(Ottawa – October 14, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) today released an investigative report which found that a “history of failed governance” at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS) contributed to challenges around academic freedom raised by the former director of PWIAS, Philippe Tortell.
The Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies is one of five prominent research centres at the University of British Columbia. It was established in 1991 by a $15-million donation to the UBC Foundation from Vancouver real estate developer Peter Wall to be an “incubator for broad-based, curiosity-driven, innovative, interdisciplinary research”.
The investigation—led by Kevin Kane, Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, at the University of Alberta and Jacqueline Holler, Associate Professor of History, Women’s Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia--looked into concerns raised by Tortell when he resigned in 2018. Tortell alleged that the Board of Trustees of the PWIAS and the UBC Administration had directed him to realign PWIAS research activities and funding with existing UBC research priorities. He raised concerns that the re-alignment of PWIAS programs posed an “existential threat” to the Institute’s “academic independence” and highlighted a “pernicious governance problem”.
In their report, the investigators found that the requirement that the PWIAS and its faculty align with “existing research clusters” of UBC raised “significant questions concerning the research-related academic freedom of the PWIAS faculty members and, indeed, research-related academic freedom at UBC”. They noted that actions taken by the PWIAS Board of Trustees in 2018 were “inconsistent with principles of collegial governance” including the “primacy of academics over academic decision-making”.
The report strongly recommends governance reform at PWIAS in order to “protect and support academic freedom” and ensure that PWIAS “endures and prospers as a space of free and unfettered inquiry”. The report notes that progress has been made in the right direction since 2018, but “more remains to be done”.
(Ottawa, October 13, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) joins the Fédération Québecoise des Professeures et Professeurs d’Université (FQPPU) and the Syndicat des professeurs et professeures de l’Université Laval (SPUL) in denouncing the University of Laval’s proposed changes to its statutes which would undermine the core principle of collegial governance.
“Collegial governance is at the heart of how universities run. The principle of shared governance results in a higher quality education, protects academic freedom, and underpins more democratic decision-making and accountability,” said David Robinson, CAUT Executive Director. “Academics from across the country should be outraged by the University administration’s attempt to undermine this core academic principle.”
The review process, which started in September 2019, had the stated objective of “modernizing” Laval’s statutes, but proposals put forward by the administration would limit the ability of academic staff to meaningfully participate in the academic governance of their institutions.
The most concerning recommendations would both limit the powers afforded the Conseil universitaire -- the academic Senate which governs research, teaching, and student affairs, and effective participation of academic staff.
“It has been well established and widely accepted that academic staff, through their participation in Senate and other academic governance bodies, exercise the primary responsibility for decision-making on all academic matters,” noted Robinson. “This must be maintained by all institutions to ensure the quality and integrity of the academic mission."
Members of SPUL and concerned organizations and individuals can participate in a consultation around the new statute recommendations until Friday, October 15 by contacting the Secretary General at Monique.Richer@sg.ulaval.ca. A detailed account of SPUL’s concerns with the proposed recommendations are available here.
Every month we send our supporters a newsletter with the latest CAUT and post-secondary education sector news. This newsletter was published on September 28, 2021. Subscribe to get the newsletter straight to your inbox.
In this issue
- CAUT working to hold government to account for PSE: post-election 2021
- “Victory for academic freedom”: U of T reverses course on Dr. Azarova
- Tuition fees on the rise: new Statistics Canada data
- CAUT marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
- Register now for Indigenizing the Academy event
- Looking to squeeze in some podcast listening this fall?
- Upcoming Events
CAUT working to hold government to account for PSE: post-election 2021
CAUT will be working with all political parties in the 44th Parliament to push post-secondary education higher on the new government’s agenda. There were few promises related to post-secondary education and fewer on science and research made during election 2021, which saw a Liberal minority government returned to power. Answering calls from CAUT and other allies, the Liberals promised to protect public post-secondary educational institutions from being subject to corporate restructuring and to permanently increase funding for post-secondary institutions in official language minority communities to $80 million per year.
To see what the parties promised, check out CAUT’s party platform analysis and party questionnaires. Read an op-ed by CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith published last week in the Hill Times, on a post-secondary agenda for the new government.
