By Sara Marett
The new Technical University of British Columbia was created to provide more opportunity for technical training when it opens in 1998, but it is currently fighting off a bad reputation as university associations are staging an international boycott of the school claiming its lack of governing bodies deny all sense of academic freedom.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers along with the British Columbia Confederation of University Faculty Associations is opposing the new school's tenure system and lack of academic senate. The university however, says the claims are unfair and that it will have an academically-oriented governing body.
"We think it is a disaster waiting to happen," said Robert Cliff, executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia, the province's affiliate of CAUT.
Without an academic senate, B.C. Tech's Board of Governors, a governing body which is normally in charge of making a school's financial decisions, will be making academic decisions, he said. The problem here, is this group may make decisions regarding academics which may not be in the best interest of students or faculty.
"In this kind of situation, academic freedom goes right out the window," Cliff said, noting the danger of the BOG making decisions regarding research policies. "I can't think of another school in all of North America where a governing body has direct control over what a professor will research."
On top of all of this, Cliff claims the Ministry of Education and the chair of the BOG has said this school will not have a tenure system, meaning employees will be hired on a contract basis making it much easier for them to be fired.
Jane Fee, academic assistant to the president at B.C. Tech, said the new school is not the first in the province to not have an academic senate, noting the lack this governing body at Victoria's Royal Roads College.
Fee said instead of a senate, B.C. Tech will have a "University Council" made up of faculty and administration members as well as students to make academic decisions at the university.
"Our legislation however, has not yet laid out all of the powers this group will have in practise," she said, adding B.C. Tech President Bernie Sheehan will have the authority to delegate responsibilities to the council.
Fee also said although most employees of the university most likely will be hired on a contract basis, there is nothing in their legislation that says tenure will not be available to faculty.
Kathleen Elliot, communications officer for the Ministry of Education, Skills and Training said the structures of the university do not present a compromise for academic freedom. "Every safeguard is in place for students and faculty to be involved in all academic decisions," she said.