The University of Sudbury is poised to implement a controversial document of Vatican dictates on the acceptable scope of academic inquiry and Catholic university structure.
"These are changes of a magnitude that is staggering," Laurentian University Faculty Association's chief steward, Peter Simpson, said after hearing the news at the bargaining table.
He said the administration proposes to redefine the university as a Roman Catholic institution that "attorns to the general norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae." The document requires "commitment to Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes in carrying out research, teaching and all other university activities."
The faculty association is bargaining for a first contract for Sudbury's newly-unionized faculty members. "It's surprising news," Simpson said. "Absolutely nothing prepared us for this announcement."
Simpson said the administration balked at union proposals containing fundamental provisions for academic freedom, saying only, "The standard academic freedom provisions mean that a professor could stand up in class and say 'the Roman Catholic church is wrong'."
Simpson said the employer's chief negotiator notified LUFA last month that any statement of academic freedom that conflicts with the Vatican's statement is "unacceptable."
Faculty members have further cause for concern. Designation as a Catholic university requires the majority of faculty members to be Catholic, the designation of an "appropriate ecclesiastical authority" in approving programs and the elimination of any teaching inconsistent with church doctrine.
The University of Sudbury is an undergraduate, liberal arts university federated with Laurentian University. Simpson said Sudbury's new president, Kenneth-Roy Bonin, is the driving force behind the attempt to alter the university's structure. "There is no sign of how the board of regents intends to implement the changes."
Laurentian University Faculty Association became the certified bargaining agent for more than 30 full and part-time teachers and professional librarians at Sudbury during the organizing campaign late last year. LUFA is challenging the employer position on alteration of the institution on a number of fronts, including actions filed before the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Simpson also said the employer has altered the terms of employment for union members during the "freeze period" of bargaining, and it has refused to bargain with faculty members unless the teachers take leave without salary for any hours spent in bargaining.
On August 15, 1990, Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education entitled Ex corde Ecclesiae. The constitution can be viewed at online.