Orwell’s 1984 coming to Canadian Universities?: UWO Faculty Strike looming


If the experience is good, isn't it attributed to freedom?


Is it really about what a Professor can or cannot say?

Who will the students get if University Administrators have their way? Will it be the concerned friend, with mutual admiration, like the professor in the movie sharing a toke and some debate? Or will the discipline of higher learning fall to tyranny and fascist rule? And it would seem it’s not just professors that are concerned with keeping their oath of duty!

Orwell wrote that

indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening. There can often be doubt about the most enormous events… .The calamities that are constantly being reported — battles, massacres, famines, revolutions — tend to inspire in the average person a feeling of unreality. One has no way of verifying the facts, one is not even fully certain that they have happened, and one is always presented with totally different interpretations from different sources. Probably the truth is undiscoverable but the facts will be so dishonestly set forth in that the ordinary reader can be forgiven either for swallowing lies or for failing to form an opinion … 3

And, as the article continued, it noted how history is tainted, perception clouded, and minds conformed:

The popular perception of history is based on brainwashing by the mass media, indoctrination by the education system, peer group pressure, self-censorship and television “docudramas.”

James Compton, the UWO Faculty Association head pinned the argument this way:

People whose jobs are less secure are less willing to speak out, and that, in turn, weakens a central purpose of a university, Compton said.

Academic freedom isn’t a perk or a privilege. It is a core component of what professors do.”

It might just boil down to a battle of good and evil, as in this psychology assignment related to Orwell’s 1984, suitably given to students at Western University in London, Ontario.

The Professor might be scrutinized to administer that or any other assignment in the future as it may not be in line with a growing trend toward censorship and control by administrators, not peers.

That would be like the budgeting department telling the sales team how to sell, and judging how the sales are coming along. With no clue of the issues and importance of the professor’s task, administration represents an ever-growing  obstacle to ensure the job gets done. And one of the biggest issues to hit the higher echelons of learning – freedoms of speech and expression.

Freedom to challenge is the freedom to learn. Examining the world and being free to discuss things openly without fear of repercussion spawns intelligence and growth. Without it, we are lost as a society and a people, and are subject to fascist rule. The places of higher learning in a dictatorship would be fertile ground to get control of the minds that represent the future. The professors may just see the writing on the wall, and are fighting back!

MacLeans Magazine has written this article with the key point being:

At the same time, what is good for faculty is often good for students in the long run. If faculty win higher salaries at the bargaining table, it may mean recruiting better profs in the future. If they get better rules for academic freedom, it may mean better teaching because instructors are not worried about what they can and cannot say. If they get smaller class sizes, you may get more personal attention in your next course.

In another article, this comment by “Zarko” on 29 September 2010:

One of the proposed demands by the UWO administration includes some rather creepy stuff about invading the personal lives of professors. Imagine if your employer had the right to know who you might work for in a second job, or what charities you volunteer for. Now imagine that your employer, armed with this information, could indiscriminately dismiss you just because they don’t like how you spend your free time. The threat is rather clear: the employer wants to know who else you work for, how many hours you work for that other business, and exactly how much you are paid. No employee should be subject to such scrutiny and privacy invasion. It’s a little too 1984 to passively accept. To those who think UWO is stuffed with “fat cat” tenured faculty with sinecure positions, think again. UWO is leaning more towards “flexible workforce” which means part-time faculty who make very little, who have zero job security, and can easily be turfed at any time for reasons that have nothing to do with being inappropriate.

That comment was posted in this article about the pending strike of faculty at Western University, London, Ontario.

A strike by faculty  at Western could be in order as early as November 3rd at 12:01 AM.

What’s interesting and at the same time refreshing is it is not about money – it’s about freedoms, rights, and ultimately the quality of education.

As one student understands it, it limits the ability for a professor to state their opinion on a given issue, that must fall in line with university policy. The example cited was, say a University had a corporate arrangement with Apple, and the prof wanted to express concern for low wages in China where computers are made – then the university may try to limit the ability to criticize an affiliate of the university. That student is onboard with the rights of the professor.

Another student agrees:

Lippay is concerned that a condensed semester would sacrifice the quality of education that she will receive. However, she also sympathizes with the faculty’s issues around academic freedom.

“Most of the professors I’ve had are very passionate about what they talk about. They talk very freely about what’s concerning them, and they make an effort for students to get involved in the discussion,” said Lippay.

Lippay believes that a lack of academic freedom could make classes boring and take away from the quality of the educational experience.

Goodbye freedom of speech and expression?

If Western University is one of the best for “student experience”, it can largely be attributed to the faculty of dedicated professors.

Let’s face it – people work, thrive, and live best when free. If there is a power grab from one side that seems unreasonable, then this will undoubtedly be felt in the level of education the students get. The university explains it this way:

Outstanding issues at the table include: a series of linked articles that would institute “performance management” techniques governing Academic Responsibilities, Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment, Annual Performance Evaluation, Sabbatical Leave, and Discipline. Compensation also remains unresolved.


If the “agenda” was censorship and control, the above guidelines could be used to manipulate and control, and subjectivity is more likely than objectivity.
Performance management? Who should judge that – administrators or the students the professors serve?
Conflicts of interest? Would this be monitoring and judging extra-curricular activities, interests and group participation that would be subject to approval of the administration of the university? Don’t believe what we want you to believe and it affects your employment?
Need we look at conflict of commitment and discipline? God knows where that could and would lead.

Remember, we are talking about tenured professors that are some of the best in the world. They are used to having freedom to do what needs to be done from a variety of angles. Are we to believe that “moonlighting” at another employer will affect the dedication the prof will have to his responsibilities at Western U?
At York University not long ago, free speech was under fire:

York University President Lorna Marsden is under fire from all directions for her decision to banish student activist and journalist Daniel Freeman-Maloy from campus for three years. Freeman-Maloy’s expulsion was meant to send a message: challenge my administration’s authority, and you will suffer the consequences. Instead, it is demonstrating that crude repression of student activism will always backlash.

Freedom of belief, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association are rights that must be maintained in every society, under every circumstance, and in every setting.
The professors of Western University have a right to maintain the ability to state their opinions in a quest for higher knowledge, and if they succumb to the barrage of pressure to toe the political line and give up rights and freedoms, we are one step closer to having our children “processed” not “growing intellectually”.
Dalton McGuinty was looking for all day kindergarten for children as young as three, because he claimed they would be learning better at older ages as a result. We could easily challenge that and counter that it would be a means of controlling the mind when very young. Agendas that might not be good for the family but the State, and in the wrong hands, could be devastating to the rights and freedoms of mankind.
In the U.S., we are seeing freedom of expression and association under Nazi-style pressure to dissuade those looking to join a group sworn to uphold rights and freedoms:

The issues at Western University may seem small at first glance. But it is part of a bigger picture that is designed to strip people of their rights.

Now take a look again at the comments at the top of this article.  Compare that to the experience of those affiliated with  Oathkeepers . Two examples, but similar theme.

What if a professor was a political activist supporting a cause? If the university had the right to discriminate in this way, they could effectively censor and control the content of higher learning.

Our minds and those around us are meant to be free. Free to learn and free to challenge.

Trying to put us in a box must be met with resistance, and the professors of Western  & Carleton Universities are on the front lines. They see the issues. They deserve our support.

Eloquently put, there is a war on for your mind and the minds of our children, Because if we ever figure it out, they are in trouble.

Let’s not go the way of Harvard! (see the next in the series!)

Where does the Western Faculty Strike stand? Here is a chronological listing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s