“Victory for academic freedom”: U of T reverses course on Dr. Azarova
On September 17, CAUT hit the pause button on the censure against University of Toronto, calling for its members and supporters within the University of Toronto, across the country and the world to suspend actions related to the censure against the U of T. This decision is in response to the U of T’s decision to reverse course and re-offer Dr. Valentina Azarova the position of Director of the International Human Rights Program in the Faculty of Law. CAUT’s Executive Committee considers U of T decision to be a “victory for academic freedom”.
Tuition fees on the rise: new Statistics Canada data
Undergraduate and graduate students across Canada—in particular, international students—are paying higher tuition fees this academic year. Nationally, Canadian students enrolled full-time in undergraduate programs will pay, on average, $6,693 in tuition for the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year, up 1.7% from the previous year. The average cost for graduate programs rose 1.5% to $7,472. As provincial contributions to education have declined in recent years, post-secondary institutions are relying increasingly on international students to boost their revenue. International students are paying almost 5% more in 2021-2022. Overall, tuition now accounts for more than one-third (31.6%) of the operating revenue stream for post-secondary education institutions—up from one-quarter (25.5%) six years ago.
CAUT marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
On Thursday September 30, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, CAUT calls on members to honour the Indigenous people who survived the residential school system, mourns those who were lost, and affirms its commitment to the restoration and renewal of Indigenous practices, languages, knowledge, and communities. Many post-secondary institutions across the country are observing this day by canceling classes and suspending non-essential campus services. CAUT encourages academic staff associations and their members to consider how the work they do can lead to a deeper understanding of how Canada became the country it is today.
Register now for Indigenizing the Academy event
Registration is now open for the CAUT virtual forum “Building Solidarity and Alliances: Indigenizing the Academy” on Friday, 15 October 2021. This webinar is an opportunity for all members of the academic community—Indigenous and non-Indigenous—to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and explore concrete approaches to advancing and strengthening Indigenization. Panel presentations focus on collective bargaining wins, Indigenous self-identification, and recruitment and retention of Indigenous faculty and staff. Details to register and complete agenda can be found on the CAUT website.
Looking to squeeze in some podcast listening this fall?
Here are two suggestions, to get you going.
In episode 4 (The Conquest of Bread) of the Darts and Letters podcast, host Gordon Katic takes on the “long and sordid” history of McKinsey and Company, the management consultants hired by the Alberta government in 2020 to conduct a $3.7 million review of the province’s post-secondary education system. His guests include Joel Westheimer, University Research Chair in Democracy and Education at the University of Ottawa, and Matthew Stewart, author of the tell-all book The Management Myth: Debunking the Modern Philosophy of Business. The Darts and Letters podcast is a recommendation from Marc Spooner, a professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Regina.
Episode 698 (Journalism Schools Are Revolting) of Canadaland podcast – a well-known Canadian brand with weekly episodes and diverse guest co-hosts – deconstructs the controversial revolt against institutionalized racism and discrimination at Ryerson University.
(Ottawa, September 30, 2021) On this first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) honours the Indigenous people who survived the residential school system, mourns those who were lost, and affirms its commitment to the restoration and renewal of Indigenous practices, languages, knowledge, and communities.
Many post-secondary institutions across the country are observing this day by canceling classes and suspending non-essential campus services. CAUT encourages academic staff associations and their members to consider how the work they do can lead to a deeper understanding of how Canada became the country it is today.
We recognize how much still needs to be done to achieve the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report. These include increased federal funding for Indigenous students seeking post-secondary education, bringing Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms, a national research program to advance understanding of reconciliation and the availability of degree and diploma programs in Indigenous languages.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation provides an occasion to take stock of how we are collectively advancing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada calls to action. We call on all provincial governments to officially recognize and commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a permanent statutory holiday.
(Ottawa, September 17, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) today is calling for its members and supporters within the University of Toronto, across the country, and around the world to suspend actions related to the censure against the university administration.
The announcement is in response to the University of Toronto's decision to reverse course and re-offer Dr. Valentina Azarova the position of Director of the International Human Rights Program in the Faculty of Law.
CAUT’s Executive Committee considers this latest development to be a “victory for academic freedom” and one that satisfies the principal condition for a resolution of the dispute.
CAUT Council will vote on the formal lifting of censure at its meeting in November. In the meantime, the University is encouraged to take action to resolve other outstanding issues in the case, including explicitly extending academic freedom protections to academic managerial positions and developing clear policies that prohibit donor interference in internal academic affairs.
