Category Archives: Corporate University

Call for Papers: The Labour of COVID section of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labour

Call for Papers: The Labour of COVID section of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labour

 As instructors and students brace for a fall semester taught on-line, the effects of COVID on the labour of post-secondary learning continue to set in. Course outlines and assessment criteria are being reworked. Students wrestle with rising tuition and the prospects of prolonged periods of unemployment. As recent Canadian Association of University Teachers survey results suggest, the pandemic is making higher education even less tenable for current and prospective students. International students stuck in their home countries will be forced to participate in classes across time zones. Research programs are being put on hold. Making matters worse, the gutting of teaching and learning resources at some universities have forced administrators to piece together support for instructors and staff ill-equipped to make the transition on-line. Workloads have increased.  But in the midst of this crisis, some post-secondary institutions seek opportunity to advance particular agendas. It was only after significant backlash from students and lecturers that the UK’s Durham University halted its attempt at providing online-only degrees in its effort to significantly cut in-person teaching. In Alberta, the government has merely delayed a performance-based funding model as a result of COVID, signaling that austerity, not improving the quality of education, is driving policy decisions. Meaningful interventions by faculty associations have been limited as the collegial governance process is sidelined for the sake of emergency pandemic measures. And what of academic and support staff who face increase workloads and the prospects of limited child care when the fall semester resumes? To this concern, what are the gendered effects of COVID? What do these circumstances mean for precariously employed sessional and term instructors? This special edition of Workplace invites all academic workers to make sense of COVID through a work and employment lens. Possible themes include:

  • Faculty association responses to a shift towards on-line education
  • “Mission creep” and the lure of distant learning for post-secondary institutions: opportunities and threats
  • The gendered and racialized implications of COVID in the classroom and on campus
  • Implications for sessionals, adjuncts and the precariously employed
  • COVID and workplace accommodations: from child care to work refusals
  • Student experiences and responses
  • COVID and performance-based funding policies
  • COVID and the collective bargaining process
  • Internationalization and the COVID campus

Aim and Scope: Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor is a refereed, electronic, open access journal published by a collective of scholars in critical higher education promoting a new dignity in academic work. Contributions are aimed primarily at higher education workplace activism and dialogue on all issues of academic labour.

Invitations: Contributions from all ranks of academic workers – from tenured and tenure stream to graduate students, sessional instructors, contract faculty, and administrative support staff – are encouraged to submit.

Deadlines: Submissions will be considered for peer review and publications on a rolling basis. The final deadline is February 28, 2021. A complete volume of The Labour of COVID will be complete and made available in the spring of 2021. Formatting and submission guidelines can be found here

Please direct questions about the special issue to Dr. Andrew Stevens at



The Fear Created by Precarious Existence in The Neoliberal World Discourages Critical Thinking / La peur créée par l’existence précaire dans le monde néolibéral décourage la pensée critique

E. Wayne Ross, co-editor of Critical Education,  was recently interviewed about the impact of neoliberal capitalism on schools, universities, and education in general by Mohsen Abdelmoumen, an Algerian-based journalist.

Over the course of the interview he discussed a wide-range of issues, including: the fundamental conflict between neoliberalism and participatory democracy; the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) and the possibilities of transforming schools and universities into forces for progressive change and, in particular, academic freedom and free speech on campus, schools as illusion factories, curriculum as propaganda; what it means to be a dangerous citizen; and the role of intellectuals/teachers as activists.

The interview has been published in English and French, links below.

The Fear Created by Precarious Existence in The Neoliberal World Discourages Critical Thinking –  American Herald Tribune

La peur créée par l’existence précaire dans le monde néolibéral décourage la pensée critique – Algérie Résistance II

La peur créée par l’existence précaire dans le monde néolibéral décourage la pensée critique – Palestine Solidarité


Revisiting “First Survival University” Via Keith Melville’s Book on the “Fielding Model”

Revisiting “First Survival University” Via Keith Melville’s Book on the “Fielding Model”

By Four Arrows 

 I think it’s important to spend a few minutes pondering what happened on November 8, a date that might turn out to be one of the most important in human history, depending on how we react. (The new administration) is dedicated to racing as rapidly as possible toward the destruction of organized human life. There is no historical precedent for such a stand.

—Noam Chomsky (from an interview with C.J. Polychroniou entitled “Trump in the Whitehouse”)

 On June 16, 2015, Truthout published a piece entitled “The First Survival University?” It was about the effort of the president of Fielding Graduate University (FGU) to create a vision and mission for its new school of leadership studies that would orient all coursework to specific social/ecological justice, diversity and ecological sustainability topics in recognition of the serious threats to human surviving and thriving. As Chomsky’s quote above indicates, such education is especially important in light of the incoming Trump administration. This plus the recent publication of Melville’s book about the history of FGU’s founding vision offer a timely and perhaps persuasive opportunity for revisiting the Truthout article’s hopeful premise.

