All Posts Tagged With: "Academic Freedom"
Faculty association say it’s not about wages
Professors at the University of Manitoba may go on strike on Tuesday putting nearly 30,000 students’ semesters in jeopardy.
In an open letter published on its website and copied below, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association says a strike would not be about wages, “although University of Manitoba academics, at virtually all ranks, are at the bottom of any list of average salaries for comparable universities in Canada.” (The average salary in Canada is $138,853 for a full professor and $89,681 for an assistant professor compared to an average at Manitoba of $133,073 for a full professor and $80,319 for an assistant.) Instead, they say, the main issue is academic freedom.
The university’s administration has set up the page umanitoba.ca/strikeinfo to offer information. In an e-mail to all students, the administration wrote it will, “support the continuation of classes and services in the event of UMFA strike action,” and that, “sessional appointees, teaching assistants and certain members of the Faculty of Medicine…. will continue with academic duties.” However, it’s unclear whether any sessional appointees or teaching assistants would cross picket lines to teach.
Faculty strikes can drag on for months and students often lose class time and tuition money. After Brandon University’s 45-day strike ended in 2011, the term was pushed into May but students still lost class time. After York University’s 85-day-long strike of contract professors, teaching assistants, and graduate assistants in 2008-09, which ended only after a special bill passed in Ontario’s legislature, students were allowed to choose between dropping courses and getting refunds or a condensed semester that stretched as late as June 2nd.
Here is the rest of UMFA’s letter to students:
We are at a serious impasse on several matters: academic freedom; privacy of email and other correspondence; whether the administration can use evaluative measures to restrict the kind of research that will be valued here; and whether collegial governance principles will be respected when setting promotion and tenure criteria and weightings. There has been a steady erosion of collegial governance over the last few years and a decreasing respect for the opinions, views, and beliefs of the academic community here at the University of Manitoba. We are fighting that trend.
Academic freedom is one of the pillars of a good university. UMFA Members want to have the Collective Agreement clearly state that we have the right to criticize the university administration, and that we have the right to contribute to social change through the free expression of opinion on all matters of public interest without fear of reprisal or repression by the university administration. The administration refuses to put these changes into the Collective Agreement.
The administration has said that it is not attempting to reduce rights under the UMFA Collective Agreement. But the truth is that this administration is taking new initiatives outside the collective bargaining process that undermine academic freedom. It has proposed what it calls “performance management systems” that would control what research a professor could do, where that research could be published, and how it could be funded. Researchers would have to meet targets set by administrators, instead of having the academic freedom to choose research projects according to their best professional judgment.
These restrictions on research essentially undermine the idea of the university. A good university has scholars who are immersed in, and passionate about, their subject areas. They strive to expand their fields, not to narrow them into easily “manageable” categories. Protecting academic freedom is essential to maintaining a high quality of education for students.
The administration is also amalgamating and discontinuing faculties in ways that undermine fundamental principles of collegial governance. While the administration asks for the opinions of academics and students, it is clear that it does not take these views into consideration and is not going to change the direction that it has set. We can’t bargain for students, but we must bargain for our Members’ rights to have a real influence on the administration’s decisions and for our rights to be respected when these changes do go forward.
The administration is using its vast public relations resources, including its student listserv, to send you, the students, its perspective on the current state of negotiations. We will do our best to provide you with information from our perspective. We are proposing a mediation process to the university in the hopes of reaching an agreement at the table.
We hope that we can reach a settlement and avoid a strike. But if a satisfactory settlement cannot be reached, a strike will begin on the morning of Tuesday, October 22.
If there is a strike, we hope you will support and respect UMFA’s picket lines. The Manitoba Human Rights Code covers the University of Manitoba and prevents discrimination against students on political grounds. Therefore, students who refuse to cross picket lines must be accommodated and cannot be subject to academic penalty or disadvantage. If there is a strike, picket lines will be up from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at all Fort Garry campus entrances, with one on the Bannatyne Campus as well.
Universities shouldn’t fire scholars just for being mean
Dear obese PhD applicants: If you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth.
