Background

WHY ATHABASCA UNIVERSITY TUTORS OPPOSE ELIMINATING THE TUTOR LEARNER MODEL

By Dougal MacDonald, Co-Chair, CUPE 3911 (March 2014)

INTRODUCTION

Athabasca University (AU) tutors (part-time contract teaching staff) face many challenges at this time.  The right to education is being attacked, education is chronically underfunded, the upper administration of AU refuses to stand up for the right to education against provincial government attacks, education programs are being cut, and those who teach are told over and over that the only so-called alternative is for staff to make more sacrifices in order to fend off some ill-defined educational and social Armageddon.

The most misleading mantra heard over and over from the government and their media is that in the current “fiscal crisis”, there is no alternative to the shifting of the burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of the education workers.  It is asserted that the only way to save individual institutions and the post-secondary system as a whole is through layoffs, wage and benefit cuts, and program elimination.  Not only is this utter nonsense, it may also discourage some who value education and want to do something to oppose the attacks being made upon it.

THE FUNDING CRISIS

Certainly there is a new and major funding crisis in the already underfunded post-secondary education system (PSE).  This began in March 2013 when the provincial budget was released.  The budget jettisoned a Redford promise to increase education funding by 2% (which was inadequate anyway) and instead made a 7 per cent cut to post-secondary education operating budgets.  The total cut to the provincial PSE operating budgets was $147 million.  In addition, all the PSEs in Alberta also have maintenance budgets with a big backlog of yet-to-be-done projects and these budgets were also savagely cut, for example, AU’s maintenance budget was cut by 56%.

Some erroneously think that the government does not know the value of post-secondary education.  That is not the case.  What the government and the energy companies do know is that they want to do reap the many benefits of post-secondary education, e.g., free job training, without seriously investing in it.  In fact the idea that universities should further become the handservant of industry by becoming self-funding institutions through tuition fees, commercializing research, private donations with strings attached, crowdsourcing, and so on is a very pervasive one at this point in history.

THE AU CALL CENTRE

Within this context of a general attack on education, tutors at AU are currently facing a serious threat to their livelihood and their pedagogical integrity.  The AU administration is trying to compensate for the provincial government’s savage cuts to post-secondary education funding in the provincial budget by making cuts of its own that directly affect tutors.

The attack on tutors goes back to the fact that AU was founded on a very successful model of teaching-learning where students enroll in an AU course and are assigned to a personal tutor who they consult with, send assignments to, and contact when they need a problem solved.  The tutor-learner model provides relational learning, promotes healthy dialogue, and enforces academic rigor in teaching.

The innovative tutor-learner model, still used in all of AU’s schools except the School of Business and some courses in the Faculty of Science, is now under administrative attack and is on the chopping block, not for pedagogical reasons, but as a “cost-saving” measure.  The impetus for the campaign comes from AU’s Strategic Budgeting Committee, acting on a secret report by a well-known international accounting firm, a report that AU administration refuses to release.

THE TUTOR-LEARNER MODEL

Athabasca University (AU) is an accredited online research university founded in 1970 as the first open distance education university in Alberta.  By offering online education, AU aimed to provide an affordable quality university education to those facing barriers to their pursuit of higher education.  AU was modeled on the prestigious British Open University, founded in 1969, which offered each registered student an academic instructor called a “tutor”.  In a sense, the model is an online version of the regular classroom.

The bulk of the teaching at AU is done by the part-time tutors, who are hired on contract to teach specific courses.  Tutors first organized with the Canadian Union of Educational Workers in 1990, then became Local 3911 of CUPE in 1994.  Currently there are over 300 part-time continuing “tutors” at AU.   Tutor benefits such as medical and dental had to be fought for by the tutor union and have only been in place for the last few years.  The vast majority of tutors have Masters and Doctoral degrees and additional professional designations, and many years of teaching experience.  Many also teach at other post-secondary educational institutions because what they are paid for working part-time at AU does not constitute a living wage.

