To ANA SERRANO, PRESIDENT OF OCAD UNIVERSITY
C.C: Caroline Langill, Vice President and Provost Academic, OCADU
C.C: Tony White, University Librarian, OCADU
C.C: Jaime Watt, Chair, Board of Governors, OCADU
RE: We Love and Respect OCAD U Academic Professional Librarians
On May 4th, 2021 four senior academic librarians who work at OCAD University were laid off (as of June 1, 2021) because the Administration has decided to restructure the library.
Together, the four people who lost their jobs in the middle of a pandemic have given more than seven decades of invaluable service to our University. They have contributed a great deal over many years to OCADU and provide us with an institutional history and a knowledge base that cannot be replaced.
Library staff, faculty or students were not meaningfully consulted on this reorganization and neither was OPSEU Local 576, the union that represents the library workers.
One of the basic principles at academic institutions is collegial processes and governance, which ensures that the expertise and knowledge of all members of our community are consulted, respected and treated with dignity. Collegial governance processes can also guarantee that multiple voices and perspectives are centered, considered, respected, and incorporated into decision making.
This reorganization does not honour the spirit or practice of collegial governance. There was no meaningful discussion at Academic Senate or with the OCADU Student's Union on the overhaul of our library. Such substantial changes must be discussed at Senate with full faculty and student engagement.
The Collective Agreement for OPSEU Local 576 explicitly emphasizes in Article 6 that: "managers, staff, and exempt staff must demonstrate collegial behaviour at all times when dealing with colleagues, students, and other members of the University community. Collegial behaviour includes treating others with dignity, respect, fairness, equality and integrity, and maintaining confidentiality when required." The Administrators of OCAD U have failed to comply with their own negotiated agreements.
University librarians play an essential role in partnering with faculty to positively contribute to the University's academic mission. The reorganization amounts to a de-skilling of librarian staff and reflects a profound disregard for the pedagogical role librarians perform in our sector and at our University. Our curriculum and programs depend on the credibility of the support and resources we offer to our students. To dismantle our library in such a reckless fashion will impact the University's accreditation processes.
Workers' rights are central to OCAD University's commitment to equity. The unceremonious firing of four long-term academic librarians who have collectively dedicated 70 years of service is a betrayal of the equity principles in OCAD U's Academic Plan.
The recent external third-party review and our deficit has been cited as justification for this reorganization. Instead of embracing a top down and colonialist model of management, let us address our fiscal concerns in a collaborative, co-creative way with true consultation of faculty, students, staff, and community. Let us not continue to replicate harmful power relations through unilateral measures that compromise academic integrity, disregard labour rights, and bypass collegial governance.
This termination of four long term librarians at OCADU has no precedent at our institution. In almost every university in this country, librarians are considered academic staff because their pedagogical role is as significant as other faculty at post-secondary institutions. Instead of gutting a core resource that supports student learning, curriculum development and delivery and faculty research, we should be supporting our librarians and improving the quality of our library.
In the last forty years Canadian academic libraries have undergone restructuring due to developments in technology and changes in research and instructional needs. It would seem self-evident that radical cuts to expertise and knowledge will have severe long-term impacts on the productivity and health of academic communities, in general, and ours specifically.
When guided by principles of collegial governance, academic integrity and mutual respect, restructuring can maximize the strengths of a community, build harmonious relationships and creative teamwork.
Therefore, we the undersigned urge the OCADU administration to:
CHRIS THOMPSON, STEWARD, TREASURER & INTERIM PRESIDENT, OPSEU LOCAL 576
MIN SOOK LEE, PRESIDENT, OCADU FACULTY ASSOCIATION
MARY EILEEN WENNEKERS, VICE PRESIDENT, OCADU FACULTY ASSOCIATION
ERIC STEENBERGEN, NEGOTIATIONS CHAIR, OCADU FACULTY ASSOCIATION
NATALIE WALDBURGER, GRIEVANCE CHAIR, OCADU FACULTY ASSOCIATION
CHRISTOPHER BENNELL, SECRATARY/TREASURER, OCADU FACULTY ASSOCIATION
RICHARD HUNT, DIRECTOR, OCADU FACULTY ASSOCIATION
TANNIS NIELSEN, DIRECTOR, OCADU FACULTY ASSOCIATION
JJ LEE, DIRECTOR, OCADU FACULTY ASSOCIATION
LAURA LOVELL-ANDERSON, DIRECTOR, OCADU FACULTY ASSOCIATION
GRAEME RENIERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OCADU FACULTY ASSOCIATION
OCAD STUDENT UNION BOARD OF DIRECTORS