Response to Call Centre Article in the CAUT Bulletin

by Dougal MacDonald, co-Chair, CUPE 3911

The Canadian Association of University Teachers published a front page article in its October 2014 issue titled, “After Faculty Vote, Athabasca University Call Centre on Hold.” Interestingly, after we sent a message to CAUT explaining the actual situation (see below), the CAUT changed the online title of the article to, “After Faculty Vote, Hope for a Rethink of Call Centre Model at Athabasca University.” While we much appreciated the national attention given to our fight, we found the article somewhat misleading, as did some of our members, in light of the fact that while the article stated the call centre is “on hold”, in reality, AU continues to switch courses to the call centre model.

To inform CAUT of the actual situation at Athabasca University, the three co-Chairs of CUPE 3911 sent the following message to CAUT:

Dear CAUT,

We are the three co-Chairs of CUPE Local 3911 which organizes the contract teaching staff (tutors) at Athabasca University, Alberta.  On behalf of our members, we want to thank you very much for highlighting our struggle against the AU administration’s attempt to impose the call centre at our university. We certainly appreciate your assistance in our struggle to protect learning at AU.

Since the AU administration first decided to arbitrarily impose a call centre in all faculties some two years ago, the tutors and their allies have campaigned vigorously against both the administration’s arbitrary decision-making and the call centre itself. As everyone knows, instructors’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. Mandating that a call centre must be imposed at AU will damage teaching and learning, downgrade services to students and undermine the quality of the education that the university delivers.

There is one small issue that we have however with your article and that is that recent actions by the AU administration show that unfortunately the call centre is NOT on hold, the vote at General Faculty Council notwithstanding. In fact, we have just received notice that more courses in the Faculty of Science and Technology will be “moved over” to the call centre model very soon.  It is clear that AU has chosen to implement the call centre a few courses at a time, and is not acknowledging the result of the GFC vote which should have put the call centre on hold.

In light of these latest developments, we ask that you continue to keep a close eye on what is happening at AU.  As you clearly state in your “Procedures Related to Censure”:  “When a university or college administration (including its governing body) acts in a manner that threatens academic freedom and tenure, undermines collegial governance, disregards negotiated agreements, refuses to bargain in good faith, or takes other actions that are contrary to interests of academic staff or compromise the quality and integrity of post-secondary education, CAUT will do everything in its power to remedy the situation.”

We will keep you informed of future developments.  If you would like to talk with us directly about this matter, please email co-Chair Dr. Dougal MacDonald at doogmacd@shaw.ca to set up a conversation.

Thank you again for your support for quality education.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Dougal MacDonald, co-Chair, CUPE 3911
Dr. Rob Wiznura, co-Chair, CUPE 3911
Dr. Ronnie Leah, co-Chair, CUPE 3911