During the last round of bargaining, the number one bargaining item was Academic Freedom. Faculty wanted to have the right to teach courses in the manner they felt best suited the learner, own the teaching materials and to have a voice to speak publicly on academic issues without repercussions from the employer. Unfortunately that round of bargaining did nothing to address Academic Freedom as the government of the day was focusing on legislation to deny bargaining rights of teachers in Ontario.
The next round of bargaining will begin soon and Faculty need to re-think Academic Freedom. Questions that they should be asking themselves are:
- Do Faculty have the autonomy to teach a course in the manner that they feel best suits the learner ?
- Do Faculty have the exclusive right to determine how a course is to be evaluated ?
- Do Faculty determine which textbooks and materials should be used for a specific course ?
- Do Faculty own the intellectual materials that they create (including on-line courses) ?
At one Ontario College there were 8 items brought to the College Workload Monitoring group concerning Academic Freedom. In all cases where faculty want to change their evaluation factors, they were denied. In all cases where e-Texts were imposed upon faculty, they have been denied extra complementary hours for time to adapt to the new technology. These items will be going before a workload arbitrator, however it is evident that by these examples Faculty are not free to teach in the way they feel is best for the students.
The Academic issue is not limited to Ontario Colleges. In the US, a number of Universities are fearful of their Academic Freedom / ownership being taken away. In an article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education a Professor states, “If we lose the battle over intellectual property, it’s over,” Mr. Nelson warned. “Being a professor will no longer be a professional career or a professional identity,” and faculty members will instead essentially find themselves working in “a service industry,” he said.
It is obvious, if you don’t have Academic Freedom / ownership – you are essentially working in a service industry. The Academic Freedom issue was discussed in detail at a recent Academic Symposium that was held on June 8th in Toronto. With more on line courses and Colleges looking for ways to reduce costs, Faculty need to think hard about the importance of this item for the next round of bargaining.