In the tutor-learner model, the group of students assigned to a tutor is divided up into what are called “blocks” of an average of 28-40 students (like a classroom).  The underlying pedagogical rationale of blocks is that tutors can contact their students directly, engage them in discussion, and carry out required work such as responding to questions.  Tutors are paid a salary called “block pay” as compensation for each block of students they are assigned.  Tutors are also paid for marking on a piecework basis, based on the AU computer system’s automatic recording of tutor- marked assignments and exams.

Tutors long ago concluded from their own experience that online students support and like the tutor-learner model, which is not only pedagogically sound but also develops the more personal relationships between tutors and their students which are so critical to quality education.  The tutor view is well-supported by the recent Athabasca University Students Union (AUSU) survey of its student members (AUSU, 2012).  Students in a course can identify with one tutor and develop a working relationship that builds student confidence and trust, and helps the students overcome difficulties.

AU wants to replace the tutor-learner model in all of AU’s faculties with what AU employees call the call centre model but what AU has lately renamed the “student excellence” model, trying to give it a positive spin.  In the call centre model, students are no longer assigned in blocks to a tutor but are left as isolated individuals.  Individual students contact a generic call centre when they need something or have a problem and are then redirected to whoever the call centre personnel think is the appropriate person, perhaps an administrator, perhaps a course coordinator, perhaps a tutor.

WHY THE CALL CENTRE IS AN ATTACK ON TUTORS AND STUDENTS

The call centre model will not only eliminate the interactive “electronic classroom” nature of the tutor-learner model but will also eliminate the block pay salaried aspect of tutor compensation, turning everything tutors do into piecework.  Thus the real focus of AU’s attack on the tutor-learner model is not to improve the quality of education for students but to “save money” by eliminating tutors’ block pay.

Under the call centre model, tutors will have no salaried portion of their wages but instead will have to track every minute they spend working, e.g., sending an email, answering a phone call, and so on, and then spend more time compiling and sending a lengthy, detailed timesheet summary to the payroll department.  Four different levels of approval of the tutor timesheets are then required.  Currently, in the Faculty of Business, there is a backlog of tutor grievances due to administrative denial of tutor timesheet claims, resulting in the withholding of tutor pay.

AU claims that the call centre model is pedagogically better for students than the decades old tutor-learner model but there is no objective research-based evidence for this.  The last AU administration study to compare the two models, completed during 2008-09, found “no significant difference” (Athabasca University, 2010, p. 42) between the two models, as well as openly admitted:  “Most of the courses (note:  taken by the study respondents) appear to have been taken from the Undergraduate Faculty of Business and this appears to have introduced a bias against the Tutor Model” (ibid, p. 23).

The AU Students Union completed a comprehensive study in 2012 which found that the majority of students preferred the tutor-learner model.  This is backed up by the fact that, under the call centre model, once students find out who their tutor is, many bypass the call centre and contact their tutors directly, as in the older model!  The model that is best supported by pedagogical reasons in the view of the tutors, based on their own direct experience and on consultations with students, is the tutor-learner model and tutors see no reason for it to be replaced.

THE FALLACY THAT AU TUTORS ARE A “COST

Athabasca University is caught up in the backward outlook that tutors are only a cost of production to the university.  They put forth this false argument in order to rationalize the attack on the tutors’ wages and benefits.  In reality, the tutors are not a cost but are actual producers of value through the teaching service they provide. Tutors teach students, improving their knowledge and skills, and the students, in turn, make positive contributions to society.  To use an example from another university, a recent study by two business professors at University of Alberta estimates that U of Alberta generates over $12 billion in revenue every year (Briggs and Jennings, 2013)!

Cutting tutor wages, under the hoax of “improving pedagogy”, will not “save money” but will degrade the quality of education and ultimately the value of an AU degree.  Further, AU has no right to dictate the terms of tutor employment by arbitrarily cutting wages and benefits through imposing the call centre model or through any other means.   The tutors must be the final arbiter of their wages and benefits, which are their just claims on the added-value they produce through teaching.

