, students who share their experience of sexual violence through disclosing, accessing support, and/or reporting to the institution, would not be asked irrelevant questions by the institution’s staff or investigators. Examples of such irrelevant questions would include those relating to past sexual history or sexual expression.

The notice for consultation says that the impacts of the proposed amendments are expected to “strengthen the sexual violence policies of publicly-assisted colleges and universities and provide increased protection to those impacted by sexual violence in postsecondary education institutions.”

Ontario faculty believe that this consultation is an important step towards combatting sexual harassment, sexual violence, and the rape culture and misogyny that underpin them at Ontario’s institutions. We are, however, concerned that the proposed amendments only focus on the reporting of sexual violence instead of focusing on prevention, which is vital in addressing the rampant rates of sexual violence on Ontario’s campuses.

Ontario’s university faculty were troubled to learn the results of the Ontario Government’s Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey released last year. It is deeply disturbing that over 63 percent of university students surveyed disclosed an experience of sexual harassment and that sexual violence remains so pervasive on campus.

The results of this survey demonstrate the severity of the problem on university and college campuses and the need for substantial resources to effectively address these issues. We are concerned by the impact of years of chronic underfunding of postsecondary institutions on universities’ ability to address sexual violence effectively and proactively on campus. While short-term investments and attention to this issue by the government are a step in the right direction, they will do little to make up for the hundreds of millions of dollars pulled out of the university system by the government. To address sexual violence on campuses, the Ontario government needs to commit to strong, stable, and long-term funding for postsecondary institutions in the province.

Faculty urge 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.

Furthermore, faculty in Ontario acknowledge that it is campus students’ unions and campus media who have been leaders in pointing out the shortcomings in university, college, and government policies and procedures on sexual violence and sexual harassment on campus. They have been at the forefront of the work to create better sexual violence prevention policies and practices on campus.

Faculty strongly believe that the government should stop undermining the ability of students’ unions to support and advocate on behalf of their members by ending the pursuit of undemocratic measures such as the Student Choice Initiative. Students’ unions have been instrumental in raising awareness about sexual violence on campus and calling for action on the issue, and the government needs to support, not hinder, their advocacy on this issue.

OCUFA believes that having clear campus policies to address sexual violence on campus is necessary. Furthermore, faculty believe that policies alone are not enough to address the rampant sexual violence present on Ontario’s campuses.

The Ontario government must focus on prevention and support not just on reporting. This is especially true as it is widely acknowledged that incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus are underreported. There are many possible factors that contribute to this underreporting on university campuses. Victims or survivors may not report incidents due to fear of reprisal, apprehension about the reaction of others, peer pressure not to report, previous experiences of discrimination, lack of awareness about available supports and services, and concerns about the effectiveness of the reporting process. For this reason, it is important that the government and university administrations engage in proactive measures to address sexual violence on campus, in collaboration with campus stakeholders including students, faculty and staff.

It is important to note that faculty members who have experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence in the workplace – whether in the classroom or elsewhere on campus – have reported that the supports and processes they accessed were inadequate in terms of leading to appropriate recourse and accommodation.

Further, Ontario faculty recognize that these challenges may be experienced disproportionately by faculty from equity-seeking groups and those teaching in particular fields, such as gender studies, women’s studies, and sexuality studies.

Ontario faculty call on the Ontario government to move beyond these amendments and the reporting of sexual violence to focus on prevention and additional support for survivors navigating the various systems to report on campus. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, OCUFA also believes that to effectively address sexual violence on campuses, the Ontario government needs to focus on the prevention of sexual violence and harassment on campus through large-scale educational campaigns that are planned and implemented in coordination with campus stakeholders including students, faculty, and staff.

Ontario faculty and academic librarians continue to be committed to fostering and maintaining a strong consent culture on campus, and to partnering with students, staff, university administrators, and the provincial government to create safer campuses.


Rahul Sapra
President of OCUFA

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In response to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities seeking input on the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on different sectors of Ontario society, OCUFA has submitted a detailed overview of the pandemic’s implications for faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals at the province’s universities.

The policy brief is designed to provide context for many of the challenges Ontario’s universities and university faculty are facing, and provide pragmatic proposals for how university administrations can work with faculty to protect and strengthen the academy during these turbulent times.

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Dear Ms. Mudrinic,

I am following up on the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ request for input on the collaborative nursing degree model.

