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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 1997

Profs not accountable to "management rights"

In November the CAUT Bulletin published a report on a joint conference of the Canadian Association of University Business Officers and Academic Vice-Presidents (Conference Had No Place For Faculty). The report quoted the following attack on the CAUT in a document circulated at the meeting:

"CAUT has executed a brilliant campaign over the last two decades or so. CAUT formulated a strong ideological agenda, centrally coordinated, internally coherent and managed to have this package installed in the collective agreements or faculty agreements of just about all Canadian universities. Severe curtailments of management rights were achieved in this fashion...."

In reply to the report (Closed Conference a Misperception, Jan. 1997), CAUBO did not repudiate or qualify this statement. Nor has any V-P academic since its publication.

Disturbing questions arise. "Management rights" is a concept drawn from the private sector. It includes the unilateral rights of management to control all activities in the work place and all decisions to restructure. All employees have under these management rights the legal "duty to obey."

We need to ask: What CAUT policies have resulted in "severe curtailment of management rights?" Are CAUT policies on academic freedom and tenure the "severe" abridgement of these rights?

Certainly, they "curtail management rights" by ruling out the "duty to obey" in matters of academic freedom and in protecting the security of academic positions from "management rights."

Do university business officers and V-P’s academic, then, seek to affirm private-sector management rights over academic freedom and tenure? Surely not. But then what do they mean by this term which has a well-known legal meaning?

Before a bizarre presumption advances further, university business officers and V-P’s academic need to be reminded of a basic fact. University faculty are accountable to university constitutions and to the advancement and dissemination of learning. They are not accountable to "management rights." The problem seems to be that university administrative functionaries have confused their publicly delegated authority to sign budgets within the university with rights over budgets as a form of market property. This is an absurd and usurpacious confusion. It must not be allowed to let pass.

John McMurtry
Philosophy, University of Guelph