The UNBC Faculty Association is decrying what it calls an “adversarial regime of labour relations” with university administrators, claiming university president Daniel Weeks has improperly relieved five faculty members of their duties over the last 18 months.
The faculty association said Weeks has used an emergency powers provision to relieve the five faculty members of their duties. The provision allows the president to relieve an employee of their duties while an investigation is ongoing or if there is reason to believe the employee might pose “significant harm to another person or to the property of the institution,” according to the UNBCFA collective agreement.
The provision has been used at UNBC at “a rate that surpasses the rest of Canada combined,” and that it “undermines academic freedom and tenure at UNBC,” according to a media statement issued by the union. The emergency powers provision had not been used by a president of UNBC prior to 2016, according to UNBCFA president Stephen Rader.
He said the university has a responsibility to investigate incidences involving suspicion of such emergencies.
“There’s a very high bar for doing that. You have to have real evidence that there’s some kind of emergency. In not one of these five cases has there been evidence of an emergency,” he said.
Rader said no faculty members of the university have come under investigation by the RCMP.
In an email sent to faculty and staff on Monday, Weeks said the claim that he had used emergency provisions measure five times was “inaccurate.” Weeks’ statement did not disclose specifics about the cases in question, but cast doubt that the use of this provision was a threat to academic freedom.
“The university will consider using emergency powers to deal with a wide range of potential situations, such as ongoing harassment in the workplace, bullying, theft, fraud, sexual misconduct and others. Clearly these are conduct issues that are not protected by academic freedom,” Weeks wrote in the email.
In a letter sent to UNBC board of governors chair Tracey Wolsey on April 18, Rader said the use of emergency powers was part of an ongoing deterioration of labour relations with the university. Rader wrote the letter after an emergency vote by faculty members.
“Never in UNBC’s history have relations with the employer been so bad as to require a direct appeal to the board of governors,” Rader wrote in the letter.
The faculty union is calling on Wolsey to intervene directly on the specific case of the disciplined faculty members. The union is also asking B.C. Advanced Education, Skills & Training Minister Melanie Mark to intervene in these cases.