The University Faculty Associations Chime in

Unsurprisingly, other academics have regarded McGuinty’s recent ruminations (and Margaret Wente’s breathless speculation thereupon) with a mixture of curiosity and apprehension.  The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations has published its response, which is located on the Queen’s University Faculty Association blog, and reprinted below:

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OCUFA responds to Margaret Wente’s article in Globe and Mail


Dear Editor;

Margaret Wente, in her complaints about Canadian university faculty being the highest paid in the world (“Universities are sitting ducks for reform,” April 13, 2010), bases her argument on a 2008 Boston College report that itself cautions readers that, lacking consistent data across countries being available, their study “must be seen as a first attempt rather than a definitive report.”

Regrettably Wente shows no such caution when urging Canadians to adopt a university system where faculty are no longer paid to perform research. Hundreds of years of university experience have shown that faculty research and teaching are intertwined, enriching and enlivening each other, to the benefit of students. To drop this research-based model in favour of “efficiently delivering mass undergraduate education” will reduce the university to being a kind of upper-level high school. Our students don’t need more high school. They need interaction with faculty who are pushing the frontiers of knowledge. Wente is too swift to abandon quality higher education, especially in view of the enormous challenges we face, such as healthcare and global security. We need the best possible postsecondary system to generate solutions to these urgent issues.

The research model might cost more, but education on the cheap is too expensive a solution.

Mark Langer
President, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

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Indeed, OCUFA might be absolutely correct that research and teaching are mutually beneficial, to the ultimate benefit of students who are attracted to schools by the opportunity to study under illustrious, passionate researchers. 

On the other hand, I might be even more confident in the sincerity of their claim, were the University Faculty Associations were to become more active in their efforts to curb the massive increase of University instruction that is done by adjunct faculty (whose research receives no institutional support) or by grad-student Teaching Assistants.  After all, if Faculty unions are willing to accept that classroom instruction is something that can adequately be done by students or perma-temps (thus leaving the tenured faculty the chance to teach the upper-level or graduate classes, or to focus more on their research), those unions would seem perhaps to be undermining their own argument that quality university instruction requires extensive research background and support.

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