by Martin Devitt
Local 242 President
I recently received an email from my Associate Dean with the salutation of ‘Dear Colleagues’. This has been my standard opening to many of my memos to you, my fellow faculty; however, this particular use from my manager re-played in my thoughts and I subsequently spent some time considering why. She and I work well together. We are cordial and respectful of each other’s views; however, we are not colleagues. Her role at the college is as an academic manager, not as a professor. In a distinct and definitional way, we are not collegial either—we do not share any authority as colleagues. Indeed,
she has most all of the academic authority and that is what’s been re-playing in my thoughts.
One of the issues we went on strike for was Collegial Governance—more input from faculty into academic decision-making in running the Colleges. This is one of the topics that is being considered by the task force coming out of the Kaplan Award. Now, as faculty, we do have a stronger voice that is backed up by Article 13—Academic Freedom. Not only do faculty have rights to speak out, but the college has a duty to support those rights. Speaking out, however, is only one part of the equation. Being heard and having authority to affect academic decisions about course outcomes, programs, and policies is quite another thing. All other publicly funded major colleges and universities in Canada have a form of collegial governance where academics, students, and administrators all have input. Why? Because they run better with these voices having input on academic issues. Institutions with academic senates run less like corporate ‘for profit’ career colleges and better promote the essential skills and independent thinking that are the hallmarks of quality education. After all, who should be the guardians of our students’ education? I look forward to the day—hopefully soon—that I will be able to send an email to my Associate Dean with the salutation ‘Dear Colleague’.