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November Advocate: Lessons in solidarity at the CAS Conference - Ontario Minister needs to apologize - Faculty pay gaps

Every month we send our supporters a newsletter with the latest CAUT and post-secondary education sector news. This newsletter was published on November 06, 2023. Subscribe to get the newsletter straight to your inbox.

In this issue:

  • Lessons in solidarity at the Contract Academic Staff Conference
  • CAUT calls for Ontario Minister to apologize for comments in the legislature
  • Academic freedom in times of conflict
  • CAUT condemns detention of Iranian teacher unionists
  • CAUT appears before Parliament on faculty pay gaps
  • NUFSA reaches tentative deal
  • Call on Brescia and Western to respect collegial governance
  • Quebec tuition hike for out-of-province students

Lessons in solidarity at the Contract Academic Staff Conference

During CAUT’s Contract Academic Staff Conference from October 20 to 21, almost 100 academic staff met in Ottawa to discuss how to elevate the voices of contract academic workers in governance and decision-making bodies.

Dr. Rebecca Givan, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, presented the keynote address that recounted lessons learned from a successful strike that resulted in significant gains for contract academic staff. The key, she said, was building solidarity between full-time and adjunct faculty.  

“By the time we went on strike, I believe every single person participating in the strike understood what we were striking for,” Dr. Givan said.

Throughout the conference, panelists and participants discussed local organizing lessons and emerging issues facing contract academic staff. 

Conference participants also discussed how contract academic staff are at the frontline of the threats to employment posed by the adoption of emerging education technologies and artificial intelligence. They reflected on how perspectives shared during the conference can help make CAUT’s annual Fair Employment Week a year-round campaign.

CAUT calls for Ontario Minister to apologize for comments in the legislature

In a letter to Jill Dunlop, Ontario’s Minister of Colleges and Universities, CAUT condemned a statement she made on October 17 in the provincial legislature in which she accused several students and professors of misconduct. In addressing the war between Israel and Hamas, the Minister alleged the professors expressed pro-Hamas and antisemitic views on social media, which they deny.

The letter notes that “It is highly unusual for allegations of misconduct on the part of professors to be made in any legislature in Canada, and for good reason. By statute, universities are granted institutional autonomy so they may fulfill their mission and conduct their internal affairs free from interference of political or other special interests. Such autonomy is necessary to maintain academic integrity and uphold academic freedom.” 

Academic freedom in times of conflict

In a memo to member associations, CAUT executive director David Robinson highlighted the importance of defending academic freedom in times of war and social conflict.  

“Academic freedom, like all expressive freedoms, is particularly vulnerable during periods of war, conflict, and social unrest,” Robinson wrote. “Today, the war between Israel and Hamas has become the subject of increasingly intense and acrimonious debate on campuses.” 

Robinson said that expression within the law must be tolerated and that attempts by institutions, donors, governments or outside pressure groups to constrain controversial debate must be resisted. 

“History shows that it is during times when political threats to academic freedom intensify, that the need for academic staff to contribute to public discourse becomes even more important. CAUT’s role is not to weigh in on the subjects being debated, but rather to ensure that all academic staff in Canada can exercise their right to engage in controversial discussion free from reprisal or penalty by the administration.”   

CAUT condemns detention of Iranian unionists

CAUT joined Education International, the global federation of education, in writing to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran to condemn the ongoing detention of Iranian teacher union leaders who have been engaged in peaceful activities protected by international law. The CAUT letter calls for their immediate and unconditional release. 

CAUT appears before Parliament on faculty pay gaps

On September 27, CAUT Vice-President Robin Whitaker appeared before the Standing Committee on Science and Research to discuss gender pay gaps at Canadian universities and highlight areas for federal action.

NUFSA reaches tentative deal

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine University Faculty and Staff Association (NUFSA) reached a tentative agreement with the university administration. NUFSA members voted 100% in favour of a strike mandate last August. As negotiations with the administration continued, academic staff associations across Canada pledged their support. After months of bargaining, the tentative deal achieved significant improvements. It averted a potential first-ever strike that was just hours away. 

Call on Brescia and Western to respect collegial governance

On September 21, the administrations of Western University and Brescia University College announced a plan to merge.

The decision was made without consulting the academic staff associations or the Senate. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) called the plan a violation of fundamental principles of transparency, openness, and the duty to consult in labour relations.

It is unacceptable that this deal was negotiated without discussion with Senate or the Brescia and Western academic staff associations. Send a letter to the President and Board of Governors of Western University and Brescia University College.

Quebec tuition hike for out-of-province students

In response to the Quebec government’s plans to increase tuition fees for students from outside of the province, the Federation québécoise des professeures et professeurs d’université (FQPPU) released a statement critical of the fee hike and noting “the importance of preserving access to higher education for all.” FQPPU expressed concern about the proposed policy’s impact on anglophone universities’ financial viability.

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