THE FISCAL AUSTERITY FRAUD

Like other post-secondary educational institutions in Alberta and most of the rest of the world, AU is under the gun because of the refusal of the Alberta provincial government to adequately fund post-secondary education institutions.  The government claimed a need for “fiscal austerity” but the real reason was that in 2013, the government took in $4 billion less in revenues from the foreign-owned oil companies that make huge profits exploiting Alberta’s energy resources.

Exposing the fraud of fiscal austerity, Exxon subsidiary Imperial Oil, Alberta’s largest oil company and the second largest owner of oilsands giant Syncrude, was the sixth most profitable company in Canada in 2011 and the 5th most profitable in 2012, according to the July 2013 issue of the Globe and Mail Report on Business.  Energy companies like Imperial Oil are also paid by the government through subsidies, royalty relief, tax credits, tax deductions, exploration “expenses”, capital cost allowances, and special programs such as carbon storage and drilling incentives, while education is starved of funds.  In other words, investments in education are being cut to pay the rich.

The government keeps bragging that Alberta is rich but if that is the case then why is post-secondary education denied the required funds?  Instead of fighting back and demanding increased funding for post-secondary education, the AU administration is caving in and perpetuating this underfunding by trying to shift the burden of the funding crisis onto the tutors and students.  In the summer of 2012, the AU administration was pathetically forced to publicly apologize for illegal donations to the long-ruling provincial Progressive Conservative party.

AU IS IGNORING THE CONSULTATION PROCESS

In pushing their call centre agenda, AU attempted in June 2012, without consultation or warning, to mandate that the call centre model be implemented in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences starting in September 2012.  This decision was never presented to the university’s General Faculties Council under the phony excuse that it was an “administrative” rather than an “academic” decision.

The majority of tutors, full-time faculty, students and others who work at AU immediately and vehemently protested this arbitrary decision.  When confronted, the AU administration backed down but continued to argue very unconvincingly that the tutor-learner model is “broken” and that the call centre model is pedagogically preferable, as well as a “cost saver” and a means of making tutors “more accountable.”

To placate the protests of the tutors and others, AU set up a special “consultative” committee in August 2012 to supposedly examine the issue of further instituting the call centre model on an objective basis.  This committee scheduled a rapid series of one hour meetings in September and October 2012, inconveniently scheduled for tutor participation and too short for serious discussion.  Also, the terms of reference of the committee basically stated that the committee already agreed that the tutor model is broken, an unacceptable preset agenda.

The tutors concluded that the committee, now defunct, was phony and that the General Faculties Council (GFC), which is the second highest AU decision-making body below the Board of Governors and includes representatives of faculty, tutors, non-academic staff, graduate students, and students, as well as the administration, should be the venue for discussing the whole issue.  Presently the call centre issue is languishing in a subcommittee of GFC. Even so, the administration is now implementing the call centre for some courses in the Faculty of Science, so it appears that no matter what anyone says, the current AU administration remains firmly fixated on its arbitrary call centre agenda.

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR OF THE TUTOR LEARNER MODEL

AU has used and bragged about the tutor-learner model for decades, so it is very suspicious that in the face of provincial underfunding this model is now suddenly “broken”.  It should also be noted that providing increased support for student requests related to matters deemed to be administrative in no way precludes retaining the tutor model, even though AU is trying to make  this fallacious argument.  In fact, there are numerous arguments in favour of retaining the tutor-learner model:

