The Hagey Lecture Perspective: 1997

The Hagey lectures are the University of Waterloo’s premier invitational public lecture series. Since 1970, outstanding individuals, who have distinguished themselves internationally in some area of scholarly or creative endeavour have given talks intended to challenge, stimulate and enrich not only the faculty, staff and students of the University of Waterloo, but all members of this community.

These annual lectures are co-sponsored by the Faculty Association and the university, and with the success of this year’s lecture by Dr. Paul Collier, we’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate some of our past lectures.

1997 brought Canadian writer and producer David Cayley to the Theatre of the Humanities. In a way it came full circle, as he was a student of inaugural Hagey lecturer George Wald. Cayley served as the principal writer for the CBC radio series Ideas, and his interviews with figures such as Ivan Illich and Northrop Frye, published in his Conversations series.

His talk, “The Expanding Prison: Is there an alternative?” was based on his then forthcoming book “The Expanding Prison” from House of Anansi Press. In it, he noted an ever-increasing global prison population, but observed that crime and imprisonment aren’t connected in the way we often imagine. “At the moment, while registered crime decreases in many places, imprisonment increases. Conversely, between the 1950s and  1970s the Netherlands cut the number of prisoners in half, while registered crime increased by 300%” Cayley set out to challenge what we consider the traditional notions of prison and punishment, and explore examples of successful alternatives displayed both in Canada and around the world.

Speaking to an audience of 450 people, he decried the current state of prisons, calling them “…the universities of crime,” isolating prisoners from society rather than helping them to rejoin it. He discussed alternatives to prison, such as victim mediation programs that give offenders an opportunity to make amends for their wrongdoing, and sentencing circles that encourage offenders to take ownership of their actions. His colloquium, delivered on the following day, expanded on these topics as he discussed the matter with Waterloo students.

Since his lecture, David Cayley has continued to produce and write for the CBC, and his 2009 book Ideas on the Nature of Science included edited transcripts of interviews with University of Waterloo professor Lee Smolin and 2011 Hagey lecturer Ian Hacking.

Quotations from Dave Augustyn, “Is there a better way?” University of Waterloo Magazine, Spring 1998

Tenured Positions Under Threat at St. Paul University

On Saturday May 25, we received the following message from the Professors’ Association of St. Paul University in Ottawa.

“The administration of Saint Paul University is threatening to fire an unspecified number of tenured professors to make up a deficit in the budget for the coming year.   Last week they began by firing a professional librarian who holds a permanent appointment.  There is no financial exigency clause in our Collective Agreement that would allow this.”

David Porreca, President of FAUW, responded to Mme. Chantal Beauvais, the Rector of St. Paul’s with this letter.

Dear Mme Beauvais,

I am writing to you as the President of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo, as it has come to my attention that Saint Paul University is planning to cut a number of tenured faculty positions. I urge you to reconsider this decision, for a number of what I believe to be good reasons:

  1. The principle of tenure precludes the casual firing of faculty members. The basic premise of academic freedom is at stake, and your administration is setting a noxious example that, if adopted elsewhere, sounds the death knell of academia in Canada. In my view, selling physical infrastructure is preferable to firing people, especially people with tenure.
  2. As a result of your administration’s recent actions, Saint Paul University finds itself without a professional librarian at this point in time. Consequently, the academic activities of your institution no longer have the support they need, which can only have deleterious consequences on the work of all those concerned: both students and faculty members. Therefore, I urge you to reinstate the Librarian whose position was terminated last month.
  3. The collective agreement your administration has with faculty members does not have a “financial exigency” clause. Therefore, by actively terminating positions, your administration is in clear breach of the collective agreement.
  4. Saint Paul University is well-recognized for the strength of its Theology program, both in terms of the research conducted as well as the teaching and training of new generations of theologians. As a Medievalist myself, I have a keen appreciation for the work that, historically, Saint Paul has done in this field. It is truly a tragedy that your administration has seen fit to torpedo one of your institution’s greatest strengths in this manner. Do you really want to be remembered as the administrator who gutted one of the best Theology programs in the country?
  5. At the University of Waterloo, our budgeting exercise is transparent – not as much as we as a Faculty Association would like, but nevertheless enough to allow us to consider critically the manner in which our University is run. From my understanding, there is a lack of transparency in your operations, such that your Professors’ Association is unable to assess whether your administration’s chosen course of action is really necessary. Instead of firing people, it would behoove you to construct a well-argued case to your faculty members and staff in order to get their support in any restructuring that may indeed be necessary, rather than imposing it by diktat.