The proposed curriculum the FGU president offered focused on students and faculty working toward creative and well-studied solutions to four of what the president’s team considered to be the most important challenges facing the world today. These included:

  1. The growing gap between the rich and poor and other related inequities
  2. Climate change issues
  3. Increasing scarcity of natural resources
  4. Racial, religious and political conflict and violence

The specificity of such a vision was a courageous approach that might indeed have made FGU the first university to truly focus doctoral education on human survival. However the question mark in the title of the essay conveyed the understanding of the article’s author that there would be pushback that might prevent university wide acceptance of the vision. In fact shortly after publication, the faculty tabled it, suggesting a significantly watered down option that no longer focused exclusively on the four survival issues nor even exclusively on justice and sustainability. Eventually, however, a worthy, if still less concrete, vision did emerge. The FGU website now boasts a vision that states “We are an innovative global community dedicated to educating scholars, leaders, and practitioners in pursuit of a more just and sustainable world.” The mission aligns as it should with the vision and reads:

We provide exemplary interdisciplinary programs within a distributed and relational learning model grounded in student-driven inquiry and leading to enhanced knowledge. This community of scholar-practitioners addresses personal, organizational, societal, ecological, and global concerns in pursuit of a more just and sustainable world (FGU website).

Whether or not this vision and mission actually leads to FGU pursuing a more just and sustainable world still remains to be seen. However, my read of Melville’s new book, A Passion for Adult Learning: How the Fielding Model is Transforming Doctoral Education, offers some hope that FGU can still achieve a level of commitment worthy of being the first doctoral program focusing on human surviving and thriving in the throes of our facing possible mass extinction. This said, I do not intend for this essay to be a book review. Suffice it to say that Melville’s thorough, graceful writing about Fielding’s unique and continuing experiment in higher education engaged me as might any well-told story. Rather, I use his historical description and interpretive analysis to underscore his more subtle references to Fielding’s early innovative commitment to justice and diversity, a commitment that is still “in the woodwork.” My goal is to to use the history of Fielding that Melville presents to accept the challenge he describes himself:

While Fielding has demonstrated its emphasis on social change through the personal and professional commitments of faculty, students and alums, the challenge has been to embed this commitment in the curriculum so it is an integral part of the program for all students. Honoring this commitment has become more difficult as students feel increased pressure to reduce their time to degree completion (p.138).

Early on in Melville’s book he refers to how the three main “visionary” founders of Fielding (Hallock Hoffman, Renate Tesch, Frederic Hudson, Marie Fielder and Don Bushnell) asked themselves fundamental questions about adult education such as “What is higher education’s purpose” and “Does it make sense to organize higher education according to academic disciplines” (p.21)? Their answers led to a model for education which “emphasizes the practical application of knowledge in the context of social practice” (p.27). For Hudson, whose own dissertation “explored individual responsibility for social justice”, there was a “connection between doctoral education and social and political action” (p.36).

Hoffman, along with another early contributor to the forming of the Fielding model, Don Bushnell, had spent years “practicing a form of lay therapy called Re-evaluation Counseling” that helped people undue past hurts in ways that would increase their “potential to create a more peaceful and non-exploitive society” (p.51). Hoffman, according to a personal conversation I had with Don Bushnell, was also a fan of Robert Redfield, the University of Chicago researcher who pioneered social anthropology and wrote about what he considered to be the tragic consequences of a dominant Western worldview having taken over an Indigenous worldview that had guided humanity for most of its history. Bushnell claimed that part of the naming of Fielding came from honoring the work of Mary Fielder and Robert Redfield.

Marie Fielder herself was “a scholar, activist, and feminist, and an authority on action research who was nationally recognized as an influential leader in the field of diversity…She recognized Fielding’s potential to serve…the values to which she was devoted: a commitment to social and environmental justice, to diversity and social change.”

As for Renate Tesch, who was one of the three originating founders along with Hoffman and Hudson, brought an emphasis on rigorous qualitative dissertation research to the program. “When Renate died in 1994, twenty years after the founding of Fielding, she was memoralized for her many contributions to Fielding, and for her unflagging commitment as a feminist and a scholar” (p.53).

According to Melville, the founders saying they all wanted to “create a different kind of learning community in which scholarship and practice are closely joined” (p.60). They intended that “higher education was not just to help individuals prepare for their careers.” It was to “serve a public purpose” (p.136). Melville reveals how growing competition, accreditation standards and other political influences in recent years have compromised on the early Fielding vision. He admits that “finding a way to honor both its commitment to high intellectual standards and its commitment to social change has been an on-going challenge” and that the “public purposes have not consistently been reflected in the curriculum of Fielding’s programs” (p.137). Although he believes the “strong commitment to social justice, racial equality and ecological sustainability shared by most faculty has been expressed in various initiatives” (p. 137), he reveals some concerns in his sixth chapter, “Mission Drift (Utopia Visions and Contested Commitments).”

