- Pre-Election Letter to CUFA BC Members - May 10, 2013
- Professors Support NDP Proposal on Needs-Based Student Grants, but Say More Still Can Be Done - April 23, 2013
- CUFA BC Releases E-Book on Academic Governance - April 10, 2013
- UBC-O, UNBC and SFU Professors to be Honoured for Using Their Research in Service of the Community - April 3, 2013
A Question of Steering - November 26, 2012
- Published on Monday, 26 November 2012 00:00
- Written by Richard Kool
A Question of Steering
By Richard Kool, President, CUFA BC
The UNBC Faculty Association, in cooperation with the UNBC President, organized a day of conversation about academic governance in mid-November. An afternoon panel discussion about academic governance was held with Ellen Schoeck (past University Secretary, uAlberta), UNBC faculty members Drs. Margo Mandy and Erik Jensen, and CUFA BC Executive Director Robert Clift. I opened up the discussion with these thoughts (slightly edited from the original).
Let's start with the origins of the word 'governance'. Governance and the term 'cybernetics' share a common origin; both are derived from the Greek kybernitiki, the art of steering and controlling (Johnson, n.d.). Changed into Latin, it becomes gubernetes, which translates into pilot, and from which we get the term 'governance'. The work of governance is the work of steering. But there are two parts to steering: there is the person with their hand on the the wheel (what Aristotle would call 'the efficient cause'), and then there is the person, and not always the same person, who makes the decision as to which way to go. Steering is teleological: there is a purpose in those decisions as to direction (Aristotle's 'final cause'), and the range of potential decisions, and who gets to make and enact them, can have powerful outcomes on a ship and its crew.
The history of academic governance is a history of discussion about who steers the university 'ship' and who makes the decisions on its direction and purpose. Those who make the decisions on which way the ship goes have operative power as long as the one turning the wheel listens to instructions. While the governance of a ship may be based on rules, it also has to have at its core a sense of trust. The hands on the wheel has to trust the brain making decisions, and vice versa. And the passengers must have trust in both. So within our various institutions, who is making the important academic decisions? Is it a 'me', an individual decision of a president or Provost; is it a 'we', an academic Senate involving faculty and librarians, staff, students and administration; or a 'they', often in the form politically-appointed Boards of Governors, government itself, or corporate interests.
In the realm of academic governance, the faculty, through long tradition, had both their hands on the wheel and their brains involved in decision-making relating to the educational part of the enterprise. Yet increasingly, faculty and librarians, likely due to workload pressures and a reward system that does not adequately recognize service to governance as much as it may recognize other parts of the job, are either being shut out of or are retreating from an active engagement in academic governance.
Who directs, who steers, and to what purpose: these were the questions brought up both in medieval and contemporary discussions of academic governance. Any discussion of governance in an institutional context also has to ask the question about the purpose of the institution, as it seems clear that as an institution is governed, so does it become; governed as a university, it remains a university; governed as a corporation, and it becomes a corporation (Birnbaum, 2004).
Here is one way of understanding what a university could be, penned by Stephen Leacock, Principal of McGill, who wrote,
If I were founding a university- and I say it with all the seriousness of which I am capable- I would found first a smoking room; then when I had a little more money in hand I would found a dormitory; then after that, or more probably with it, a decent reading room and a library. After that, if I still had more money that I couldn't use, I would hire a professor and get some textbooks. (Leacock, 1922, p. 55)
Note that Leacock didn't talk about, presidents, deans, or boards of governors; he spoke of students, spaces to eat and sleep and smoke, books, and a professor. And going back to the early medieval origins of the University, in Bologna, Padua, Paris, Oxford and Cambridge, the University was about students, teachers, books, and a place to do work.
Organizations, like organisms, seem to move towards differentiation, and organizations, like organisms, seem to move towards hierarchical differentiation. In both organizations and organisms, there are large systems and small systems, slow cycles and fast cycles, systems of various levels of control. Early in their development, universities, like other organizational systems, also became differentiated. Why has this differentiation in organizational structure not changed appreciably over modern times?
