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Statement by OPSEU/SEFPO College Faculty Division on the abolition of Sheridan College’s academic senate

Toronto – As chair of the Divisional Executive of OPSEU/SEFPO’s College Faculty Division, I am gravely concerned and disappointed by the Sheridan College Board of Governors’ decision to cancel the only academic senate in Ontario’s public college system.

At its root, this is a blatant and cynical refusal to work meaningfully with faculty as professionals to ensure that academic decisions are made in the best interests of students and education. It demonstrates again the urgent need for shared governance between administrators and faculty.

There was no consultation with faculty involved in the senate, and the college’s report was clearly done with a predetermined outcome in mind. Nonetheless, there is no suggestion that the senate was not working – only a spurious claim that it was not compliant with legislation.

Ontario’s college system is undergoing major and sudden upheavals. The massive shift to online learning, the push for microcredentials, and other changes to postsecondary education require that knowledge creators be part of facilitating innovation, while ensuring academic quality and student supports remain central.

Faculty are uniquely positioned to ensure colleges and college students are the engine that drives Ontario’s economic post-pandemic recovery. Shared governance structures permit colleges to balance educational needs with budgetary ones, safeguarding academic quality, innovation, and student supports.

Postsecondary education cannot, and must not, just be a race to the bottom in reaction to fiscal concerns. Laurentian University should be a cautionary tale about the consequences of allowing administrators to circumvent faculty in decision-making.

Abolishing the Sheridan senate is clear evidence that college administrators are out of touch and anachronistic. Worldwide, shared governance is a core tenet of postsecondary systems. It must be a part of Ontario’s college system as we move towards standalone nursing degrees and increased research.

We believe the senate is legitimate. We believe it does respect the structures of the Board of Governors. And we believe that the board should be applauded if it commits to the successful senate model.

We call on the government to modernize college governance structures through a simple policy directive. Sheridan College is a truly shining example of college innovation and excellence. It must not be allowed to eliminate such a vital aspect of its successful education community.

For more information: RM Kennedy, 416-346-8382; OPSEUCommunications@opseu.org

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