Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Lessons from the CAUT New Activists Workshop

Elise Lepage, FAUW Board member
On November 24, I attended the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ New Activists Workshop in Ottawa on behalf of FAUW. This was the second edition of this day-long workshop and it was well attended by more than 40 colleagues representing universities from coast to coast. I found it both well- thought-out and structured, and yet just open enough for effective and meaningful discussions to happen.
The workshop started with an open discussion to identify the challenges faced by post-secondary education. The list was long and it appears that despite the major differences in terms of size, location, and mission of each university, all of us share very similar concerns.
We summed this list of concerns up in four keywords: austerity, solidarity, equity, and (lack of) collegial governance. Groups were formed around these major topics to further the discussion, and offer some strategies.
Another keyword that came up in all the discussions was indigenization, and it appears that Canadian universities are at very different stages in this process. Good practices have to be shared. CAUT offered its support in facilitating this academic culture shift.
[Editor’s note: University Affairs has a good overview of indigenization efforts across Canada (and criticisms of such), and the University of Regina offers 100 ways to Indigenize and decolonize academic programs and courses (PDF).]
There were also hands-on sessions in which we developed communication and organizational skills such as writing a grievance or a press release, or producing awareness-raising materials such as posters and videos.

Overall, it was a very useful and informative workshop, and I am looking forward to sharing and applying some of these ideas and skills in my work with FAUW.

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