I'd posit that things haven't changed, in part, because there are certain aspects of the structure of these ancient organizations that have worked, and worked well, and are lost at the very peril of the idea of the university. And one of those critical structures, differentiated centuries ago, was the concept of shared governance. When we are told that governance structures need to be changed, the message tends to be that the faculty need to worry less about being involved in the operation and direction-setting of the university, less in the steering, while leaving that to the Boards of Governors and the professional managers (Birnbaum, 2004).
Governance is a means to an end; the ends, the purposes of the university, are what we have to keep our eyes on. Shared governance in the steering of the university, shared between boards, presidents, academics, students and staff, has worked to protect the ends, which are the idea of the university as place of teaching and learning and research. But change the means- change the forms of governance, slowly reduce collegial and shared academic decision-making, minimize the active and meaningful engagement of faculty and librarians in the governance of the institution- and the ends of the institution will change too and what a university has been and is, will be changed.
So the issue before us is not just about academic governance, but about the whole idea of the university, about whose hands are on the wheel, and about who decides on direction and course, and how those decisions are made.
Birnbaum, Robert. (2004). The end of shared governance: Looking ahead or looking back. New Directions for Higher Education(127), 5-22. doi: 10.1002/he.152
Johnson, Barnabas D. (n.d.). The cybernetics of society: The governance of self and civilization. http://www.jurlandia.org/cybsoc.htm
Leacock, Stephen. (1922). My discovery of England. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co.
Academic Freedom: A Threat to One is a Threat to All - October 15, 2012
- Published on Monday, 15 October 2012 01:00
- Written by Richard Kool
Academic Freedom: A Threat to One is a Threat to All
By Richard Kool, President, CUFA BC
One of the privileges of being CUFA BC President is attending the meetings of our sister organizations, the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA) and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). CAFA recently held their fall Council meeting in Edmonton, and joined with the Association of Academic Staff of the University of Alberta to host a presentation, The Relevance of Academic Freedom.
Academic freedom seems to be a bit like motherhood: rarely (at least inside the academy) would someone (publically) speak against it. But how one conceptualizes and then actualizes academic freedom can vary quite widely. For example, the President of uAlberta, Dr. Indira Samarasekera, spoke at the presentation about the great public good that academic freedom provides, and quoted approvingly from the faculty handbook about the academic freedoms enjoyed at her university. However, the organization representing the university presidents in Canada, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) recently promulgated a "new" definition of academic freedom that is seen by many faculty members, associations and the Canadian Association of University Teachers as retreating from, rather than advancing, this vital freedom. And while our university presidents all espouse the principles of academic freedom, neither Dr. Samarasekera nor our BC university presidents have challenged the AUCC definition.
The major speaker at the presentation was Dr. Jocelyn Downie, a Professor of Ethics in both the Faculties of Law and Medicine at Dalhousie University. Dr. Downie presented a highly nuanced analysis of academic freedom around the questions of what is academic freedom, why does it matter, and why should we talk about it.
In her lecture, Dr. Downie related the Olivieri case1 (a sordid tale of an academic clinical researcher, Dr. Nancy Olivieri, who was abused by the University of Toronto, the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) and the drug manufacturer Apotex) to her analysis of academic freedom. Beyond the details of this case, I was reminded of the writings of Raul Hilberg, who spoke, in the context of the Holocaust, of the roles of victims, rescuers, bystanders and perpetrators. All of these roles were played out in the Olivieri case, and all are related to academic freedom in our institutions.
Olivieri was clearly the victim here, and her life and career were seriously impacted by the attempt to limit her ability to carry out research in an ethical and responsible manner congruent with the standards and norms of her discipline. The perpetrators are clear too. She was threatened by a drug company seemingly more interested in profits than in the health of the research participants or in the people who might ultimately be taking a flawed medication. Perpetrators also included the institutions involved; the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto, who, at the same time as Olivieri was being threatened, sued and barred from carrying out her research, was negotiating with Apotex for a donation of funds reaching into the tens of millions of dollars.
But for me, the real concern is with the rescuers and the bystanders. Four of Olivieri's colleagues came to her defence, standing up for her academic rights and, based on their principals, put themselves in harm's way.2 Outside of her institutional colleagues, the CAUT was and continues to be a strong advocate for Olivieri and for academic freedom. But four colleagues is not a very large number: most of the academic clinical staff at HSC and uToronto were bystanders and while their motivations have never been studied, it is easy to understand what they might be: fear of retribution, worry about their own research funding, and no desire to be branded a troublemaker. It is not hard to imagine why one would not get involved in a fight against both your direct employer and a large drug company.