(Ottawa – September 6, 2021) This Labour Day, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) pays tribute to the tireless efforts of workers and the trade union movement in weathering the COVID-19 pandemic, while standing up for conditions and workplace practices that promote social equity.
At a time when many hard-working people in universities and colleges face increasing uncertainty—due to the devastating impacts of COVID-19, shrinking government funding, threats to academic freedom, and attacks on shared governance—CAUT encourages academic staff to renew their commitment to collective action, and take stock of what is important for the future.
“For our future, what’s most pressing is to continue to fight for workplace rights that will allow us to better serve the public interest,” said CAUT president Brenda Austin-Smith. “We are stronger when we organize and push to protect academic job security, uphold the highest levels of health and safety in the workplace, and promote collegial institutional governance.”
Every month we send our supporters a newsletter with the latest CAUT and post-secondary education sector news. This newsletter was published on August 24, 2021. Subscribe to get the newsletter straight to your inbox.
In this issue
- Federal election 2021: Strengthening post-secondary education for our future
- CAUT urges vaccine requirements as part of measures for safe re-opening
- Win for post-secondary education in Canada: two recent court rulings
- Education International calls for education to be protected in Afghanistan
- Upcoming events
Federal election 2021: Strengthening post-secondary education for our future
A snap federal election has been called for September 20, presenting an opportunity for CAUT members to press for strong federal leadership and renewed investment in post-secondary education and research.
This week CAUT launched its non-partisan For Our Future campaign to support associations in planning effective local campaigns. A dedicated election website for the campaign provides resources such as an organizing guide, analysis of the issues, and a tool to help members advocate for post-secondary education and reach out directly to candidates.
CAUT is calling for an increase of $3 billion dollars to transfers to the provinces for public post-secondary education. Alongside the funding, we are asking the next federal government to work with the provinces on a national strategy for post-secondary education that focuses on access and affordability for all. Priorities for funding should include closing the research funding gap, investments in Indigenous education, and increases to the Canada Student Grants.
CAUT urges vaccine requirements as part of measures for safe re-opening
As many post-secondary institutions prepare for a return to campus this fall, CAUT is calling for COVID-19 vaccination requirements for students and staff to be part of a comprehensive safety plan.
The latest information compiled by CAUT, as of August 17, shows that almost half (46%) of the country’s universities and colleges are planning a return to in-person instruction. Twenty-five institutions will require students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated to access campus. More than a quarter (28%) will require students staying in residences to have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
CAUT executive director David Robinson notes that the legal issues raised by mandatory vaccine policies can be addressed if “specific policies are fair, reasonably applied, respectful of human rights and privacy laws, and consistent with any negotiated collective agreement with campus unions and employee associations.”
Win for post-secondary education in Canada: two recent court rulings
Two court rulings—both cases in which CAUT was an intervenor—are being hailed as a victory for the post-secondary education sector this summer.
In their unanimous ruling on July 31st, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a ruling that mandatory collective licenses to Access Copyright cannot be imposed on York University, and recognized that it is in the public interest that students be able to access education materials.
“For too many years, the education sector has had to pay twice: once for the initial creation of the educational material and the second time to Access Copyright to access its own content,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “This decision ensures that students and educational institutions are not overpaying for educational and research materials which are integral to quality education.”
The decision also sustains the Supreme Court’s previous rulings that fair dealing is a user’s right. The court reiterated that whether fair dealing can be used must be decided from the perspective of the end users, in this case students, and not intermediaries like educational institutions.
A few days later, on August 4th, Ontario’s Court of Appeal dismissed the Ford government’s bid to overturn an earlier decision quashing the so-called Student Choice Initiative—a measure announced in January 2019 that would have required student unions to allow members to “opt out” of paying for services deemed “non-essential.” Those services include student clubs, campus newspapers, food banks and other support services. The Canadian Federation of Students and the York Federation of Students argued that the Ford government Initiative targeted student unions—and was a politically-motivated attack on the autonomy of post-secondary educational institutions.
Education International calls for education to be protected in Afghanistan
In the wake of the Taliban seizing Kabul, Afghanistan, Education International (EI) last week issued a statement of support for its member organisation, the National Teachers Elected Council of Afghanistan, and the Afghanistan Teacher Support Association.
EI expressed grave concerns about the safety of educators and about equal access to education for all, especially for girls. EI called for the implementation of its Declaration on schools as safe sanctuaries, and voiced the collective demand by teachers and unions worldwide that education should be protected in times of conflict—reiterating that “schools are centers of learning, inspiration and growth and must never be targets of terrorism and violence.”
