Category Archives: Administration

Embarrassing recent events in Canadian higher education #cdnpse #GeorgeRammell #RobertBuckingham @usask

I’ll admit to a quaint hope that universities are still places where dialogue and dissent are both possible and desirable, but two incidents in the last week leave me scratching my head. The first is the theft of professor George Rammell’s sculpture by the Capilano University administration, and the second is the firing of Robert Buckingham, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan. The issues in the two cases are not the same, but what both share is an unbelievable authoritarianism on the part of the upper administration, a willingness to trample on academic freedom and the absolute intolerance of resistance or disagreement about program cuts and restructuring. The point is not whether each of these universities plans for budget cutting and trimming are appropriate (that would be a different post), but the response to faculty and middle management who DARE to disagree with the upper administration. If this doesn’t have a chilling effect on everyone in Canadian higher education, well we are all being just too polite.

THE CASE OF THE MISSING SCULPTURE

At Capilano University there have been severe program cuts. One program area in which cuts are deep is the arts. George Rammell, sculpture instructor, used his scholarly form of expression to comment on those cuts ~ he created Blathering on in Krisendom, a work in progress  depicting Capilano University president Kris Bulcroft wrapped in a U.S. flag with a poodle. The sculpture went missing last week:

“I immediately called security and the guard told me that orders were given by the top level of the Administration to seize it. I could hardly believe my ears. The Administration had ordered my piece removed off campus to an undisclosed location, without any consultation or prior discussion. I was shocked and not sure if this was Canada,” Rammell stated (as reported in the Georgia Straight).

Jane Shackell, chair of the Board of Governors, released a statement saying that Capilano was “committed to the open and vigorous discourse that is essential in an academic community.” But she had the sculpture removed because it was “workplace harassment of an individual employee, intended to belittle and humiliate the president.” A post for another time, but this might well be the most egregious, inappropriate use of respectful workplace rhetoric to create a workplace where dialogue, dissent, and discourse are not allowed.

Of course, Rammell’s work is easy for the University to steal, but the parallel for some of us might be an administration that comes to your office and wipes all of the files for that critical analysis of higher education book you are working on from your computer. After being AWOL for a week, Capilano University has agreed to return Rammell’s work, but has banned the sculpture from campus and Rammell calls that censorship. It is and it isn’t harassment either. So much for academic freedom.

THE SILENCE OF THE DEANS

Then comes the news, Robert Buckingham, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan was fired, relieved of his professorial appointment and tenure, and escorted of the campus ~ for disagreeing publicly with the administration’s restructuring and budget cutting plan, TransformUS.

In discussions of TransformUS, middle managers were ordered to get in line and on board with the plan, and threatened if they spoke publicly against it. Here’s the email from the provost:

 

That a University would want deans who are lackeys and submissive to the upper administration’s “messaging” says a great deal about that administration. Unlike the CapU incident, this is less about academic freedom and all about the importance of maintaining an openness to dialogue and disagreement within the University. Such a heavy handed administrative approach assaults our sensibilities about how even the modern, corporatized U operates. On top of all that, the termination of Buckingham comes a mere five weeks from his retirement and is amazingly mean-spirited.

CAUT director, Jim Turk said:

What the president of the University of Saskatchewan has done is an embarrassment to the traditions and history of the University of Saskatchewan and it’s an embarrassment to post-secondary education across Canada. It’s inexcusable.

He’s right about that!

BC elementary school bans touching at recess #NoMoreTag #bced #yteubc #occupyeducation

Letter to parents: Aldergrove school says policy prompted by playground injuries

Gordon McIntyre & Ian Austin, The Province, November 5, 2013– You’ve heard the Alice Cooper lyrics “no more pencils, no more books … .” For kindergarten kids at Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School, tucked away in a remote rural area of Aldergrove, it’s no more tag, no holding hands, or you’ll get teacher’s dirty looks.

A letter went out to Coghlan kindergarten students’ parents on Friday, one of those types that often sit in backpack over a weekend or are put aside to be read later and somehow never are.

Julie Chen found the letter, explaining a new no-touch policy for kindergarten students, on Monday morning as she was packing lunch for her five-year-old daughter.

It reads, in part: “We have unfortunately had to ban all forms of handson play for the immediate future … we will have a zero-tolerance policy.”

Penalties for making physical contact with a schoolmate include being grounded during play time and/or a trip to the office “for those who are unable to follow the rules.”

“I read the letter, it said there had been quite a few injuries, I said, ‘OK,’ and kept reading,” Chen said. “When I saw no hands-on would be allowed, I just got mad, I got so upset.

“What is happening in our society when our kids aren’t even allowed to be kids any more? “Kids get hurt all the time. What are we going to do next, put them in a bubble to go to school?” Chen said she talked to other moms on Monday and most hadn’t read the letter. Based on what Chen told them, she said, they were appalled.

“I’m not going to tell my daughter she can’t push her friends on the swing,” Chen said. “Do we expect our kids to be robots? How can they possibly do this? They’re five-yearolds – you can’t stop them from running around and having physical contact.”