From a purely human perspective, I would also urge you to put yourself in the position of those people whom you are terminating: they have devoted their entire careers to making Saint Paul University the excellent institution that it is. Do they really deserve to be treated in such a heavy-handed way? Is there really not a more humane way to resolve your budgetary concerns?

Yours most sincerely,

– David.

For more background on the situation with faculty at St. Paul, you can read this fact sheet put out by the Professors’ Association of St. Paul University.

Redefining the Scope of Academic Freedom

Principal Threats to Academic Freedom

David Porreca, FAUW President

This is the second entry in the series of posts on academic freedom stemming from the CAUT general meeting in Ottawa last month, this one focusing on attempts to redefine academic freedom in increasingly restrictive and less useful ways.  By way of example, I shall compare and contrast the definitions of academic freedom as expressed on the one hand by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), and on the other by our colleagues at St. Jerome’s University in their collective agreement.

In terms of context, university presidents across Canada adopted the AUCC statement on academic freedom unanimously.  The SJU-ASA wording has been held up at CAUT meetings as a model of brevity and comprehensiveness.  The fact that both are almost exactly contemporaneous adds to the relevance of the comparison.

To facilitate comparison, here is the language adopted by both groups presented in a table, side-by-side. I’ve numbered the paragraphs in the AUCC Statement for ease of reference:

AUCC Statement on Academic Freedom
(25 October 2011)
St. Jerome’s University Collective Agreement (effective: March 24 2011)
I. What is academic freedom?

1. Academic freedom is the freedom to teach and conduct research in an academic environment. Academic freedom is fundamental to the mandate of universities to pursue truth, educate students and disseminate knowledge and understanding.

2. In teaching, academic freedom is fundamental to the protection of the rights of the teacher to teach and of the student to learn. In research and scholarship, it is critical to advancing knowledge. Academic freedom includes the right to freely communicate knowledge and the results of research and scholarship.

3. Unlike the broader concept of freedom of speech, academic freedom must be based on institutional integrity, rigorous standards for enquiry and institutional autonomy, which allows universities to set their research and educational priorities.

II. Why is academic freedom important to Canada? 

1. Academic freedom does not exist for its own sake, but rather for important social purposes. Academic freedom is essential to the role of universities in a democratic society. Universities are committed to the pursuit of truth and its communication to others, including students and the broader community. To do this, faculty must be free to take intellectual risks and tackle controversial subjects in their teaching, research and scholarship.

2. For Canadians, it is important to know that views expressed by faculty are based on solid research, data and evidence, and that universities are autonomous and responsible institutions committed to the principles of integrity.

III. The responsibilities of academic freedom 

1. Evidence and truth are the guiding principles for universities and the community of scholars that make up their faculty and students. Thus, academic freedom must be based on reasoned discourse, rigorous extensive research and scholarship, and peer review.

2. Academic freedom is constrained by the professional standards of the relevant discipline and the responsibility of the institution to organize its academic mission. The insistence on professional standards speaks to the rigor of the enquiry and not to its outcome.

3. The constraint of institutional requirements recognizes simply that the academic mission, like other work, has to be organized according to institutional needs. This includes the institution’s responsibility to select and appoint faculty and staff, to admit and discipline students, to establish and control curriculum, to make organizational arrangements for the conduct of academic work, to certify completion of a program and to grant degrees.

IV. Roles and responsibilities

1. University leadership: It is a major responsibility of university governing bodies and senior officers to protect and promote academic freedom. This includes ensuring that funding and other partnerships do not interfere with autonomy in deciding what is studied and how. Canada’s university presidents must play a leadership role in communicating the values around academic freedom to internal and external stakeholders. The university must also defend academic freedom against interpretations that are excessive or too loose, and the claims that may spring from such definitions.

2. To ensure and protect academic freedom, universities must be autonomous, with their governing bodies committed to integrity and free to act in the institution’s best interests.

3. Universities must also ensure that the rights and freedoms of others are respected, and that academic freedom is exercised in a reasonable and responsible manner.

4. Faculty: Faculty must be committed to the highest ethical standards in their teaching and research. They must be free to examine data, question assumptions and be guided by evidence.

5. Faculty have an equal responsibility to submit their knowledge and claims to rigorous and public review by peers who are experts in the subject matter under consideration and to ground their arguments in the best available evidence.

