All Posts Tagged With: "faculty"
Prof. Pettigrew: You’ll just need to trust us.
The most attractive and least practical idea in the world of Canadian universities is the notion that universities should be accountable for what students are actually learning.
After all, if taxpayers are funding universities, shouldn’t they have some assurances that students are actually learning what they are supposed to be learning? For that matter, if parents are footing a big part of the bill, shouldn’t they have some assurances too? And what about students? If they are trying to build a future based on a university degree, why can’t they guarantee a potential employer that they have some real skills?
When it comes to learning, are we just supposed to take professors’ words for it?
I encounter such arguments frequently, most recently in this piece by Maureen Mancuso. Mancuso quite rightly notes that it is silly and reductive to see university education merely as an investment, but wonders, nevertheless, why we can’t seek some changes to make us more accountable.
If profs walk on Saturday, it may be worse than usual
It seems there is always some faculty association somewhere in Canada that is either on strike or heading towards one. Just last year, Brandon faculty came through a long and painful strike. Nearly every university has been there at one point or another.
So the news that there may be a faculty strike at Nova Scotia’s largest university on or after Saturday is not particularly surprising.
But some strikes are worse than others, and, while no one can predict the outcome with any certainty, if there is a strike at Dalhousie, it might be worse than most. Here’s why.
This is not the first time. Dalhousie faculty have been on strike four times since 1988—that’s a lot, even by university standards. Strikes are divisive and faculty members’ memories are long. That means there is likely not a reserve of good will between faculty and administration and when things come to a head, cooler heads may not prevail.
Study finds Canadian professors hold moderate political views
The belief that Canadian universities are dominated by left-wing professors is “overdrawn,” according to a new study in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education. Using data from the 2000 survey, The Academic Profession in Canada, University of Windsor Sociologist Reza Nakhai and the University of Toronto’s Robert Brym found that 33.3 per cent of professors identified as being left wing, 61.5 per cent as centre, and 5.2 per cent as right wing. While the study shows that a majority of professors identify as centrist, as a group they are more left-wing than the general population. The Canadian Election Study 2000 found that 18.7 per cent of Canadians identified themselves as on the left, 55.5 per cent as centrist and 25.8 per cent as on the right. The study suggests that “contemporary characterizations of the North American professoriate as left or right-leaning tend to be overdrawn.”
Female academics earn between 0.8% and 4.5% less than males
The gender pay gap among academic staff dropped from 19 per cent in 1996 to 11 per cent in 2006, according to a report released by the Canadian Association of University Teachers this month. However, when age and academic rank are controlled for, the gap narrows considerably. Female academics holding the rank of full professor earn an average of 4.5 per cent less than their male counterparts, while females at the rank of lecturer earn just 0.8 per cent less, suggesting that a gap persists as professors advance in their careers. When pay differences between disciplines is accounted for, the gap narrows slightly more by as much as 1.0 per cent. According to the CAUT report, the fact that the gap widens over time suggests possible discrimination when it comes to merit pay market supplements and the fact that women are more likely to have their careers interrupted to have children.
Science and engineering faculties have become more welcoming
The number of women in science and engineering faculty positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been on the rise. An internal report, released earlier this week, found that there are 112 women in science and engineering, or 17 per cent of all faculty. That is up from 46, or seven per cent of all professors, during the mid 1990s. A pair of reports released in 1998 and 2002 revealed that women felt marginalized at the university, suggesting that MIT has greatly improved supports for female professors in the decade since. “I chaired the study 10 years ago for engineering, and if you had asked me then how much better I thought it could get for women faculty, I never would have thought that we would get this far in 10 years,” engineering professor, Lorna Gibson said.
Board of Regents, faculty ratify agreement
The protracted labour negotiations between Mount Allison University and the faculty association officially ended on Friday. The new three-year collective agreement, tentatively reached on Feb 16, was ratified by the university’s Board of Regents before being signed. Mount Allison faculty voted more than 90 per cent to accept the deal last Monday. According to the Times and Transcript, full-time faculty will see wage increases of 2.5 per cent a year, while part-time faculty will see a five per cent bump in the first year and between two and three per cent for the remainder of the contract. Negotiations had been on going for eight months.
