More on Program Review and Other Issues
Welcome to the start of a new term! We hope that you are successfully managing the transition to the beginning of classes, student supervisions, committee work, and so many other things! In addition to the normal challenges of each academic year, 2013-2014 promises to be a busy and significant year for issues related to working conditions. We will be communicating regularly with you over the year, to keep you informed and invite your input and participation.
There are many important and significant events happening now. These include the ongoing arbitrations of BUFA grievances on several issues: academic freedom; the implementation of the Respectful Workplace and Learning Environment Policy by the Office of Human Rights and Equity; and the University’s narrow interpretation of “scope of employment” and liability insurance coverage for faculty. In addition, we are expecting the results of the Ad Hoc CAUT Investigatory Committee this fall, which is assessing the state of academic freedom at Brock University. Further, our Negotiating Team will begin to meet regularly later this month in preparation for negotiations in the spring of 2014. In the next few months, you will receive a survey asking about your priorities for negotiation of our next Collective Agreement. In addition, members of the Negotiating Team will visit Departments and Centres for further consultation about the negotiating mandate.
More information about these and other issues will be presented in our September BUFA newsletter and at the General Membership Meeting to be held on September 26, from 12-2 pm in the Pond Inlet. In the paragraphs below, I present an update and context on the Program Review, followed by several other items of interest.
Program Review. As reported in previous updates, BUFA’s position is that the President’s Special Task Force is infringing on Senate’s mandate as legislated in the Brock Act, in its review of academic programs. We believe that the review of academic programs by the Task Force should stop and any such review be referred to Senate. Without any prejudice to our position that the Task Force itself lacks legitimacy, BUFA also has expressed its concerns about the review process, including but not limited to, the conduct of the work of the Task Force in closed meetings, the composition of the Task Force with only some units represented, the evaluative ranking of both academic and administrative programs “all lumped together”, the small minority of non-administrative faculty on the Task Force, inadequate consultation on the selection of criteria, and an unreasonably short time frame for the review process. We also acknowledge the huge increase in workload that will be created by this Program Review for Chairs and Directors, as well as Department Committee members and Administrative Assistants. In this context, we are hesitant to suggest anything that might add to this work burden. However, we feel it is necessary to remind members that it is important – if the Review proceeds – for Chairs and Directors to involve all of their Committee members in the data gathering, reflection, and submission processes, as decisions based on the submissions and review criteria will have wide-reaching implications.
On September 4th, BUFA submitted a grievance regarding the Program Review, based on claims that the University has violated provisions related to (but not limited to) management rights (Article 3), consultation and justification processes for new policies (Article 4), and program redundancy or restructuring (Article 30). In addition, given the argument that the Task Force’s work infringes on Senate responsibilities, several members of the BUFA Executive who are elected Senators introduced motions that Senate respectfully requests the President to stop the Task Force’s review of academic programs and that the President refers any such review to Senate for its consideration and action. Both motions were passed with strong support by the Governance Committee members and will be presented to the entire Senate later this month. BUFA also will be holding meetings with Chairs and Directors to discuss issues associated with the Review, as important submissions on evaluation criteria for programs will need to be prepared.
What’s Happening Elsewhere on Budgets and Program review? To our knowledge, five other Canadian universities (Guelph, Laurier, Vancouver Island, Regina, and Saskatchewan) are undergoing program reviews and prioritization based on the Dickeson model and thus similar to the review process at Brock. All have longer time frames than Brock and only Vancouver Island’s review is largely complete, with published program recommendations. At Guelph, Laurier, Regina and Saskatchewan significant changes in the review process were made as a result of faculty objections to the original Presidentially driven model. This week, a group of faculty at the University of Regina submitted a petition initiating the process for a non-confidence motion “to determine if President Vianne Timmons and Vice-President Tom Chase are safeguarding the academic mission of the university.” A major basis for this petition is that “Reduced academic resources in core faculties of the university have diminished the research profile of the university, reduced the number and range of courses we offer, reduced the quality of our programs, and thereby reduced the quality of the education we provide.” Transparency over how money is spent at the University of Regina is also an issue of major concern.
Substantial budget cuts to Alberta universities have received considerable media attention in the last few weeks. As a result of these budget reductions, the University of Alberta has reduced its student intake, increased class size, reduced course choices, and reduced support services. Once the amount of participation in a voluntary severance program is determined, the administration at Alberta will assess the extent of future layoffs. Further, 20 low-enrolment arts programs were cut, with more program closures planned. One of the programs to be eliminated is their Bachelor of Fine Arts in Technical Production and Stage Management, which is a limited enrolment, highly competitive, and internationally recognized program. As explained by Paula Simons of the Edmonton Journal, “It’s not unpopular, it’s elite”. She further claims that cutting these small programs “won’t really get the university any closer to dealing with the increasing sharp demands of the province….”, given that any potentially significant savings will be realized only in the very long term.
For Your Information – Delivery of Instructional Technology to Seminar Rooms. We recently had a member come to BUFA with a complaint that Audio Visual Services (AVS) told her that she had to pick up audiovisual equipment for her class from a storage room and transport it to the seminar room herself. When we reminded the University that this is in violation of Article 32.05(b), AVS worked with the member to solve the problem by having the classroom changed to one in which suitable equipment was permanently installed. Article 32.05(b) specifies that when suitable instructional technology is not permanently installed in rooms normally used for teaching, that equipment “shall be made available and delivered if the request is (1) reasonable; and (2) made at least five (5) working days in advance of the required delivery.” Please let BUFA know if you are instructed that it is your responsibility to pick up and deliver instructional technology to your classrooms and we will work with you to have the problem corrected.
Campaign to Release Canadian Professors Being Held in Egyptian Prison. Please consider participating in the campaign to free Drs. John Greyson (York) and Tarek Loubani (Western Ontario). One way is to sign the petition at Support the Campaign to Release Canadian Union Activist Being Held in Prison Without Charge. A letter arguing for their release has been sent to the Egyptian Consulate on behalf of the BUFA Executive.
CAUT Conference Opportunity. If you are interested in attending CAUT’s conference on the Role of Aboriginal Academics in Social and Political Change, please let us know by September 30. The conference will be held in Toronto, November 1-3, 2013, and the deadline is Oct 1 (hotel) and October 11 (registration).
Linda Rose-Krasnor, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
President, Brock University Faculty Association
500 Glenridge Avenue
St. Catharines ON Canada L2S 3A1
Phone: 905-688-5550, ext. 3870