BUFA Seeks to Preserve Educational Quality at Brock
Linking Students’ Learning Conditions to the Working Conditions of Professors and Professional Librarians
is Key to Preserving Educational Quality and Improving the Student Experience
The Collective Agreement between Brock University and the Brock University Faculty Association recognizes that it is in the best interest of the University that the lion’s share of courses be taught by full-time continuing faculty engaged in teaching, research, and service activities. However, in recent years, Brock’s Administration has attempted to undermine this longstanding consensus by refusing to replace retirements in some units and filling vacancies with precariously-employed part-time instructors rather than full-time professors.
As a result, BUFA is proposing in collective bargaining that the university maintain the current cap on courses taught by non-BUFA members and do away with two exemptions to the cap. Exemptions have the effect of increasing the number of non-BUFA members teaching courses which can undermine educational quality and the student experience.
Article 19 of the Collective Agreement governs our teaching complement. The Article mandates that no more than 14 percent of credit courses can be taught by non-BUFA members, with the exception of the Faculty of Education, where the share of non-BUFA teaching can be nearly 49%.
Over several rounds of collective bargaining, Brock’s Administration has attempted to increase the share of non-BUFA contract-based teaching positions at the expense of tenure-stream or even limited term appointments. These demands from the Administration have been proposed in the name of managerial “flexibility” without any concern for the negative effect such changes may have on the quality of educational experience or the core academic mission of the University.
Over time, a shift to sessional teaching positions threatens to undermine the student experience by reducing the share of faculty members who are, among other things, reasonably available to students for consultation, reference writing, thesis supervisions, and reading courses. Increasing the use of sessional instructors also reduces the proportion of faculty members available to undertake the administrative tasks that are essential for Brock to function resulting in ever-increasing amounts of administrative work for a shrinking number of full-time continuing faculty.
The proliferation of sessional appointments has had a disproportionately negative effect on the Faculty of Humanities where the share of non-BUFA teaching is roughly two and a half times higher than the university’s 14 percent cap. Such a disproportionate burden is why BUFA is proposing to introduce additional Faculty-based caps.
The issue of faculty and professional librarian complement is a key area of concern for BUFA because the number of full-time positions has declined in recent years despite a growing student population and an explosion in the size of the University’s senior administration. Administrative bloat drains resources away from the University’s core academic mission of teaching and research.
Paying for this growing administrative cadre by not replacing faculty and professional librarian retirements will compound Brock’s reputational challenges in relation to research capacity. Full-time faculty play a key role in securing external research grants and leading research initiatives that engage both graduate and undergraduate students. When a growing proportion of full-time faculty are replaced by part-time instructors on four-month contracts, the University’s strategic priority of expanding research capacity is undermined.
Expanding research capacity, preserving educational quality, and enhancing the student experience are key to building a better Brock. We need to recognize the link between students’ learning conditions and BUFA members’ working conditions. Universities should be model employers – and that is why BUFA is seeking firm commitments from the Administration to replace BUFA member retirements with full-time positions rather than precarious contract-based appointments.