Nova Scotia

Tensions still high between Acadia University faculty and administration

During its meeting last week, Acadia’s faculty council voted 89 per cent in favour of a motion to express to the school’s board of governors that it has "no confidence" in the senior administration’s ability to continue leading the university.

Faculty council votes to express 'no confidence' in university’s senior administration

At a meeting last week, Acadia University's faculty council voted 89 per cent in favour of formally expressing their lack of confidence in the university's senior administration to the board of governors. (Robert Short/CBC)

In a rare and symbolic move, Acadia University faculty are formally expressing their lack of confidence in the Wolfville, N.S., school's leadership as tensions remain high in the wake of February's month-long faculty strike.

During its meeting last week, Acadia's faculty council voted 89 per cent in favour of a motion to express to the school's board of governors that it has "no confidence" in the senior administration's ability to continue leading the university.

Acadia's executive director of communications, Ian Murray, said the vote is significant in the sense that faculty are expressing their needs and expectations after a "very difficult and challenging period."

"We are working hard to listen … and respect the fact that the faculty council has taken the time to express these in the form of the motion that was put forward last week," Murray said.

Faculty council meets twice a year and typically discusses routine matters like approving the list of graduates. But during last Thursday's meeting, Acadia Prof. Richard Cunningham moved to hold the non-confidence vote, partially on the basis of February's strike.

The Acadia University Faculty Association went on strike at the beginning of February and picketing ended a month later when both sides agreed to binding arbitration, which is now underway.

The Acadia University Faculty Association went on strike in February, seeking increased diversity among faculty, increases to tenure-stream faculty and improved wages and working conditions for part-time faculty. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Along with the strike, the motion cites "student protests" and the rollout of the university's new student registration system, through which students can register for courses and check their degree progress, as "ongoing issues of significant concern."

New system rollout

In an interview, Cunningham said the new system was "foisted" on faculty when it was introduced last August.

"At a time when we were wondering, 'Are we going to have to pivot suddenly and go to … virtual teaching?' we've got other things on our mind," Cunningham said. "We're preparing our classes and, 'Oh, by the way, here's this new registration system.'"

Cunningham said the new system also presented significant challenges for the university's administrative assistants.

Murray said the university recognizes that the implementation of the new system has been challenging for faculty and administrative staff.

"We're doing our best to train and to acclimatize folks to the new system," Murray said. "There was regular communications from the project team as the implementation was rolled out across campus."

Murray said the pandemic made it difficult to bring people together for in-person training on the new system.

"While it's disappointing to hear and to understand that it's been challenging for people … it is the new system and we are doing our best to support those who are needing to use it," he said.

Student protests

In his comments presenting the motion, Cunningham referenced a recent student protest at Acadia's University Hall. 

He said students in attendance were asking for greater transparency around the calculation of the payment they were offered by the university for classes missed during February's strike.

Speaking with CBC News, Cunningham said the protests are an indication of student dissatisfaction with the university's administration.

Murray said there has been a "small number" of protests among "relatively few" students.

"Our provost and vice-provost for student affairs has met with those students on each of those occasions to understand what's on their minds and how we might be able to give them information to help them understand the decision-making process at Acadia," Murray said.

Murray added that the administration has been in regular contact with the students' union but there are some students who prefer to have a more direct channel of communication.

He said the motion will now be presented to the board of governors.

"We will await to see whether there's any action following that," he said, adding that in the meantime, university administration is working to understand what needs to be done to meet faculty expectations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Simon Smith

News Reporter

Simon Smith is a reporter with CBC Nova Scotia. He can be reached at simon.smith@cbc.ca, on Twitter as @SimonR_Smith

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