As you might imagine, cyberspace went nuts, calling Miller lots of nasty names, calling for his resignation, and hinting darkly at the possibility of legal action. Many outlets then took a closer look at some of Miller’s other public statements including the time he wondered whether women might be wise to schedule job interviews while they are ovulating because, he said, they are more sexually attractive then. There are also renewed questions about his ideas and involvement in Chinese eugenics—as in this article which seems to equate wealth with intelligence, and ends with an allusion to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World—Miller seems unaware of the fact that the novel actually condemns biological manipulation for social benefit.
On whether an Alberta art teacher went too far
Lately there has been, it seems, a rash of incidents where professors have been accused of crossing the line of decent instruction, with ensuing finger pointing and outrage. The most recent, and perhaps most bizarre, is the firing of instructor Gord Ferguson following an incident in which a student slaughtered a chicken in the cafeteria of the Alberta College of Art and Design.
But there have been plenty of other dust-ups in the not-too-distant past, including the brouhaha over Tom Flanagan’s comments about child pornography. This kind of anger is always fuelled, in part, by the fact that the person in question is a professor. Professors, highly paid and usually well-regarded, are supposed to be beyond such outrageous word and deed.
Prof. Pettigrew: It’s not just the anti-gay agenda.
Canada’s Christian post-secondary institutions just can’t stay away from controversy. It seems like only yesterday, everyone (including this guy) was talking about the CAUT’s reports condemning various institutions for their lack of academic freedom.
More recently, the law community has had its briefs in a knot over Trinity Western’s push to get a law school. Can a school that requires adherence to a rigid code of belief really educate good lawyers whose very stock in trade is free and open discussion? A lot of people think not.
And now New Brunswick’s Crandall University has raised eyebrows for getting millions in federal funding. In fact, religious universities in Canada received some $20 million from the Harper Government’s 2009 Knowledge Infrastructure scheme.
Calgary professor explains his recent remarks
A former high-level political strategist criticized for his comments on child pornography says he was led into a trap.
Tom Flanagan, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, says in a guest column in the National Post that the question that prompted his controversial remarks came out of left field and had nothing to do with the native issues forum where he was speaking.
“In 45 years of university teaching, I have tried to deal with every question my students have asked, so I forged ahead here, unaware that this was a trap, not a bona fide question — a dumb mistake for someone of my age and experience,” Flanagan wrote Monday in the column.
Donors, schools and profs disagreed on big gifts
Billionaire philanthropist Seymour Schulich is a man of maxims — one of which stands out after a bruising year of donor controversies in Canadian academia.
“Giving away money intelligently is truly more difficult than earning it,” Schulich, 73, likes to say.
Donors, university administrators and professors are looking for a smoother path forward in 2013.
Schulich, Canada’s most generous education benefactor, rolled out a new set of $60,000 scholarships this year that he hopes will rival the Rhodes.
Yet he’s sounding concerns that a donor chill might follow all the bad press that has surrounded benefactions amid concerns over academic freedom and integrity.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers, or CAUT, has been threatening sanctions against schools over donor deals that give benefactors influence on the curriculum, hiring practices and academic management of the sponsored program.
On the legacy of race researcher Philippe Rushton
Over the past couple of weeks, academics were discussing the death of Western University’s Phillipe Rushton, a professor perhaps not familiar to many of today’s students, but who was, for a little while, among the most hated men in Canada.
Until the late 1980s Rushton had been a reasonably well-respected psychologist whose work on altruism was frequently cited. But then, he published a series of papers claiming that the three main human racial groups—whites, blacks, and Asians—could be grouped according to a wide range of racial traits, including intelligence and various sexual characteristics, with whites typically falling between blacks and Asians.
Not surprisingly, many took Rushton’s theories as thinly-veiled, or, indeed, not-at-all-veiled racism. They saw his essential claim as being that blacks were inherently inferior to whites, and many called for the psychologist’s resignation. At one point, Rushton was required to teach his courses by video to prevent on-campus unrest.