6. Faculty members and university leaders have an obligation to ensure that students’ human rights are respected and that they are encouraged to pursue their education according to the principles of academic freedom.

7. Faculty also share with university leadership the responsibility of ensuring that pressures from funding and other types of partnerships do not unduly influence the intellectual work of the university.

Article 2 – Academic Freedom 

2.0 The Parties agree to uphold, protect, and promote academic freedom as essential to the University’s objective to serve the common good through searching for, and disseminating, knowledge, truth, and understanding, and through fostering independent thinking and expression in academic staff and students.

2.1 Members possess the individual right, regardless of prescribed doctrine, to academic freedom, which includes the right to engage in the following without institutional censorship or reprisal provided the Member complies with relevant legal considerations and any related policies required by law:

(a) examine, question, teach, and learn

(b) disseminate opinions on any questions related to the Member’s teaching, professional activities, and research both inside and outside the classroom

(c) choose and pursue research, creative, or professional activities without interference or reprisal, and freely publish and make public the results thereof

(d) choose and pursue teaching methods and content;

(e) create, exhibit, perform or adjudicate works of art

(f) select, acquire, disseminate, or critique documents or other materials

(g) criticize the Association, Employer or any other organizations, whether corporate, political, public, private, institutional,
as well as society at large

(h) engage in service to the institution and the community

(i) participate in professional and  representative academic bodies; and

(j) recommend library materials relevant to the pursuit of learning

2.2 Academic freedom does not require neutrality on the part of the Member. Academic freedom makes intellectual discourse, critique and commitment  possible.

2.3 Academic freedom does not confer legal immunity and carries with it the duty to use that freedom in a responsible manner consistent with the scholarly obligation to base research and teaching on an honest search for knowledge. In exercising their legal rights, Members shall not be hindered or impeded by either Party in any manner contrary to this Agreement.

2.4 In any exercise of freedom of expression, Members shall not purport to convey an official position of the Employer unless so authorized by the Employer, President or his/her designate.

Some unsettling observations result from this exercise in contrast:

  • At I.3, the AUCC appears to be suggesting that academic freedom is a lesser right than freedom of speech, whereas the opposite is true.  Would freedom of speech prevent one from being fired for criticizing one’s corporate employer?  Only academic freedom allows the professorate to have a say in how it and universities are governed.
  • The AUCC statement (III. 2) purports that academic freedom is “constrained by the professional standards of the academic discipline and the responsibility of the institution to organize its academic mission.”  Besides the ambiguity inherent in the statement “professional standards” (which ones? set by whom? isn’t obtaining tenure a high enough bar to qualify one as having “professional standards”?), I doubt any academic discipline could agree internally on a set of “professional standards” – disagreement is precisely the point of having academic debates. 
  • Anyacademic who criticizes their employer would be in breach of academic freedom according to this section (III. 2) of the AUCC statement.  Indeed, aside perhaps from certain branches of philosophy, there is no academic discipline that deals directly with issues of university governance.  So, if a mathematician sees fit to publish a critique of her/his employer – clearly something guaranteed by the SJU statement (2.1 (g)) – the AUCC would view this individual as being in breach of academic freedom since none of the “professional standards” in mathematics have anything to say about university governance. If the criticism came consistently from the same department, could administrators use the AUCC statement to justify the targeting of that department because it hinders “the responsibility of the institution to organize its academic mission”?
  • The previous point is made all the more ominous when read along with the next point (III. 3), which places in institutional hands the task of appointing faculty, determining curricula and so on.  This statement would be acceptable if it recognized that “the institution” and “the faculty” are one and the same, based on the principle of collegial governance.  It is not at all clear, however, that this is the understanding implied in the AUCC statement.  The separation of “the institution” from “the faculty” is a pernicious sub-text to the AUCC document, the barn door through which academic freedom can be wheeled out on a gurney.
  • At IV.2, the AUCC makes a strong case for institutional autonomy and administrators acting in the institution’s best interests. As public institutions, however, universities have a responsibility to the public good, and it is the latter that academic freedom ultimately aims to protect and foster.  Not much is said explicitly of the public good in the AUCC statement.
  • Despite its considerably greater length, the AUCC statement says nothing about protecting faculty members who criticize corporate entities, governments or their own institution.
  • At IV.3, we read: “ Universities must also ensure that … academic freedom is exercised in a reasonable and responsible manner.”   Who determines what is “reasonable and responsible”? I’ve rarely seen such unsettling Orwellian language in an official statement, and it takes very little imagination to figure how such a statement could be abused to the detriment of individual faculty members or even whole departments.  Universities are in the business of learning about the world and transmitting what is learned to subsequent generations at the highest possible levels of attainment.  Being a general rights defender is not part of the ‘central mission’ of a university, although an institution should be willing to defend the rights of its own constituents (as McMaster University has done in the recent cases brought against one if its librarians, Dale Askey).
  • At IV.7, the AUCC invites faculty members to join the university administration to prevent “undue” influence by funding or other partnerships on university-based intellectual activity.  What would qualify as “appropriate” or “due” influence, and how would those boundaries be defined?  The qualifier is unnecessary and unsettling.  Better would have been to emphasize the importance and value of curiosity-driven research.

