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CAUT Bulletin Archives

April 1997

Accountability to management rights

I was delighted to read John McMurtry’s timely letter in the February CAUT Bulletin. A general debate on the question of management rights in the university context is much needed and I hope that Dr. McMurtry’s letter will trigger such discussion at a national level.

Accountability and collegiality should be closely intertwined within a community of scholars and the insinuation of unilateral management rights is alien to the functioning of an institution which has such a unique position in society. Management rights stem from a very different working environment in the private and public sectors and imposition of this concept on universities must be accompanied by their being subjected to spurious values. Historically major policy decisions and evaluation of such policies have rested with the scholars of a university who are best aware of the direction of developments within their academic disciplines. In such a context the relationship between scholars and university administration must be a very sensitive two-way interaction, otherwise the creative role of universities will be seriously impaired as will their economic potential. Do university collective agreements have to adopt practices which reflect the commercial sector but are destructive of the special qualities of universities?

University collective agreements should strive to replace the concept of management rights and the confrontational attitudes that stem from it, by defining more constructive collegial administrative relationships with faculty. Traditionally the role of university administration has been facilitative and supportive and this is still so in some of the finest universities; perhaps it is time that all Canadian administrations resume this role. I hope that CAUT will create the opportunity to debate this issue.

Derek Burton
Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland