[Ed. note: the opinion piece below is offered by ACCUTE member Brenna Clarke Gray, faculty member at Douglas College. ACCUTE members may propose opinion pieces for the blog, provided they engage issues of interest to the broader ACCUTE membership; they are subject to editing for length and other matters. Such opinion pieces do not necessarily represent the opinion of ACCUTE or its membership.]
Recently, while shooting my mouth off on Twitter about AUCC changing its name to Universities Canada, I made the suggestion to Jason and the rest of the ACCUTE team that the time may have come to consider again a Colleges Rep position for ACCUTE. Jason suggested I make a case for it as a blog post, and I agreed. So without a lot of rhetorical panache, here are three reasons I would like ACCUTE to consider introducing a College Rep position.
1. Visibility matters. The name change from AUCC to Universities Canada says a lot about the perceived value of the colleges in the academy in Canada. English departments at colleges are caught in a difficult situation: we are not part of the traditional conception of colleges in Canada, but we aren’t university English departments either. We research off the sides of our desk and aren’t institutionally supports to remain part of the conversation. Seeing ACCUTE publicly encourage college faculty engagement through a dedicated representative would be welcome.
2. Numbers matter. There are a lot of college faculty members in English departments across Canada, and many colleges are growing in terms of full-time, permanent faculty members. Where I work, we have added nine full-time people in the last five years, with two more being hired this summer, and that’s only to replace three retirements. The rest is growth. More and more PhDs are being hired into these positions and many of us who have been involved in ACCUTE as grad students would like to see our concerns reflected in the structure of the executive. Pragmatically, only 3% of ACCUTE’s membership comes from the colleges – I think that’s shockingly low, and I think we could do better with more explicit representation. Colleges are growing; let’s ensure ACCUTE is growing alongside them.
3. Our issues matter. College issues differ from those at universities. For example, many of your colleagues at colleges are fighting to have academic freedom language included in our collective agreements. The issues we need help with need to be clearly communicated to the membership. As we discussed at last year’s AGM, ACCUTE needs to grow its advocacy role. The colleges are a natural place to do this important work, and visible representation is the first step.
My suggestion here is not to imply that ACCUTE hasn’t done a good job advocating for colleges in the past, but rather to note that as the job market shifts and our issues impact greater numbers of people, college English instructors/professors could use the support, visibility, and advocacy of ACCUTE in a more public way.