May 26th 2020 Academic Council Update
Last week on May 26, Academic Council (AC) met to, among other items, discuss a motion presented as a Notice of Motion at the previous March 28 meeting. The purpose of the motion was to bring clarity on a number of issues moving forward which were of concern to most faculty, such as academic freedom in teaching and research. The proposed motion was:
Whereas emergency measures have been declared for the Province on Ontario regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and whereas the Ontario Tech University will begin to re-open only based on the guidance of Public Health Ontario, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, or other provincial officials, it is moved that Academic Council recognizes that Ontario Tech University needs to be prepared to deliver courses in an emergency remote mode as may be necessary in Fall 2020. Furthermore, that Ontario Tech University will return to established modes of teaching as soon as possible after Ontario Public Health declares this as safe.
At the Steering Committee of AC (SCAC) it was decided to alter the motion – making it two motions – separating out the final sentence. To be clear, Francis and Francis Rules of Order clearly do not support alterations outside the body where it was presented. Only Members of AC can vote to amend motions, presented from the floor, if they felt a split was necessary. Using mover’s privilege, Hannah Scott agreed to accept the separation, and chose to focus the discussion about the motion.
It was evident that the Employer, through various offices, had begun the process of addressing the issues raised in the motion. The President, as Chair of AC, made mention of budgetary projections and attempts to balance the budget. These assertions were made on projections, not actual financial statements, so actual financial implications to the university are not yet known. Steven Murphy also talked about fostering an environment of academic freedom and collegial discussion. In the discussion of the motion, specifically on a question concerning issue of mode of delivery of classes, President Murphy specifically stated that academic freedom was an important consideration, and that he doesn’t want imposed modes trampling on the freedom of faculty members to teach as they see fit.
The result of a long and collegial discussion was an amended first motion which was passed unanimously:
Whereas emergency measures have been declared for the Province of Ontario regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and Whereas the Ontario Tech University will begin to re-open only based on the guidance of Public Health Ontario, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, or other provincial officials, It is moved that Academic Council recognizes that Ontario Tech University needs to be prepared to deliver courses in an emergency mode as may be necessary in the academic year 2020/2021.
Discussion of the second part of the original COVID-19 motion will happen at the next regularly scheduled meeting (June 23). Some AC members are already working on a re-crafted motion that reflects the spirit of faculty concerns. This draft will be ready for the next SCAC for placement on the agenda.
All meetings of AC are public. Anyone can attend and we have been seeing increased public attendance now that all meetings are online. All non-AC members are free to listen, but they cannot comment or vote. But you are able to channel any comments you may have to any of your Elected members of AC. Links to these meetings, agendas, and meeting materials can be found here: https://usgc.ontariotechu.ca/governance/academic-council/ac-meeting-material/2019-2020/index.php