He opens this chapter with a quote from Hallock Hoffman:

What I see as dreams of glory led us into costly errors and weakened our allegiance to our principles…I intend to refurbish the Fielding country, to recapture the essence of the Fielding culture from the erosion that has rubbed off its sharp edges, to denounce and thwart ambitions to make Fielding seem important and successful to people who judge us by non-Fielding values P. 143).

In this chapter Melville writes about the “utopian aspirations” of the founders and the era in which Fielding was started. He describes it as “a period of unusual social and political turmoil,” a “flowing distrust of authority” and a “yearning for instituional reinvention” (p.146). He speaks of Hallock Hoffman asking “Must institutions inevitably move from charisma to bureaucracy and hence become routinized and abstract?” In Chapter 9, his last chapter, Melville offers several responses to this question. The one pertinent to the theme of this paper relates to “reviving education’s public purpose” (p. 196). He writes, “Today, that public purpose has receded. College and graduate degrees are most often regarded as a private good, as career-enhancers-an experience that individual students and their families purchase to further their own ecological and professional prospects” (p. 196). He then closes the chapter with a quote from Hoffman about imagining Fielding anew.

What strikes me about the quote is how it can have two meanings today. Hoffman says (in his speech at the 10th Fielding celebration that “it is harder to imagine anew when you first have to put a present reality our of your mind, and it is harder to turn dreams into actions when hundreds of men and women already possess well developed expectations of continuity” (p.200). One meaning is that we have become hypnotized by educational hegemony so thoroughly at this point in time that the status-quo seems best. Another is that there is now an awakening of such hegemonic realities caused by the coverage of the Trump administration’s stated ambitions its selected functionaries for them. If this becomes the present reality that people perceive, then it should not be more difficult to let go of any expectations of continuity.

If beginning in 2017, FGU is again positioned to realize and act upon the priorities and commitments required for becoming “the first survival university.” I know of no other doctoral programs offer this highest opportunity for social change leaders, that are so close to becoming once again a pioneer for the next decade’s educational needs.











suggested by the words of Hallock Hoffman at Fielding’s tenth anniversary celebration that Melville uses for the final paragraph of his book:

Do private programs belong at public universities?

The University of Victoria has contracted with the Canadian telecom giant Telus to deliver a “customized” MBA program to Telus employees.

Telus executives will be teaching some of the courses; the instructors from UVic will apparently be teaching on contracts separate from their regular employment with the university. The details are sketchy because the agreement between the UVic and Telus is secret.

Here’s university’s press release on the new program, which is offered in the Sardul S. Gill Graduate School within UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business. The program gets started this month.

The program is the brain child of Telus’s “Chief Envisioner,” Dan Pontefract. Pontefract described the context and goals of the program in an Forbes magazine article this past August, “Going Back To School With A Corporate MBA Program.” (A Huffington Post version of the article appeared in September, “Why Corporations Should Launch Their Own MBA Programs“).

Victoria’s Times-Colonist and The Tyee have also run articles about the program.

Neither Telus nor UVic have (or plan to) release details of the financial agreement, as The Times-Colonist reports

As for the revenue, neither Telus nor UVic would divulge what Telus is paying. Klein noted all costs, including establishing the program and its infrastructure, tuition and overhead costs, were being covered by Telus and there is also a financial consideration that amounts to a profit for the school.

The program raises a raft of questions about academic governance, academic freedom, the vulnerability of public universities to corporate incursions as a result of budget slashing governments.

This program represent the next step in the ever evolving corporatization of the university, another neoliberal education policy that socializes costs and privatizes benefits.

I appeared on CBC Radio’s The 180 with Jim Brown (along with Pontefract) to discuss the UVic/Telus MBA program and the  corporatization of academe.

The 12 minute segment will be broadcast tomorrow (October 4, 2015), but you can stream the segment online now: Do private programs belong at public universities?

Steven Salaita – First Peoples, Palestine, and the Crushing of Free Speech (Talks at SFU & UBC)

First Peoples, Palestine, and the Crushing of Free Speech

Monday, January 12 at 7:30pm
SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings Street, Segal Rooms; Vancouver, BC
Facebook EVENT

Wednesday, January 14 at 5:00pm
Coach House at Green College, UBC; 6201 Cecil Green Park Road (off NW Marine Drive, opposite Chan Centre and Rose Parkade)
Facebook EVENT

A talk by Professor Steven Salaita, who is at the centre of an international protest against academic censorship.

