By Mary Nersessian
An e-mail created by the Ryerson Faculty Association (RFA) executive on Jan. 25, was written to voice the faculty’s discontent with Ryerson’s administration and its president, Claude Lajeunesse.
Partly a reaction to the administration’s alleged refusal to bargain seriously over RFA contract negotiations, the e-mail was approved by all 13 executives of the association before it was distributed to Ryerson faculty.
The e-mail was sent three days before the State of the University address on Jan. 28, and encouraged faculty members to attend the speech and hold the president accountable.
“In spite of what the president may claim in his address on Monday, the real state of Ryerson at this juncture is one in which the morale of RFA members is at or near record low levels,” reads the letter.
Ryerson politics professor Neil Thomlinson agrees, saying the administration has to make an effort to negotiate a contract.
“This is absolutely true, morale is low,” he said. “We have been without a contract since July and now we are heading to arbitration. My person view is that Ryerson has deliberately sat back in gambling that the cost of settlement will be less than if negotiated.”
The RFA also expressed its concern with Lajeunesse’s apparent failure to fulfill the terms of his reappointment, drawn up by the Presidential Advisory Review Committee in 1998. They are especially unhappy with the quality of communication between themselves and the administration.
“They behave more and more like the autocrats of old who thought their every utterance alone was both adequate proof and absolute command,” reads the letter.
Lajeunesse, who said he never received a copy of the letter, spoke positively about the rapport between the two groups.
“With all the members of the RFA, as far as I know, I have a very good relationship.”
He said the accusation that the administration is unapproachable isn’t realistic.
“We’re very approachable. I never refused once to see a member of faculty who asked to see me. I’m very, very open. I think those who are saying that are misinformed.”
The RFA is calling on Ryerson’s Board of Governors to review Lajeunesse’s performance, something it promised to do every two years at the time of his contract renewal, according to the RFA executive.
“None of these terms have been met,” said RFA president Michael Doucet, who contrasted Lajeunesse’s address with the University of Windsor’s State of the Union address Jan. 25.
“The two are very different. The University of Windsor address was the kind you would expect,” said Doucet, noting that Windsor president Ross Paul referred in his speech to his efforts to resolve issues with faculty.
“Lajeunesse’s was a Chamber of Commerce speech that says nothing about the problems of the university and doesn’t talk about any plan of action.”
Doucet felt snubbed by Lajeunesse in the State of the University address.
“He (Lajeunesse) has been here for about six and a half years and he still doesn’t know us. We hear about the same people year in and year out.”
Thomlinson says that he attends all of the speeches and addresses faithfully, but has “heard the same speech every time Dr. Lajeunesse has spoken in the past six months, a long litany of the accomplishments touted.”
“This should really scare the shit out of people,” Thomlinson said. “If you are a plots-and-paranoia kind of person, you might think that the administration can get away with anything.”