CAUT is warning that Nova Scotia's proposed Bill 20, the Government Restructuring Act, represents a potentially unprecedented violation of university autonomy and academic freedom.
"If it applies to universities, Bill 20 would lead to an unacceptable political influence over the work we do," said CAUT president Tom Booth.
"It would permit interference over collective bargaining and academic affairs, such as the appointment and promotion processes."
The Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers says faculty members have reason to fear the sweeping impact of provincial legislation in the works.
"The Hamm government's Bill 20 would recreate the agencies and commissions that have governed the civil service and permit Cabinet to reign in formerly independent public institutions," said association president Chris Ferns.
"Without doubt, universities are one of many targets for centralized Cabinet control."
For faculty associations, the critical provisions are those creating the new Public Service Commission. "The commission would wield significant authority in the operations of universities and in the relationships between the administration and the faculty," Ferns said.
"It could require universities to implement particular human resource management policies and programs, or unilaterally provide directions or regulate employment matters, which are now subject to collective bargaining."
CAUT says Bill 20 could have a chilling effect on professors and put academic freedom at risk. "The unprecedented government interference with recruitment, appointment and promotion would have a chilling effect on faculty and compromise their role as critical commentators on matters of public policy," Booth explained
"If universities are to promote the public interest, then university teachers must be able to teach, do research and speak out without fear of repercussions.
"This Bill should be withdrawn, or at the very least the government should make clear that the legislation will not apply to the province's universities and colleges," he added.
Details on Bill 20 at www.gov.ns.ca/legi/legc/bills/58th_2nd/1st_read/b020.htm.