Western profs ponder striking - Macleans.ca

Western profs ponder striking

Faculty at UWO to cast ballot on whether or not to strike Sept 30


Barely a month into the school year, and professors at the University of Western Ontario are already pondering a strike that could cancel classes for students. At a meeting of 200 members of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) last week, a motion was passed to give the union’s board authority to call a strike vote, which it will be doing. The ballot will take place between Sept 29 and Oct 1, it was announced today.

At issue is a proposal from the university that the union says threatens academic freedom by weakening tenure. In an effort to improve “performance management,” Western, the union says, has proposed that several related clauses be linked together in their contract. They include the linking of academic responsibilities, conflict of interest and conflict of commitment, annual performance evaluation, sabbatical leave, and discipline.

According to UWOFA president James Compton, the university wants to implement a centralized review committee for evaluating and reviewing faculty job performance. “It would be staffed by senior administrators and not peers in those fields, so that’s a problem,” he said. Compton added that the proposed language amounts to  “a continual tenure review” for faculty, who, he says already have to go through a rigorous process to attain tenure, and who are already continually evaluated by their home department. He called the university’s proposal “a weakening of the tenure system.” He added that the university has yet to make any proposal regarding wages.

In a media release, Helen Connell, associate vice-president communications, did not address any of the faculty association’s specific concerns, but did note that even if the union is given a strike mandate after next week’s vote, that doesn’t mean professors will be heading to the picket line. “It is important to note that holding a strike vote is normal in the process of collective bargaining and does not necessarily mean there will be a strike,” she said.

A conciliator appointed by the province has met with both sides, and talks are set to resume Oct 5. The faculty association represents 1,400 academic staff who have been without a contract since the end of June.

A strike vote is also scheduled to be held at Carleton University.


Western profs ponder striking

  1. Strike. Faculty have been bent over and taking it for too long. It’s time faculty start getting some of their rights back.

  2. Go ahead and strike. Puts you on a par with York U. Waterloo is starting to look like the best option for parents of grade 12 students.

  3. This is ridiculous. For a university that promotes itself as being one of the best in the country, offering the “best student experience” in all of Canada, it’s about time you stepped up and acted like it. Where are your priorities? On your students or on your tenure? Parents send their children to Western expecting the best – give them that. York’s strike has made it even more infamous and if you strike I know that people will be just as wary to send their teenagers your way.

  4. One of the proposed demands by the UWO administration includes some rather creepy stuff about invading the personal lives of professors. Imagine if your employer had the right to know who you might work for in a second job, or what charities you volunteer for. Now imagine that your employer, armed with this information, could indiscriminately dismiss you just because they don’t like how you spend your free time. The threat is rather clear: the employer wants to know who else you work for, how many hours you work for that other business, and exactly how much you are paid. No employee should be subject to such scrutiny and privacy invasion. It’s a little too 1984 to passively accept. To those who think UWO is stuffed with “fat cat” tenured faculty with sinecure positions, think again. UWO is leaning more towards “flexible workforce” which means part time faculty who make very little, who have zero job security, and can easily be turfed at any time for reasons that have nothing to do with being inappropriate.

  5. As a parent of a new student this year at Western, had I been aware of the possibility of a strike I would have advised my daughter to select one of the other universities she was accepted by. I am sure there are likely other issues at hand than the evaluation review however; I see nothing wrong with periodic performance audits since that is how the “real” world operates.
    So far, my daughter is enjoying her experience at Western but it would be catastrophic to her and all students if the faculty and administration were to place their interests ahead of the students.

  6. Those periodic performance audits are already conducted by way of student evaluations (the students have the opportunity, anonymously, to rate their professor according to several rubrics). These function as factors for promotional advancement. The danger in what the UWO administration is proposing may set a precedent for several other Canadian universities. I do not think the faculty is necessarily putting their interests ahead of the students; quality education for students requires quality educators. Endangering job security or drastically reducing academic freedoms can result in a considerable brain drain as faculty find jobs in other sectors.

  7. All faculty get annual performance reviews.

    I’m still shocked at how self-centred the students are. If you want a better education, it comes with a cost. Not just a financial cost. It comes with fighting for the maintenance of a system that enables a good education in the first place.

  8. The student written “performance reviews” are laughable in there insignificance. Students are given a sheet to “fill in the blanks”, that is if they even attend the final classes of the year. These have long been considered a joke and it is difficult to justify this as the primary means of faculty evaluation.

  9. University of Windsor, York, and now Western shows where the faculty’s priority lies. Why do they have to use the students as bargaining tools? Strike during the summer, stop doing research, but do not put 30,000 students education at risk for your own financial gain!