Mendes and Attaran’s personal information is anonymously requested
Two professors at the University of Ottawa, Errol Mendes and Amir Attaran, are wondering if federal Conservatives are behind access to information requests for their employment, expense, and teaching records. Both Mendes and Attaran have in the past been vocal critics of the Conservative government and have both been accused of being Liberal sympathizers. “I started thinking, my God, this is a McCarthy-like attempt to politically intimidate both of us,” Mendes said of the request for his professional records. Attaran echoed Mendes’ concern, saying “I have a feeling it’s political.” The identity of the party who made the request remains anonymous under Ontario’s freedom-of-information laws, under which anyone can make a request for information from government bodies by paying $5 and filling out a form, without needing to give a reason for the request. Fred DeLorey, a spokesman for the Conservative Party denied any involvement from the government.
SOURCE: Toronto Star
Concordia prof petitions in defense of Christian universities
A Concordia professor has launched a petition against the Canadian Association of University Teachers for pursuing an “anti-religious ideology.” Since 2009 CAUT has investigated three religious universities and has concluded that all of them disrespect core principles of academic freedom.
“What we have here is an academic union ganging up on these smaller Christian universities and I thought it was high time that people from the public universities take a stand,” Concordia theology professor, Paul Allen who started the petition, told the National Post. So far the petition has 140 signatures from professors at several public universities. “There’s good reason to be vigilant about academic freedom. But what CAUT has done is misguided. The notion one can’t do serious intellectual work in a religious institution is naive,” Allen said.
The source of tension lies in statements of faith that require faculty adhere to Christian principles, such as that Jesus Christ is the one true God. So far the professor’s union has issued reports on Trinity Western University, Canadian Mennonite University and Crandall University. A fourth school, Redeemer University College, is slated for a similar report.
James Turk, CAUT’s executive director defended the investigations in the Post. “The majority of religious schools do not have a faith test for employment. An institution that includes or excludes teachers on basis of a faith test is antithetical to what a university is supposed to be. We’d be just as concerned if a secular university made its teachers sign an ideological statement,” he said.
Faculty over 60 offered a year’s salary in exchange for leaving
The University of Toronto announced Wednesday that it is offering an early retirement package for faculty over 60. Professors and librarians who agree to retire in 2011 will be eligible for one year’s salary. The university insists that despite the fact that replacing older and more expensive professors will save money, the measure is not about cost cutting, but rather about faculty renewal. “Several of our faculties … may want to move into new or emerging areas of scholarship, or to strengthen particular areas,” a U of T vice-president told the Globe and Mail. George Luste, president of the faculty association, disagrees that cost was not a factor. “I think there has been some concern that not enough people are retiring after age 65,” he said.
Faculty complaints allege dean diverting resources from teaching into research
University of Alberta’s new Dean of Medicine, Philip Baker, is being accused of trying to alter faculty agreements by putting more focus on research and less on teaching.
James Turk, executive director for the Canadian Association of University Teachers, says several faculty members have complained about the dean. “The allegation is (faculty are being told) if you’re doing 30 per cent or less research, you’re not going to be doing enough research that you’ll ever get tenure so you better abandon the tenure track position,” Turk told the Edmonton Journal. “If it was understood when they were hired that 60 per cent of their time was going to be spent doing clinical work, 30 per cent teaching and 10 per cent research, then it’s not fair for another group of administrators to come along three years later and say, well, I’m sorry, the agreement we made when you were hired is no longer operative.”
Baker denies the allegations. “While I’ve been dean, we’ve given more tenure promotions to people who are getting those on the basis of education than on research,” he said. The university’s provost says CAUT, as a third party, does not have “any legal basis for even being involved in this discussion.”
CAUT’s findings are expected to be made public within nine months.
Study of 10,000 psychologists shows that striving for perfection leaves the job undone
Perfectionist academics are less productive, when it comes to research publications, than their peers, according to a recent study headed by Dalhousie University psychologist Simon Sherry. Sherry and his team surveyed 10,000 psychology professors at universities in Canada and the United States. What they found was that “Self-oriented perfectionism was negatively related to total number of publications, number of first-authored publications, number of citations, and journal impact rating.” To sum up his findings, Sherry told University Affairs that “Perfectionists tend to do things perfectly – or not at all.” He added that “perfectionists are often very reluctant to seek help because they see it as tantamount to being imperfect.”
