The following initial proposals were presented to the CEC negotiations team on August 4, 2021. Below, you will find our overview of the proposals (which is adapted from the language that we presented at the bargaining table to provide context), as well as the specific changes to the Collective Agreement that we tabled. In the margins of the table below, you will find brief notes explaining the intent of the changes.
The following academic freedom, intellectual property, and shared governance demands were passed by delegates from the 24 Ontario College Locals, at our final demand-setting meeting in April. They were drafted following an extensive consultation process with faculty across the province, including surveys and Local demand-set meetings:
- Institute a system of shared governance, to ensure collegial decision-making around academic issues
- Strengthen the decision-making authority of teaching faculty over course materials and modes of evaluation
- Establish faculty ownership of all educational materials produced in the course of employment; recognize faculty ownership of all educational performances in the course of employment
Overview of Academic Freedom Proposals
I’m grateful for the chance to discuss such fundamental issues as academic freedom and intellectual property rights in the context of bargaining, and to share our proposals on these issues at this time, before moving on to our proposals around a role for faculty in the Colleges’ governance structures.
Academic Freedom was explicitly written in to our Collective Agreement in the last round, where it is correctly described as “fundamental to the realization and preservation of the Colleges’ commitment to academic excellence. And I’m delighted to see that the College system has suffered no discernable harm as a consequence of its introduction. In fact, in the face of what I understand to be the biggest challenge in the history of the College system –the massive and sudden shift to Emergency Remote Learning—academic freedom enabled faculty throughout that process to make the decisions that were most appropriate to their courses, their subject matter, their professional standards, and their students’ needs. It enhanced the “Colleges’ ability to deliver quality programming in a flexible manner”, as you identify in your stated bargaining goals, and it did this by permitting these decisions to be made by the individual most obviously qualified to make them: A faculty member.
We uphold the principle that “Academic freedom is fundamental to the realization and preservation of the Colleges’ commitment to academic excellence”, and for this reason, we present proposals to provide an enhanced clarification of the definition of academic freedom –one that more explicitly encompasses issues of content, evaluation, and method of course delivery. To state the obvious, our students and the Ontario public rely on the assumption that faculty currently have these powers—our students attend Ontario Colleges precisely to benefit from the expertise of college faculty, and it is important that our Collective Agreement make that assurance explicit.
Academic freedom is the active exercise of professional standards and professional judgment. One area where the exercise of that judgment is paramount is in Counselling, and we’ll be presenting language that permits Counsellors to exercise decision-making authority as an act of academic freedom, subject to applicable standards and external requirements.
Overview of Intellectual Property Proposals
Similarly fundamental to the College’s commitment to academic excellence is the issue of Intellectual property rights. Support for this is found in the Letter of Understanding that charged the Task Force with developing recommendations around “intellectual property issues that will promote excellence in college education, research, and training”. And I submit that the intellectual property position that will most promote excellence and innovation is, in fact, clear and explicit recognition by all parties that College faculty own the intellectual property that they produce in the course of teaching or research.
Any other position is, I believe a disincentive to innovation and to the excellence in teaching that our students deserve. Contract faculty should not have to turn to the Copyright Act to determine for example, whether a College qualifies as a person, or whether a recording of a streamed lecture counts as a work or a performance in order to conclude the that College won’t hire them for 13 weeks to create a course, only to package it at the end and sell it to a third-party, pocketing the profit and leaving the faculty member—the producer—unemployed. Only clear explicit reference in our Collective Agreement that faculty own the work they produce, absent signed agreement to the contrary, serves to promote a culture of innovation. The alternative –a culture where faculty feel threatened that their professional work will be used in ways that they do not control and may not be informed of –is a culture that promotes suspicion and inhibits creativity.
If I may tell a personal story, maybe a year after I was hired at Seneca College in 2005, I approached the Associate Vice-President Research and mentioned my interest in creating a writing handbook with a strong grammar focus, under Creative Commons license. The Associate Vice-President encouraged me to do so, but cautioned that Seneca College would claim ownership of my work if any part of it was done using my office computer, or if I couldn’t provide documentary evidence that I had performed 44 hours of work at Seneca College for each week when I worked on this project outside of holidays or vacation time. To be clear, we believe that her knowledge of the Copyright Act was erroneous, and her understanding of Intellectual Property rights was as incorrect as it was misguided. But the relevant point for this presentation is that the attitude towards Intellectual Property rights that she communicated is not one that was conducive to academic excellence or faculty initiative, or to hiring and retaining talented and innovative teachers or researchers. In the end, she dissuaded me from writing that book, and to this day, Ontario College students lack access to a free, comprehensive online writing handbook with a strong grammar focus.