  • There are no objective studies, completed independently of Athabasca University, which provide any evidence that the call centre model is pedagogically better than the tutor learner model.  In fact, there has been no objective and in-depth research and discussion to compare the pedagogy of the two models at all, except research done by the AU Students’ Union which concluded that the tutor model is preferable (AUSU, 2012).  The 2012 AUSU study polled 2,500 students and found about 40 per cent said they would take few courses if the call-centre approach was adopted across all faculties.
  • The call centre model undermines the critically important pedagogical and professional relationships of tutors with their students which are so vital to learning.  One estimate is that the call centre decreases tutor-student interaction by 70-80%.  The current tutor model offers direct student access by phone or email and the tutor can also initiate contact with a student who is struggling. By contrast, the call centre model requires students to go indirectly through the call centre and the tutors (now called “academic experts”) cannot initiate contact with students. In fact, the call centre actually obstructs student access to the very person they most want to communicate with, their course tutor.
  • Students report delays of up to a week in getting a substantive reply from the call centre, which discourages them from calling again.  Tutors, on the other hand, must answer all student requests within 48 hours.  The call centre model is reactive while the tutor-learner model is proactive.
  • Learning has a strong affective (or emotional) component as well as a cognitive (or intellectual) component. This affective component is very important for the motivation and encouragement of students, especially for those with little or no post-secondary experience. AU students differ in significant ways from students on traditional campuses and, in many ways, need more support.  For example, AU is getting more and more who have English as their second language or even third language.
  • The very nature of distance education means a gap between tutor and student, so being able to contact one’s tutor directly is very positive.  In each course package, there is a letter introducing the course tutor that includes contact information and office hours.  Working within the emotional comfort zone of many students involves building a personal sense of trust over time between a tutor and student. The tutor-learner model is best suited to building this relationship.
  • The call centre makes a false dichotomy between academic and administrative, by suggesting that it becomes unnecessary for tutors to answer “administrative” questions. The call centre experience in the Faculty of Business is that the number of purely administrative student questions is negligible. In addition, the few administrative questions asked often initiate academic discussions. For example, when a student asks “What is the format of the final exam?” (seemingly an administrative question), that is an opportunity for the tutor to probe their academic readiness for the exam (e.g., “Are you comfortable with the notion of constructivist learning theory?”). The call centre model obstructs such teachable moments.  In addition, any actual administrative questions are almost surely already being directed to administration rather than to tutors, making the call centre superfluous.
  • The call centre is a standardized “one size fits all” model which does not take into account differences in subject areas or differences in learners such as language, culture, and maturity.  Responses to student queries cannot be reduced to a mere set of FAQs.  What may work well for students in the Faculty of Business may be inadequate for students in the humanities and social sciences.  Severing all students from their tutors and introducing several different actors into the learning process not only runs the risk of breaking the mentoring partnership between student and tutor but also detracts from offering each student a consistent set of pedagogical goals and expectations.
  • A growing problem facing AU is retention of students in its online courses.  According to studies of student perseverance, student-instructor interaction is one of the main predictors of student completion.  For example, a 2012 literature review (Holt, 2012), found that three of the nine main facilitators of persistence in online courses were quality of interactions and feedback, social connectedness, and support.  Implementation of the call centre and cutting off direct student access to tutors will negatively affect all three of those factors.
  • AU’s intent to move wholesale to the call centre model raises the question of how other universities will view Athabasca University courses for transfer. This is important because around 25% of Athabasca course registration involves “visiting” students who pick up 1-3 courses to help them complete a degree elsewhere. Another 36% of registrations are non-program students, many of whom will take their AU courses to another institution for credit. As 50% of AU’s revenue comes from tuition, any enrollment losses among visiting students are devastating. Other institutions may be less likely to accept AU credits if AU makes course credits look like they were earned from a “degree-mill”.  Prospects for graduate and post-graduate students will be threatened as well.
  • Implementation of the call centre across the board may negatively affect AU’s accreditation, both by Alberta Education and by outside organizations such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  This again will negatively affect AU’s reputation as a place of higher learning.
  • The call centre model is an attack on the working conditions of tutors because it aims to turn tutors from salaried employees completely into pieceworkers.  Even the claim that use of the call centre to end tutor block pay will supposedly save money is suspect because financial details of such claims have never been made public, e.g., what about  the additional costs associated with operating the call centre?
  • The call centre, overall, is not a suitable model for education.  It dehumanizes and demoralizes tutors because it turns teaching from interacting with students into working piecemeal.  Tutors have to account and record every minute of tutor-student contact in order to get paid for their teaching, similar to being paid on the basis of how many widgets get produced.
  • The call centre model may violate the tutors’ collective agreement because removing block pay will be a de facto cut in tutor wages.  While the actual figures are yet unknown, estimates suggest that some tutors may lose up to 40% of their pay.  This will force them to quit and to find other employment.
  • Block pay is a critical aspect of the tutor-learner model.  As a salary, it recognizes and rewards what tutors do on an ongoing basis to do an excellent job in teaching their courses, just as every other salaried employee at AU is recognized and rewarded for doing his or her job. Block pay encourages tutors to take the initiative to bring about student success. It also recognizes such things as the time used to keep current in one’s field, i.e., the professional development component, in order to improve courses and teaching. Its elimination suggests that academic activity at AU is some kind of hobby rather than a serious profession and that tutors should stop being teachers and become mere disengaged markers of assignments and exams.
  • The call centre model will keep surveillance on tutor activities.  Every call centre phone call generates a ticket which notes the time, name of the student, nature of the student concern, and which tutor these should be routed to.  In this manner, a tutor’s written responses can be logged, stored and reviewed by administrators not directly connected with the teaching of the course. The amount of time it takes to resolve tickets is also tracked.  The number of tickets closed by an academic are counted and tracked as a major measure of that academic’s productivity, even though a lack of tickets may indicate the course is running very well!.  The ticket system also excludes the work tutors do through direct emails or phone calls with students and a host of other unquantifiable tasks.  A related issue is privacy for students who want to communicate directly with their tutors and who expect confidentiality.  The mediation of their emails by the call centre undermines that confidentiality and amounts to surveillance.
  • Outsourcing and privatization of education are very real issues.  Ultimately, call centre work could be globally outsourced to locations such as Southeast Asia where labor is paid much cheaper wages.  This will further downgrade the quality of education under the call centre model.  One result will be that a number of experienced, expert tutors will simply walk away from AU and find other pedagogical work at competing institutions.