Voyeur arrested, three-year degrees & pipeline politics
1. Canada added 52,100 jobs in September, which is not bad at all. The unemployment rate edged up to 7.4 per cent, but only because more people were looking for work. The job gains were concentrated in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. Men, whose prospects had diminished most during the 2009 recession, did well too. Also good news: the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 per cent after 114,000 jobs were added in September.
2. Police in London, Ont. have arrested Bradley Priestap, 47, who they suspect committed a series of crimes near Western University. The suspect has a history of other convictions. He faces 17 counts, including trespassing and breaking and entering to commit voyeurism.
3. The Ontario government is considering an overhaul in post-secondary education and one of the ideas floated is three-year degrees. Many observers were quick to oppose the idea, but Ontario’s colleges say they would be happy to provide them. See their argument here.
Queen’s professor was unfairly relieved of his duties
Recently the Canadian Association of University Teachers came down hard on Queen’s University for their handling of the case of Michael Mason, a professor who was, effectively, ousted from the course he had come out of retirement to teach.
I don’t always side with CAUT, but they seem to be right on this one.
Reports indicated that Mason used terms like “japs” and “towelhead” in his class on the history of imperialism. Having been around the university world for a long time, I’m always skeptical of reports of profs saying indefensible things in class because, as far as I can tell, it generally doesn’t happen. Professors are typically a civilized lot and usually highly aware of the nuances of the language.
What has been happening lately, though, is that professors’ comments are being taken wildly out of context; then follows misguided outrage, and then, in turn, the normal interactions of shit and fans.
Canadian Association of University Teachers isn’t happy
Changes to “clarify” a controversial, $15-million donor agreement at Carleton University are more cosmetic than substantive and miss the main point — protecting academic independence, the Canadian Association of University Teachers said Wednesday.
Carleton’s administration released a newly rewritten agreement with wealthy Calgary businessman Clay Riddell this week to clear up what it called confusion about the steering committee for the fledgling graduate program in political management.
“A revised clause of the agreement clarifies the role as that of strategic adviser,” university president Roseann O’Reilly Runte said Tuesday.
But the academic freedom and tenure committee of CAUT, the national university teachers’ association, spent more than an hour poring over the single-page clause and said the problematic deal “in some ways has been made worse.”
Ayatolla Khomeini love-in offends
This post is republished from Michael Petrou’s The World Desk blog on Macleans.ca.
Ten Iranian-Canadian academics have written a letter to Carleton University President Roseann O’Reilly Runte to criticize the university for hosting a conference honouring Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founding dictator of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The conference, titled “The Contemporary Awakening and Imam Khomeini’s Thoughts,” was organized by the Iranian embassy in Ottawa and the Iranian Cultural Association of Carleton University, a student group headed by Ehsan Mohammadi, son of Hamid Mohammadi, who is the cultural counselor at the Iranian embassy in Ottawa.
Those wishing to attend the conference were asked to email the “Cultural Centre of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” which is run out of the Iranian embassy. Continue reading Iranian-Canadian academics slam Carleton U.
Concert would “deeply offend”
Tel Aviv University will not permit a scheduled Richard Wagner concert to take place on its campus after angry protests, reports Haaretz. A university spokesperson chastised the show’s organizer, Attorney Yonathan Livni, saying that the performance would “deeply offend the Israeli public in general and Holocaust survivors in particular.” Livni is the founder of the Israel Wagner Society. Wagner, a nineteeth century composer, espoused anti-Semitic views and was a favorite of Adolf Hitler, the German chancellor who led the Holocaust that killed six-million Jews during World War II.
Professors feared influence of RIM-founder’s think tank
York University has pulled out of plans to create a program in international law that many professors had opposed because they believed the funding came with too many strings attached, reports the National Post. The Waterloo-based Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), a think tank started by Research In Motion founder Jim Balsillie, would have donated $30 million to create 10 research chairs and fund 20 PhD students. Ontario would have given $30 million too. But the original agreement meant York faced censure by the Canadian Association of University Teachers which accused York of giving CIGI veto powers over the research areas of program chairs and hiring shortlists. Although the final draft agreement said GIGI would have no role in hiring, it was rejected by Osgoode Hall law school anyway. Without Osgoode’s support, York officials said they would not proceed. CIGI says it remains committed to this type of research.
