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Introducing CAUT's 2020-21 Executive Committee

Introducing CAUT's 2020-21 Executive Committee

[Rémi Thériault]

Brenda Austin-Smith


This is a year like no other. The twinned health and economic crises have exacerbated long-standing issues in the academic workplace and created new ones. To get through these crises and be better for it, we need to tap into the political power of the membership, supporting the development of activist skills in everything from bargaining and communications to running campaigns. We need to organize in new ways and like never before, not just our own collegial bodies like Senates and Faculty Councils, but also our deep connections with our students, our communities, and other groups who share our circumstances in order to strengthen the public good. Although isolated and distanced, as a result of the pandemic, we must find new ways to reach out, engage and organize as the voice of academic staff in the defence of the academic job, and high quality, affordable, post-secondary education. Now is the time to move forward, virtual arms linked across the boundaries that threaten to divide and weaken us. We are stronger together.

Peter McInnis


These two terms as CAUT Vice-President have offered the opportunity to expand activities related to advocating for academic/staff unions, and more broadly, issues confronting post-secondary education, both within Canada and internationally. The progression from faculty union president, to activism with provincial and national associations has provided engagement with a wide spectrum of campaigns, especially that of academic freedom and tenure. I have been closely involved with CAUT’s Academic Freedom &Tenure Committee for seven years now and firmly believe these principles remain a central tenet of the “academic job.” As Vice-President, I support the actions of the President, Executive Committee, the CAUT Executive Director and staff to improve working conditions of members and protect professional rights. As an academic with research interests in labour studies, these ongoing experiences with CAUT have continued to energize a close relationship between professional work and political activism.

Yalla Sangaré


Since March, it has been necessary to transition to distance education. In the short term, the priority of the CAUT will be to develop guidelines for navigating this new environment. Vigilance is essential. The pandemic seems to be used as an alibi for making budget cuts. In the medium term, it is crucial to make progress on issues of equity, diversity and inclusion within post-secondary institutions. It is not enough to create positions for administrators responsible for equity and structures. Concrete results are needed. The focus remains the same: to vigorously defend and promote a high-quality, accessible post-secondary education system. Internally, the foundations of such a system are collegiality and academic freedom. From an external standpoint, an appropriate level of public funding is required. Solidarity with our colleagues whose status is precarious and courage must be our guideposts at all times.

James Compton


As always, a key challenge for academic unionism in the coming year will be solidarity. There are many centrifugal forces working to divide us in the neoliberal university. Individual faculty members are pitted against each other in a zero-sum game in which fighting for scarce research funds and recognition produces a stratified collegium of haves and have nots. The most egregious outcome is the appalling treatment of contract academic staff. We see the same tension among academic units, where Responsibility Center Management imposes the iron law of incentive-based budgeting. Senate, once a space in which the university community reproduced itself through good faith collective action, is now reduced to a rubber stamp. None of this is new, but in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, inequality is magnified and exposed. Our normal tools of collective action are no longer available, so we will have to experiment with online forms of solidarity. At the end of the day, it’s all we’ve got.

David Newhouse


Universities and colleges are responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission through the creation of Indigenization plans. These plans often call for the hiring of additional Indigenous faculty, creation of new Indigenous academic programming, inclusion of Indigenous staff into the administrative and governing structures of the university, support for Indigenous research and bringing Indigenous knowledge into the academy. From a Haudenosaunee perspective, I call this huge project ‘extending the rafters’ as it is akin to the addition of a new family to the longhouse. There will be tensions that arise from this project that involve working conditions, research support, developing relationships with colleagues and communities and evaluation of individual performance, among others. One of the items for discussion at the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education Working Group is starting a national survey of the experience of Indigenous faculty in Canadian universities. I led an Ontario faculty survey in the last year which will be formally released this fall. I’m hopeful that the surveys will help to fill a gap in knowledge and help local associations better support Indigenous members.