RESOLVING THE FUNDING ISSUE

The provincial government is elected to govern the society, therefore, it has the responsibility and the capability to organize the realization of post-secondary education and other social programs and public services. This entails directing the value of other sectors towards the social realization of the value of social programs and public services.

Clearly, the main source of revenue in Alberta is the energy sector.  But the revenues the government collects from the energy sector have been decreased.  The amount of revenue taken from non-renewable resources (oil, gas, coal) in Alberta in the 2013 provincial budget is far less than in 2012.  In 2012 the government collected $11.2 billion, representing 27.8% % of the total budget revenues.  In 2013 the amount the government collected dropped almost $4 billion to $7.25 billion which represented only 19 % of the total budget revenues.  The missing $4 billion would obviously swallow up the $147 million cut to post-secondary education in an instant.

The government excuse for collecting less resource revenue from the energy companies was the bitumen bubble!  By that was meant the gap between the world price of crude oil and the Alberta price of crude oil.  Supposedly, when the Alberta price is much lower than the world price the Alberta energy companies are in big financial trouble.  But the financial pages state that the energy companies did very well during the period when they were supposed to be suffering.

In particular, those companies did well who had downstream refining operations.  Why?  Because the cheaper Alberta oil they put into their refineries cost them a lot less than it did when it was at the higher price!  So the comparatively low price of Alberta crude actually benefited many companies, which is reflected in their profits.  The September 2013 issue of Alberta Venture magazine states:  “Companies with substantial refining capacity like Cenovus and Suncor have benefitted from the falling price for Canadian heavy oil” (P. 80).

Further, the July 2013 issue of The Globe and Mail Report on Business states that only nine of the major energy companies in Alberta, including Syncrude, SunCor, and CNRL, accumulated declared profits of $140 billion during the last ten years. That $140 billion profit mostly went into the pockets of private foreign owners. The $140 billion would have gone a long way towards realizing the value produced in the education sector at all levels and provided a pool for increasing investments not only in education but in health care, other social programs, public services and infrastructure.

