In case you haven’t already heard, the Provost is telling you how to vote in the dual tentative proposals that are before the AASUA membership.
In the University of Alberta’s official blog, Colloquy, he has written: I, as the institution’s chief academic officer, urge all academic staff members to read the two agreements carefully and to vote in favour of them.
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)
The Provost, as the chief’s academic officer, initiated the proposals before us. He’s asking us, in short, to vote for his proposals — proposals that (amongst other things) treat the salaries of his colleagues as a problem for the University’s financial bottom-line. His post reiterates this as if we were dealing with a fact — “It is no secret that the University of Alberta is facing continuing pressures relating to funding and academic compensation” — rather than a construction based on a conception that we need Austerity in this wealthy province.
It is one thing for those who are voting in a democratic referendum of any kind to continue discussion of the issues while the vote is in progress; quite another for those from whom the proposals originated to continue campaigning.
Amongst other things, the Provost does not urge you to read any of the position statements that have been issued by those on the AASUA Council opposed to the measures. In fact, he claims that the proposals come before you “endorsed” by Council. (Not all those Council members who voted for the proposals to come forward to the membership would claim that they have endorsed the proposals.)
Aside from the great inappropriateness of the Provost telling a community of thinkers how to vote on a proposals that he initiated, we might ask: Why is this statement being issued six days after voting began? Does the Provost know something about the vote to date that the rest of us do not?
There is certainly good reason for the Provost to worry that the members of the AASUA’s seven constituency groups may do something unprecedented, and choose not to ratify proposals put before them.
On-line discussions and hall-way conversations suggest that members understand that there are grave difficulties with the proposals before them, which have been produced in great haste, and with many pressing questions about them going unanswered at the Council meetings of May 15th and May 22nd and at the Town Halls.
The Academic Faculty Committee’s acting chair Colleen Cassady St. Clair (Biological Sciences), a former member of the bargaining team, offered a detailed critique of the proposals (especially those in the first document, the “Compensation” agreement) at Council. (You can read Professor St. Clair’s notes on her remarks here: https://sites.google.com/a/ualberta.ca/aasua-afc/meeting-notes.)
Former presidents of the Association have raised, urgently and emphatically, their concerns about the proposals’ circumvention of the standing Collective Agreements, and threats to future Collective Agreements. Amongst other things, Jeremy Richards (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) has noted there is new and unclear wording at the end of the third version of the “Terms of Reference” (presented at the second Town Hall on 25 May 2012) that suggests that either of the “parties” involved may intervene into and alter Articles 5 and 19 of the Collective Agreement, which you can read here: http://www.aasua.ualberta.ca/en/~/media/aasua/CollAgree/Docs/Faculty_Agreement_FINAL.pdf. At the ad hoc meeting of faculty on the morning of 22 May 2012, another former president of the AASUA, Gordon Swaters (Mathematics) suggested that the faculty ought to be suing the Association for divesting itself of their interests.
J.C. Cahill (Biological Sciences) proposes that the faculty arrange to negotiate separately on all future agreements. (You can read his open letter here: http://www.aasua.ualberta.ca/en/~/media/aasua/CollAgree/Docs/Faculty_Agreement_FINAL.pdf).
Others have suggested that the faculty need to consider withdrawing from the Association.
These positions are being struck not because the faculty consider themselves (to use AASUA president Ian MacLaren’s phrase) “at the top” of the University, but because faculty consider themselves, rightly, the core of the University, and the measures involved, which are being cast as a matter of resolving the problem or “pressures” of “academic compensation,” are measures that strike not just at the workers who constitute that core, but the work that they do, work in which research and teaching are vitally connected. If the University of Alberta is to thrive as a humanist university and research-intensive institution, it must protect those core workers, and their core work.
The intention behind the creation of the “teaching-intensive streams” as specified in the first version of the proposals currently before us is known by some; and all CAS:T (contract academic staff: teaching) should have heard from their Council representatives how the direct question put to the AASUA President at the Council meeting of May 22nd about possible “conversions” from CAS:T to the new teaching-intensive positions was handled. To be clear, the measure is not about converting CAS:T to full-time faculty. It is one of several measures to be dealt with by the proposed committee (if it is approved) that will radically alter this institution as a research university. Apparently, the Administration has officially retreated from its Top 20 by 2020 ambitions; but having spent so much on them, it wants faculty to pay the price for its — er — choices.
By all means vote “yes” on these proposals, after you’ve considered the many, many issues involved in them, if that’s what you choose to do. Or join those of us who are voting “no” in order to stand up for the University of Alberta as a research institution, where our research informs our teaching, and our teaching informs our research, to the immense benefit of our students and the culture. We need as many of us possible to be able to do that work under the protections of academic freedom — and the protections of the AASUA’s collective agreements which, as a writer elsewhere has pointed out, have been fought for long and hard.
As Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times today: “[T]he austerity drive in Britain isn’t really about debt and deficits at all; it’s about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs. And this is, of course, exactly the same thing that has been happening in America.” In Alberta, we are not, as AASUA President Ian MacLaren claimed at one of the Town Halls, in a depression; and we should not, as he insisted, follow the rest of the First World in cutting expenditures on higher education. Vote “no” and demand that the Administration do a better job of communicating with and persuading the Government to invest in post-secondary education in Alberta, and proceed to regular negotiations with us in the Fall under the protections of the Collective Agreement.