Serge Jolicœur


The mandate of the Francophones’ Committee is to advise on concerns of francophone academic staff at francophone, bilingual and anglophone institutions. The fragility of French in minority settings is at the heart of our concerns, highlighting the importance of providing Post-secondary programs in French to ensure that Canada’s francophone communities continue to develop and thrive. Recent developments concerning Faculté Saint-Jean (University of Alberta), the decision of the Toronto District School Board to discontinue French Immersion programs at the primary level (whereas the Université de l’Ontario français will open its doors in 2021) and the consequences of the recent Supreme Court decision on French schools in British Columbia, are part of our discussions. Our actions are also brought to bear on the working conditions of francophone staff at Canadian colleges and universities, particularly in the context of the response to the current health crisis.

Laurence McFalls


At a time when academic freedom is more than ever under siege, both overtly and insidiously, CAUT must rise to its collective defense in particular where individual voices and local associations cannot make themselves heard. Despite the urgency and distractions of combatting the pandemic and its differing effects on universities and colleges across Canada, CAUT must continue to focus on its unique role as an organization that can identify and protect the common interests of the academic community and its broader social mission as an institution dedicated to the disinterested development and defense of scientific, interpretive and creative truth. While this might sound overly idealistic, only a national organization integrated into an international network can provide an overview of the stakes that local struggles and historic contingencies such as the COVID crisis can obscure.

Marc Schroeder


Across provincial jurisdictions, we are witnessing increasingly brazen assaults on public education and organized labour — the latter being the means by which we, through collective action, can most powerfully defend and advance the former. Whereas the work of post-secondary academic staff and their associations lies at the intersection of both, neoliberal governments seek to subordinate post-secondary education to short-term, instrumentalist policy objectives in the service of private interests through a refocusing on narrowly-conceived labour market outcomes and research commercialization, with austerity politics and performance-based funding as levers to force compliance. All of these entail greater corporatization and precarity. All weaken institutional autonomy, democratic shared governance, and collective bargaining, consequently undermining academic freedom: necessary conditions for public post-secondary education in the service of the common good, broadly conceived. Today, it is critically important that associations adopt an organizing model so to prepare for mobilization against these assaults through collective action across multiple domains.

Robin Whitaker


We need strong comprehensive public post-secondary education more than ever to negotiate a pandemic that touches every aspect of our lives, from practical problems of how we move around and work, to social and psychological challenges, to fundamental existential questions. Much as socioeconomic inequality patterns COVID-19 risks, the pandemic reveals systemic vulnerabilities. These include the ways colleges and universities are left insecure by diminished government support, corporatization and marketization, and the associated rise of precarious academic labour, overreliance on student fees, and an administrative class that is disconnected from everyday post-secondary education work and workers. Academic staff unions, working in conjunction with CAUT, are vital to securing an equitable, just, and sustainable transition, both for our own members and more widely. It is critical that we work with the rest of the labour movement and other social and environmental justice allies, with a commitment to bargain for the common good.

Alison Hearn

CHAIR / Academic Freedom & Tenure
PRÉSIDENTE / Liberté académique et permanence de l’emploi

The protection and advancement of academic freedom has never been more important than it is now, under the unprecedented conditions brought about by COVID-19. While university administrations across Canada have had to act swiftly to address the health emergency over the last months, these swift actions have come at a high price; existing collegial governance structures have been routinely circumvented, and the rapid conversion to privately owned digital platforms has come without appropriate protections for intellectual property and personal privacy, or acknowledgement of increased workload. All of this undermines our academic freedom rights to extra and intramural speech, research and teaching. The CAUT’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee has been monitoring the invidious impacts of educational technologies (EdTech) on academic freedom for quite some time, but the growing reliance on privately-owned digital platforms has deepened our concerns about enhanced surveillance inside and outside of the classroom, disciplinary forms of performance management via the collection of data, and the potential for personal threats and self-censorship that accompany the recording and circulation of our lectures and course materials online. In addition to its on-going work defending the academic freedom rights of our members we are working on the development of an Academic Freedom workshop, and diligent support of the co-implication of equity and academic freedom.

