Friday, November 1, 2013

Off to Algonquin!

On a beautiful day in early October I traveled back to Ottawa to meet with members of the other college that calls the city home: Algonquin.  The professors, counselors and librarians of Algonquin college are represented by the hard-working executive of OPSEU Local 415.  I was able to meet with President Patrick Kennedy, Chief Steward J.P. Lamarche, 1st Vice President Jack Wilson, 2nd Vice President Dave Haley, and Treasurer Shawn Pentecost, before I met with stewards in a local executive committee (LEC) meeting.

JP Lamarche (left) and Patrick Kennedy
Algonquin is one of the larger colleges in Ontario, with over 19,000 full time students.  The majority of students and programs are housed at the Woodroffe campus in Ottawa, with two smaller campuses located in Perth and Pembroke. With a large student population, Algonquin has an equally large number of professors, including 580 full time faculty.  Like other colleges though, part-time faculty now outnumber full time 3 to 1, and Algonquin maintains over 1,600 part-time and sessional professors.

The ratio of part time to full time professors at Algonquin is extreme, but would be even worse if not for the constant pressure of Local 415.  Through utilizing staffing grievances, the Local has been able to force the hiring of full-time professors.  The current faculty Collective Agreement (CA) says that College management has to prefer the hiring of full time over part time.  When the college system was founded this was how hiring worked, but today it takes constant vigilance and hard work on behalf of locals like 415 to keep the complement of full time professors from dwindling even further.  Colleges like Algonquin are a stark example of how the reasonable use of part-time faculty for operational flexibility has transformed into a  management cost-cutting strategy that places enormous pressure on full-time members and erodes the quality of education.

Another issue facing professors at Algonquin is a push from management to create more hybrid and fully online courses.  The cost-cutting imperative behind online learning is clear, with the possibility of larger class sizes, and the ability of managers to take online materials developed by full time faculty, and then turn the courses over to part timers.  A few years ago this happened to an Algonquin nursing professor who recorded her lectures at the behest of management, then saw her course, and her recorded lectures, taken from her and delivered by part-time faculty.

A final irony noted by Local 415 officers is that the majority of students don't prefer online learning, and instead want their instruction to be in a traditional,  classroom environment.  Students at Algonquin even expressed their distaste for online learning to their Student Association, and to management, but to date their resistance has had little impact on college policy.

This blatant disregard by college management to both student and faculty concerns about online learning is something that characterizes my next visit - to Mohawk College in Hamilton...

1 comment:

  1. Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.
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