The statement reads in part, “Governments around the world have the responsibility to do everything in their power to protect the right of girls to go to school and to thrive free of prejudice, harassment and violence.”
(Ottawa, August 11, 2021) Last week, CAUT called for a national post-secondary education strategy that includes a $3 billion dollar investment to help bolster Canada’s research community and give Canadians better access to high-quality, affordable education.
As part of its 2022 pre-budget submission, CAUT made six recommendations to the federal government including more money for basic research and Indigenous education. CAUT will be working with its members throughout the upcoming federal election to drive home the message that an investment in education is what will build a strong and equitable Canada into the future.
The federal government has demonstrated a willingness to show leadership in addressing national problems that are within provincial jurisdiction, such as childcare and the development of national standards for long-term care. CAUT’s 2022 pre-budget submission makes the case how a similar commitment can reverse a decade of public underfunding of post-secondary education.
(Ottawa, August 10, 2021) Vaccination requirements for university and college students and staff against COVID-19, if implemented reasonably and fairly, should be considered as part of a comprehensive plan to ensure a safe return to campus, says the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).
“Universities and colleges are at high-risk for the spread of COVID-19 because of the high number of people studying and socializing in close quarters, and the presence of a large percentage of 18- to 29-year-olds on campuses who are lagging behind in rates of vaccination,” says CAUT executive director David Robinson. “If they are planning to return to in-person instruction, institutions have an obligation to consider all reasonable measures they can take to reduce the risk.”
Robinson says provincial governments should provide more direction on vaccination requirements for all at-risk settings, but that in the absence of this universities and colleges should still consider vaccination requirements as part of a suite of measures to protect the safety of everyone on campus.
“The best available science tells us that vaccines are effective in reducing transmission and the severity of infection, that very high vaccination rates are required to achieve herd immunity, and that the growing community threat from the Delta variant of the virus is best managed by widespread vaccination.”
Mandatory vaccine policies raise several legal issues, Robinson notes, but these can be addressed if specific policies are fair, reasonably applied, respectful of human rights and privacy laws, and consistent with any negotiated collective agreement with campus unions and employee associations.
“For those institutions that are re-opening this September, mandatory campus vaccination policies can be justified if human rights accommodations are followed; if the unvaccinated are accommodated through masking, physical distancing, or working or studying from home; and if all legal privacy issues are fully respected.”
Robinson also says that vaccination policies should not replace other measures necessary to reduce the risk of transmission, including masking, physical distancing, testing, and ventilation upgrades. Local Joint Health and Safety Committees, academic staff associations, and campus unions must be involved in all decision-making around re-opening, including the development of any vaccination policy.
According to information compiled by CAUT, more than 40% of the country’s universities and colleges are planning to return to in-class instruction next month. About 21% are requiring students living in residence to have received at least one vaccine dose. Seneca College and the University of Ottawa are the only institutions to date requiring all students and staff to be vaccinated. University of Waterloo is requiring students to “self declare” their vaccine status.
CAUT is the national voice of 72,000 teachers, librarians, researchers, general staff and other academic professionals at 125 universities and colleges across the country.
(Ottawa, August 4, 2021) — Last week’s Supreme Court decision to uphold a ruling that copyright tariffs are not mandatory is a huge win for students, researchers and the publicly-funded post-secondary education system. This, according to the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) which together intervened before the Supreme Court on the landmark case between York University and the collective licensing agency, Access Copyright.
In their unanimous ruling on July 31, the Supreme Court noted that copyright licences cannot be imposed on York University, and recognized that it is in the public interest that students—who are the heart of the education system—be able to access education materials.
“For too many years, the education sector has had to pay twice: once for the initial creation of the educational material and the second time to Access Copyright to access its own content,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “This decision ensures that students and educational institutions are not overpaying for educational and research materials which are integral to quality education.”
The decision also sustains the Supreme Court’s position that fair dealing is a user’s right. The court reiterated that whether fair dealing can be used must be decided from the perspective of the end users, in this case students, and not intermediaries like the educational institutions.
“This victory today belongs to students and the public education system,” says Alannah Mckay, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. “Ultimately educational resources ought to be available to everyone regardless of what's in their bank account.”