Sarika Bose

CHAIR / Contract Academic Staff
PRÉSIDENTE / Personnel académique contractuel

Approximately one-third of Canadian academics are hired on a temporary or part-time basis. This practice seriously compromises the principles of higher education; thus the CAUT Contract Academic Staff Committee is mandated by Council to raise awareness of issues that affect contract academics across Canada. CAUT recognizes that the components of the academic job are dismantled by increasingly precarious jobs, a situation exacerbated by the current pandemic. Lack of job security affects any meaningful exercise of academic freedom, lack of financial security negatively affects physical and mental health, and lack of career path leads to a deep weakening of academia and Canadian society as a whole. Specialist knowledge is lost as CAS largely teach service courses and have few resources for original research, and formerly stable economic sectors are destabilized. Through its advisory work on policy statements, CAUT campaigns, and local organization, the CAS Committee supports CAUT’s continuing actions to turn the tide towards fair employment practices for all academics.

Kate Cushon

CHAIR / Librarians & Archivists
PRÉSIDENTE / Bibliothécaires et archivistes

The Librarians’ and Archivists’ Committee will be focusing our efforts on a number of key issues facing our sector. Advocacy will continue to be a central effort, including monitoring and educating members about the Statutory Review of the Copyright Act, issues around Access Copyright and fair dealing, public support for open publishing and open educational resources, and other emergent issues. During the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries and archives may face fast-tracked timelines for physical re-opening, with variable capacities for ensuring staff safety and different perceived levels of essentiality, compared to other areas of post-secondary institutions. Conversely, librarians and archivists face heightened risks from “de-professionalization” and having their work made invisible during remote delivery of instruction and services. As we monitor and respond to these issues facing our sector, the Committee will continue to solicit the membership’s input on developing issues during this extraordinary period. 

Sue Blair

CHAIR / Collective Bargaining & Economic Benefits
PRÉSIDENTE / Négociation collective et avantages économiques

In a year fraught with a seemly endless series of challenges, academic staff associations across Canada have been faced with ongoing adjustments to the work of their members, and pandemic-induced austerity narratives from both administrations and governments. We struggle to distinguish between necessary change and opportunistic restructuring of the post-secondary environment, and this struggle impacts on our ability to develop clear positions and communicate them with our members and to the public. These issues impact directly on collective bargaining. While uncertainty and fear present particular challenges as we mobilize our members, our traditional strengths of research, nuanced data analysis, and communication and engagement of our members remain our best tools. In the year ahead, CBEBC will focus on ways we can assist member associations with this work, reconsidering and reframing our tools for mobilization in the current pandemic, and helping them assert an understanding of post-secondary education that is based on evidence and information.

Pat Armstrong

CO-CHAIR / Equity

This is a time to seize the moment. In my view, the Equity Committee should focus on two things in the coming year. First, we must make sure that the strategies to address COVID-19 do not exacerbate existing inequities. This requires, as an initial step, identifying the inequitable and often invisible, consequences of strategies in and outside post-secondary institutions. Second, we must take advantage of the inequities that have been made more visible by COVID-19 and the emerging awareness of systemic discrimination — or what Paul Farmer calls structural violence — to plan for policies and practices that result in real change. This means not only ensuring that we share experiences and resources to support academic staff associations in advancing equity, but that we also expand our content and dissemination methods, focusing on action to ensure equity is central to all decisions in the wake of this pandemic.

Momin Rahman

CO-CHAIR / Equity

I was very happy to be elected to continue as Co-Chair of the Equity Committee for CAUT. In my first term, I led the planning for an Equity Toolkit and our Committee is now helping to finalize this resource so that members have some practical guidance and action plans to advance equity in our institutions. The last few months have seen global focus on institutional racism and this issue is a particular problem in the Canadian post-secondary sector. I will continue to support the work that both the CAUT Executive and the Equity Committee do on this issue so that we can all work towards an educational and research environment that reflects the whole of Canadian society. The global pandemic has also highlighted the many structural inequalities in our profession, of gender, disability and race, as well as the vulnerability of contract academic staff. This illustrates that equity is a central issue in the professional and personal lives and responsibilities of our many of members and not some afterthought that administrations can de-prioritize or ignore under cover of pandemic emergency measures.


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