First, we value the MTCU’s approach as outlined in its discussion guide. We believe that giving institutions the option to add a standalone nursing degree program rather than imposing it on them is the right approach to follow as it respects institutional autonomy, which is essential for all institutions to effectively carry out their academic mission. We believe that any such decision must go through the appropriate collegiate government channels at each institution.

However, OCUFA is concerned about points such as the use of “outcome indicators” and metrics to judge the success of this program, and that “no additional funding for nursing education will be provided” by the government (Collaborative Nursing Degree Model: Discussion Guide, July 2019). We view collecting data on postsecondary education, including newly added programs, as conducive to the educational purpose of universities. OCUFA, however, is against conditioning the funding of postsecondary institutions or measuring a program’s performance based on arbitrary measures such as student satisfaction or labour market outcomes. Evaluating postsecondary education based on narrow measures is reductive and fails to capture the breadth and depth of the factors that are needed for teaching excellence.

OCUFA is alarmed by the Ford government’s attacks on university autonomy since resuming office. The provincial government’s free speech directive, attack on student rights through the “Student Choice Initiative,” interference in collective bargaining and agreements, in addition to introducing a drastic performance-based funding model that conditions funding upon a set of arbitrary metrics all undermine institutional autonomy and limit institutions’ ability to effectively meet their academic missions. We encourage the ministry to reverse these harmful measures and to respect institutional autonomy in the postsecondary sector moving forward.

Secondly, we believe that the success of all academic programs, including new ones, is reliant upon adequately and publicly funded postsecondary institutions. Stable, consistent, and adequate base funding for Ontario universities allows institutions to make long-term plans and focus on their core mandates of research and teaching. The current model of performance-based funding model, which conditions funding upon a set of arbitrary metrics also undermines the academic mission.

As you know, Ontario’s universities receive the lowest level of per-student funding in all of Canada. In 2016-17, the most recent year for which data for all provinces are available, Ontario’s per-student funding amounted to $7,939. This means that Ontario’s per-student funding was an astounding 36 per cent lower than the average for the rest of Canada, which was $12,381 per student in 2016-17. Ontario’s universities have been trailing the rest of the country when it comes to investing in the teaching and learning that is vital to the success of Ontario’s students.

For the success of this program and all other programs at Ontario’s universities, OCUFA recommends that the MTCU increase core funding for universities and colleges to match the average for the rest of Canada and cancel performance-based funding.

Thirdly, OCUFA views teaching and mentorship as vital to successful student learning. We encourage the ministry to commit to hiring full-time-tenure track faculty in any newly added programs, rather than relying on precariously employed contract faculty.

In the last decade, full-time student enrolment increased by 23 per cent. Over the same period, the number of full-time faculty employed at Ontario universities increased by only 3.4 per cent. This means that, since 2008-09, the rate of increase in student enrolment has been almost seven times that of faculty hiring. Ontario has the highest student-faculty ratio in Canada and since 2000 the ratio has worsened substantially – increasing by 38 per cent. As of 2016-17, there were 31 students for every full-time faculty member at an Ontario university compared to an average of 22 students for each university faculty member across the rest of Canada.

While full-time faculty hiring has stagnated at Ontario’s universities, the reliance on contract faculty has increased. The use of contract faculty has become an entrenched strategy in universities across Ontario, resulting in a dramatic and troubling shift in the nature of academic work. These contract professors are generally hired on either a limited-term contract or as sessionals on a per-course basis. Over half of faculty at Ontario universities are working on contract. OCUFA estimates that the number of courses taught by contract faculty has nearly doubled since 2000.

These trends have a negative impact on teaching and learning in Ontario. Having more students and fewer professors leads to less one-on-one engagement, larger class sizes, and fewer opportunities for mentorship and academic advising. The addition of a new program requires an expansion in the overall size of the tenure-stream faculty complement and would support improvements to Ontario’s student-faculty ratio.


Rahul Sapra
OCUFA President

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At the May 2017 OCUFA Policy Exchange conference, university governance was identified as one of three critical policy issues that are of concern to faculty. In particular, participants noted three main areas of concern: the composition and practices of Boards of Governors/Trustees, lack of transparency in the development of university budgets, and procedures for president, provost and other senior administrator hiring searches.

Over the past few years, OCUFA’s member associations have been reporting various barriers to collegial governance for faculty, a lack of meaningful input in university Senate decisions, and frustration with controversial decisions being made by increasingly corporatized Boards of Governors. Concerns about the way universities are being governed and the erosion of collegial governance have been coming up in all facets of OCUFA’s work.