The backbone of today’s university is the ill-paid, overworked lecturer
In 2000, 36-year-old Leslie Jermyn went to teach her first course as a sessional lecturer at the University of Toronto. For $4,550, she taught 100 students a two-month first-year anthropology course. Though Jermyn would go on to teach courses every summer for the next 11 years, the job was never guaranteed, and every year she experienced “gut-wrenching tension” waiting to ﬁnd out whether she’d won a new contract. “Often I was hired within two weeks of the start time of the course,” she says. For years she had no benefits and worked out of a shared office, furnished with one desk and one telephone. In 2007, after she had been teaching upwards of 800 students a year for three years straight, she argued to the dean that the department needed a regular teaching position. That didn’t work, and Jermyn says she knows why: “I’m cheaper without benefits.”
Jermyn’s lot is similar to that of many North American university undergraduate teachers today. A November 2010 report titled “Employees in Postsecondary Institutions” released by the U.S. Department of Education concludes that the proportion of university instructors who have tenure or are on the tenure track fell below 30 per cent in 2009—a big drop from 1971, when 57 per cent were on the tenure track or had tenure already.
In Canada, the numbers tell a similar story. A 2010 Statistics Canada survey of full-time teaching staff in universities shows that there were 20,685 tenured professors in 2009, down from 26,487 in 1999. Meanwhile, over the same period the number of sessional staff rose from 2,865 to 3,135. Estimates from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), a 65,000-strong academic staff union, say that between 40 and 60 per cent of undergraduate teaching is done by sessional lecturers who often cobble together a living earning between $5,000 and $7,000 for a four-month course, sometimes travelling between two or three universities in one term. The joke in academic circles is they’re “roads scholars.”
Related: Small town universities and tenure
But for undergraduate students, who paid 15 per cent more in tuition last year than in 2006, and whose debt has risen 20 per cent over the past decade, it’s no laughing matter. Many in the nation’s academic community say the cheap labour is shortchanging students who are being taught by overworked, underpaid lecturers, who, though often excellent teachers, aren’t the cutting-edge researchers universities would have you believe are instructing kids.
“When you’re substituting full-time professors with teachers with longer hours, and higher workloads, it basically undermines the whole profession,” says James Turk, executive director of CAUT. “They earn half to a third of what a regular faculty member will earn, and have to teach ridiculous amounts to earn a modest living. They’re not paid nor expected to do research, [which] limits their ability to have a career as an academic.”
Take Teressa Fedorak, 39, who, since 2003, has worked as a lecturer at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. She teaches 80 to 100 students a semester and estimates she spends 60 hours a week teaching. The rest she spends at her other two jobs: as an elementary school teacher and gym trainer. She says it’s the only way she can earn enough to pay her mortgage and keep her academic career on track. “I’m trying to achieve the tenure track position—you can’t let it slip,” says Fedorak. But, she says, it may be a fruitless quest. “You’re working, working, working just to pay your bills,” she says. “You have no access to professional development or the time to do that.” And she says the university “likes to hold us in this pattern because it’s such a money-making device.”
For tenured profs, it’s equally frustrating. Thanks to a drop in government funding and a rise in corporate partnerships, says James Compton, an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario and president of the faculty association, “there’s increasing pressure on tenured faculty to look for those sources of money, and to do more research to get that money.” Along with the pressure to hunt down lucrative research grants, profs are burdened with a disproportionate amount of administrative work, because sessional lecturers exclusively teach.
The idea of tenure is a relatively recent one. Fifty years ago, says Michiel Horn, professor emeritus at York University and author of Academic Freedom in Canada: A History, CAUT became concerned about codifying secure tenure and the separate but related issue of academic freedom. “Professors started to insist that there be documents outlining terms of their appointment, and terms at which they could be dismissed,” says Horn. Universities acquiesced because it made them more attractive to job-hunting academics, then in short supply. “It was important for institutions to show that if you took a job at fill-in-the-blank you weren’t in danger of being sacked because the departmental chairman didn’t like your suit,” says Horn.
Several profs considered for discipline after old dean was pushed out
McMaster University has appointed an acting dean of business to steady the waters after Paul Bates resigned following a controversial tenure at the business school’s helm. Bob McNutt, a retired professor of geology and former dean of humanities, will lead the DeGroote School of Business beginning March 1 and until a permanent replacement for Bates can be found.
“He understands some of the history of the issues in the school, but he also has an extraordinary amount of experience and good judgment on these kinds of matters, so I’m confident he’s the ideal person to help move the school through this next phase,” McMaster president, Patrick Deane said of McNutt in the Hamilton Spectator.