Even though fair dealing has existed in Canadian law since the first Canadian copyright statutes, in recent years fair dealing has come under attack from corporate interests. Fair dealing ensures copyright laws balance the public’s need to access content—for education, research and private study—with the fair remuneration needed to motivate private content producers.
This Supreme Court ruling comes more than one year after a Federal Court of Appeals decision in April 2020 that also stated that Access Copyright cannot enforce its tariffs against York University or any non-licensed user, a clear recognition that educational institutions can opt out of collective licensing arrangements and choose other legal routes to copy and use works.
CAUT represents 72,000 academic staff that create and share knowledge. CFS represents over 500,000 post-secondary education students.
Media contact: Rachel Vincent, Senior Communications Officer. firstname.lastname@example.org; 613-276-9030.
Every month we send our supporters a newsletter with the latest CAUT and post-secondary education sector news. This newsletter was published on July 28, 2021. Subscribe to get the newsletter straight to your inbox.
In this issue
- CAUT monitoring new national security guidelines for research partnerships
- Safe return to academic workplaces
- CAUT checklist for re-opening post-secondary institutions
- Federal government appoints task force to review the Employment Equity Act
- Will you take a few minutes to share your favourite podcast?
- Upcoming events
CAUT monitoring new national security guidelines for research partnerships
On July 12, the Government of Canada introduced the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships that will, effective immediately, require applicants and their institutions to complete a risk assessment form for all NSERC Alliance grant applications involving one or more private sector partners. According to the government, the risk assessment of research partnerships is necessary to guard against foreign interference, espionage, and “unwanted knowledge transfer” that threaten Canada’s national security interests. The risks are defined broadly as research that may lead to “advancements in military, security, and intelligence capabilities of states or groups that pose a threat to Canada; or disruption of the Canadian economy, society, and critical infrastructure.”
CAUT is monitoring the implementation of the guidelines, with a particular focus on academic freedom, intellectual property rights, the potential for increased targeting of Chinese academics and students and the additional burdens that will arise for NSERC Alliance grant applicants.
Safe return to academic workplaces
Months after the COVID-19 pandemic first shuttered post-secondary institutions, universities and colleges are now developing plans to re-open campuses for in-person course delivery. To discuss the health and safety measures required to bring academic staff and students safely back to campuses, CAUT Vice-President Peter McInnis moderated a June 23 webinar with the theme “Safe Restart". Panelists included Michael Lynk, an Associate Professor at Western University’s Faculty of Law, Immanuel Lanzaderas, CAUT Legal Officer and Laura Lozanski, CAUT Health and Safety Officer.
With the ongoing pandemic, can academic staff invoke the right to refuse unsafe work?
“At the end of the day, the minimum standard for the circumstances of any particular workplace has to be safety, the only exceptions to that would be workplaces where danger is an inherent part of the job, such as the job of a police officer or firefighter,” according to Mr. Lynk. He explained that “the right to refuse unsafe work supersedes any contractual obligations,” but stressed, however that, “there must be a relationship or link between COVID-19 and an employee’s reasonable belief that there is a potential danger.”
Mr. Lanzaderas noted that in cases where an employer has created a policy on COVID-19 vaccines or a protocol for in-person return to campus, guidelines must be clear, equitable, and implemented in a manner that respects employees’ privacy.
Meanwhile, Ms. Lozanski stressed the importance of workplace Joint Health and Safety Committees, which must begin to work towards a safe re-opening of campuses by meeting with employer representatives to jointly develop a plan that includes the labour perspective.
CAUT checklist for re-opening post-secondary institutions
CAUT has released a checklist to assess post-secondary institutions’ re-opening plans for the Fall 2021 semester. The checklist is based on the recommendations of provincial public health authorities and input from CAUT member associations.
CAUT has also been tracking institutional plans for course delivery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fall 2021 semester re-opening plans for 120 post-secondary institutions are now available on the CAUT website. The plans include course delivery modes, health and safety measures, and information on hybrid teaching and vaccine requirements, where available.
Federal government appoints task force to review the Employment Equity Act
The federal government launched an Employment Equity Act Review Task Force on July 14. Comprised of 13 members of diverse backgrounds and multidisciplinary expertise, the Task Force includes Professor Adelle Blackett as Chair, and Professors Marie-Thérèse Chicha and Dionne Pohler, as Vice-Chairs.
The Employment Equity Act was first introduced in 1986 to “promote fairness, equality and diversity in federally regulated workplaces.” The Task Force will study the Act and “consult with stakeholders, communities and Canadians on issues related to employment equity.”
