Alberta has sounded alarm bells on campuses by becoming the first province in Canada to restrict academic tenure.
The Conservative government's latest adult education policy obliges all post-secondary institutions to renegotiate their collective agreements by March 1, 1995, to allow for academic layoffs due to financial stringency or the end of academic programmes.
The policy claims to assure academic freedom but critics say that the move could be the first in a series of steps to infringe on academics' rights to free speech. It is not surprising that such a programme has emerged from Alberta, which has the country's most financially conservative government. In addition to renegotiating collective agreements, academics are seeking clarification on the new law.
James Marino, president of the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations, is still trying to determine what will happen if universities do not renegotiate their collective agreements on time. He fears the government may amend university acts with a management rights' clause which has no appeal or buy-out procedure.
Only two of Alberta's four universities have clauses for financial stringency, but Dr Marino says the University of Calgary's contracts would probably require a year for termination. Alberta also has 23 other post-secondary institutions.
Dr Marino says 85 per cent of Canadian universities have clauses that allow for sackings to save money. It is the new policy's intrusion into university autonomy that has angered people so much. "Many people on campus want to call the government's bluff," he said. "They don't think its intrusion into university autonomy will extend that far."