Censure proceedings have been initiated regarding Manitoba's new University College of the North. Citing the failure of the Government of Manitoba and the interim board of governors of UCN to make provision for academic freedom, tenure or a proper senior academic governance body, CAUT Council voted unanimously at its April 29 meeting to impose censure at the November 2005 council meeting unless adequate progress is made to rectifying these omissions.
"We have been talking with the Manitoba government since early 2002 about their plans for the new institution," said CAUT executive director James Turk. "Consistently we have stressed the need for academic freedom, tenure, and a senior academic body that would have responsibility for making the decisions about academic and educational policy. Regrettably, plans have proceeded with none of these in place."
Turk said he is hopeful UCN's interim council will engage in discussions with CAUT and its provincial counterpart, the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations, leading to the adoption of policies to protect academic freedom, including tenure provisions made meaningful by financial exigency and redundancy language common in most Canadian universities.
"A stumbling block in resolving this issue is the government's unwillingness to give the institution's senior academic body powers equivalent to senates at other Manitoba universities," Turk said. "As well, the UCN Act allows the minister of advanced education to issue directives on academic programs. It appears that legislative changes will be necessary to remedy these problems."
CAUT has asked for meetings with UCN's president and board chair and with Diane McGifford, the minister of advanced education and training, and her officials to see if the situation can be satisfactorily resolved.
"UCN could provide a wonderful opportunity for residents of northern Manitoba," said CAUT president Loretta Czernis. "But under the present arrangement the institution will have difficulty attracting and retaining excellent staff and therefore difficulty in offering high-quality programs that northern Manitobans and the aboriginal community deserve and have a right to expect."
UCN, with campuses in Thompson and The Pas, is hiring staff and plans to begin its "Year One University" program in September 2005. The former Keewatin Community College staff and programs have been integrated into UCN.