In light of the above, I invite our President to renounce the AUCC statement, since it effectively erodes and fails to defend basic principles of academic freedom that faculty members need to do their jobs.

Global Trends in Media and Higher Education

Worldviews 2013: Global Trends in Media and Higher Education will take place in Toronto, June 19-21, 2013 on the University of Toronto campus. It is a unique international conference that brings together thinkers, academics, editors, students, journalists, and communication professionals to examine how media coverage of higher education —  including universities and colleges — is shaping the organization, operation and perceptions of these institutions.

The conference is a forum for those from media and higher education to engage one another and consider directions for the future. The impact of new and emerging forms of communication, the internationalization of higher education campuses, and the restructuring of media and academia in the context of financial constraints are some of the critical issues that those attending Worldviews will address.

Worldviews also aims to actively engage its audience and is designed to maximize the participatory nature of the event. Interviews, panels, keynote addresses, workshops, café conversations, a live twitter feed and engagement with other social media will allow participants to deliberate, network, and generate ideas in a unique setting.

The Themes of the 2013 Conference are:

  • Newsflashes from the global campus: Reporting trends, interpretations and relationships
  • Hooking up or a long-term relationship? Future depictions of the professoriate and of journalism
  • Unlocking the tower: How trends in media, citizenry, and government are altering higher education

And of particular interest are some of the following sessions:

The Age of Austerity for Higher Education: Public Reaction and Media Depictions

  • Student protests or civil society mobilization? Media depictions in Quebec, Chile, US, and UK
  • The under-reported story: The role of university campuses in the Arab Spring
  • Innovations bred by austerity: Crowd-sourcing in media and in higher education
  • Playing favourites? Media’s bent on the Social investment vs. Government austerity debate on the future of higher education.
Who Owns the Academy: Academic Freedom, Public Finances and National Security
  • Academic freedom and freedom of the press: Old tenets, new interpretations
  • National security, social media and the publicity of academic findings

The Internationalization of Universities

  • International students and campus integration: Institutional strategies and media interpretations 
  • The breadth, depth, and diversity of coverage in China and India as emerging (major) players in higher education
  • The cultural impact of western-centric hubs and branch campuses in Asia and the Middle East

Confirmed Speakers Include:
Adrian Monck, Head of Communications and Media, World Economic Forum
Sir John Daniel, former President of the Commonwealth of Learning
Phillip Altbach, Director of the Centre of Higher Education, Boston College
Teboho Moja, Clinical Professor of Higher Education, New York University and former advisor to the South African Minister of Education
Nicole Blanchett Nehili, Professor in Journalism Broadcast Program, Sheridan Institute of Technology
Gili Dori, professor of sociology and anthropology, Hebrew University
Tony Burman, Ryerson University journalism professor and Al Jazeera’s former head of strategy in the Americas
Andrew Keen, author of “The Cult of the Amateur”
Lynn Pasquerella, President of Mount Holyoke College
Goolam Mohamedbhai, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Mauritius
Pericles Lewis, President, Yale-National University of Singapore College
Chad Gaffield, President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Shari Graydon, Founder, Informed Opinions
Mary Dwyer, Senior Editor, Maclean’s
Simona Choise, Education Editor, Globe and Mail
Scott Jaschik, Editor of Inside Higher Ed; and
Karen MacGregor, Global Editor of University World News.
Mark Kingwell, Philosopher, University of Toronto
Frank Furedi, Author and Professor Emeritus, University of Kent
Sheila Embleton, Distinguished Research Professor of Linguistics, York University
Vinita Srivastava, Professor of Journalism, Ryerson University, and former editor, New York Times Magazine

See the list of speakers confirmed to date on the World Views website.

