“It is with deep regret that we voice our opposition to the extension of the current president’s term due to his systemic deepening of the democratic deficit in collegial governance at UOIT, his targeted interventions against the career advancement of senior female faculty, and his sequestering of significant financial surpluses while diminishing UOIT’s academic mission.”
14 April 2015
Chair, Board of Governors
University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Dear Ms. Raymond,
I am writing on behalf of the UOIT Faculty Association, which represents tenured, tenure-track and teaching faculty at UOIT. Thank you for this opportunity to offer commentary on the renewal of Tim McTiernan’s presidency and a presidential mandate moving forward.
It is with deep regret that we voice our opposition to the extension of the current president’s term due to his systemic deepening of the democratic deficit in collegial governance at UOIT, his targeted interventions against the career advancement of senior female faculty, and his sequestering of significant financial surpluses while diminishing UOIT’s academic mission. Five years ago when President McTiernan arrived, faculty members at UOIT were inspired by the vision for the university they had been part of creating – they took both pride in their role as modern academic pioneers and tremendous satisfaction in the contributions they were making to education and society at large. Today, faculty members are more often treated as an annoyance than anything else. There is no cohesive vision for the university and instead innovation has been replaced by a recycled, outdated and tired model, which has siphoned off any prospect for UOIT to distinguish itself in any meaningful way.
We have received a number of complaints from faculty members over the lack of anonymity in this process. Given the significant power dynamic here, it is unfortunate that the most basic standards of peer review have not been adequately upheld. As one faculty member aptly noted:
I find the evaluation of the presidential position using confidentiality and anonymity problematic. In this case what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. It suggests that they are not really seeking feedback from faculty and staff. How can they argue that there is a power dynamic between students and faculty on student evaluations and therefore implement anonymous evaluation to enhance “true responses” then not use anonymous responses for upper administration, which clearly exist in a power relationship with faculty? It speaks to the troubled relationship between faculty and administration, which despite the fact that they have stated there would be more transparency and healthy workplace promotion as one of their strategic goals, they have only succeeded in holding wellness classes for staff, organized by staff. This president has done little, in my opinion, to alleviate the distrust that exists between faculty and administration in this regard.
It is our view that UOIT would benefit from an administrative structure that is responsive to many voices and viewpoints; an important part of fostering this kind of culture is by building a leadership team that creates space for divergent views and free criticism rather than a culture where fear of reprisal silences debate. Not only does the lack of a confidential process for providing feedback in an environment rife with retribution cause concern, but the uncharacteristically short timeline of notification for a town hall meeting (essentially 2 business days notice) and the expectation that a decision will be made by the BOG within a month of first notice of the process raises concern.
One of the things that makes our Canadian universities strong is their long traditions of collegial governance. The University President should serve as a bridge between faculty and the administration; instead, our current president has served as a barrier. Under Tim McTiernan’s leadership, basic democratic principles of governance have been undermined, and the deficit of collegial governance has ballooned. Blatant disregard for historical UOIT practices of committee formation that included elected members, gender balances, and attention to equity issues are ignored without explanation. New policy models are almost all rigidly hierarchical and involve almost no elected representation. Letters to the BOG are deflected; BOG materials are not disseminated according to the terms of the current CA (5.02), and in accordance with freedom of information practices that govern many other public institutions. The overall effect of appointments-only committees, especially around administrative hiring, is that of contempt for the faculty. This contempt is in evidence in President McTiernan’s end of the year message: ‘Thank you for another successful year,’ where he cannot even name the hard working groups of faculty and non-academic staff who make student success possible.
As the democratic deficit at UOIT grows, the administration increases out of proportion to the institution’s needs. Instead of bringing more faculty into the decision-making fold, Tim McTiernan has created an over-bureaucratized institution for its size, including the controversial overuse of contracted-out positions in key academic areas such as the chair of tenure and promotion committee. Instead of seeking broad consensus on vitally important academic matters by engaging the university community, such as on course evaluations, Tim McTiernan’s fallback position is to present faits accomplis that substitute technocratic choices for academic deliberations.
Despite the relative newness of UOIT as a university in Ontario, the age-old traditions of transparency in academic governance and collegial process were well respected prior to Dr. McTiernan’s term. The last five years have seen a total erosion of principles central to integrity-based academic governance at UOIT. The failure to follow appropriate hiring practices in particular for members of the senior leadership team, raises serious questions about processes led by the president. In the wake of serious concerns by faculty and staff over questionable practices surrounding the renewal of their dean, the president presided over a public meeting where faculty and staff were photographed without their permission. Rather than conducting a fair and unbiased inquiry into these concerning matters, the president once again served as a barrier to a clearer understanding of how and why such things have been able to occur. This has created a serious confidence crisis for some faculty and staff in both their president and the institution where they work.
The FA is further concerned with the promotion process and the independence of the president in making decisions about promotion, as it has been clear in a few cases now that he is basing his decisions on personal attitudes about what research is and what teaching is, and not actually reading the policies and the member files whose careers depend on him to be fair, reasonable, and knowledgeable. There are very real concerns for senior faculty in this institution, and especially for female dominated disciplines where choice not to promote, based upon masculine/traditional routes of publications on paper, in a series of approved journals, sets back the university in the eyes of the public, students, and their parents.
Once upon a time this university was on a path of innovation and focused on the creation of a new vision of post-secondary education. Instead, the current president is trying to duplicate hegemonic models already many years past their best before dates.
President, UOIT Faculty Association