Read More: The Province

The final “Year of Teacher Education” in BC as we know it #bced #bcpoli #bced #education #yteubc

The most recent indicator that this will be the final “Year of Teacher Education” in BC as we know it is of course the news that brought the 2012-13 school year to an end, inaugurated the summer, and launches the new term. The news rocking the education nation is the Ontario Liberal government’s statement on Modernizing Teacher Education, released on June 5, 2013:

The new Ontario government and the Ontario College of Teachers are modernizing teacher education in the province beginning September 2015. In addition to expanding the program to two years, admissions will be reduced by 50 per cent starting in 2015. This will help address an oversupply of graduates, enabling Ontario’s qualified teachers to find jobs in their chosen field. [see Minister of Education Liz Sandals’ remarks]

For all the new teachers-to-be out there, “this will help address an oversupply of graduates” and enable “qualified teachers to find jobs.” Let’s do the math here…

Depending on your politics, Modernizing Teacher Education is either welcome and overdue, or an attack on young teachers. As Andrew Langille countered on the Youth and Work blogModernizing Teacher Education amounts to a “massive policy blunder:”

The Government of Ontario cynically decided to let universities peddle the impossible dream of becoming a teacher to thousands of students. This is how we arrived at this morning’s announcement – sustained inaction combined with frankly stupid advice from senior bureaucrats in multiple ministries over a decade – with young workers taking a hit due to the rank incompetence of their elders and leaders.

The same processes have underwritten teacher education in BC for over a decade, with admission totals simply defaulted to a quota for tuition dollars and promises of a job market demand for teachers that never materializes, as more and more graduates queue up for substitute, “teacher on call” (TOC) jobs dependent on 5:30 am phone rings to put a meager amount of bread on the next morning’s table.

The same policy blunders seem to apply in the throes of a tanking economy in BC as well, with recurrent cuts to education funding, incentives to privatize or fuel competition between public and independent or private schools, measures to erode, limit, or cut salaries and wages of public sector employees, disintegration of respect for public sector employee bargaining rights, and a sustained degradation of respect for teachers as professionals and intellectuals and as members of an effective union.

The same reactions among teacher education administrators seem to apply again, but now there is an admission that the era of denial of surplus or glut of teachers in BC is over. Following the Ontario Liberals’ announcement of 5 June, SFU Dean Kris Magnusson acknowledged: “I’d be surprised if there is a specific agenda to make some changes [in BC] but I think there’s a will to explore that supply-demand equation.”

It’s acknowledgments like this and changes like those in Ontario that point to significant changes in teacher education in BC as we know it. Although at UBC, we’ve not yet heard a candid acknowledgement of policy blunders and we are still insistent that this remains the era of “Showcasing the very best of what we do in the Faculty of Education for teacher education!

Nonetheless, this is Vancouver and time for a little rain on the UBC Faculty of Education’s parade and crashing the party. It is time to acknowledge that the teacher surplus is no longer a conversation piece removed from the Teacher Education Office’s dialogue on what it means to be or become a teacher.

Student speech in school yearbooks censored, again

Student’s yearbook from Springvalley Middle School in Kelowna

Do student comments fame or defame school yearbooks? Apparently, they defame the great works of literature. Thanks to quick-footed censorship, some middle school students’ yearbooks now read like heavily redacted wikileaks documents. In fact, last week one yearbook was leaked to the CBC, which covered the story.

CBC Radio West, June 21, 2013– Konar Sanderson just graduated from Springvalley Middle School in Kelowna. On Tuesday, he received his yearbook. But later that day, Konar says he was forced to black out some of the comments his friends signed in his yearbook. [CBC West host] Rebecca [Sandbergen] spoke with Konar and his stepfather, Tom Metz. Listen to the interview: CBC Radio West

Defenders of student speech in school yearbooks will recall a similar incident at a BC secondary school in June 2010: “A Vancouver Island principal is defending a decision to cut a Grade 10 student out of the high school yearbook because of what he said about her in his write-up. Staff at Lake Trail Secondary School used scissors to chop Brandon Armstrong’s picture and comments from about 150 copies of the annual, saving only a single intact copy for Brandon himself.”  Read More: CBC June 16, 2010

The yearbook teacher “said after trying to black-out and white-out the comment unsuccessfully, it was decided that cutting Armstrong’s entry out of every yearbook was the only reasonable option left. Armstrong’s picture also had to go because of its proximity to the text, she said.”

New Issue of Workplace Launched

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor has just published Issue #20, “The New Academic Manners, Managers, and Spaces.”  This issue includes key conceptual and empirical analyses of

  • the creation and avoidance of unions in academic and business workplaces (Vincent Serravallo)
  • the new critiquette, impartial response to Bruno Latour and Jacques Ranciere’s critique of critique (Stephen Petrina)
  • the two-culture model of the modern university in full light of the crystal, neural university (Sean Sturm, Stephen Turner)
  • alternative narratives of accountability in response to neo-liberal practices of government (Sandra Mathison)
  • vertical versus horizontal structures of governance (Rune Kvist Olsen)
  • teachers in nomadic spaces and Deleuzian approaches to curricular practice (Tobey Steeves)

We invite you to review the Table of Contents for Issue #20 for articles and items of interest. Thanks for the continuing interest in Workplace (we welcome new manuscripts here and Critical Education),

Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES)
Workplace Blog