School of Social Work Response to Remediation Framework and Announcement Reply

See below for the School of Social Work Response to Remediation Framework and the School of Social Work Announcement.

(Summary statement)

School of Social Work Response to Remediation Framework (March 17)

(Supported by 88% of Faculty Members)

The Faculty of the School of Social Work held an emergency meeting on March 17, 2015, to discuss the ways in which academic integrity is deeply undermined by the Institutional Remediation Guidelines from Senate Executive and the LAPS Remediation Framework. We are also gravely concerned about the safety of our students, faculty and staff and the broader York community, as picketing lines will continue to grow as classes resume.

With the resumption of classes there will be an inevitable inequality and division between students as some cohorts return to class, while other students refuse to cross the picket line. These divisions manifest on a pedagogical, evaluation, programmatic and ethical level. The majority of the School does not believe they meet the stated principles of: fairness to students, academic integrity and timely information. Dividing classes and students will produce different pedagogical conditions and evaluation standards, and undermine course and program integrity, as our students prepare to become critical social work practitioners. As a result of these concerns, 88% of faculty in the School of Social Work do not support the Remediation Guidelines and express the view that instructors should not be expected to resume classes on March 23, 2015 if they deem academic integrity has been breached. We expect there will be full institutional support for remediation following the strike (e.g. classroom and tutorial space to resume classes at that time) and that the threat of disciplinary action will be revoked. This is not a breaking of contractual obligations to our employer; it is an enactment of pedagogical, political, and ethical obligations to our students and our society.

Being forced to cross the picket line to go back into the classroom not only undermines the academic integrity of our courses and curriculum, it contradicts the mission statement of the School of Social Work and its promotion of social justice and equality. It is therefore an affront to our political and moral integrity.

The School of Social Work relies on:

  • Small seminars, co-counselling dyads, practice based seminars, field seminars and case studies that students analyze class by class in ways that build understanding and critical insight about social justice concerns
  • These pedagogical approaches require full attendance and participation in classrooms and mandatory attendance for field integrative seminars and placements
  • Teaching reduced class sizes or creating two cohorts of pre and post settlement classrooms interferes with the integrated and sequential course complement that sustains our undergraduate and graduate program
  • A strong emphasis on core practice courses and integrative field seminars and placements will be weakened by partial classrooms, as students miss out on key pieces of the program that prepare them for the field of social work. The School of Social Work will also fail to meet its accreditation standards, governed by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education

Given our graduate students are on the picket line and many of our undergraduate students will not cross the picket line, our classrooms will be divided into different cohorts in ways that do not allow us to provide the academic integrity of our individual courses and our program as a whole. In trying to assume normal activities in the face of a strike, the university is operating in ways that run counter to respected democratic values and principles. This action damages the university community by pitting us against each other instead of reaching a quick settlement.

Because of our concerns with academic integrity, with our practicums, with our graduate programs, with safety issues, and because of ethical concerns the majority of faculty cannot support the resumption of classes on March 23, 2015. We urge the administration to focus its energies on settling the labour dispute with Units 1 and 3 of CUPE 3903 first and foremost, and providing a remediation plan that upholds the academic integrity of our program.

 School of Social Work Response to Remediation Framework

(Supported by 88% of Faculty Members)

The Faculty of the School of Social Work held an emergency meeting on March 17, 2015 to discuss the ways in which academic integrity is deeply undermined by the Institutional Remediation Guidelines from Senate Executive and the LAPS Remediation Framework. We are also gravely concerned about safety of our students, faculty and staff and the broader York community, as picket lines will continue to grow as classes resume.

