Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Financial fear-mongering

I'm not the least bit happy about getting into this subject: indeed, I'm not happy any time that I find myself compelled to say things about my employer that I'd rather not say. In brief, members of the University of Victoria's executive are making statements that, whether the individuals realize it or not, I'd interpret as borderline unethical tactics to discredit the well-grounded bargaining position of its Faculty Association.

It's no secret that funding is seriously tight for Canadian postsecondary educational institutions, and that government priorities are changing strangely. The province of Alberta is in the early stages of ideologically amplified financial slashing, with shocking budget cuts, so here in BC we're grateful not to be facing this -- and if I may say, intensely supportive of our Alberta colleagues as they prepare for an unprecedented struggle.

My point in this post, however, is actually a very narrow one. Today, I just don't have the stomach to deal with larger budgetary matters, so I want to take on a single aspect of the executive's campaign against the Faculty Association.

I've heard rumours of the phrase being used orally, but today, I saw it in the wild for the first time, and in written form at that. When someone in the administration executive wants to talk about financial trouble, a key factor in that uncertainty is now being identified as "the upcoming Faculty Association arbitration."


Monday, March 11, 2013

Talking unionization

Today and tomorrow, I'll be attending some (maybe all!) of the events being hosted by the UVic Faculty Association to talk about unionization in an academic setting. For the record, here's the info about the sessions, and below this outline, I'll talk about the issues in a little more detail*:
Monday, March 11: 3pm-5 pm: Mac D116: “What are the faculty union experiences at other Canadian universities?”
Panel Discussion: Dr. Neil Tudiver, Asst. Executive Director, CAUT, and Dr. Nancy Burfoot, Professor, Queens University, former President Queens FA 
Monday 11 March: 5:30 to 7:30: Wild Rose Room, University Club (refreshments and snacks provided)
Informal discussion with Drs. Tudiver and Burfoot, and UVic FA Executive Committee 
Tuesday, March 12: 2:30pm-4:30pm: Mac D116: “What does the unionization process look like, and what are the challenges?”
Panel Discussion:Dr. Neil Tudiver, Asst. Executive Director, CAUT, and Dr. Nancy Burfoot, Professor, Queens University, former President Queens FA

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rethinking an academic department

Times are awful everywhere in the humanities, we keep reading. Anyone who has ever been part of a newspaper story recognizes the often-large gap between life and the journalistic version thereof, of course, but still: university budgets are under pressure, and everyone's got an idea about how to do more with less.

But hey, maybe the current structure isn't always the best one, you know? After all, every academic structure is really an agglomeration of traditions that in a best-case scenario seemed like good ideas at the time. This suggests that a clean, formal, professional review of curricular offerings might be both a great idea and doomed, but let's worry about that another day. For now, I'm saying simply that there's rarely (never?) a good reason to think that one lives in the best of all possible worlds.

Like many other departments around here, our English department is reviewing its curriculum, largely at the direction of the Provost's office. We like what we've built, mostly: an extremely successful Honours program, a small but potent Professional Writing minor, very good grad students, talented colleagues, that sort of thing. But if we had to build it all over again, would we choose to offer the same slate of courses that we do now, with the same class sizes?