To begin to address these concerns, and recognizing the current state of the postsecondary sector in Ontario, OCUFA has decided to develop a set of principles to guide collegial governance at our universities. The guidelines below are informed by the 2018 OCUFA university governance survey completed by every university faculty association in Ontario.

Collegial governance simply means a shared governance model often structured as a bi-cameral system in which both university Boards and Senates take on responsibilities to ensure the health and success of the institution. Further, functional collegial governance deliberations at the level of Board of Governors, include meaningful input from faculty who provide the instruction and research that is at the core of the academic mission.

Ontario universities are, in principle, public institutions; but our gathered data show that they are increasingly managed as if they were corporate entities. Many key decisions are no longer appropriately addressed through collegial governance models. Coupled with the chronic underfunding of universities and their increased reliance on precariously employed professors who are generally left out of the decision-making process, this failure to implement collegial governance has led universities in Ontario to function much less collaboratively than they have in the past.

While postsecondary institutions need to change to adjust to changing political, social, economic, and cultural conditions, these changes need to be determined and implemented through collegial processes that involve the meaningful participation of faculty, staff, and students.

We note that collegial governance models do and must involve staff and students. To respect the autonomy and voice of these groups, however, and to avoid speaking on their behalf, this document is written with particular attention to the role of faculty in collegial governance and from a faculty perspective. The term faculty here refers to all those who hold academic appointments, including academic librarians, and those who teach under precarious employment arrangements.

Policy statement

The following principles have been organized under three main categories: representation on governance bodies, processes and practices of governance, and procedures regarding senior administrator searches and appointments.

1. Representation:

  1. University governance should be based on principles of collegiality, inclusivity, meaningful representation, shared participation, and shared accountability.
  2. Collegial governance participation should be a right of ALL faculty.
  3. On all governance bodies, faculty should be elected by, and accountable to, their constituencies.
  4. Faculty must not be expected to relinquish their association or union membership in order to sit on university governing bodies.
  5. University Boards’ membership should be representative of the diversity of the community in which the university is located, and representatives must be committed to the public mission of the university.
  6. Appointments to the Boards should be based on open collegial practices and include an open nomination process.
  7. Membership of Board subcommittees should be open to all Board members.
  8. Contract faculty should participate in university governance bodies and be fairly compensated for their participation.

2. Processes/practices of governance:

  1. University governance practices should be based on principles of shared information, shared responsibility, open processes and planning exercises, open consultation, and shared decision-making.
  2. Values of the university are not necessarily the same as those held by the corporate sector.
  3. Values of academic freedom, open discussion and respect for the diversity of voices should be at the core of university governance practices.
  4. The principles and traditional decision-making practices of Indigenous peoples must be respected.
  5. Faculty should be meaningfully included in the budgetary and financial discussions and decisions of the institution, all of which bear upon its academic mission.
  6. Faculty should be duly consulted on any contracts with external donors.
  7. University Senates must engage in free and open debate on matters under their purview.
  8. The in-camera content of governance meetings should be limited and justified. Closed debate should be rare and limited to exceptional circumstances.
  9. Conflict of interest policies should be fully enforced with respect to all internal and external members of a governing body.
  10. Where one or more members of a governing body may have a conflict of interest regarding matters being addressed, the preferred method for resolving the conflict should be recusal from discussion and voting on those matters rather than general exclusion from that committee. It should be recognized that faculty and other representatives can simultaneously represent the good of the university. The good of the university is not at odds with the good of the university community and its members.
  11. Appropriate training and education should be offered to all representatives on governance bodies to ensure informed decision-making and adherence to the public and academic mission of universities.
  12. Service should be duly recognized and compensated as a key responsibility of faculty.
  13. The chair or speaker of the Board and the Senate should be elected by the membership of each body, respectively. The chair or speaker should not have another administrative post within the university.

3. Searches and appointments

  1. All senior administrative hiring searches should be open and transparent.
  2. The presidential and provostial search committees should be inclusive and consist of representatives from different constituencies including full-time faculty, contract faculty, students, staff, and the Board.
  3. The members on the search committee should be elected by their constituencies and mindful of the role they play in representing them.
  4. All members of a search committee should have equal voice and vote.
  5. Community consultation should not be limited to the job posting and setting of criteria for searches. Consultation should also include the final review of shortlisted candidates.
  6. The shortlist of candidates should be provided to the campus community.
  7. The campus community should be provided with an opportunity to meet shortlisted candidates and engage with them.
  8. A mechanism for meaningful consultation must be provided to the community and Senate for their assessment of shortlisted candidates.
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