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Towards Achieving Equity: New changes to CAUT’s governance structure

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Penni Stewart, Canadian Association of University Teachers
Guest Contributor

Thank you for the invitation to post the news about the changes to the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) governance structure to the Federations’ Equity Matters Blog.

We understand how these changes would be of interest to academic staff in the humanities and social sciences working towards achieving equity in the communities where they work.

A summary of the structural changes is available on the front page of our website for anyone interested in the details (www.caut.ca). Excerpt from ‘Council delegates vote to amend changes':

  • The creation of two member-at-large Executive Committee positions — one for Aboriginal Academic Staff and the other for Francophone Academic Staff. (No changes were made to either the Francophone Committee or the Aboriginal Academic Staff Working Group.)
  • The Contract Academic Staff Committee becomes a Standing Committee of Council. Like all Standing Committees of CAUT, the Chair will be elected by Council and will be a member of the CAUT Executive Committee.
  • Three new working groups will be created – the Racialized Academic Staff Working Group, the Academic Staff with Disabilities Working Group and the LGBTQ Working Group. Together with the Women’s Committee, which now becomes the Women’s Working Group, each group will take the lead in developing proposals for CAUT’s equity work in relation to its community and will share ideas and information in a new CAUT standing committee, called the Diversity Council, which replaces the former Equity Committee of the Executive.  Each of the four working groups will choose two members to sit on the Diversity Council which will also have two Co-Chairs, one of which must be a woman. Both Chairs are to be elected by CAUT Council and will become members of the CAUT Executive Committee. Members serving on the Working Groups will be selected following the same process and criteria as all committees of CAUT which take into consideration not only field of expertise but size of institution, geography, linguistics, disciplinary lines and gender.
  • Two member-at-large positions remain on the Executive Committee (previously three) and are designated as "general" and elected by Council.

In recent years, CAUT has consistently heard the same message from members – that we needed to identify a way to organize ourselves to better represent our members of historically marginalized groups. As a national association, we needed to structurally reflect the systemic and demographic shifts that have occurred in our rapidly changing post-secondary education sector.

At their recent meeting in April, with a vote of 91% majority, Council delegates clearly indicated that now was the time for CAUT to move ahead on equity.

The changes to our governance structure will take affect April 2011 at the start of our next election cycle, which will include election for the Co-Chairs of the Diversity Council as well as Member-at-Large positions for both Aboriginal and Francophone members. The appointment of members to serve on the four new working groups of CAUT – the Women’s Working Group, the Racialized Academic Staff Working Group, the Academic Staff with Disabilities Working Group and the LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer] Working Group – will also be ratified in April 2011, with the process beginning early in the new year.

At CAUT we look forward to next year as we prepare for implementation and continue to advance our work on equity.

Penni Stewart is an associate professor of Sociology at York University and the President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

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Equity Matters