“The key to understanding what is involved in implementing the Employment Equity Act is respect for differences, which is what allows people to be treated as equals,” Carol Agócs, Professor Emerita in the Department of Political Science at Western University said in a CAUT-hosted conversation on the topic late last year. “Ignoring differences creates inequality.”
Photo: justin evans, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Will you take a few minutes to share your favourite podcast?
Academic staff have turned to podcasting as a popular medium to share their observations and experiences about academic work.
CAUT is introducing a regular podcast roundup in its Bulletin, starting with the upcoming September edition.
To help us learn about compelling post-secondary education stories or conversations, email us a short description of your must-listen-to podcast or podcast episode.
CAUT might feature your favorite podcast in the next Bulletin or on social media!
Last updated September 1, 2021
(Ottawa – July 29, 2021) CAUT has released the Fall 2021 semester back-to-school plans for 120 universities and colleges as part of its ongoing efforts to track how post-secondary institutions are managing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fall 2021 semester re-opening plans database includes course delivery modes, institutional health and safety plans and information on hybrid teaching and vaccination requirements, where available.
CAUT has also released a checklist to assess post-secondary institutions’ re-opening plans for the Fall 2021 semester. The checklist – COVID-19 Guidance for Assessing Campus Re-opening Plans – is based on the recommendations of provincial public health authorities and input from CAUT member associations.
The Fall 2021 semester re-opening plans highlights some key back to university and college trends.
- Almost half (48%) of post-secondary institutions will deliver courses primarily in-person, but plan to comply with expected indoor gathering limits and accommodate students who cannot return to campus by offering some courses online or in hybrid delivery mode.
- Thirty-six per cent of universities and colleges are planning to embrace a blended learning approach by offering a mix of in-person and remote delivery of courses.
- Only 12 per cent of post-secondary institutions have announced fully in-person course delivery.
- As of August 25, 2021, two per cent of post-secondary institutions have yet to announce their fall semester plans.
CAUT will continue to monitor how universities and colleges are making academic workspaces safe for campus communities. If you believe that your institution’s plan for re-opening requires an update, please let us know by sending an email to our research team.
(Ottawa – June 23, 2021) The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) are calling on provincial governments to suspend the current plans on the introduction of performance-based funding for universities and listen to the students and faculty concerns regarding the proposed system.
On June 16, CFS’s National Graduate Caucus and CAUT hosted a panel discussion on performance-based funding models in post-secondary education and their impacts on students and faculty. Panelists made it clear that the introduction of performance-based metrics for post-secondary institutions is a retrograde step for the sector and reduces the independence of institutions and the quality of programs offered to students.
“It’s not about accountability—this is about retooling the traditional mission of the university,” said Marc Spooner, professor at the University of Regina. “Let’s dispel any myth that universities have any control over the metrics. All performance-based funding does is turn the university into an entrepreneurial university. It is incentivizing the university to take in students with the highest social capital and the most probability of getting employed.”
“The heart of the problem lies in the inequalities in our societies, whether it is race, class, gender,” said Rudy Fichtenbaum, professor at Wright State University and past president of the American Association of University Professors. “We need to deal with the problem of inequality in education before kids even get to university.”
“Performance-based funding reduces the overall quality of education,” said Wesam AbdElhamid Mohamed, Deputy Chairperson of the CFS. “We’ve seen students, faculty and administrators all agree performance-based funding is harmful.”
Speakers agreed that collective action is required to push back against performance-based funding.
The Canadian Federation of Students is the largest student organization in the country, representing over 530,000 college and university students, and advocates for affordable, high-quality post-secondary education. The Canadian Association of University Teachers is the national voice for academic staff representing 72,000 teachers, librarians, researchers, general staff and other academic professionals at some 125 universities and colleges across the country.
(Ottawa – June 21, 2021) Today marks the 25th anniversary of a nationally-designated day for all Canadians to celebrate the unique heritage, diverse culture and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
This milestone arrives in the shadow of the recent, horrific discovery by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation of an unmarked mass grave containing 215 children’s remains from the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. This discovery isn’t isolated: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) found that 4100 named and unnamed students died in residential schools, often to be buried in unmarked, untended graves.
“The Kamloops discovery is sadly one of many recent grim reminders of the need to embrace and advance the 231 Calls for Action in the 2015 TRC report,” says CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith.