With the resumption of classes there will be an inevitable inequality and division between students as some cohorts return to class, while other students refuse to cross the picket line. These divisions manifest on a pedagogical, evaluation, programmatic and ethical level. The majority of faculty does not believe they meet the stated principles of: fairness to students, academic integrity and timely information. Dividing classes and students will produce different pedagogical conditions and evaluation standards, and undermine course and program integrity, as our students prepare to become critical social work practitioners. As a result of these concerns, the majority of faculty (88%) in the School of Social Work will not be supporting the Remediation Guidelines and express the view that instructors should not expected to resume classes on March 23, 2015 if they deem academic integrity has been breached. We expect there will be full institutional support for remediation following the strike (e.g. classroom and tutorial space to resume classes at that time) and that the threat of disciplinary action will be revoked. This is not a breaking of contractual obligations to our employer; it is an enactment of pedagogical, political, and ethical obligations to our students and our society.

Being forced to cross the picket line to go back into the classroom not only undermines the academic integrity of our courses and curriculum, it contradicts the mission statement of the School of Social Work and its promotion of social justice and equality. It is therefore an affront to our political and moral integrity.

Academic integrity:

In many of our courses, we know that many undergraduate and graduate students will not cross the picket line. We know this because many of us have been told this by students who have written to say as much. One professor polled her students and 75% said that they would NOT cross the picket line, while the majority of the others who responded said they would prefer to not cross the picket line but would feel compelled to do so if the University forced them back. This leaves every course in our program with partial attendance, which means classes cannot resume and deliver the same course objectives and learning goals outlined in our course syllabuses. Classes with low attendance and split cohorts means that students will not benefit from their colleagues’ contributions, while faculty are expected to reproduce the same learning conditions and outcomes for both sets of students (pre and post-strike settlement).

As a professional program, we are guided by accreditation standards that require specific pedagogical tools including, small seminars, counselling dyads, practice based seminars, field seminars and case studies that students analyze class by class in ways that build understanding and critical insight about social justice concerns. Each course and our undergraduate and graduate program as a whole depends on high levels of attendance and participation as students integrate theory and practice, so critical to social work.

Individual courses (undergraduate and graduate):

Faculty have stated that academic integrity will be lost if we attempt to carry out the guidelines specified in the Remediation Framework prior to the end of the labour disruption. We are, of course, deeply committed to remediation following the disruption and are confident that this can be done with academic, political, and moral integrity. While some individual courses at the School of Social Work will be affected more than others, if we are forced to resume classes on March 23, 2015, the integrity of the program as a whole will be compromised due to the sequential way our curriculum is designed. Individual courses are connected in a particular order that builds students’ theoretical and practice skills over time. As a result, many individual courses and our program as a whole are vulnerable to the uneven and haphazard remediation standards that run counter to academic freedom and integrity.

In our first year full year course, 175 student papers need to be graded by graduate students who are currently on the picket line; only 30% of the course grades have been submitted to this point, based on assignments that slowly prepare students for the more practice-based reflections of the final assignments. A one hour lecture is supported by tutorial assistants who attend each lecture and facilitate a two hour seminar discussion of the students’ 40 volunteer hours in local agencies, a discussion that provides the ground work for the final paper. This course is critical to providing some consistency of understanding and skill across this diverse cohort before they enter their second year.

Many of our second, third and fourth year courses are dependent upon small group discussions and presentations. These in-class experiences are the building blocks for many of the assignments that include critical reflections and research papers. These class experiences also constitute the site in which students put into practice the concrete counseling, assessment, thinking, and case management skills that they will have to demonstrate in their practicum and in their professional lives. The cancelation of classes began as many of these presentations were about to proceed. Students receive feedback from faculty members and colleagues on their presentations and paper outlines, which is reflected in their final assignments. This year the School of Social Work has also made some efforts to Indigenize our program, lining up a number of Tipi sessions with undergraduate students that have had to be canceled, while other sections have had these teachings but with no de-briefing sessions to follow.

