MacEwan Faculty Association
The actions of MacEwan Administration, inaction of the MacEwan Faculty Association, and collaboration between these and other groups to target one faculty member has resulted in the largest and most egregious abuse of power ever documented in academia.
The correspondence below shows that the FA Executive initially refused to get involved, arguing that Administration's concerns with my actions and scholarly activities were not within the purview of the FA. My attorney asks what the FA is doing on my behalf, and all of a sudden things happen: Sean Hillman resigns, questions were asked of Administration, grievances were filed, etc. However, it is the 8th inning. Most grievances are beyond the filing deadline and Administration refuses to consider them. The FA Executive continues to refuse to get involved because they were not involved initially — because they refused to get involved initially! I feel that the FA wants this entire thing to disappear.
From: Jerry Zdril
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2011, 13:46
Subject: Re: Role of the FA
Yes, the FA has the right and responsibility in disciplinary matter to ensure:
- That the process is being adhered to.
- That the result(s) of the process is fair and equitable to our members.
- Where there is unwarranted disciplinary action, or the action taken is not fair and equitable, then we also have a duty to represent our members interest (defend the member).
The Association cannot represent our members where the actions of the administration is allowable and permitted under our Collective Agreement or under labour law. Or when the members actions are seen as inappropriate or contrary to the rights of other faculty members, students or the institution as a whole. If I have not completely answered your question please contact me.
Jerry Zdril, FA President
As you read the Administrative actions against me, you will realize that the MacEwan Faculty Association failed absolutely in all three.
Regarding the last paragraph, they can't even represent me when the actions of administration are allowed?? Who determines if the member actions are inappropriate?? How can this determination be made a priori? Without all the evidence? (The answer is below, in the next red text.)
The FA is clear (#3) that they will only represent the member after-the-fact, not during the process.
To: Jerry Zdril
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2011 11:44
Subject: Re: Role of the FA
There have been occasional attacks of me and my scholarly activity for the past few years. In October 2010, the attacks rocketed out of sight, spear-headed by Rob Hilts and David Higgins. Sean has attended over a dozen meetings with the Dean, taking notes at each one. I am left to defend myself. To no avail since Higgins is judge, jury, and executioner. All of my arguments are summarily dismissed. There are upwards of eight letters on my file since October 2010. I have continually tried to dispute and/or draw connections between the events, but Higgins adamantly looks at each incident in isolation. Recently, he collected all of them and pretty much said, "look at all the problems we have with you." And Sean still takes notes.
Most recently, I asked Higgins to provide me with details on what he was planning to bring up at a meeting. He responded, "I'm pleased to assure you that there is nothing to prepare. The point of the meeting, simply, is to get your response to some student comments about an e-mail which they have received." At the meeting, I am accused of breaching FOIP and of plagiarism. And Sean still takes notes.
HOW IS THIS FAIR?
It is glaringly apparent to several people in my department that administration has and is building a case for dismissal. And Sean still takes notes.
These activities are affecting my ability to teach, to engage in scholarly activity, my physical health, my mental health, my relationship with my colleagues, and my personal life. Higgins, Sean, and HR are fully aware of this. And Sean still takes notes.
Note: the FOIP and plagiarism allegations that play critical roles in the decision to terminate me. At that 01 February meeting, Higgins laid out the allegations and aggressively demanded that I (1) explain myself and (2) admit guilt. When I asked about the nature of the meeting, Higgins portrayed it as a friendly inquiry: "I'm pleased to assure you that there is nothing to prepare. The point of the meeting, simply, is to get your response to some student comments about an e-mail which they have received." In reality, the meeting was hostile and abusive, and I was completely unprepared. In hindsight, that was Higgins intent. Higgins actions violate MacEwan policy D1100 (Respectful Workplace). And Sean still took notes.
In a discussion with Sean Hillman, I ask what the FA is doing on my behalf. He informs me that the FA is doing nothing. That my issues are not within the purview of the Faculty Association. He informs me that he was attending at my request, not on behalf of the Faculty Association. At a subsequent meeting with the FA Executive on 04 March, Zdril confirmed and clarified that the FA could do nothing unless there was direct contravention of the Collective Agreement. The Faculty Association Executive repeated and expanded on their earlier position:
- despite scholarly activity being a requirement of employment and being listed in the Collective Agreement, the FA does not have a duty to represent a faculty member regarding their scholarly activity
- the individual employment issues between myself and administration are not direct contraventions of the Collective Agreement. Therefore, the FA does not have a duty to represent me.
- since the FA does not have a duty to represent me on the individual issues pertaining to scholarly activity and employment issues, the FA does not have a duty to get involved in the broader harassment issue
- if I am disciplined or terminated for issues that are not direct contraventions of the Collective Agreement, the FA has no authority or obligation to grieve
In the follow-up email from President Zdril, he agrees to inquire with Administration, but not support me in any formal capacity. Indeed, the Faculty Association Executive recommend I bring another person with me for my meetings with the FA Executive!
