As you have witnessed since last February, the implementation of the APUO Policy on the Assessment of Senior Administrators (see here) seems to make the representatives of the University administration uncomfortable. Indeed, within a period of a few weeks, APUO members received three hostile and accusatory communications denouncing the policy and attributing motives to the APUO Executive Committee. Here is a reminder of the sequence of events.
On February 4, just two days after the assessment of four deans was launched, the acting Vice-President Academic and Provost, Michel Laurier, wrote to APUO members that “the University strongly disagrees with this survey and discourages faculty members from completing it”. He also wrote that “the survey is inconsistent with the appointment procedures for deans, and with the methods used by the University to evaluate the performance of academic administrators and to verify that they meet their objectives”. In conclusion, he made a point of emphasizing that “the results of this survey will not be taken into consideration by the University” (read the full message here).
Then, on March 16, Vice-President Laurier sent a second communication and referred to the APUO “evaluation” in quotation marks. He repeated that “there is already a process in place for evaluating deans”, yet he failed to provide details, only stating that this process is “complex”. The Vice-President concluded his message by stating that “the University administration will express to the APUO our grave concerns about the fairness and reliability of its ‘evaluation’, and its use of results that derive from a questionable procedure” (read the full message here). There followed a letter from President Allan Rock to APUO President Jennifer Dekker on April 1 (see here) as well as her response dated April 12 (see here).
Finally, on April 19, Allan Rock wrote to APUO members in order “to share […] directly the substance of [his] message” to the APUO President. He reiterated that the University already has an evaluation process in place for employees, but again provided no further detail. He went on to criticize APUO’s assessment, stating that the “University administration intends to pay no attention to the results of these ‘assessments’”, and urged APUO members to “take the same approach”. He signed off by wishing that the APUO Executive would work with him and other administrators “to create and strengthen” a “respectful work environment” at the University of Ottawa (read the President’s message here).
We encourage you to read carefully the exchange of letters between Allan Rock and Jennifer Dekker dated April 1 and 12 (see above). The letters clarify the importance of having a policy on the assessment of senior executives at the University of Ottawa. In view of the high participation rate in this first assessment exercise and the excellent comments and suggestions that you forwarded to us, we want to assure you that we intend to maintain and perfect our assessments of senior executives. By way of conclusion, we wish to highlight a few key facts:
- The APUO does not have to ask the permission of the University administration to survey its members.
- It is a common tactic among employers – including universities – to invoke confidentiality indiscriminately in order to impose unjustifiable management practices and a culture of secrecy. By sending its members the quantitative results of the assessments, APUO has in no way infringed upon confidentiality or been disrespectful to the deans who were assessed. Senior executives are holders of public offices with considerable powers and privileges. People who accept such offices should expect their work to be scrutinized to make them accountable for potential abuses of power and to put an end to such abuses when they occur.
- If the processes of appointment and evaluation of senior executives at the University of Ottawa were serious, transparent and inclusive, the APUO would not have had to reinstate its Policy on the Assessment of Senior Administrators. Furthermore, it is telling that the President calls into question APUO’s assessment, while he seems unable to reveal processes within his own administration. We urge him to foster greater transparency so that we can all benefit from knowing the assessment method used by the University (if any).
- The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act states that employers have a legal obligation to ensure that employees have a workplace free from harassment, discrimination and intimidation. Based on the data collected during the evaluation, we urged the University to fulfill its legal obligations by calling an independent investigation of the working environment of one of its faculties. Despite the categorical refusal and hostile and accusatory remarks of the administration regarding our request, members can rest assured that we will use all means at our disposal to ensure that such an investigation be carried out.
- With rates of participation in the assessment of up to 71%, it is obvious that members consider APUO’s initiative to be pertinent, credible and timely. Ultimately, Allan Rock and Michel Laurier are not denying workplace assessment to the APUO Executive. They are denying it to the numerous APUO members who described the problems they are facing.
With kind regards,
The APUO Executive Committee