OPSEU Local 576
OCAD U Senate
Chris Thompson, Interim President, OPSEU Local 576
Distinguished senators and those in attendance, thank you for allowing me a few short minutes to speak to you today.
My name is Chris Thompson, and my role at OCAD is in IT Services but I’m before you today in my volunteer role as interim president for OPSEU Local 576 which represents over 300 staff in a wide gamut of roles across the institution.
While our salaries may fall under budget line items labelled as “non-academic,” every member of our union is dedicated to the OCAD U mission, vision, community, faculty and students. Many of our members serve in positions which directly support curriculum development and delivery, some with their own pedagogical functions. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than the library.
I am before you today to ask that the Senate make use of whatever means it may have available to correct the course plotted by the university administration with respect to the library and forthcoming reviews in other administrative business units. While not all of these areas may impact faculty and students so directly as the library, they all support the student experience in some capacity, and you can mark my words that our labour unit is at a breaking point.
Like other departments predominantly filled by our members, the library has been subject to ongoing workload concerns even before the implementation of various “budget remediation plans” and hiring freezes. Such austerity measures have only served to weaken the foundations of student and faculty support across the institution, and in the library where the cracks could no longer be hidden.
Instead of seeking remediation which would preserve the core curricular support and pedagogical functions of the library as embodied by four individuals with over 70 years of combined service at this institution, the administration has unilaterally redefined the structure and scope of library services in an opaque and rushed process with only a poorly conceived and communicated survey to pay lip-service to the vaguest notion of consultative process and collegial conduct.
Library staff were given less than half a working day to provide feedback on the survey before it was released. The survey communications did not establish the link between it and the reorganization. Finally, the results and how they might inform the reorganization should have been presented to the senate and the community before the administration took action.
Notifications, presentations and announcements are not meaningful engagement. Not for us, and most particularly not for the senate.
The administration is attempting to sidestep this body’s governance by telling you that the remit of the library is the sole purview of the administration and board of governors. On the contrary, the ex-officio status of the University Librarian and their regular updates to this body are proof positive alone that the senate shares responsibility for defining the operational mandate of the library alongside the administration and the board.
My membership and I humbly request that you utilize your powers to make recommendations to the board which re-establish collegial process at this institution to uphold our institution’s good name and deliver the highest quality academic education to our students and broader university community.
Finally, I have a short message from our four librarians:
From Marta, Alex, Victoria and Daniel
On behalf of Marta, Alex, Victoria and Daniel, we would like to thank everyone who has reached out to us and come together to acknowledge the contributions we have made to the University – it has proven a much-needed antidote to the erasure that has occurred here.
Our professional experience, and collective decades of collegial work done in collaboration with so many of you - has been devalued, sidelined and essentially erased in a reorganization that we were not meaningfully engaged in.
We dedicated our work as librarians to activate the academic plan. Through building collections, we provided foundational material for research, and digital and technology-enabled learning. Through instruction, we enabled disciplinary porosity, supporting the teaching and learning environment. Through services and programming, we enhanced and advanced studio-based learning. Our professional work was dedicated to advancing knowledge creation and research in support of transformative education.
The erasure of our work and contributions to OCAD U during a pandemic has been demoralizing and painful, and done without our knowledge, within forums where we have no voice.
We are extremely concerned with how this type of restructuring bodes for other departments under review. We are extremely concerned at the demoralizing effect these actions will have on our Library Services for years to come through the loss of institutional memory. We are extremely concerned about the impact of these measures on OCAD University in wider academic circles. Through letters of support from our peer university faculty associations and others, we know that these concerns are shared beyond our campus.
This restructuring could have been conducted through a respectful, collegial and transparent process, working with the expertise and decades of experience of the library staff. We know it was possible, and we put forward many ideas of what help we would need from a leader to achieve these goals.
You can judge for yourselves if you received the consultation and input needed for fully considering these impactful changes to the library. We were eager to come together as a library team and work on a plan, but we were never given a voice.