The provincial government brought down its new provincial budget on March 6, 2014.  Denying that education is a right that must be guaranteed, the government continues to chronically underfund post-secondary education, even after last year’s savage cut of 7% to the operating budgets of Alberta’s universities, colleges, and technical institutes (PSEs).   This was the biggest cut to post-secondary education in 20 years.  In November 2013, due to continued opposition to the budget cuts, the government was forced to restore $50 million, meaning that the PSEs still received almost $100 million less in operating grants than in 2012.  With the new budget, only 2/3 of the 2013 cut of $147 million has been restored, in total, so the PSEs are still hugely underfunded

The 7% cut to post-secondary education followed the government’s promised 2% increase, a promise made even though the PSEs had repeatedly stated that a 4% increase was the minimum requirement just to keep pace with normal growth.  Had the 4% increase been given instead of the 7% cut, the operating grant in 2013 would have been 2.22 billion, compared to $2 billion in 2012.  The 2013 budget cuts led to loss of jobs, courses and programs, which the current Minister of Post-Secondary Education called “improving efficiencies”.  Huge cuts were also made to PSE maintenance budgets, none of which were restored in the 2014 budget.

In the just-released 2014 budget, the Alberta PSEs received an operating grant which was $52.5 million more than the inadequate 2013 grant.  However, even with that and the $50 million added to the grant in November 2013, this means that the total grant for 2014 is still $41.7 million less than what the PSEs received in 2012, two years ago.  This is what the Minister of Finance very misleadingly refers to as “almost restoring funding”

The obvious solution to the underfunding crisis is to obtain additional funds in order to realize the value produced in the education and health care sectors, other social programs, public services and infrastructure.  The Alberta economy is integrated and interdependent, with each sector required to realize the value of each other sector, including the value produced within the public sector. Because Alberta’s economy is now (dangerously) dependent on the export of raw resources, increased funding to realize the value produced in the public sectors must clearly come mainly from energy company revenues. The provincial government is responsible to collect that revenue and put it at the disposal of the people of Alberta.

TUTORS ARE FIGHTING BACK

The tutors, their union, and their many allies at AU and in the community have already begun action against the arbitrary implementation of the call centre model.  Some of the key events so far in the struggle for quality education at AU are:

  • Protesting against the attempt to arbitrarily impose the call centre model
  • Effectively using an open listserve for intensive discussion of the issue
  • Demanding transparency in all budget allocations
  • Avoiding the trap of supporting “cost saving”, which Albertans got caught in during the 1990s when a previous Conservative government made big and very damaging funding cuts to education and other social programs in the fraudulent name of “fiscal austerity”, including blowing up a hospital!
  • Developing the unity of the tutors, faculty, office workers, graduate students, and students to create a common front against the arbitrariness of the administration
  • Keeping pressure on the administration in various ways, including protests and other forms of collective action
  • Keeping in mind the broader issue of holding the Alberta provincial government accountable for guaranteeing the right of everyone in Alberta to post-secondary education

THE FIGHT WILL CONTINUE

AU students have a right to the best quality education and tutors at Athabasca University.  AU tutors have the right to Canadian standard wages, Canadian standard working conditions, and job security.  These constitute the necessary conditions for tutors to carry out the critically important job of educating our students to the very best of our abilities and preparing them to make a significant contribution to the future of society.

The Athabasca tutors, led by their union, CUPE 3911, will continue to fight against the further implementation of the call centre model.  It is an arbitrary attack on the right to education, on tutor rights, and on student rights.   In a modern society, education and other social programs are rights that must be guaranteed.  They are essential to any modern economy and society and add immense value to the people and society. This means that government has the social responsibility to guarantee that education and other needed social programs are available to all at the highest modern levels the society is capable of delivering.

References

Annand, David, Michalczuk, Kerri, et al (2010).  Evaluation of the “Student Support Centre” and “Tutor” Models at Athabasca University.  Athabasca: Athabasca University.

