Saturday, April 17, 2010
A first at U of O: Professors' union goes public against central administration
Never before seen at the University of Ottawa. What does it mean?
The school's Association of Professors University of Ottawa (APUO) union has, for the first time in its history, been publicly critical of the university's central administration.
Read the April 15, 2010, media-reported criticism HERE.
This suggests particularly bad leadership by former Minister of Justice now university president Allan Rock but may also reflect a momentary lapse in the union's longstanding posture or a fundamental underlying shift in institutional culture?
The APUO union is a typical Canadian professors' union that seeks to collaborate with the administration in order to best secure and maximize the relative societal privileges of the majority of its members.
As with virtually all such professors' unions (e.g., see No Ivory Tower by Ellen Schrecker), ass kissing and hierarchical obedience have been found by experimentation to be the surest route to job security for aligned professors and to the proverbial three P's: Parking, pay, and pensions.
But now this. Novice APUO president Lessard actually talking to the media and going after the admin's mission of the moment: Control by budget restructuring. This in a context where the number of contract-protected professors' salaries over $100,000 per year rose by 25% last year: HERE and HERE.
In other words, there is no obvious reason for the APUO to stand up at this time in this dramatic and public way, after decades of mute collaboration. Maybe the Rock administration's authoritarianism is starting to make its mark on even the most privileged group of the university community? Maybe the appearance of solidarity with students would have been difficult to avoid?
For the first time in the history of the institution, the traditional power of the VP-Academic (normally second in command, as per the University of Ottawa Act, 1965) has been replaced by an outside Rock appointment, Diane Davidson, in the newly created position of VP-Governance.
For the first time in the history of the institution, the CEO and his executive staff are mostly not from the professorial ranks, mostly don't have PhDs, and are mostly not familiar with undergraduate teaching or academic research.
As pointed out by Lessard, administrative costs rose by 23.7% last year [not to mention executive salaries... or the fact that the former president is still collecting (2009) his full CEO salary of $351,120. per year plus benefits and has been nowhere to be found since Rock took over]. We note that this administrative cost increase occurred under Rock as corporate-style control was implemented, including unprecedented uses of branding and media relations, campus police, surveillance, and hired corporate lawyers. Rock has written more Op-Eds than one can shake a stick at.
Rock is also always "out of town", either promoting "the responsibility to intervene" in Africa or creating academic exchange programs with Israel or using his university-paid-for flat in Toronto.
The U of O is being put to waste and its reputation shredded (e.g., Coulter fiasco, police-state measures against student Marc Kelly) while Rock appoints his cronies and is out of town. To fix it Rock wants to impose budget restructuring which, again for the first time in the institution's history, has not proceeded via the required collegial governance process.
By not grieving (lawsuit under labour law) the Rock budget plans as having violated the legally established fundamental principle of collegial governance (of universities), the APUO is abandoning its legitimate power and its social responsibility, while publicly posturing to avoid deeper scrutiny.
Just my opinion.