Closed for renovations or revenge?
Côte d’Ivoire, a West African nation, has had its two universities shut down by President Alassane Ouattara until at least September 2012, provoking condemnation by human rights organizations frustrated that students will lose even more time.
Côte d’Ivoire has experienced increased instability in recent years following a civil war from 2002 to 2004 and a 2010 election when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing the vote. He was ousted with the aid of French and United Nations troops earlier this year and is now facing justice in the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The fighting caused many lost semesters at the country’s two universities.
Now, Ouattara’s government will close both the Cocody and Abobo-Adjamé universities again, ostensibly to renovate the buildings and reorganize the higher education system to meet international standards. But some Ivorians believe the closure is punishment for students and professors who supported Gbagbo. You can read more at University World News.
How the traditional university is under attack from all sides
The epic battle waged between Gábor Lukács and the University of Manitoba, which ended last week, has shone an unflattering light onto the state of academic integrity at our universities.
Listening to most recent observers, one would think that our universities need to be completely “reinvented” because professors spend too much time either not teaching at all or at least not teaching practical job skills.
But the Lukács case shows what’s really wrong.
As universities become increasingly defined by their administrations—as opposed to their faculty—the traditional values of higher education come under assault from all sides: from management, from the public, and even from the associations that represent professors themselves.
Prof. tried to fight award of PhD to student who failed exams
The University of Manitoba says that the ongoing fight with Professor Gabor Lukács has been settled. Although specifics will remain confidential, Lukács will no longer work for the University.
The statement reads, in part: “The University has rescinded all disciplinary actions against Professor Lukács (including reprimand, suspension and denial of increment). All outstanding legal proceedings between the parties are terminated. The parties have also agreed that it is to their mutual benefit to end the employment relationship.”
Lukács was a math professor at U of M. He sued the university because his Dean gave a student who had failed exams a degree, citing the student’s “extreme exam anxiety,” which was considered a disability. A Winnipeg court found that Lukács did not have standing to challenge the Dean.
Lukács was suspended in Oct. 2010 for allegedly breaching the privacy of the student in question. At the time, university president David Barnard accused him of “having engaged in a pattern of behaviour with regard to [the] student which the university considers to be harassment.”
AUCC’s new statement needs some editing: Pettigrew
The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has released its new statement on academic freedom. I welcome any clear, unambiguous statement saying that limitations to scholarly freedom, by anyone, are intolerable. It’s too bad that’s not what we got.
Although the AUCC proudly notes that the statement was unanimously accepted by university presidents, it must be noted that the views and interests of professors and presidents don’t always align. At many universities (though by no means all), the senior administration is viewed by the professoriate, not as the leader in academic progress, but as the occasional enemy of it.
While there is plenty to like in the AUCC’s statement, its framers have missed an opportunity by introducing numerous qualifications, and language that vaguely—and thus ominously—implies that the freedom of faculty can be subordinated to the will of the administration. Chief among these worrying qualifications are the repeated references to things like institutional “integrity,” “autonomy,” and “mission.” Given that university “missions” are usually dictated by senior administration, these qualifications imply that administrators are happy to give their professors all the freedom that they are comfortable giving them—and no more. That’s not really academic freedom at all.
Now, since it’s that time of year when essays are flooding in, let’s think of this statement as a first draft. In my never-ceasing desire to help universities be better, I’ve provided a copy of the AUCC statement, with edits that I believe could turn this C paper into an A.
Did petition by former students cause cancellation?Former U.S. President George Bush won’t speak at Tyndale College in Toronto next week after all.
The decision was made the same day that alumni launched an anti-Bush website and petition and two days after an employee allegedly quit over the event.
The petition’s website indicates that some former donors to the evangelical Christian school don’t want Bush on campus. There is also a slough of anti-Bush articles posted to the site.
Bush had been booked to speak on Sept. 20 at an invitation-only breakfast for about 150 people. It was sponsored by Prem Watsa, the wealthy chief executive of Fairfax Financial Holdings.
