We are writing about the current impasse between the University of Toronto Administration and the University of Toronto Faculty Association. We are concerned with the tone of the recent announcements from your office concerning UTFA. We call on you and other members of the Administration to re-consider your dismissal of the arguments and proposals made by our faculty association and to...
We are writing about the current impasse between the University of Toronto Administration and the University of Toronto Faculty Association. We are concerned with the tone of the recent announcements from your office concerning UTFA. We call on you and other members of the Administration to re-consider your dismissal of the arguments and proposals made by our faculty association and to re-evaluate the Administration’s approach to the important questions of collegiality that have been raised by UTFA. We are confident that the details can be worked out by the parties through negotiation in a collegial manner.
There has been considerable talk on campus since UTFA’s open letter of September 14 and the subsequent open letters from the Administration. The exchange has caught everybody’s attention, and it has prompted much welcome debate and discussion. We have you, in part, to thank for this. Our letter is offered in the spirit of the ongoing discussion, but also as an expression of concern.
In your communications, you are very critical of the association’s proposals. Of course, we welcome your views. But we worry that the overall tone and the substance of your responses could jeopardize an important opportunity for collegial dialogue about fundamental changes that may be required. Your communications focus fairly narrowly on a critique of interest arbitration and specifically on the involvement of a third party in resolving disputes over University policies and procedures (not over academic decisions as you imply). This focus on particular specifics of the proposals—which would be worked out by the parties in negotiations in any case—has meant that too little attention has been paid to the fundamental issues.
Most centrally, the issue raised by UTFA’s open letter and by your responses focuses on nothing less than the vital matter of the future role for faculty and librarians at this university. The University of Toronto is a unicameral university. In the absence of a Faculty Senate, UTFA represents the only real collective voice of faculty and librarians at this institution. We believe that the faculty and its faculty association must be productively involved in shaping key policies and procedures, such as those governing the process of academic planning and others that have an impact on the work we do. That involvement should take the form of a negotiating framework that is fair and accountable to the faculty and librarians who help define this institution. That is the main thrust of the proposals as we understand them.
We are all acutely aware that the university faces significant challenges: continued underfunding, escalating enrollments, and a backlog of infrastructural improvements. UTFA is a vital resource in this context and an important check on the consolidation of administrative authority. We need to ensure that the faculty and librarians who perform the core mission of the university (i.e. teaching, research, and professional services) have a definite role in determining the conditions under which these activities are performed. Only when this is the case will academic freedom be guaranteed. The responses from your office are felt to have overlooked these considerations.
We strongly believe the ongoing discussion presents an opportunity for positive and responsible change that will serve the University very well in the days ahead. It would be truly unfortunate if this opportunity is missed or squandered.
Thank you for taking the time to read and consider our position. We look forward to future discussions and to the Administration’s constructive engagement with the faculty association.