So why does academic freedom matter? Because, as Dr. Downie says, "society needs people willing to speak truth to power." Power rarely appreciate hearing truth, whether power be in the form of pharmaceutical companies that do not want to hear from the Therapeutics Initiative at UBC or from researchers like Dr. Olivieri, or in governments that would rather not hear from its scientists about the state of the environment.
If and when we become aware of pressure being put on colleagues to "toe the party line", or when our colleagues are threatened with loss of funding based on their research and thoughts, or when the threat of tenure decisions are used to try and silence controversial voices, we are, at that point, all threatened. And while there may be a single victim initially, unless we all become involved in efforts to ensure academic freedom, bystanders too end can end up as victims.
1 - Thompson, J., Baird, P., & Downie, J. (2001). The Olivieri Report. Toronto: James Lorimer and Company.
2 - Baylis, F. (2004). The Olivieri debacle: where were the heroes of bioethics? Journal of Medical Ethics, 30, 44-49. doi: 10.1136/jme.2003.005330
Presentation to 2013/14 Pre-Budget Consultations - October 2, 2012
- Published on Tuesday, 02 October 2012 13:48
- Written by Richard Kool
Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC
Presentation to the
2013/14 Pre-Budget Consultations of the
Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to present to you today in person. My name is Dr. Richard Kool. I am the President of CUFA BC, the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC and an Associate Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University in Victoria.
With me is Robert Clift, CUFA BC's Executive Director and a doctoral candidate in higher education policy at the University of British Columbia.
CUFA BC represents 4,600 professors, lecturers, instructors, librarians and other academic staff at BC's five research-intensive and doctoral universities: UBC, SFU, UVic, UNBC, and my home institution, Royal Roads.
Our purposes are to promote quality higher education and research in British Columbia and to advocate for the interests of our members. We have been agents of change in BC higher education and research for more than 40 years.
Impact of Higher Education in BC
Before I discuss our recommendations, I want to provide you with some context on the impact of higher education in British Columbia.
We've provided you with a handout that has detailed information, so let me summarize.
Economically, university graduates, on average, are less likely to be unemployed, have higher annual earnings, have lower rates of absenteeism, have higher pension earnings, and are more resilient during economic downturn than workers with other levels of education. They also pay much more than the total cost of their education through income taxes over their lifetime earnings.
Now, it's true that the economic payoff of a university education is not as large as it was two decades ago. This is a consequence of increasing tuition fees and a stagnation of incomes. But a university degree remains a competitive advantage in the job market and for certain careers it's virtually a requirement.
But a university degree is not just an investment in a career. It's also an investment in a better life.
University graduates are more likely to volunteer, to belong to a voluntary organization, to attend a public meeting and to be politically engaged than people without a university degree. Higher levels of education are also positively correlated with healthier lifestyles and less involvement in criminal activity.
The impact of universities goes far beyond the individual benefits. BC's research-intensive universities are also transforming our economy and society.
Of UBC's $10 billion annual impact on BC's economy, about half results from its research activity. As a whole, the five research-intensive universities have about 10,000 funded research projects on the go at any given time. This culture of investigation and exploration spills over into the wider community through graduate students. A 2006 survey of graduates found that 85% of BC's doctoral program graduates and 45% of master's program graduates conducted research after graduation.
At his recent address to the Vancouver Board of Trade, UBC President Stephen Toope used the metaphor of post-secondary education and research as being the soil from which our economy and society grows. Our brief overview of the impact of university education and research amply demonstrates this.
As our time is limited, we'll constrain the discussion of our recommendations to two areas: access & success, and innovation.
Access & Success
The intellectual capacity, work ethic and inquiring spirit necessary to succeed in university are not limited by social or economic background. For example, all of the Presidents of the doctoral-granting universities faculty associations, and the CUFA BC President, are people who are the first in their families to attend higher education. Nonetheless, today, people whose families are well-educated and/or well-off are disproportionately represented in BC universities.
