Questions are being raised with the quality and fairness of a new joint McMaster-Mohawk agreement.
A new program has been launched between Mohawk College and McMaster’s Faculty of Social Sciences. Mohawk says about 10% of their student population are university graduates looking to top up their undergraduate degree with a one-year certificate.
The program seeks to eliminate that extra year by allowing some social sciences elective courses to lead to a certificate with Mohawk College.
The Faculty of Social Sciences and Mohawk College have been studying ways to fast-track students through the process over the past two years with a letter of understanding signed on September 2011.
The program, which began last year as a pilot project, has now been officially launched with two certificates programs. According to McMaster officials, the certificates are in Business Studies and Leadership and Management in the Not-For-Profit Sector, while a third certificate called Introduction to Autism is in development.
Professors at colleges across the province have recently concluded new contract negotiations with their administrations.
During the negotiations, concerns were raised about the lack of academic freedom that the colleges give professors. The central demand of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), the union that represents Mohawk professors, was more academic freedom for professors alongside more job security.
Kevin MacKay, Mohawk professor and communications officer for OPSEU local 240, stated, “Currently, college professors have absolutely no academic freedom. The high school teachers in [the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association] (OECTA) actually have more academic freedom than we have after their recent contract. Academic freedom was the number one demand the college professors took into this round of bargaining, and we got nowhere with it.” OECTA represents 34,000 Catholic school teachers in the province.
MacKay says the concerns around academic freedom are real: “Currently, management in the college system is telling faculty what textbooks to use, how to deliver their material and how to evaluate it. They are even changing grades over faculty objections, and mandating delivery methods that lead to lower educational outcomes.
Edward Lovo, an undergraduate student at McMaster, has concerns with the lack of job security for many sessional professors at McMaster in light of the new program. Lovo stated, “I am interested in being a professor myself and I would hate these conditions to be imposed on me.”
Elizabeth Moore, the program’s coordinator, stated that some of the professors are only part-time at Mohawk College and hiring is not handled by McMaster.
College professors have no way to move up the ladder at McMaster to a tenured position. As professors are unable to engage in research in their fields, students may not be getting the cutting-edge insights that a tenured professor may offer.
Assistant Dean of Social Science Lynn Giordano says that the faculty has “enhanced the courses to [make them of university quality].”
Textbooks and course outlines were assessed through several committees, and one course was even deemed similar enough to a first year commerce course that it was listed as an anti-requisite. This leads to concerns about outsourcing sessional professor positions to Mohawk.
The Faculty did state that no courses were replaced by the introduction of the Mohawk-Social Science program but did not wish to provide information on how many classes were offered last year compared to this year, though an additional 800 seats were allocated in Social Science by the provost.
Collaborations between colleges and universities present exciting possibilities; however, while college professors lack academic freedom and both colleges and universities continue to rely on part-time over full-time professors, questions remain concerning job security and quality of education.