Tyndale has not said who cancelled or why. They wrote on Wednesday on their website that, “unfortunately, due to scheduling change, the breakfast on September 20th 2011 has been cancelled.” Spokesperson Lina van der Wel told the Toronto Star that breakfast will not be rescheduled.
Tyndale University College & Seminary is a degree-granting institution in Toronto’s north-end.
Florida teacher should keep his job: Pettigrew
Florida teacher Jerry Buell has been suspended from teaching after posting controversial comments on his Facebook page. The American history teacher was angered by a TV news report on the legalization of gay marriage in New York, according to Fox News. ”I almost threw up,” he wrote in a post. “If they want to call it a union, go ahead. But don’t insult a man and woman’s marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool of whatever. God will not be mocked. When did this sin become acceptable?”
School district officials say that Buell has crossed a line, that teachers are bound by special codes of ethics, and that a Facebook page is a public forum.
Nonsense. Readers of this space will know that I am an outspoken advocate for the rights of gays and lesbians. (This post, for example.) And I hasten to point out that Buell’s statements are, in my judgement, stupid and mean-spirited. But he has the right to make them.
A Facebook page is a personal expression of one’s own particular tastes and attitudes. Indeed, it is hard to think of any mode of communication more centered on an individual. Buell was describing his revulsion toward love unlike his own; he did not claim to be speaking for the Lake County School District, or for Mount Dora High School or for anyone else.
I have sympathy with those who believe a gay student may now be uncomfortable in this guy’s class.
But if the standard is whether someone could potentially be uncomfortable, that’s casting much too wide a net. If that standard holds, it could be used to restrict the expression of almost any comment on any controversial issue. Suppose, for instance, Buell had said the reverse. Suppose he had celebrated the gay marriage legislation in New York. Would some devout Christians feel uncomfortable in his class?
Probably. The question must not be what a student heard about what a teacher said on the internet. The test must be: how does that teacher comport himself in class? If he’s worth his salary, he should take special care to make sure that when controversial issues come up, he presents all sides fairly. I myself am a committed atheist, but when religious questions come up — as they often do in literary studies — I try to ensure that the discussion is appropriately balanced.
In cases like Jerry Buell’s, people are quick to point out that there are limits to free speech; of course there are. But in a free society those limits have to be clearly defined and enforced only when absolutely necessary. If being wrong on Facebook is a crime, who among us is safe?
As long as he’s keeping his opinion to himself in class, Jerry Buell should keep his job.
Profs working in Canada “must have no record of Falun Gong”
A rule imposed by Confucius Institutes — an educational arm of the Chinese government that operates on at least eight Canadian campuses — breaks “all human rights codes in Canada,” human rights lawyer Clive Ansley told The Epoch Times.
The main CI website says that overseas volunteer Chinese teachers must have “no record of participation in Falun Gong,” a spiritual practice with roots in Buddhism and Taoism. China’s government vehemently opposes the practice and has arrested and killed many adherents, according to Amnesty International.
Barb Pollock, vice president of external relations at the University of Regina, told The Epoch Times that she did not know about the rule, but promised that her school’s agreements with China “have everything to do with academic freedom.” She also said that although teachers are selected by their Chinese partner, Hunan University, “what they teach [here] is our business.”
In June, the University of Manitoba rejected the idea of a Confucius Institute on campus. The University of British Columbia has also declined. But more than 320 exist worldwide, where they offer credit and non-credit courses in language and history.
China says that the funding of CIs—$150,000 initially and up to $200,000 per year after that— is meant to promote cultural understanding. But along with the money, schools have signed constitutions that say that “institute activities must … respect cultural customs, and shall not contravene concerning laws and regulations in Canada and China.”
Terry Russell, an Asian Studies professor at Manitoba, says that such rules compromise academic freedom, because academics are dissuaded from discussing Taiwan, Tibet, Falun Gong, or the Tiananmen Square massacre. That could result in an unrealistically positive view of China among the students who pass through the credit courses they offer in Canada, he says.