Athabasca University Students Union (2012).  Research Results and Methodology:  2012 Instructional Model Survey.  Edmonton:  AUSU.

Briggs, Anthony, & Jennings. Jennifer (2013).  The Economic Impact of the University of Alberta:  A Comparative Approach.  Edmonton: University of Alberta.

The Globe and Mail (2103).  Report on Business. Toronto: Author.

Holt, Carol (2012).  Factors Associated with Student Persistence in Online Courses.  Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Vol. 11, No. 1, Spring, 2012.

 

APPENDIX 1:  FACULTY OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES MANIFESTO

We, the undersigned members of the FHSS, regard the tutoring system as crucial to both student success and to the maintenance of high academic standards for our programs. Our ability to attract and retain students depends on our ensuring that students receive as much encouragement and assistance as possible in improving their critical thinking, writing, and reading skills as well as their knowledge of the materials in particular courses. In turn, our methods and standards of assessment need to be unimpeachable so that students are assured that the outside world recognizes grades awarded by Athabasca University as meaningful and reliable.

We are, as faculty and tutors, open to discussions about ways of altering and improving the tutor system, as we have demonstrated in past discussions on the issue. But we insist that pedagogical needs, not finances, must be paramount in any restructuring of tutoring in the FHSS. We have been assured that no changes will be imposed on our faculty, though that assurance sits uneasily with the call of the Acting Vice President Academic at his meeting with Athabasca University Faculty Association (AUFA) this past April for four million dollars to be removed from the tutor budget, an amount that he suggests could be achieved in large part by all faculties adopting the model of tutoring in use in the Faculty of Business, a model in which only the professors in one course within FHSS have so far been willing to participate. While that system may suit the needs of that faculty, we are not convinced that it offers a useful model for most courses offered in the FHSS. The manner in which cutbacks in university positions occurred this past spring has also created skepticism among teaching staff about the senior management’s interpretation of the concept of consultation on important matters.

We reject any effort to impose a particular tutor model across the board in our faculty, either directly or indirectly (via a withholding of funds), without the approval of our FHSS Council, our dean, and the General Faculty Council, as well as the representatives of students and tutors.  The importance of the tutor system to our academic credibility is of such a magnitude that changes should occur only when there is buy-in by all the groups involved, including FHSS faculty, FHSS tutors, Athabasca University Students Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees [note], and AUFA, as well as management. Any effort that attempts to circumvent the established practices for academic governance at AU is illegitimate, in our view, and we will not cooperate in any effort to implement it. Indeed we will make every effort to involve all faculty, tutors, and students in FHSS to block unilaterally imposed changes by management.

Collegial, accountable governance and the practice of open and rigorous academic deliberation are essential to consideration of ANY teaching model change.

APPENDIX 2:  ALBERTA FEDERATION OF LABOUR RESOLUTION ON POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION

THE ALBERTA FEDERATION OF LABOUR WILL call on the Alberta provincial government to increase funding for post-secondary education to a level such that the right to education is guaranteed, to withdraw the letters of expectation/understanding currently interfering with the autonomy of the post-secondary education institutions, and to work in genuine consultation with the people of Alberta to create a post-secondary education system which will serve the public good and meet the needs of all modern society.

Because education is a right which must be provided with a guarantee.

Because funding of post-secondary education is the responsibility of
provincial governments.

Because the government of Alberta has in its last budget decreased provincial funding
for already underfunded post-secondary education by over seven per cent.

Because the government of Alberta is demanding that the post-secondary institutions sign letters of expectation (now called letters of understanding) whereby the government is trying to impose its will on these previously autonomous institutions.

Because provincial underfunding has negatively affected the teaching conditions of instructors, the learning conditions of students, and the working conditions of non-academic staff.

Because post-secondary education should serve the public good and not the interests of a select minority.

 

Sponsored by CUPE 3911, representing tutors and academic experts at AU.
Contact us.