Back to top

CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2006

Alberta Releases Results of Post-Secondary Review

A long-awaited report on Alberta’s post-secondary education system was released June 5.

Teaching vs. Instruction

There are worse things in America: shopping malls, car fetishism, capital punishment, the Government, the abuse of immigrants, torture, the bias towards wealth, the petty, everyday tyrannies of a culture of conformism, the pseudo-pieties people mistake for religion. But if one thing distresses me disproportionately, it is Americans’ habit of speaking of “instruction” when they mean “teaching.” Junior teaching staff are called “instructors.” The forms students fill in when they comment on courses ask about “quality of instruction.” In fairness to academics, it has to be said that “instruction” is a bureaucrat’s word for teaching, but scholars slip into the habit of using it with no apparent sense of incongruity. It betokens, I think, deep and widespread mental confusion about the nature of what universities ought to do.

Flex Plans: Alluring but Bad News

At least two Canadian universities (Toronto and Guelph) have tried over the past year to get faculty to accept flexible benefit plans. So this seems a good time to outline what’s wrong with flex plans.

Collective Bargaining Key for Contract Staff

As contract academic staff in Canada’s universities and colleges we have been nurtured on the centrality of rational discourse. We earned our advanced degrees and certifications by mastering our fields and by demonstrating that we can contribute to their further development through dissemination of knowledge, service and research.

Misreading Harper

Loretta Czernis’ comments in the president’s column (CAUT Bulletin, May 2006) about the Conservative Party’s child care plan suggest she is reading too much into Stephen Harper’s comments. Harper’s remark about child care “experts” is political hyperbole that implies nothing about the value of academic views and research on child care. The Conservative plan is simply a practical response to the truism that the best caregivers for children are almost always their parents. I suspect most sociologists agree with that, especially if they are also parents. I also suspect some middle class Canadians (excluding academics, of course!) object to the plan for the simple reason that it offers little after-tax benefit to them.

Work’s Done ‘til Fall? Not Likely

Last month I ran into an old acquaintance I hadn’t seen for quite some time. After a cordial exchange about our respective families, he said: “So, now that the semester is finished and your grades are in, you must be settling into your four-month vacation? Great job, if you can get it!”

Psychiatric Cross-Training Needed to Treat Concurrent Disorders

It is becoming clear from studies published over the last 20 years that mental health and substance use disorders occur more frequently together than as separate entities. Yet most educational institutions offer very few courses that deal with these issues from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Kerr's Three Blunders Only Part of the Story

Three centuries after their composition and publication, Jean de la Fontaine’s fables make irresistible reading. Twenty of the fables have foxes as heroes or anti-heroes. In some, the fox does badly — no grapes (The Fox and the Grapes), no drink (The Fox and the Stork), no luck (The Cock and the Fox), or still worse, no life (The Cat and the Fox). But if the moral lessons of the fables are various and sometimes contradictory, the overall point remains: those who think they’re smart ... usually aren’t as smart as they think. But the fox’s sheer wit draws us in and we go on reading and reading.

Warren Allmand Is Fearmongering

Warren Allmand’s commentary, We Need Answers on Domestic Spying” (CAUT Bulletin, April 2006), betrays fearmongering at its worst and is a deliberate effort to cause Canadians to distrust their national security institutions.

Harper: Child Care Plan Sidesteps Academics & Researchers

During a roundtable meeting last month with parents and children in Burnaby, British Columbia, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the following of his promise of government support on child care:

McGill Prof Lands Top CAUT Award

CAUT honoured McGill University professor Bernard Robaire with the 2006 Distinguished Academic Award during a special ceremony at the CAUT Council meeting last month.

McGill University Divests from Companies with Ties to Burma

Student activists have won an important struggle at McGill University, convincing the board of governors to divest stocks of any companies doing business in Burma.

UCN: Censure Debate Delayed

CAUT Council agreed last month to postpone consideration of censure of University College of the North until its November 2006 meeting to allow the parties to respond to CAUT’s concerns.

AUCC Gives FNUC Deadline

First Nations University of Canada has been given a deadline of mid-June to demonstrate that it is acting on recommendations to change its governance structure.

Mock Press Conference Hones Media Skills

CAUT Council delegates improved their media skills in workshops April 27, working in small groups to prepare for a press conference in response to a mock news release about a fictional report critical of Canada’s universities and colleges.

AAUP Leaders Arrested at Protest Rally

American Association of University Professors president Jane Buck and president-elect Cary Nelson were arrested April 27 in New York City. Buck and Nelson were detained by police for their participation in an act of civil disobedience in support for striking graduate assistants at New York University.

William Bruneau Elected as Speaker

William Bruneau was elected at the spring CAUT Council meeting to succeed Gordon Shrimpton as Speaker of Council starting in November 2006. Shrimpton stepped down after serving for eight years.

Poll: Harper Priorites Not Important to Canadians

Canadians don’t widely share most of the priorities of the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, according the latest public opinion survey commissioned by CAUT. The poll, carried out by Decima research just prior to the release of this month’s federal budget, found that almost 40 per cent of Canadians felt the first priority of the government should be to improve the health care system. Focusing on post-secondary education and research was the second most popular choice at 17 per cent.

Censure of Dalhousie Postponed

Consideration of censuring Dalhousie University was postponed after CAUT Council learned of written commitments from Dalhousie University president Tom Traves to address concerns raised by CAUT regarding Gabrielle Horne and Michael Goodyear, both of whom are professors at Dalhousie.

Allmand Replies

Contrary to Martin Rudner’s assertion, as a former solicitor general, I feel very strongly that public trust in security agencies is fundamental to national security and that transparency, judicial safeguards and accountability can instill that trust.