By Melanie Peacock (2021-04-13)
As an educator I incorporate many ways for students to reflect upon their acquired knowledge and experiences and to critically think about how to effectively apply these. I expect no less from myself. Having served on numerous MRFA committees, including negotiations for 5 years and having the honor of being the MRFA president for 2 years, I have spent many hours ruminating on how we can ensure the continued strength and viability of our Association. When the pandemic struck and we needed to pivot our work, these insights were amplified.
The importance of the collective agreement is paramount. This negotiated document is more than “words on paper” as it governs our working terms and conditions. Without this, we would be subject to the whims of University leadership and other forces. Therefore, the arduous, detailed and time-consuming steps and work to re-examine and renegotiate this agreement must be honored and valued. Diligent processes including benchmarking to best practices, researching proposals and understanding practical implications of changes to this agreement are imperative.
Further, a ratified collective agreement needs to be a living document. This necessitates that each one of us be familiar with the contents and be willing to stand up for our rights. Enforcing these rights goes well beyond using the grievance process when appropriate. Ensuring our rights, or in essence upholding the collective agreement, requires that we think deeply about the value we place on the protections we are afforded. This is not merely a cerebral or emotive exercise. It must be a strategic one which takes time and forethought.
Functioning as a collective is critical. This involves more than working together as an Association and requires that we join with faculty colleagues at other institutions to ensure that our voices (and when/if required “our feet”) have impact and can produce desired outcomes. Carefully considered and coordinated action is needed. Many stakeholders (students, government, the public and other post-secondary institutions) are watching, will learn from, and be affected by this planned and synchronized approach.
Last, but certainly not least, a key lesson I have learned is the value of the Mount Royal Faculty Association itself. While differing opinions and perspectives are to be expected given the diverse array of our over 800 members, I have experienced first-hand the engaged and caring community we have built. We must never let this falter.
I encourage each of you, my colleagues, to do as we ask our students. Take time to critically think about your experiences and what you have learned and how you can apply these by contributing to our work. At the heart of it, advocacy is built upon your involvement in the MRFA, which can be done in numerous ways and through various opportunities. You are important and your contributions are valuable.