CAUT is committed to restoring, renewing, and regenerating Indigenous practices, languages, and knowledge, and has called for action on the recommendations contained in the TRC report, noting specifically the critical role education can play in supporting the reconciliation process.
Since the TRC, many post-secondary institutions have developed Indigenization plans. To support academic staff associations at universities and colleges across Canada, CAUT’s Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education Working Group has created a checklist for the Indigenization of the Academy. The checklist contains pragmatic information to guide local conversations about Indigenization plans and their impact and effectiveness as well as the experience of Indigenous staff.
“Indigenization represents a move to expand the academy’s conceptions of knowledge to include Indigenous perspectives in transformative ways,” Austin-Smith adds. “CAUT urges individuals and academic staff associations both to reflect on today’s celebration of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and to work in concrete ways to help realize the needed steps to reconciliation.”
In this period of crisis at Francophone universities, with astronomical debt and deficits that exacerbate inequalities, has the time come for the federal government to play a key role in ensuring adequate funding for post-secondary education in French in minority and remote contexts?
This is one of the questions asked by the panelists from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d’université (FQPPU) and the Association de promotion et défense de la recherche en français (ACFAS), during a webinar that was held on June 9, 2021, in connection with the Sommet sur le rapprochement des francophonies canadiennes.
Moderated by François-Olivier Dorais, Professor of History at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, this nearly two-hour-long webinar brought together dozens of participants and panelists, who provided an overview of post-secondary education in French in minority and remote contexts in Canada.
For Jean Bernatchez, Professor in Education Sciences at Université du Québec à Rimouski, the various crises that we are currently experiencing lead us to examine this subject in greater depth and to implement original and ambitious strategies through the network-based development of training programs characterized by a transdisciplinary approach.
According to Karl Bélanger, Political Advisor at the CAUT, a worrisome development that could have a spill-over effect throughout the country is “Laurentian University’s decision, which was the first of its kind in Canada, to use the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).” While it is debatable whether Laurentian University should have chosen to use this law, which was designed more for corporations, “what is receiving less attention is the political choice of the federal and Ontario governments not to intervene before Laurentian University declared insolvency.”
Sophie Montreuil, Executive Director of ACFAS, is of the opinion, furthermore, that it is “crucial for research to be carried out in French, so that researchers as a group will develop a Francophone expertise, with a precise, well-developed and fundamental vocabulary for talking about their research in the media and in classrooms at different educational levels.” She added that ACFAS has recently published a report making a number of recommendations for the future of research in minority contexts in Canada.
(Ottawa – June 8, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), representing 72,000 academic faculty and staff at 125 universities across Canada, stands in solidarity with the people of London, Ontario and Muslims across Canada reeling from the mass murder of four out of five members of the Afzaal family on Sunday night.
“We stand united to express our heartfelt condolences for the tragic and senseless loss of four Canadians who were the targets of a terrorist act fuelled by incomprehensible hatred and violence,” says Brenda Austin-Smith, CAUT’s President. “Your loss is our loss; your family is our family. No Canadian should ever have to be afraid to walk the streets of their community.”
CAUT joins the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty Association in condemning this horrific mass murder fueled by racism xenophobia and bigotry. Universities and colleges draw a diverse range of academics, staff and students to their campuses; this crisis is being deeply felt by the University community in London, Ontario and on campuses across the country.
“Everyone must be able to live and work free of discrimination and violence,” says David Robinson, CAUT’s Executive Director. “But that is only the starting point. Together, we must do more to end the scourge of hate and white supremacy. We affirm our commitment to ensuring that all universities and colleges are safe, equitable and inclusive environments where all people can learn and thrive.”
(Ottawa – June 8, 2021) The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) must immediately release all relevant documents related to its decision last year to dismiss its President and the role commercial interests may have played in that decision--this, according to the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the national voice of 72,000 faculty and staff at 125 universities and colleges across Canada.
The Board of Directors of NSCAD dismissed then-President Aoife Mac Namara last summer without explanation, less than a year after she was hired. The decision to hire Mac Namara in August 2019 was widely lauded by the university community, including faculty and students. The firing led some on campus and in the arts community to express concerns that there was inappropriate influence of commercial interests in board decisions.
"As a publicly-funded university, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design’s must be held to the highest standard of transparency and accountability," says David Robinson, the Executive Director of CAUT. "It is deeply concerning that the Board of Governors is failing to be transparent."