From: Jerry Zdril
Cc: Shahidul Islam, Sean Hillman, Bob Graves
Date: Tue, 8 Mar 2011 11:31
Subject: FA response
The MacEwan Faculty Association, as represented by the members that met with you on Friday March 4th, is committed to support you in dealing with the concerns that you expressed at that meeting. We are prepared to proceed as follows:
- We are sending a letter to Human Resources requesting that they clarify whether the Memo dated January 25, 2011 is, as we read it, a Letter of Advice and Suggestion, rather than a Letter of Reprimand. In the event, they consider this letter as reprimand and like to use in potential future disciplinary action, we’ll file a grievance.
- We can not act directly on your behalf in the Academic Freedom issue since the policy asks for a faculty member to contact the Provost and Executive VPA directly. “3.6.1 In cases where University policies or practices appear to infringe upon the academic freedoms in the Policy, any affected person may apply to the Provost and Executive Vice President Academic who shall call for an ad hoc committee to resolve the issue.” However, we can support you by providing advice and by contacting CAUT for their suggestions on this issue.
- On the FOIP investigation and Plagiarism accusation, we will work on resolving this issue as quickly as possible. We will contact David Higgins in an attempt to obtain information on the result of their investigation.
- With regards to the harassment complaint, we will formally request that the matter is expedited as quickly as possible and also explore other avenues that might expedite the process.
We plan on scheduling another meeting involving Bob, Shahid, Jerry, Sean, ΑΩ during the week of March 14th. We would invite you to include another person to assist you at this meeting if you so desire.
I am not sure if the FA Executive did any of these. It should be noted that Zdril was in Paterson-Weir's pocket. Indeed, he resigned as FA President because his close relationship with Administration was affecting the functioning of the Faculty Association. The next President (Skye) isn't any better.
Shahidul Islam (Faculty Association VP Faculty Welfare) attended a few meeting between Higgins and I. He commented that he has had heated conversations with Higgins and they can ultimately agree to disagree. He observed that Dr. Higgins refuses to accept that I can have a different opinion and that Dr. Higgins aggressively demands that I accept his position. If I do not, I am labeled ‘uncooperative’.
Starting in March 2011, I was consulting with an attorney regarding the ongoing issues. During April and May, my attorney left several messages for both Zdril and Hillman, but neither contacted him. In June 2011, he sent a strongly worded letter to the FA Executive. Later in June, my attorney and I met with the FA Executive. The meeting was brief, with the FA informing us that they were getting a legal opinion and that we should put our questions in writing to the FA. We sent a letter shortly thereafter.
Days after the meeting, Sean Hillman resigned as the Faculty Association Professional Resource Officer. The interim Professional Resource Officer was tasked with investigating the allegations. He found no evidence to support them, numerous substantial breeches of policy and process by administration, and absolutely nothing in my personnel file. Grievances were filed on my behalf. Most were dismissed by Administration because they were filed too late. And unfortunately, the FA Executive's exuberant defense was short-lived.
In a letter dated 29 November 2011, Jerry Zdril and Aimee Skye state,
After much deliberation, we have determined that the Faculty Association should not represent you at your proposed meeting with Dr. Janet Paterson-Weir. ... The initiative for the meeting, and the content of your presentation or discussion has thus far been presented to the FA [by Administration] as your independent undertaking. As such, we believe it should continue to be, and that the FA cannot serve as representative for a member in any process in which the FA does not have ownership or has not initiated the process through a grievance.
So the FA Executive initially adamantly refuses to get involved. Then when their attorney informs them they are suppose to be involved, they use this excuse not to get involved.
During a meeting with now FA President Aimee Skye on 24 September 2014, she stated
- The Faculty Association is not in the business of challenging bad management.
- The University has the right to terminate any faculty member at any time, even if there is no negative history between the faculty member and the University. If they do so, there isn't anything that anyone, including the Faculty Association, can do about it.
Considering 1: if not the FA, then who? What is the role of the FA?
Considering 2: this may be correct in traditional employment environments. But is not correct of faculty at academic institutions. While MacEwan's Academic Freedom policy (C5054) permits faculty to question university actions, any faculty member that does risks being terminated for questioning the institution. And in no employment environment is administration permitted to engage in harassment, abuse, and/or malicious attacks on an employee.
Without tenure, academic freedom is dead.
MacEwan faculty: do not expect the FA to represent you. Get a lawyer.
The MacEwan Faculty Association Charter has the following statement regarding Academic Freedom.
The Association believes that the common good of society depends upon the search for knowledge and its free exposition, and that academic freedom is essential for both of these purposes. The Association therefore supports the rights of the Members of the Association to exercise their legal rights as citizens without hindrance, harassment, intimidation, or penalty; carry out research or other activities in the enhancement of their professional responsibilities, including the publication or exhibition of the results of such work; freedom of teaching and discussion; freedom to criticize the [University] and the Faculty Association; and freedom from institutional censorship. Academic freedom carries with it the commitment to use it in a responsible, professional manner reflecting a scholarly dedication to education, a genuine search for knowledge, and a serious pursuit of excellence.