This is because, as a province, we have not made the necessary commitment to all of our citizens to provide them with the opportunity to start and successfully complete a post-secondary program, and in that sense, I am not only talking about University education, but trades and technical education as well.
For example, the success of Aboriginal and Metis students once they reach university can be improved through institutional policies, programs, services and financial aid that support students holistically. That is, our institutions need to support their intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual needs within a context respectful of community, culture and place. There are many good examples of such efforts across the province, but there is much room for improvement. And in particular, more needs-based financial assistance is necessary to overcome the Federal governments inadequate investment in helping capable Aboriginal and Metis attend and graduate from post-secondary institutions.
When it comes to reducing financial barriers for all students, there have been successes, but we are losing ground because our efforts have not kept pace with rising costs.
A single student who receives the maximum available assistance through Student Aid BC has to live on $508 per month after paying their tuition fees. Compare this to the basic welfare rate of $610 per month. The impossibility of living on this amount of money is compounded for rural students who have to incur moving and travel costs associated with attending school in an urban center.
Nor has StudentAidBC changed its policies to reflect the increasing demand for graduate programs. Although it's technically possible for a graduate student to receive student financial assistance, lifetime assistance limits and time limits for repayment means that StudentAidBC is ineffective in supporting graduate students.
To address these matters, we recommend:
- Increasing funding for institutional support programs and services and increased needs-based direct financial assistance for Aboriginal and Metis students
- Increasing the maximum StudentAidBC funding available to students
- Creating a StudentAidBC program to assist rural students with their extraordinary costs
- Reviewing StudentAidBC's programs to determine how they might be modified to better suit the needs of graduate and professional students.
Governments have long made the mistake of assuming that innovation is a solitary act that can be encouraged by the right kind of grant or tax break to individual companies. The truth is that innovation takes place within a multi-dimensional web of economic, intellectual, social, institutional and regulatory forces.
The fabric of that web is people with embodied knowledge. Without these people, there are no connections, there is no innovation. These people are predominantly university graduates.
Some of these people need to have advanced research skills that can only be developed through masters and doctoral studies. Our province's record in supporting these graduate students through direct funding and through research opportunities is a poor one. As already mentioned, StudentAidBC support for graduate studies is ineffective. BC also has the third highest tuition fees for graduate studies-last year, we were second highest. More detail on that is available on the handout we have provided.
But it's not enough to simply loan graduate students money. There is intense national and international competition for top-notch graduate students and BC lags behind other provinces in not providing any sort of graduate fellowship program to help attract graduate students to our universities and keep BC graduate students at home. We routinely lose students to Alberta, Ontario and Quebec universities, who can offer provincial graduate fellowships.
We also lose promising graduate students because we don't provide them with enough opportunities for engaging in research. BC universities are very successful in obtaining research grants from the federal granting councils, but other provinces provide additional support in key research areas.
Of concern to us is that BC used to be a leader in funding forest science research, but this funding disappeared entirely in 2010. We have a strong reputation for health sciences research, but lack of stable and predictable funding for the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research limits our ability to follow emerging fields of inquiry. We want to become a leader in "green" technologies and sustainability research, but money that could be used to develop such work is being drained away from our universities through the carbon tax.
To address these matters, we recommend:
- Creating a BC Graduate Fellowship Program
- Re-establishing the BC Forest Science Program to support forest and ecosystem research
- Guaranteeing stable and predictable funding for the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
- While we support and indeed see as necessary a carbon tax, we recommend permitting public post-secondary institutions to use their Carbon Tax payments to fund research and development in "green" technologies and relevant sustainability research initiatives
Overarching these recommendations and the additional recommendations we will make in our written submission is the need to ensure the public post-secondary institutions have stable and predictable funding.
You can imagine our shock when the 2012 budget documents included projected budget cuts in 2013/14 and 2014/15. This, after years of stagnant funding. The assertion that these cuts can be realized through administrative savings without affecting students is not defensible.
We will be making other recommendations and providing details of our calculations in our final written submission in a few weeks time. We hope that what we have presented this morning will provide food for thought and will be helpful to you in the weeks ahead. We welcome any questions or comments from you on these or related matters.