OCUFA and VP External - Comments on SMA2
As WUFA's VP External, I attended a policy conference hosted by OCUFA on May 11 and 12, as well as the OCUFA Board meeting on May 13. At both of these events, I and other attendees from Ontario's many faculty associations made clear that meaningful faculty input was sorely lacking in the formulation and drafting of the second round of Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMA2) currently under negotiation with the province. OCUFA has collated the concerns and suggestions expressed at the May policy conference and board meeting in a letter sent to Bonnie Patterson, the province's negotiator in the SMA process, and Sheldon Levy, Deputy Minister in the Ministry for Advanced Education and Skills Development. That letter is included below. In it, OCUFA states that the “absence of meaningful consultation with faculty as part of the SMA development and negotiation process significantly undermines the legitimacy of these documents once completed.” Based on this, OCUFA recommends some significant changes to improve faculty input in the next round of SMAs in 2020, which will have funding implications for universities.
While you can read the full letter and recommendations on your own, I want to emphasize that the process followed on our campus is common across the province. Administrations typically seek minimal input from and consultation with faculty and other campus groups, and present complete drafts to senates or other bodies late in the game, and then often only for feedback rather than for approval, despite the far-reaching academic implications of the SMA process and the final agreements themselves. WUFA members may recall a message from the university president's office earlier in the spring requesting any feedback on the draft SMA be sent directly via email to the president, though of course feedback can also always be provided through our senate representatives. WUFA also solicited feedback from members, to be channeled through VP Internal and WUFA's rep on senate, Stephen Pender, who wrote WUFA's response to the SMA, which he then shared with senate and WUFA members. This response remains available to read on the WUFA website.
While I would not want to minimize the importance of the local community in providing perspectives and ideas for the SMA, it is worth comparing the constrained opportunities for faculty members to contribute to the university's substantial outreach to the local community, as summarized in the Community Consultation Report recently circulated to deans, AAU heads, and senate members by the Office of the Associate Vice President, Academic. Five breakfast sessions attended by over 300 representatives from dozens of organizations and businesses in the Windsor-Essex region and five broad sectors of the local economy provided substantive opportunity to contribute to a discussion about the role and future of the university. Many of our colleagues generously offered time and energy to help run the community consultation events, but again, administration solicited the substantive input of faculty by asking us to email comments directly to the president of the university or through our senate reps in response to a completed draft of the SMA. What would or could this draft look like were faculty, as well as students and staff, accorded the same broad range and depth of opportunity for input and dialogue as local business and non-profit leaders?
I note again that this is not unique to our campus, and reps from faculty associations across the province reported much the same, with variation of course, at the May OCUFA meetings. As WUFA continues with bargaining this summer, it is important to keep the SMA process in mind as a broader context for understanding how our university, and the entire provincial post-secondary system, is changing. Budgets and strategic mandate agreements are governance by other means, especially when they run in parallel with or over the top of existing governance and decision making mechanisms where we have the ability to make decisions collegially and democratically.