Speech by Elizabeth Dauphinee to LA&PS Faculty Council Reply

The following is the speech by Elizabeth Dauphinee to LA&PS Faculty Council as the mover of the first motion.

What we have seen in the last 3 weeks from the University has shaken my faith in its commitment to the rights of individual faculty and of collective bodies to make decisions that are their undeniable prerogative. To date, a number of LAPS units, including my own department of Political Science, have moved to continue the suspension of their classes on grounds that academic integrity is compromised under the current conditions. While this right was affirmed in Senate on Thursday, the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies has sent directives to its individual units preventing them from communicating their collective and individual decisions to students.

Some of our most vulnerable colleagues – that is, YUSA and YUTA members in LAPS and at Glendon – are being instructed to visit our classrooms to determine whether professors are or are not teaching. I have been informed by my undergraduate director that my communication updates to my students can no longer be sent through the department. In other words, we are being actively prevented from communicating through our listservs to our own students.[*] All of this produces an environment of mistrust and fear, and demonstrates a profound disrespect for the long-standing collegial relationships between staff, students, and faculty that form one of this University’s core strengths.

It is not merely disappointing, but devastating, that, instead of bargaining, the University appears to have chosen to mobilize its resources against its own faculty, students, and staff.

I understand from the Chair of Council that we cannot discuss safety in this chamber because it is the purview of Senate. I want to make two points with respect to this: firstly, The Chair of Senate stated in the Senate meeting of Monday, March 16, that safety was NOT the purview of Senate, so there is some lack of clarity around this. But more importantly, it is not possible to talk about academic integrity without acknowledging the extent to which violence against CUPE members on the picket lines, and the feelings of insecurity among returning students, are factors that prevent them from returning to class. It is the responsibility of the University to provide a workplace free from violence, threats, and intimidation. The University is clearly aware of the incidents on the picket lines that have in at least one case sent a CUPE member to hospital. Video footage of dangerously enraged drivers assaulting CUPE picketers has circulated on many lists, and many if not all of us have seen this footage. The decision to resume classes has clearly increased that pressure, and clearly increased the risks to safety of all community members. To make a student choose between personal safety and the integrity of her education is not the behavior of a responsible institution – it is the behaviour of an intransigent leadership that is not capable of admitting its errors and correcting its course. It is also the behavior of an institution which is incapable of learning from its past experience with labor disruptions.

The decision to resume classes in LAPS – and to do things like decide on the exam period before the strike has ended – and the fact that this is reported to be the only exam period the University plans to provide – represents a profound disregard of Senate policy 008, which protects students’ rights to not cross the picket lines.

I am disturbed by what I consider to be the reactionary use of out of order rulings to vacate motions passed by the collegial bodies of this institution. I am referring here to the post facto vacating of the motion passed at the Faculty of Graduate Studies council last Thursday. That motion reaffirmed that FGS is an independent academic body and must be permitted to craft its own remediation framework in consultation with its constituent faculty members. So, here we have further evidence that the assurances from Senate that collegial bodies and individual faculty members are entitled to make decisions around academic integrity are actually contradicted by the actions of the University leadership. I expect nothing different here, but I hope I will be proven wrong.

As a result of these factors, and others which I hope we can discuss, I am bringing forward this motion, which was crafted with a number of LAPS colleagues, to immediately restore the rights of individual faculty and collegial bodies in their remit to make decisions regarding academic integrity and remediation, and that all members of the university community should be protected from reprisal, threats, and intimidation as a result of the exercise of these protected freedoms.

I understand that everyone has the text of the motion, so I will not present you with the preamble – but there has been a minor change to the wording of the motion, so I will ask people to follow along and take note of it:

The Council of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies calls upon the University to take immediate steps to restore the rights of individual faculty and collegial bodies to make decisions regarding academic integrity and remediation, and to protect all members of the University community from reprisal or intimidation for the exercise of these rights.

[*]  We were informed by the Chair of Political Science after LAPS council that we could resume our departmental communications with our students regarding the strike and its impact on our classes.

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