The importance of participating in collegial governance (posted June 26, 2019)

Academic unions are rather unusual in the world of labour relations because they do not stop at pay, working conditions, job protections, and employer-union relations (though of course we work a lot on those too!). University collective agreements usually entrench fundamental academic principles, including collegial governance and academic freedom. These do not merely reflect our commitment to a university focussed on the academic mission and evidence-based decision-making. Such clauses belong in our collective agreements because collegial governance and academic freedom are key to our shared responsibility to ensure the quality, currency, and integrity of academic work.

MARCH 7, 2019 OPEN LETTER: DFA Urges Significant Re-Think of Dalhousie Budget

We are writing to express our concern about the proposed budget for 2019-20. In the DFA BAC submission (January 28, 2019), we restated our longstanding concern “about the movement of funds from the Academic Responsibility Centre towards buildings and administrative costs.” We urged the university to restore ARC funding to reinvest in the academic mission without burdening students further with tuition increases. As one of our attached charts shows, there was a steep decline in ARC’s share of the university’s overall budget (from 73.6% in 2002-03 to 64.7% in 2017-18)—more is needed to support research and teaching at a U15 institution. Faculty cannot continue doing more and more with less and less.

African Heritage Month 2019: Our History is also Your History

Nova Scotia’s theme for the 2019 African Heritage Month is ‘our history is your history.’ The theme calls for celebrating the history of African Nova Scotians in the past, the present and the future as contributors to Canadian history. In other words, to make meaningful impact in the way people live and function in a society, it is important to relate to the shared history, evident in the way people exchange ideas, and engage in activities that enhance their functioning. Moreover, this year's theme reinforces the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent’s goal to support and cooperate with people of African Descent to create meaningful, full inclusion and belonging in Nova Scotia and Canada.

Minds are not commercial products

On June 2, DFA President Dave Westwood and President-Elect Julia M. Wright published their opinion piece, "Minds are not commercial products" in the Chronicle Herald.  The piece was written in response to Bill Black's May 26 column "Universities must become flexible to stay successful".  Dave and Julia's article is below and a link to Bill Black's column is found at the end of the piece. In his May 26 column, “Universities must become flexible to stay successful,” Bill Black uses an economic lens to view and comment on the value of universities in Nova Scotia and their future. The language and approach would not be out of place at a shareholders’ meeting of a large corporation.

Let's Fight for Fair Employment

Consider the following: a person teaching University courses who lives in her car because she can’t afford rent; another who has had a full course load for 31 years at two Canadian universities and still can’t make ends meet.  These are not the images that come to mind when we think of the highly-qualified professionals who have dedicated their lives and careers to the education of our University students.

A Tribute to Mi’kmaq History Month: The Truth and Reconciliation process is breathing Mi’kmaq Humanities into academia

The Mi’kmaq worldview is relational, where everything existed within a network of relationships and could not exist as a separate entity outside of those relationships.  On all levels of reality, visible and invisible, everything is related. As everyone and everything is related, proper decorum was expected because it was thought that if you harmed someone or something, you ultimately harmed yourself in the process.  One cannot take these relationships for granted, rather each person must express honor and respect in their relationships with others.  This worldview extends to all human relationships, the environment, the animals, and to other beings.  Mi’kmaq ancestors understood that everything is in a continuous state of flux, ever changing and non-static.  The constant motion signifies that everything is in the process of becoming.  It is also understood that these relationships require renewal ceremonies in order to sustain and maintain balance and harmony through the life cycles.

Stand Up for Science

The government has a clear road map for what needs to be done to support basic, investigator-driven research, thanks to the report of Canada’s Fundamental Science Review, released this spring. The report’s most important recommendation is to increase basic research funding by $1.3 billion over 4 years.  We now need to make sure the government acts on the recommendations of the Advisory Panel on Federal Support for Fundamental Science. It is time to get science right.

University corporatization: governments play major role

It’s easy to blame administrators and Boards of Governors for the growing trend toward corporatization in our universities. But according to Jamie Brownlee, a political economist, sociologist and author of the new book Academia Inc., provincial and federal governments play a major role. In an article in Academic Matters, Dr. Brownlee identifies government underfunding as…

Confronting precarious academic work

Earlier this year, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) held a conference on precarious academic work, a subject that is becoming increasingly relevant as more and more universities replace tenure-track positions with part-time and limited term appointments. The conference, entitled “Confronting Precarious Academic Work”, dealt with a wide range of topics, ranging from…

Academic freedom and human rights: the case of Homa Hoodfar

Academics here in Canada have fought for and largely won the freedom to pursue their scholarly and research interests – and communicate the results of their research — without fear of reprisals or discrimination. At Dalhousie, these rights are clearly stated in the collective agreement between the DFA and the Board of Governors. But this…