Many of our practice courses, such as, Communications rely on student co-counselling dyads, where students are in counseling partnerships throughout the entire course. They work intimately with the same partners throughout the term to develop counselling skills. These teaching and learning techniques are crucial to the integrity of the course and remain the foundational practice course for their undergraduate social work degree. The Field Practicum office relies on the successful completion of the Communication course to determine if a student is ready and prepared for their Field Practicum. A diffused Communication course is not suitable for the purposes of the Field Office. For another upper year practice course, students engage in a case consultation that is methodically analyzed class by class, building up to the final paper. For other courses, students’ field experiences and experiential learning are shared in class, collectively reflected upon, and become the basis for a final paper. Students are expected to share organizational resources in class, as a knowledge base they can draw from as they move into the labour market. These critical discussions will not be possible without a full complement of students and will benefit some students over others. Lack of attendance is particularly concerning for students who will soon graduate, given that 75% of students in a final year undergraduate course have stated they will not cross the picket line.

Furthermore, our practice courses are central to undergraduate and graduate students successfully completing their placements and avoiding placement breakdowns.

Graduate program:

Due to the large number of our graduate students who are on strike, the School cannot sustain the academic integrity of graduate courses and the graduate program.

Similar to our undergraduate program, many courses will need substantial changes as small group discussion and seminar classes cannot be sustained with an uneven and smaller complement of students that may divided into pre- and post-strike cohorts. Some courses will need major alterations, or will be missing central components that are intended to build the situated, critical practice skills and research programs of our graduate students. For example, all of our graduate students are attempting to finish a Practice Research Paper that relies on the feedback of their peers. In one graduate course, students are learning to use a qualitative software program to build their research skills and assist them in developing their research program. For another graduate practice course, students engage in a case consultation from their practice experience that is methodically analyzed class by class, building up to the final paper. Here students are engaging in critically reflexive practices as a collective, offering supports and insights about practice related issues.

In our two year MSW program, students must complete two field placements over two years which have little room for disruption. Many students, who will not cross the picket line, will miss mandatory field seminars required by our accreditation standards and put their first and second year program at risk. They cannot be penalized by the University for choosing to not cross the picket line, but we cannot meet our accreditation standards unless they attend these seminars. It is therefore the case that the LAPS Remediation Framework compromises the School of Social Work’s accreditation with the Canadian Association for Social Work Education. This is the most egregious example of this compromising, but the same can be argued for the Remediation Framework’s undermining of our capacity to scaffold students’ collaborative skills, critical reflection practice skills, and counselling practice skills.

Field / Practicum

Field placements are a central part of undergraduate and graduate education. Attending field seminars requires mandatory attendance from undergraduate student and striking graduate students, who cannot graduate unless they successfully complete their practicums. Again, students absent from seminars will miss out on critical problem solving and critical incident case studies that jeopardize the integrity of the course and the program. Reflective papers are also built upon these discussions. The disruption of student placements may also put our agency relationships at risk. These relationships are very difficult to foster and maintain when four Schools of Social Work compete for local agency placements, as in the GTA.

Ethics:

Being forced to cross the picket line to go back into the classroom not only undermines the academic integrity of our courses and curriculum, it contradicts the mission statement of the School of Social Work. In trying to assume normal activities in the face of a strike, the university is operating in ways that run counter to respected democratic values and principles. This action damages the university community by pitting us against each other instead of reaching a quick settlement.

Because of our concerns with academic integrity, with our practicums, with our graduate programs, with safety issues, and because of ethical concerns the majority of faculty cannot support the resumption of classes on March 23, 2015. We urge the administration to focus its energies on settling the labour dispute with Units 1 and 3 of CUPE 3903 first and foremost, and providing a remediation plan that upholds the academic integrity of our programs.

The School of Social Work Announcement (March 23)

Faculty members of the School of Social Work called a meeting and a passed a motion:
In an urgent meeting of the faculty, a majority of the School of Social Work voted to oppose the resumption of classes until the CUPE3903 strike is resolved, and urges the administration to come to a quick settlement with CUPE 3903. (nine in favour, four abstained).

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