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College Faculty (CAAT-A): Report on Education in Ontario Colleges Launch Tour

OPSEU members attend event in Ottawa. Person speaks at the podium while members listen

The OPSEU college faculty Report on Education in Ontario Colleges had a successful launch in Toronto followed by events in London, Sudbury and Ottawa. The Report research and recommendations regarding Ontario’s post-secondary education funding crisis, academic freedom, workload and online courses were the subject of important discussions at each of these events.

On Thursday, April 24th, OPSEU college faculty launched the Report on Education in Ontario Colleges at the Toronto Sheraton.  The over 90 attendees included college faculty, students, and university faculty.  Speakers included Erika Shaker, education analyst for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives; Graeme Stewart from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), Alastair Woods, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O), and report author and Mohawk College professor Kevin MacKay.

On Tuesday, May 13th the tour stopped in London to meet with faculty from Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario (UWO).  Alastair Woods from the CFS-O was also on hand to deliver another excellent talk, and professor Daryl Bedford, president of OPSEU Local 110, and Alison Hearn, president of the UWO Faculty Association, also spoke passionately about the importance of quality public education. A solid turnout and good media attention made the London event a resounding success, and generated buzz for the next stop in Sudbury on Thursday, May 15.

The meeting at the Sudbury Steelworkers’ Hall was party washed out by torrential rain, but faculty from Cambrian College, College Boreal, and Laurentian University managed to attend, along with student representatives from Cambrian and Laurentian.  The president of the Laurentian University Faculty Association, Anis Farah, gave an important perspective on how corporatization is affecting research priorities in Ontario universities, while Laurentian Labour Studies professor John Closs highlighted the plight of precarious academic faculty in both colleges and universities.  Sudbury media bit into the story twice, and highlighted the student perspective concerning rising tuition and unsustainable debt.

The report launch tour wound up in Ottawa for an evening town hall meeting at the Westin Hotel on May 22nd.  Faculty from Algonquin College and La Cite Collegiale were joined by representatives from the CFS national office.  Professor Jack Wilson from Algonquin talked about how a shortfall in government funding is leading Algonquin College to pursue online learning and partnerships with private colleges in Saudi Arabia.  CFS representative Vanessa Hunt talked about the critical need for faculty to reach out to students and build solidarity, while professor Benoit Dupuis from La Cite discussed management attempts to privatize college counseling services.

On Friday, May 23, faculty from across the college system participated in the Third Annual Symposium on Quality Education and Academic Freedom.  The symposium was kicked off by keynote speaker Nora Loreto – student activist and editor at the Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM).  After Nora’s inspiring keynote address on resistance to the neoliberal assault on education, a panel discussed ways in which college faculty can use academic freedom as a tool to connect with students and community members.  In the afternoon, two workshops on strategic communication and local organizing were conducted by Sharmene Kahn, also from CALM.  In the workshops members discussed communication strategies and practiced telling stories that illustrate the experiences and concerns of college faculty.

Now the CAAT-A bargaining team is preparing for the start of negotiations on June 2, when the voices of faculty heard during the report launch tour will be expressed to the colleges as demands.  With a mobilized and informed membership supporting the team, these demands can lead to profound changes in the quality of faculty’s working environment, and also to the learning environment of students.

Report Launch Tour Media Links

May 14, London Community News – Town hall in London focused on 'growing crisis' in post-secondary education

May 15, University of Western Ontario Faculty Association – Post-secondary education at a crossroads

May 15, CBC Hamilton – Report slams 'blended' learning at Mohawk, Ontario colleges

May 16, CBC Hamilton – Mohawk professor challenges college to debate blended learning

May 16, CBC Sudbury – Quality and affordability of post-secondary education

May 16, The Sudbury Star – Cut tuition fees, Sudbury forum hears

May 16, CHML AM 900 – Kevin MacKay Talks About “Blended Learning”