CAUT has recently raised concerns about accountability and transparency in the case of Laurentian University, which filed for insolvency in February in a closed-door process that shut out the faculty association and students. CAUT warns that the trend towards closed-door decision-making has negative consequences for academic faculty, staff and students.
"Faculty, staff and students must be consulted about decisions that have a major impact on the well-being and financial viability of NSCAD," says CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith." A failure to be inclusive in decision-making leads to poorer decisions, lower satisfaction of staff and students and ultimately impacts the quality of post-secondary education."
In addition to calling for NSCAD to release all relevant documents immediately, CAUT supports the Faculty Union of NSCAD’s call for a public inquiry into the Board of Governor's handling of the dismissal and plans for rehiring and future changes to the campus infrastructure.
(Ottawa – May 31, 2021) Sheridan College’s decision to unilaterally terminate its Senate is ill-informed and threatens the quality of education at the institution, says the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).
“Sheridan was a leader in college governance until the abrupt decision, with no faculty or staff consultation, to abolish its Senate,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “The Senate was a positive force - working to ensure transparent, informed decision-making on academic matters inclusive of administrative, faculty and other viewpoints within the community.”
A report on governance commissioned by the Administrators praises the institution, noting it has not faced “widespread discontent or a challenging occurrence that has fractured the community,” and notes that Sheridan is intent upon being “a genuine leader in governance…in a way that reflects the value it places on effective collegial participation in decision-making.” Despite this, the report raised concerns over the legality of the Senate, which CAUT disputes.
“As long as the board maintains oversight, there is nothing in the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act that would prohibit colleges from constituting senates to advise on academic matters,” notes Robinson.
CAUT has long advocated for shared governance at post-secondary institutions with academic staff playing the decisive role in making academic decisions and setting academic policy for post-secondary institutions to fulfill their public responsibilities for the creation, preservation, and transmission of knowledge.
(Ottawa – May 26, 2021) Today’s vote by Parliamentarians to create a new standing committee on science and research is a positive move to help ensure a robust, sustainable Canadian research system, according to the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).
“Passage of Motion 38 affirms Parliamentarians’ commitment to science, research and evidence-informed decision-making,” says CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith. “The lack of a dedicated mechanism and oversight for science and research has stymied our nation’s collective economic progress, yet science and research are critical in the ongoing fight against the pandemic, and for a just recovery. CAUT hopes this committee will be a catalyst for improvement.”
M-38 was a private member’s motion initiated by MP Kirsty Duncan, who was Canada’s Minister of Science leading up to the federal government’s historic investments to science in Budget 2018. CAUT acknowledges those critical investments, but notes that gaps exist.
“There remains a shortfall of approximately 40 per cent to reach the levels recommended by the report of the Fundamental Science Review Panel. Additionally, support for early career researchers still falls significantly short, at only 22 per cent of the levels recommended by the same report,” says Austin-Smith. “We hope that fundamental science and research is one topic of important study for the new committee once M-38 is passed, and that this government begins closing the funding gap between what was recommended by the Panel and what was delivered.”
(Ottawa – May 21, 2021) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is urging Members of Parliament to pass a private-member’s motion initiated by MP Kirsty Duncan to create a standing committee on science and research starting in the next Parliamentary session.
“As advocates for a robust and sustained Canadian research system, we recognize that science and research is critical to this country’s ongoing fight against the pandemic, and for a just recovery. The lack of a dedicated mechanism and oversight for science and research stymies our nation’s collective progress,” writes CAUT President Brenda Austin-Smith in a letter to Duncan in support of her initiative.
Approval of M-38 will affirm Parliament’s commitment to science, research and evidence-informed decision-making with the committee-members’ mandate inclusive of “the review of and report on all matters relating to science and research, including any reports of the Chief Science Advisor.”
CAUT’s letter to Duncan acknowledges that recent, significant federal investments for science have been crucial, but notes that gaps still exist which could be studied by the committee.
“You are a champion for research, and we welcomed your leadership as Minister of Science that led to historic investments in Budget 2018. As you know, there remains a shortfall of approximately 40 per cent to reach the levels recommended by the report of the Fundamental Science Review Panel. Additionally, support for early career researchers still falls significantly short, at only 22 per cent of the levels recommended by the same report.”
CAUT has also written to all MPs to urge their support for M-38.