Carleton University professors have voted an overwhelming 88.5 per cent in favour of giving the faculty association a strike mandate. Bargaining resumes Tuesday morning and a provincial conciliator has been appointed. Faculty would not be in a legal position to strike until 17 days after the conciliator recommends the Ontario minister of labour file a no board report, meaning a contract could not be negotiated.
At the centre of the dispute is the process of tenure and promotion, and the Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA) says the university’s bargaining proposals would threaten academic freedom. “The message is that academic freedom and the tenure process are not up for negotiation,” CUASA president Johannes Wolfart said of the vote results.
Carleton’s director of communications, Jason MacDonald, says the goal is still to reach a negotiated settlement. “Strike votes are one of the tools that a bargaining unit has,” he said. “There is a history at Carleton of never having a faculty strike.” Despite the holding of a strike vote, the administration maintains that under the current collective agreement, the faculty association is not actually in a “position” to strike.
Last month, Carleton released a proposal to revamp its tenure process in an effort to bring it inline with other Canadian universities. Among the recommendations are to seek external peer review for candidates, whereas now all peer reviews are internal. The length of tenure-track positions would increase from three years to six years, and a more standardized tenure process would be established across the university, as opposed to the wide variation that currently exists between departments. Candidates for tenure would also be assessed “within the context of the university’s reputation and status.”
The report indicated a failure to reach consensus, between faculty and the university, on at least three points. They include proposals to strengthen the authority of an appeal committee to make final “binding” decisions, a role for an arbitrator to award tenure, and the ability for the president to overturn tenure decisions. In the case of the president, a tenure recommendation would be overturned in the event of a procedural error, not for “substantive” reasons related to the quality of the applicant.
Neither side would comment on the specifics of the negotiations, but Wolfart did say that “not much has moved at the table” in recent weeks.
There are approximately 19,000 full and part undergraduate students attending the university. Faculty have been without a contract since April.
– photo by churl