Worldviews 2013 is organized by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations(OCUFA), OISE-University of Toronto, the Washington-based Inside Higher Ed and the London-based University World News. For more information or to register, please visit the World Views Conference website: You can also talk with them on Twitter (@worldviewscon) and on Facebook

The Casualization of the Academic Workforce

Principal Threats to Academic Freedom

David Porreca, FAUW President

The Canadian Association of University Teachers – the umbrella organization representing 68,000 university faculty members and librarians nationwide – held its 74th Council April 25-28th, in Ottawa. I attended representing FAUW.  Among the many issues and concerns that were discussed from Thursday to Sunday, threats to academic freedom in Canada loom large.  The ten items below were identified as the principal threats to academic freedom currently prevalent in Canada.

  1. Casualization of the academic workforce
  2. Redefining the scope of academic freedom
  3. Undermining the concept of tenure through permissive contracts
  4. Discrimination and harassment of members of marginalized language groups
  5. Loss of custody and control of faculty members’ records
  6. New donor agreements and collaborations
  7. Contracting out of academic work
  8. Policies on “respectful workplace” / “civil discourse”
  9. Diminution of civil liberties
  10. Restriction of trade union rights

Over the next several months, but interspersed with items of immediate interest, a post about each of these threats will appear on this blog, beginning today.

Although other jurisdictions have advanced far more along the path of casualization than we have – over 70% of university and college teaching in the US is done by contract academic staff – UW finds itself particularly vulnerable to this trend. The research-intensive focus on our campus leads full-time faculty to want to reduce their teaching loads to leave more time for research.  In fact, in the ten years I have been a faculty member at UW, my own department has gone from a 3-3 to a 2-2 teaching load to accommodate more time for research. I know of many other departments where the regular teaching load is even less.

From my perspective, the idea of a university is encapsulated by the dynamic interplay between teaching and research, between faculty members and students at all levels.  Favouring one to the detriment of the other does a disservice to the idea and ideal of what activities a university should undertake and emphasize.  Students deprived of being taught by researching faculty are not getting what they are paying for.  Faculty members who limit their interaction with students whenever possible in favour of their research are at risk of missing out on the stimulating effect that transmitting their expertise viva voce can have: explaining complex concepts to a new audience often leads to clarification in one’s own mind, not to mention the useful feedback once can get from clever, critically-minded individuals from a younger generation.

The above observations lead me to ask: Who is doing all the teaching that used to get done when full-time faculty members taught more courses?  Part of the answer resides in regular curriculum revisions that, in many cases, aim to reduce the full-time staffing necessary to deliver academic programs.  These revisions, unless undertaken with the utmost care to avoid such an outcome, will tend to adversely affect the students’ experience compared to programs delivered, let’s say, a generation ago.

If teaching loads are being reduced and curricula remain viable and strong, inevitably the other part of the answer to the question posed above is ‘sessionals’, also known as ‘contract academic staff’ (or, at UW, as ‘adjuncts’) These people are practically by definition a casualized category of individuals who in many cases are parachuted in to cover gaps in what departments promise to teach in the course listings of the academic calendar.  This trend toward casualization is particularly threatening to academic freedom and the quality of teaching students receive because those sessionals whom increasingly we entrust with the teaching of our students do not have tenure.  Therefore, they are much, much more vulnerable than tenured faculty members to threats and pressures to modify what they teach for the sake of conforming to whatever ideological or personal flavour du jour that happens to prevail in their academic unit or institution.

One of the more pernicious knock-on effects of this casualization is a reduction in the professional consideration accorded to professors in their workplace and in society at large.  On a local level, attempts to exert more control over the working lives of academics (e.g., through changes in practice over scheduling, or increasingly onerous accountability measures ranging from travel expenses to teaching curricula) are being resisted by FAUW on behalf of its members whenever possible. On a provincial level, we can see the end result of the process of de-professionalization in the treatment accorded to Ontario’s primary and secondary school teachers by our province’s government.

Essentially, our students deserve better than to see their university education be casualized and therefore become more conformist and less questioning of corporate or political agendas.  Above all, we owe it to ourselves to resist casualization by emphasizing publicly and forcefully that we are purveyors of an essential public good: an educated citizenry that has witnessed the exercise of academic freedom, so that everyone’s civil liberties can be defended effectively when they come under threat, as they increasingly have been over the past 12+ years.

In related news, the contract academic staff at SJU have recently voted to join the SJU Academic Staff Association as a separate bargaining unit.  How long will it be before their UW counterparts feel compelled by circumstance to do the same?