The Canadian Association of University Teachers is investigating a slew of alleged problems at UPEI's Atlantic Veterinary College.

A CAUT investigative committee will be at the AVC next month trying to get to the bottom of a series of allegations by UPEI's Faculty Association. It claims the administration has

  • Engaged in irregular hiring procedures.
  • Ignored staff input.
  • Failed to clarify staff's roles.

The UPEIFA says in general there are unresolved tensions between staff and the administration.

"It was just the range and nature of the allegations that led us to think there may be a real problem here we need to get to the bottom of," said CAUT executive director James Turk.

"If there isn't a problem then it's important to say that.  If there is, then it's important to find solutions."

But UPEI's administration refuses to be a part of the investigation. Interim vice-president academic Christian Lacroix said if there are problems they should be handled internally.

"I will tell you that we have a number of grievances in the process now, and that's the proper way of dealing with disagreements between the faculty association and the university," said Lacroix.

Lacroix acknowledges there is some tension at the AVC and throughout UPEI, which he said is the result of ongoing staff and program cuts. He insists the administration has been fair and open.

Testy exchange

Letters exchanged between the university and CAUT on the investigation included some controversy over academic freedom.

When Lacroix responded to CAUT, declining to take part in the investigation, he wrote that, "While University employees might decide to speak with CAUT's representatives, it is not appropriate for employees to engage in these activities during work hours while on duty at the University."

In an answering letter, Turk expressed surprise at this assertion. He said he was not aware of any university in Canada that viewed its faculty as hourly employees.

"The thinking that underlies your comment is antithetical to academic freedom, professional practice and university traditions," he wrote.

In response, Lacroix wrote the statement was meant to refer to clinical staff who do have specific hours at the veterinary college.

Several visits planned

The CAUT committee will likely make several visits to Charlottetown as part of its investigation, said Turk.

The first is planned for the end of August, and the committee has sent out invitations to faculty and staff at AVC, the administration, the faculty association and students.

Once the investigation is over, the committee will prepare a report and send a copy to administration and the faculty association. It hopes to come up with recommendations to help UPEI and faculty resolve any issues. None of those recommendations would be binding.

CAUT generally does three to four investigations a year at Canadian universities.