Local 244’s Officers and UCC Committees met with the college’s Dress Rehearsal Team for the Universities Canada test of our readiness to become a university. What follows are my after thoughts written to them.
The most passionately stated majority opinion of our representative group is that it's better to be the best college than to be a minor university; there was some consensus on the opposite minority opinion as well. The passionate decision is based on our original social obligation to train job ready, informed citizens not to coddle unmarketable, unemployed philosophers.
But here's the hitch, and the reality of our situation. The train has left the station and, going further into the metaphor, the College President is the Robber Baron railway tycoon. Yes, we are the railroad; we keep the trains running and get the passengers to their destinations. But the President draws the rail lines on the map, for now.
The topography has changed since we embarked on Jeff’s and Mary's and Steven's and their BoG's Journey. We've swelled from 350 full time Profs to almost 550, while still maintaining our 500 Prof partial-load contingent, and in only five years. This is while “all” the other Ontario colleges barely maintain, on average, their status quo of unionized teachers.
Our new hires are 99% PhDs and most are teaching university required and university level courses. Sheridan College Management has changed the facts on the ground already. If we were to go back to the original college mandate, where we excelled like no other, the 200 Profs we hired over 5 years would be laid off in as short a time as possible. The Gen Ed and Breadth Course Humanities and English teachers will be first up against the wall, followed by research and degree specialists. This would make the 1990's layoffs, for those of us who are still here, just the first chapter in a bloody nightmarish tome.
Seeing the reality of our transformation has not blinded me to my role as Union President. I am in Labour's corner, in the heavyweight division (in more ways than one, I'm afraid). Our, the Local's Union Reps, primary objective is to protect and grow the number of Professors. Second, but also critical, is to keep improving our workplace conditions, the classroom – lab – lecture hall - wages – benefits.
So, to protect jobs we must accept that the rail to becoming a university is already laid before us. And to improve our workplace conditions we must work towards attaining Academic Freedom. Not just the Academic Freedom to hold unpopular beliefs, but more so, the Academic Freedom inherent in the academic decision making for our programs – the kinds of Preparation Time and types of Evaluation Methods we use for academic delivery. Rotating ADs and Deans would be a good first step. The ‘dress rehearsal’ investigators agreed.
The quality of education is not trained. Ours is a calling between generations, between teacher and student, between people, regardless of institutional forms and follies. The quality of Sheridan's education is the best credential for our eventual self-governance, and moving from the lightweight to middleweight university division.