PDAD&C #40, 2012-13
Important Message from the President re: Special Joint Advisory Committee with UTFA
The membership for the Special Joint Advisory Committee (SJAC) with UTFA and the University Administration has been finalized. It was to be my pleasure to write this week to advise you about that membership. However, with regret, I am now also obliged to respond to the disappointing survey which UTFA sent out mid-week.
The survey purports to lay the ground work for what was supposed to be a joint initiative, conducted in good faith. Unfortunately, the survey contains leading questions, tendentious statements, and threats of certification. I am already receiving complaints from colleagues about its obvious tilt.
One might reasonably have expected that an early SJAC agenda item with UTFA would be the best modes of engaging in unbiased consultation with our community. Instead, the first order of business will now likely be a discussion of how and even whether we might start afresh on a more constructive and convergent basis.
Faculty members and librarians will recall that a survey was also conducted by UTFA last year. Despite aggressive campaigning and similar biases in survey wording, the results showed a limited support by colleagues for UTFA’s desire to “bargain all terms and conditions”. In the process, many faculty members made it explicit that they did not want UTFA co-managing academic planning, tenure and promotion, and so on. To refresh your memory on what was, and is again, at stake, you may wish to review last year’s communications from the Provost’s Office: http://www.provost.utoronto.ca/office/Communications_on_UTFAs_Proposals.htm
Turning to the University’s Memorandum of Agreement with UTFA and the ‘modernization’ discussions that are part of the SJAC’s mandate, it is important, I think, to look back beyond last year.
The University’s Governing Council and Faculty Association first entered into a comprehensive Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on June 28th 1977. The Memorandum’s basic structure and processes have served us all very well over the course of more than three decades. As Provost Cheryl Misak observed in 2011, “the Memorandum of Agreement with UTFA has enabled the University to become one of the world’s great public institutions of higher learning and advanced research”. That continues to be the case in difficult economic conditions for publicly supported universities here and around the world.
The MOA has also been amended on a number of occasions to reflect changes in the University and its context, as well as evolution of the roles of our academic colleagues.
That said, some elements of the Memorandum have caused frustration for the Administration and some elements have caused frustration for UTFA. Both sides think that there is a subset that can be agreed-upon as in need of modernization.
Against that backdrop, UTFA and the Administration agreed last year to establish a Special Joint Advisory Committee to “examine and discuss in a frank, open and collegial manner, matters of mutual interest concerning the MOA”. The SJAC will review the strengths and weaknesses of the Memorandum, and will attempt to reach consensus on recommendations for potential changes to it.
We also agreed to establish subcommittees of the SJAC to discuss our policies related to tenure and promotion and a new appointment category of Professors of Practice – Teaching and Professional Stream. Colleagues will recognize that these are not new topics. Thus, while the Special Committee is undertaking its review, the two subcommittees are expected to continue discussions that were initiated last year.
In particular, the Professor of Practice subcommittee will build upon the extensive consultation that has already occurred and we are hopeful that the Subcommittee will forward its recommendations before the end of the current academic year. Similarly, the Subcommittee on Tenure and Promotion will be able to build upon previous discussions, for example with respect to time to tenure, and I hope to receive their recommendations before leaving office this fall.
I am grateful to the following individuals who have agreed to represent the Administration and UTFA on these Committees:
Joint UofT / UTFA Working Groups 2012-13
Special Joint Advisory Committee
Ellen Hodnett (governance issues)
Larry Alford (library issues)
Harriet Sonne de Torrens
Sub-group : Tenure and Promotion
Sub-group : Professor of Practice
While this slate of good colleagues is good news, I regretfully must close with a further expression of concern. Just as there has been a very recent replay of last year’s survey gambit, so also has UTFA again issued strongly-worded communications suggesting sweeping and radical change to the MOA, including a desire to open up Article 6 of the memorandum so as to bargain ‘all terms and conditions’ of employment.
Now as then, I am hearing colleagues privately question the wisdom of constraining departmental collegiality and flexibility in order to promote the more standardized and centralized arrangements that would flow from an expanded scope for collective bargaining. At the same time, many faculty members have also made it clear that they would welcome a rational discussion about how to strengthen the role and the voice of academic colleagues in planning, policy-making, and governance.
The balance here is fine. If there is common ground, I believe we will find it in good faith. But if empowering and giving more collegial voice to faculty is deemed synonymous with empowering UTFA and giving it more ability to impose a rule-bound culture that will limit the autonomy of individuals and departments, then these discussions will be fraught.
Be that as it may, I remain optimistic that the Special Committee can make progress on all fronts. Certainly the work of the SJAC is important to the future of this great institution, and I hope that our academic community will take a keen interest in the Committee’s deliberations. I do know that those representing both UTFA and ‘the Administration’ will want to hear from you over the course of the next 12 months. While doing so has become more challenging given UTFA’s current survey strategy, I again urge our faculty members and librarians to express their views constructively and openly.
University of Toronto