Mar 04 2009

Report Back from Board of Governors

Category: News,Post-strike Discussion (2009)Bob Hanke @ 3:42 pm

By Ben Nelson

Opening business concerned VP Academic Embleton’s replacement, Patrick Monahan, effective July 1. It is not mentioned that the installation of Mr. Monahan (Dean of Osgoode Law School) brings about an all-male slate of VPs. At this point, Shoukri ominously observed that the new appointment would be a change in leadership dynamics from the outgoing Embleton. Then he made a weird remark, i.e., how he  “hasn’t changed his mind about York and its enormous potential” (who was?).

The rest of the meeting was broken down into a three part presentation by Shoukri, Gary Brewer, and Rob Tiffin.

Shoukri’s remarks had three topics: post-strike healing, the FLAPS appointment controversey, and the effects of the global financial recession on York. I’ll concentrate on the CUPE related stuff, though I have notes on the other stuff too.

Shoukri’s main concerns about the post-strike environment were with the effects of the strike on students. A generous anonymous donator has given 2.5 million to the school, to be spent on five hundred 5000$ scholarships. Though he acknowledged that relations between everyone on campus need to be improved, including labor relations,and that he plans to set up a “task force” to look at labor relations after the settlement has been reached. Later on in answer to questions, he continued to stress that “he does not do labor relations”, evidently without any intended irony.

Shoukri recognized that there is a wide perception that the admin didn’t do anything in the strike period by saying, “Whether or not we agreed that work was done during strike, the most important job to do is after strike”, i.e., to build bridges. He cited the example of the two town hall meetings post-strike (one on remediation, the other an open forum). He recognized that there were a lot of repeated questions and bitterness, given the way those meetings went. Still, he believes that he has arrived at mechanisms to heal the  community, though I’m not sure what mechanisms he had in mind.

Shoukri stressed that he has consulted widely with full-time faculty, and “will not give up on” open competition hiring. Threats to that (sp. our early-October proposal to grant automatic tenure by seniority) will be vigorously opposed.

Everyone in the room was surprised when Shoukri gave a presentation on the makeup of contract faculty to the university. He indicated that contract faculty do 30% of the teaching at the university. (I have no idea where the 30% figure comes from, since the York Factbook says more than 50%. There may be funny business with these numbers). Anyway, he showed a graph that displayed the breakdown of Unit 2 by seniority: there are many people who have just joined, and many people who have 8+ years. He described job security as a “valid concern”, and that when presented with the figures on the high number of contract positions, that he had “never seen anything like that”. He also indicated, however, that many contract workers have “little day to day interaction with York”, since they work elsewhere: i.e., 226 are teaching only one half course. However, 295 teach 1 full course, 119: 2 courses, 61: 3 courses, 43: 4 courses, 28: 5 courses, 8: more than 5 courses. With respect to those teaching at the higher course loads, he
went so far as to agree that they are doing full-time work, or “beyond full-time work”, at the university. Although none of this is especially surprising to our members, there were widespread o-faces around the table, with exclamations like “I can’t believe it!”, etc. The fact that this is happening only now should probably tell you something about how invested these people are in the university as such.

Finally, he indicated that replacement of retirements needs to be done, which may involve cutting entire programs. It should be noted, though, that I personally asked Sheila Embleton to find the rates of hiring for tenure-track positions and compare them to retirement rates. I had to look it up because nobody on Senate has bothered to look up the rates. Surprisingly, it turns out that our tenure-track appointments have more than kept up with retirements — they have actually been surpassing retirements in some years by a significant amount (in 03-04, they were more than double the number of retirements).

I’ve asked Sheila to take a look at the departmental composition of the retirements, so that we might see if there is covert job shifting between faculties.