Salaita, author of six books and many articles, was “unhired” from a tenured position in American Indian studies at the University of Illinois when donors pressured the university because of Salaita’s tweets on his personal Twitter account about the Gaza massacre last summer.

Because this action is widely recognized as part of a broad effort to silence voices for Palestinian rights and justice, and as one incident in the long history of colonial treatment of indigenous peoples, the case has attracted international attention.

Salaita’s books will be available at this event.

Steven Salaita & Academic Censorship“: an interview on Voice of Palestine

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.


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.


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!

Manifesto for universities that live up to their missions

Manifesto for universities that live up to their missions (to sign click here)

Publicly subsidized universities ought to fulfil three missions – teaching, research, and service to the community – as defined by their objectives and their mutual implication.

For signatories of the present manifesto these missions have the following objectives:

  • preserving knowledge as accumulated through history, producing new knowledge and passing on both old and new knowledge to as many students as possible along with the questions they have prompted;
  • training students in research methodologies, in critical analysis of the social consequences of scientific issues, practices and findings, in the development of free thinking, avoiding any form of dogma, with the common good as an objective as well as the acquisition of competence for a responsible professional activity;
  • contributing to the reflection of social systems on themselves, particularly on the kind of model they use for their own development.

Nowadays current modes of governance in universities run against the above definition of what a university ought to be. Their mantras are efficiency, profitability, competitiveness. Universities are invited to become the agents of maximum production in as little time as possible, to turn out scientists and professionals that are competitive, flexible and adapted to market demands – the improvement of humanity is then measured in terms of economic growth and technical breakthroughs, and the progress of universities in terms of ‘critical mass.’

Consequently, universities are subjected to more and more frequent international evaluations and audits that measure their respective productivity and contribute to their positions in various rankings.

Though they do not deny that university practices and their effects have to be assessed, the signatories note that current evaluations are based on narrow criteria, that are often formal and fashioned on standardized practices; that the competition they foster among universities leads to a race to publish, with the number of published papers sometimes prevailing on their interest; that procedures involve cumbersome red tape with recurrent reminders that the logic universities have to comply with is the logic of markets and globalization.

Beyond the minimum endowments granted to universities, the selection of research that can be financed is largely determined by calls for tenders and the size and reputation of the teams that apply. Such a situation distorts the purpose of university research, which ought to be open to projects carried by small, relatively unknown teams. Rather, it favours the submission of well presented projects rather than of projects that could further knowledge.

Subsidies granted to universities often depend on student populations. In the case of a closed envelope, this leads to ‘hunting for students,’ which in turn may entail a lesser quality teaching as well as the risk of doing away with important but small departments.

University teachers are expected to explain what profession-related forms of expertise they are to develop in students. While it is imperative to teach students the skills they will need in their professional activities, highlighting these skills might lead teachers to overly stress utilitarian and saleable knowledge at the expense of basic sciences and of reflexive and critical knowledge.

The involvement of university staff in domestic management and representation is more and more numerous and encroaches on services to society at large.

The above mentioned elements contribute to increase the strain to which university staff are subjected and may possibly destroy the ideals of once passionate teachers and researchers.

To support their vision of the university, the signatories of the present manifesto call for the following measures:

  • making sure that university research is allowed the kind of freedom that is necessary to any finding, the right to waver and the right to fail;
  • reaching a correct balance between critical and operational knowledge and between general and profession-related skills in the various study courses offered by the universities;
  • promoting services to society;
  • reining in the production of red-tape, the rat-race and other stress factors that prevent university staff from carrying out their duties properly;
  • assessing university practices and their consequences in view of the specific objectives of universities and not of market expectations.

To meet these requirements they consider that it is necessary:

  • to assert the objectives of the university as defined above;
  • to provide global subsidies for higher education;
  • to use criteria for awarding public money that promote diversity in research and that preserve the quality and plurality of study courses on offer.

They call upon:

Public authorities and academic bodies to recognize that universities ought to try and achieve objectives that are in tune with their identity and social function, and provide the means thereof;

University staff to oppose measures and practices that go against the positions defined in this manifesto; to promote an in-depth analysis of the growing unease among university staff, of its causes and of possible solutions; to participate in concrete actions – to be decided on depending on contexts – to put forward their positions and proposals wherever necessary; to support movements and actions outside the university that aim at the common good.

(to sign click here)

Chomsky sounds off… the assault on public education

Not a new message, but a good op ed nonetheless. Chomsky describes the “failure by design” that has lead to the current financial crises in higher education, including the lack of public moneys to fund PUBLIC education, as well as the push for privitization, and the corporatization of higher education.