Bates left the post last month after a presidential committee reported a vicious climate in the faculty, going back at least 20 years, characterized by “bullying, harassment, mean-spirited sarcasm, intimidation and disrespect.” Several faculty members bitterly opposed Bates’ management, arguing he was running the business school like a corporation, and criticized the fact that Bates does not have a university degree. Supporters pointed out that Bates had raised the profile of the faculty and that he was was well liked by students. An earlier report from the university’s office of human rights and equity services described the faculty as “dysfunctional.”
After stepping aside Bates took a new strategy and development role at the Ron Joyce Centre at McMaster’s Burlington campus.
President Deane said he is evaluating possible disciplinary measures for several members of the faculty that could include dismissal. “It’s not a huge number, but it is a significant number,” he said. Deane will likely make his recommendations before March.
Between a third and half of recent doctoral holders say they are overqualified for their jobs
About 12 per cent of recent Canadian PhD recipients are employed south of the border, according to Statistics Canada’s latest Survey of Earned Doctorates.
The study that tracked the labour market outcomes of PhD holders who graduated in 2005 found that specialists in the life sciences, and computer, mathematics, and physical sciences, were more likely to take a position in the United States, though most indicated a desire to return to Canada.
By 2007, 56 per cent of 2005′s 4,200 graduates, were employed in the educational services, mostly universities, but there was significant range between different fields of study. While 77 per cent of humanities graduates had found work in an educational institution only 34 per cent of engineering grads were employed in an educational environment.
The median income for PhD holders was $65,000, but was lower for those entering a postdoctoral fellowship, at $54,000, compared to those who had directly entered the workforce who reported a median salary of $72,000.
Several graduates indicated they were overqualified for their current position. Among engineering PhD holders, 28 per cent said they were overqualified for their job, while 43 per cent of those from education and other fields said they were working in jobs that did not require a PhD.
Positions in history continue to fall, while economics recovers
After plummeting for two years in a row, the number of academic openings for teaching English and foreign languages in American universities has flattened, according to numbers released this week by the Modern Language Association.
While there is little difference between 2009-10 and this year for English PhD job listings, at around 1,100, the figure remains 20.3 per cent lower than in 2008-09 and 39.8 per cent lower than the year before that. Similarly, the market for positions teaching foreign languages also remains steady this year, but total listings, at around 1020, are still 39.3 per cent lower than three years ago.
Job listings for English and foreign languages may have stopped declining, but other humanities fields continue to take a hit. Numbers released, also this week, by the American Historical Association show that job listings continue to fall. However, the American Economic Association reported that the number of listings for economists has actually begun to increase after dipping 21 per cent last year.
Contract veterinarian says he was denied position because of age
A veterinarian says the University of Prince Edward Island forced him to retire and has filed a $250,000 lawsuit. Ian Moore had worked at the Atlantic Veterinary College since 1996 on a renewable contract basis. According to his statement of claim the university refused to give him a leave of absence in 2009, and then in December of that year denied him two positions he had applied for in favour of a younger candidates, effectively causing him to retire. Moore alleges he was denied both jobs because of his age. In the spring, UPEI was forced to reinstate three employees because its mandatory retirement policy was found to contravene provincial human rights law.
Universities walk away from copyright licensing and into the digital age
Instead of raking in millions more from universities the proposed new fee structure from Access Copyright, the collective that licences copying and coursepacks for most universities across Canada, may be the push universities need to overhaul the way educational materials are accessed and used by instructors and students.
The new fee structure is asking universities to pay $45 per students, versus the $3.38 universities currently pay. An interim tariff was approved by the Copyright Board of Canada last week, which keeps the current fee structure in place until further consultation can be completed.
Law professor and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa Michael Geist recently pointed out in the Toronto Star that while technology has transformed post secondary education over the past decade, “it has often been treated as a complement — rather than a replacement — for traditional educational materials.”
Geist explained that universities still operate with a two track approach to educational materials, spending millions on traditional print materials and licensing fees for copying, while simultaneously making use of various technological innovations, such as podcasts and webcasts, to facilitate class discussion. However, he argued that the cost of maintaining this approach is becoming unnecessary, with the “tipping point” towards technology coming with Access Copyright’s fee increase.
While Canadian universities may not become completely digital overnight, most seem well prepared to step away from increasing copyright licensing costs and forge ahead into heavier reliance on electronic materials. Geist pointed out that 74 universities across Canada have now paid millions into the Canadian Knowledge Research Network, which gives them licensed access to thousands of journals from over 5,000 publishers from around the world. “That content can now be used to develop electronic coursepacks and provide campus-wide access without the need to pay an additional licence fee,” Geist explained.
