June 18th, 2024

No confidence in the university’s senior administrators


By Lethbridge Herald on March 24, 2022.

Editor:

I’m a professor of philosophy at the U of L. As you probably know, I and all my colleagues were on strike since Feb.10. 

 I’m writing this letter to explain why. I understand that some people believe we’re in this business and on strike for the money — but our expectations when it comes to salaries have been very modest (despite public lies and distortions from our administration and the Board of Governors). The real problem is the failure of negotiations on other issues and the false and misleading claims made by our administration and Board during the negotiations we’ve been engaged in for over two years. 

A few remarks about my own career may help put this in context. I’ve worked at the U of L for more than 35 years, publishing and presenting papers, teaching many different courses, serving on multiple committees as well as in the faculty union. 

 All our faculty members have spent years studying before we could even qualify for a position, let alone actually win one. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have tenure have spent still more years proving ourselves as teachers and researchers before achieving it. 

 You might say we are all “risk-takers:” our research requires many years of study and continuing work, as well as openness and honesty about the issues we study. 

Our teaching, subject to review by students and comments, advice (and criticism) from colleagues, requires regular updates in content, development of new courses and, of course, grading and providing feedback on students’ work. 

I am not complaining about any of this: it’s part of the job, and doing it well matters to all of us. 

All we have wanted, before and during the strike, is to be at work in a workplace where mutual respect and honesty are the rule, not the exception.

These are difficult times for the U of L, but also for other universities in Alberta. The provincial government has imposed a series of deep budget cuts on all of them. At the University of Lethbridge, we needed to work together to cope with financial challenges while defending our programs, our faculties and our students.

 But that is not what happened. Instead, unlike other universities in Alberta, our administration and Board of Governors treated this challenge as an opportunity — an opportunity to demand more power and authority and impose drastic (and distracting) re-structuring of academic departments and programs, measures that offered little to no clear financial savings. 

They refused to negotiate seriously, repeatedly rejecting out of hand proposals from the union – even proposals that involved no financial costs. 

Their response to our strike vote was to continue refusing to negotiate, while lying to the public, claiming that we were the ones who refused to negotiate. 

They then chose to lock us out completely, suspending important research work, some of it time-sensitive and essential to graduate students working with faculty members, even though the union made it clear that we were willing to continue such research during the strike. 

In another act of pettiness, they shut us out of the U of L email system, forcing us to move quickly to ensure communication with journals and colleagues could be continued during the strike.

 Worst of all, they wrote to our students, telling them how sorry the administration was about the strike, and claiming that they were terribly concerned about missed classes while they refused to negotiate for weeks. 

None of us wanted to be on the picket line; we wanted to be teaching, doing our research and working with administration. We are not enemies of the university, but we have been treated as enemies by an administration and board that have shown no respect for us or our students. 

The choices made by our administration and our board are the only reason why the current agreement (very similar to agreements reached elsewhere in Alberta without a strike) was not reached long before our strike began. 

Sadly, I believe this was a deliberate choice by the administration and board: it has saved them millions of dollars in wages — money that appears to be their only real concern. 

M Bryson Brown

Professor of Philosophy,

University of Lethbridge

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snoutspot4

Excellent letter, Dr. Brown

Range Rover

Its past time for three particular senior adminsitrators, an entire Board of Governors, and a few Dean’s and Interim Dean’s to move on from the University of Lethbridge. Its become an absolute toxic environment for both work and learning. I wish I could say that I was proud of this university, but I’m not. What I am proud of however is the work of (and the people involved with) the Faculty Association and their commitment to trying to make things better. And all the students who have stood by us and supported us during this challenging time.