In addition to the Union’s proposals to clarify faculty’s intellectual property rights, copyrights, and moral rights, I will be presenting on issues related to intellectual property as it relates to the heritage and knowledges of Indigenous People and Peoples. I thank you for providing yesterday’s land acknowledgement, including a call for us to work together to end anti-Indigenous racism. We believe that one essential component of abjuring the colonialist mindset that is at the heart of that racism is for us to Collectively Agree that Indigenous Peoples have the right to own, guard, and preserve their heritage, and knowledges. And our proposals include language that affirms the respect that is due to that preservation and to the cultural values and practices that undergird those knowledges.
Particularly now that online offerings are increasing, it is in the interest of the Ontario college system to make explicit that, in accordance with commonplace standards of postsecondary education, faculty own their work, so their students and colleges may benefit from its unconstrained production. Taken together, principles of academic freedom and intellectual property rights are necessary to ensure the professional standards and professional dignity of faculty, as well as the preservation of academic excellence.
Overview of Academic Council Proposals
The last round of Collective Agreement bargaining identified governance at Ontario Colleges as a major issue, and the language of the current Agreement communicates that academic governance structures are a significant component in promoting “exellence of college education, research, and training”, and that addressing issues of governance is fundamental to “ensuring that colleges thrive as quality academic institutions going forward”
Without speaking more to the cancellation of the Task Force that was addressing the vital issue of College governance structures, let me simply observe that its cancellation left an unresolved conflict to grow and fester. The pandemic further aggravated that conflict, as the Colleges turned to Emergency Remote Learning virtually overnight. And while there were undoubtedly differences in the way that the 24 Colleges implemented Emergency Remote Learning, what the Colleges did appear to have in common was a near-universal disregard for the opinions of the people who actually performed the colleges’ fundamental mission of teaching.
Speaking bluntly, our members have told us that, after living through the experience of teaching classes at an Ontario College throughout the pandemic, the CEC’s claim published on April 19—that “Faculty input is a valued and critical component of College governance and quality assurance processes”—rings hollow.
Speaking from personal experience, faculty input seemed conspicuously absent when my employer was unilaterally changing the length of the semester, jettisoning the learning outcomes that I was supposed to cover, or dictating expectations around synchronous vs. asynchronous learning. And now, as we face the return to in-person classes in September, I’m struck by the fact that my earliest knowledge about how faculty will be expected to teach classes in the Fall came not from any consultative process, but through College marketing videos for students, on YouTube.
At the risk of repeating myself, I have been employed at Seneca College for 16 years, and directly involved in union work at joint tables for 14 years. Never once to my recollection has the input of faculty been treated as a critical component of College governance.
In the last round of bargaining, we presented demands for an Academic Senate. To be clear, we believe that College Academic Senates are the most appropriate form of academic governance, as the gold standard for postsecondary education in the West. And we believe that the Ontario College system remains weakened by a governance structure that ensures that the most significant decisions around academic processes and policies are made by people other than the individuals who do the actual work of the Colleges—the people whose expertise and talent is at the heart of the students’ learning experience and their decision to attend the Colleges in the first place.
That remains our conviction, and our vision for the next 50 years of the College system still includes meaningful shared governance. We also agree with David Robinson of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, that “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,” and that the dissolution of Sheridan College’s Academic Senate was ill-advised, harmful, and premised upon an interpretation of the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act that is simply incorrect.
We are, however, also committed to making compromises, particularly where those compromises may permit the two sides to reach agreement without labour disruption. To that end, we propose–for the duration of this Collective Agreement–the establishment of a Faculty Academic Council that would provide a truly shared forum and a unified voice on academic issues at each College, including voting participation from faculty, administrators, and students.
These Councils would consist of no less than 24 members, with at least two-thirds of them being faculty representing all academic areas of the College. Administrator members would be either ex officio or appointed by senior administration, and student members would be elected and may also represent different areas of the College. It would meet at least nine times a year, and would advise the Board of Governors directly on academic issues before the Board.
In these ways, it differs from the Advisory College Councils established by the Minister’s Binding Policy Directive: It reports directly to the Board of Governors, not the College President; it focuses on the College’s academic policies, priorities, and programs, rather than simply “matters of importance to students and staff”; and it ensures that faculty representation is substantial and represents the diversity of the College’s academic areas.
To maximize the breadth of faculty engagement with the College’s mission, priorities, and policies, our proposal also includes the development of Local Academic Councils in each Academic area of the College. These Local Academic Councils would meet at least once each semester and would report to the Faculty Academic Council on issues of significance to the programs and faculty in their respective academic areas.
We believe that participation in the Faculty Academic Council and Local Academic Councils would permit faculty to exercise the academic leadership for which they are responsible, according to the class definition of Professor. These bodies would also provide a structure by which a substantial and representative number of faculty would exercise a participatory voice in academic direction at the Colleges. Lastly, it would represent a forum by which faculty, administration, and students could work together to articulate and shape a vision for the academic life of the Colleges.
To view the full proposed language changes that were tabled, along with explanatory notes, please download the printable PDF version here.
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