Several universities have decided to walk away from the Access Copyright contract, giving higher education institutions and policy makers heavy incentive to develop new ways of accessing materials. For example, in lieu of renewing their contact with the collective, Athabasca University announced in early December that they are increasing the availability of open education resources (OERs), materials ranging from lectures to podcasts that can be used by students and staff at various institutions.
Alberta’s advanced education minister Doug Horner also recently told the Edmonton Journal that he wants to launch an online eBook depository for students. “Because isn’t the objective to help the student achieve, as opposed to paying a stipend to whoever wrote a book?”, Horner said in the Journal. Rory McGreal, associate vice-president of Athabasca University, told the Journal that this could be an important step in helping universities deal with the copyright conflict. The depository could encourage more professors to publish outside of mainstream publishers, giving universities more options for accessing their publications, he said.
These initiatives reveal a silver living for universities being forced to split from Access Copyright because of a spike in copyright fees, even if the separation is inconvenient. If it opens the doors for more efficient, cost effective, and innovative ways of providing students and staff with educational materials, the collective’s proposed new fee structure could be a better pay off for post secondary education than for Access Copyright.
Lawsuit filed against the University of Kentucky
An astronomy professor is suing the University of Kentucky over allegations he was denied a job running an observatory because he is an evangelical Christian. C. Martin Gaskell alleges in papers filed in a Kentucky federal court, that he was asked about his religious beliefs by the selections committee. The lawsuit states that Michael Cavagnero, chair of the physics and astronomy department, said that he “had personally researched Gaskell’s religious beliefs,” and warned that “expression of them would be a matter of concern.” A departmental staffer who had discovered online lecture notes where Gaskell apparently drew links between creationism and recent astronomical research, wrote in a 2007 email to the chair, “If we hire him, we should expect similar content to be posted on or directly linked from the department Web site.” Another candidate was awarded the position, and Gaskell currently works at the University of Texas. A trial is scheduled for February.
Report describes ‘dysfunctional’ faculty
McMaster University’s dean of business, Paul Bates, has resigned after a presidential report revealed a nasty work climate in the faculty that has existed since before Bates took the top job in 2004. The report, authored by a President’s Advisory Committee, described a culture of “bullying, harassment, mean-spirited sarcasm, intimidation and disrespect.”
The committee was appointed in the Spring by former McMaster president, Peter George, after an investigation by the university’s office of human rights and equity services discovered a “dysfunctional work environment.” Faculty members were divided over Bates’ management style with many raising concerns that the dean, who does not have a university degree, was running the faculty like a corporation. Supporters pointed out that Bates had raised the profile of the business school and that he was was well liked by students.
However, in a non-binding 2008 poll, organized by the faculty association, more than 80 per cent of business professors voted against reappointing Bates to a second five-year term. The university reappointed Bates anyway.
While this latest report concludes that the faculty is “dysfunctional” and that there are hardened positions between critics and supporters of Bates, it also found that the bitterness goes back as much as 20 years. Bates will step into a new strategy and development role at the Ron Joyce Centre at McMaster’s Burlington campus. An interim dean will be appointed in March.
Fired medical prof reinstated at the U of M
A threat to censure the University of Manitoba over the firing of a medical professor has been dropped. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) decided this weekend not to go ahead with censure after Larry Reynolds, the previously dismissed professor, reached an agreement with the university and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. If the university had been officially censured, the CAUT would have encouraged academics to decline appointments to the institution.
“Dr. Reynolds has reached a settlement with the University of Manitoba and the WRHA that satisfied our concerns,” James Turk, CAUT’s executive director told the Winnipeg Free Press. Reynolds will rejoin the faculty of medicine after official approval from the board of governors, although the terms of his employment have not, yet, been made public.
Reynolds, who previously taught at the University of Western Ontario, was recruited by the U of M to head the department of family medicine in 2001. His five year term was not renewed, and in 2008 he was dismissed from the department altogether. In the spring, when CAUT first threatened censure, the national professor’s union alleged that Reynolds “was dismissed from the University of Manitoba’s Department of Family Medicine without formal notice and with no hearing regarding dismissal for cause, contrary to his contract and the policies of the University of Manitoba.”
No major research university has been censured in over three decades.