The April 27-28 AU Learning Conference ended with a final plenary featuring Provost Matt Preneas, VP of Information Technology Jennifer Schaeffer, and President Neil Fassina. The session was advertised basically as a wrap-up that would pull together the conference proceedings and help further map out a future direction for AU. A number of tutors and academic experts who attended the session found, to put it mildly, that it did not live up to its billing. Puzzled looks, headshakes, and eye rolls abounded. One veteran CUPE member who shall remain nameless actually fell asleep.
The main problem was that the presentations by the Provost and the President were vague and abstract and well-sprinkled with what could only be called “edubabble.” This is not what is needed at AU at this time. We (and others) have previously pointed this out in critical comments about the “Imagine” plan which is supposed to present the way forward but is long on philosophical meanderings and short on practical solutions. AU claims that a number of new policies have now been implemented but we are hard-pressed to find evidence of them. The VP IT was more concrete in her presentation but her use of a lot of technical language sent a good deal of her presentation over our heads.
There was also no evidence that the final plenary actually incorporated what occurred during the proceedings. Certainly nothing from the presentations by the CUPE members was referenced in any way, shape, or form. For example, not a word was said about the contention that teaching online needs to be actual teaching and hence based on reasons and evidence, rather than simply instructor-directed indoctrination aimed at getting the student to know X, which is an important pedagogical issue. In another CUPE 3911 session, salient points were raised about improving the wellness situation for tutors and academic experts but not a word of this showed in the plenary. Instead, the whole session seemed nothing more than a repetition of what the AU has already been advocating (in a nebulous way) since the new administration took over.