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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2016

Solidarity forever

By Robin Vose
Two years of service as CAUT president has taught me a lot. I have met extraordinary, brilliant, inspiring people. I have developed a better understanding of the many issues facing Canadian academics today. And I have gained new perspectives. Perhaps most important of all, my appreciation for just how fortunate we are to have a national organization like CAUT has grown even deeper than it was before — something I didn’t think was possible.

The work done by CAUT members and staff is admired, and the protections it affords are envied around the world. Our participation at international fora such as Education International has earned us global respect, and we have built important bilateral partnerships with colleagues in places as far afield as Palestine and Ireland, Ghana and Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe. We gain invaluable knowledge and insights from such collaborations, while also sharing CAUT principles and expertise.

Closer to home we continue to build strong relationships with our allies in higher education across Canada, including our colleagues in Quebec — the Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d’université and the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec — student groups and organized labour. Far from isolating ourselves in ivory tower exclusivity, CAUT and its member associations are constantly reaching out and cooperating with those who share our belief in the importance of a strong, publicly-funded, post-secondary education sector that is accessible to all.

These alliances and relationships, as well as the dedication of our activists and the ex­pert knowledge of our staff, have allowed CAUT to have a remarkable impact at all levels, from the smallest university campus to the halls of power on Parliament Hill. We have fought tirelessly and effectively for better working conditions, for better research funding, for transparent collegial governance and for academic freedom. We helped make scientific research and the preservation of library resources national campaign issues. We pushed back against the worst excesses of auste­rity politics and corporate intrusions into university and college governance. We have had a real impact in preserving and enhancing the quality of academic life in this country.

CAUT is a big, diverse, welcoming community. We value and encourage the contri­butions of all members, in both official languages. We understand and embrace the challenge of addressing ongoing equity concerns in the academic workplace, and I am very proud of the strides we have made in ensuring that equity is ever at the forefront of our activism and advocacy.

This is not to say we don’t still have a long way to go. Inequities based in racism, sexism, ableism and heterosexism remain serious barriers to many of our students’ and colleagues’ full participation in academic life. And such inequities often intersect with the ever increasing shift toward underpaid, undervalued and precarious contract la­bour. We will need to continue our efforts to mobilize broad-based membership support for measures aimed at securing equity, fairness and academic freedom for all aca­demic staff. We must never forget the essential union principle that an injury to one is an injury to all, for we are all truly in this together.

Another important challenge for CAUT in the days and years to come will be our response to the 94 calls to action of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. CAUT will need to continue, and where possible to redouble, its efforts to help ensure that Aboriginal students and academic staff are allowed to take their rightful place in the academy. The rich and vibrant diversity of contemporary Aboriginal communities, in spite of all the terrible losses sustained as a result of colonialism, is to be respected and celebrated. The academic world has much to gain from a more effective and equitable engagement with Canada’s First Peoples, but it is also vital that mistakes of the past not be repeated. Reconciliation must now be sought through a creative and collaborative “indigenization” of the aca­demy, rather than by again pressing Abo­riginal communities to send their young people to be educated in institutions that neither value them for who they are, nor permit to them to become what they aspire to be.

It has been a tremendous privilege to serve as president of CAUT, and I wish to sincerely thank all those who have contributed to the effectiveness of this remarkable organization. Space precludes an attempt to mention them all by name, but I would like to especially single out the dedicated members of the CAUT executive and committees; the stellar CAUT office staff; and our long-suffering executive director David Robinson, who has had to endure far too many Latin jokes and obscure references to medieval history over the past two years. Above all, I wish to thank each and every one of you — CAUT members who take the time to get involved and to make life better for the academic community as a whole. The fact that you are reading these words already suggests that you take CAUT work seriously. Your solidarity is essential to the integrity of academic life, and your contributions have made all the difference.

We can be very proud to have a national voice like CAUT. We are strong together, and together we will continue to achieve great things.