I shall try not to swear too much.
My institution has a new and intriguing policy on intellectual property. Or rather, this is the current episode in a long-running saga. Most of what follows below is in the form of screenshots (partly because, as you will see, I can’t type very much right now).
Preamble: some months ago, to give you a taste of the bon ton / ton beau of The Powers That Be:
Email 1: 2014-02-25
Email 2: 2014-03-06
And you can read all about it here: https://policy81.learning.ubc.ca/policy-81-faq (that’s basically the same information again, in more legible font and format, and more permanent form).
This, from the Faculty Association (a.k.a. our union):
And here is their information, and a chronological synopsis including a threat of censure with the CAUT (for American colleagues: this is akin to censure by the MLA, AHA, APA, etc…): http://www.facultyassociation.ubc.ca/policy81.php:
(see our FAQ)
On February 20, 2014, the Board of Governors passed Policy 81 (Use of Teaching Materials in a UBC Credit Course) outside its regularly scheduled meeting process. The Faculty Association vigorously opposed Policy 81 as drafted, revised, and implemented at all stages of discussion with the University. Below we provide a short but important history of how this matter was handled by the Faculty Association and the University, and how the Policy links to the Flexible Learning Initiative.
- FA Submission on Policy 81 (13 October 2013)
In early fall, the Faculty Association sent out a call to members for feedback on the proposed Policy 81. We received extensive feedback and virtually all member responses included the view that they opposed an “opt out” policy. Based on member feedback and the Faculty Association’s analysis of the issue, the Faculty Association submitted its feedback of the policy to the University.
- FA President’s email to President Toope (03 February 2014)
The Board of Governors was scheduled to meet on February 4th to review and potentially pass Policy 81. In an effort to make sure that President Toope was aware of the Faculty Association’s strong opposition to the policy as crafted, the President of the Faculty Association wrote an email to President Toope urging him to reflect on the fact that what the University was propsing by this policy was in contravention of the Copyright Act, the University’s Copyright Policy, and the longstanding practice of the University.Outcomes:
- President Toope informed the Faculty Association’s President on February 5th that the policy had been removed from the Board of Governor’s agenda, for further discussion.
- The Faculty Association’s President offered to be involved in those discussions, and assumed that the revised policy might be put on the Board of Governor’s agenda for the next regularly scheduled meeting (April 2014).
- University Counsel Hubert Lai offered to meet with the Faculty Association on February 24 to discuss ongoing concerns of the Faculty Association. At that meeting, much to the surprise of the Association, Mr. Lai announced that the policy had been passed on February 20 without any further consultation with us.
- FA President’s email to FA members re: passing of Policy 81 (25 February 2014)The Faculty Association President informs Faculty Association members of the passage of Policy 81, and advises members to protect all of their teaching material to make sure that they do not inadvertently “share” material, as this will grant irrevocable use and revision rights to UBC.
- CAUT letter to President Toope (28 February 2014)CAUT (the Canadian Association of University Teachers) responded strongly to the passage of Policy 81, and advised UBC that if it does not withdraw the policy, CAUT will begin to implement a process toward censure of the University.
- UBC broadcast email re: Policy 81 (06 March 2014)Despite the threat of censure by CAUT, UBC released a broadcast message asserting that Policy 81 is simply a mechanism to encode a common practice of sharing teaching materials at the University: “Our community of scholars has a tradition of sharing previously developed materials … However, this community tradition has not previously been supported by formal policy.” The University also misstates its consultation with the Faculty Association about the policy. Not once did the University mention that the Faculty Association objected, at every juncture, to the implementation of an “opt out” policy for sharing teaching materials.
- President Toope’s response to CAUT (12 March 2014)President Toope responded to CAUT that he did not agree with CAUT’s view of the situation on Policy 81, and indicated that arbitration between the University and the Faculty Association was the mechanism for a resolution of this dispute. The Association is deeply disturbed that the President of this University would find arbitration rather than dialogue and real consultation an appropriate mechanism for dispute resolution in this matter.
- FA President’s email to FA members re: the commodification of teaching materials through Policy 81 (17 March 2014)The Faculty Association President informs Faculty Association members of the legitimate concern that Policy 81 was passed so that the University could grant rights to itself of faculty members’ teaching materials so that the materials could be commodified to serve the purposes of the Flexible Learning Initiative.
- FA President’s email to FA members re: CAUT’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee vote (20 March 2014)The Faculty Association President informs Faculty Association members that the CAUT’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee voted unanimously during its March 14 & 15 meeting to recommend to the CAUT Executive that it put forward a motion at the May Council meeting to begin the process of censure of UBC unless it ends Policy 81 as currently written (20 March 2014).
- Flexible Learning Initiative Report (January 2013)On page 2 of the rationale for Policy 81 dated February 4, 2014, the Board of Governors was informed that “The proposed Policy is intended to support the Student Learning Commitment by enabling curricula and pedagogy to be developed and revised to foster an effective and efficient student learning environment and to support UBC’s commitment to outstanding teaching and its Flexible Learning Initiative.” If you read through the report on the Flexible Learning Initiative, it becomes obvious that the University sees this initiative as a potential revenue generator. Just one example of this can be found on page 5 under the bullet “Growth Learners” which reads “Accordingly one of the challenges for UBC is to explore how it might be able to re-purpose for this segment some of the content developed for the credit and certification markets.” In order to support its strategic initiative to generate revenue, the University, through Policy 81, has granted to itself the right to use and revise faculty members’ teaching and learning materials. Unlike the statement in the UBC broadcast email of March 6, 2014 (referenced above), Policy 81 is not simply intended to formally support in policy the rich tradition of collegial sharing for the purposes of pedagogical innovation. The policy is meant to turn the intellectual products of faculty over to the University for its own commercial gains as documented in the Flexible Learning Initiative.
Last modified: March 21, 2014
In the meantime, I have protected my current online resources (which I should have done a couple of months back anyway), so they look like this:
and something similar for FREN 101.
[Ed.–The following section got tweaked a bit, after I had first posted this then had a bit of a stretch, especially of the hands.]
You see, this is not about sharing materials with colleagues in the spirit of happy open good academic collegiality. Because we do that already anyway, and have done so, as a community, for nearly a thousand years. And amongst ourselves. Here in my department, as in every department I’ve worked in. Some materials don’t get shared, some get shared with caveats. But we talk to each other, including about teaching.
We talk to each other. Nicely, politely, courteously.
This policy takes as a given that people do not.
That is a bad thing, and rude to us.
It is also a good thing for us, if it assumes that silo-mentality is the status quo.
Much has been said about more nefarious things behind the policy, and its links to certain matters of institutional policy which have been encouraged by people who go to fashionable expensive conferences for Leaders and Leadership; by people who formulate policy at a distance from practice, mistakenly believing that that distance means loftiness and an abstracted theoretical stance; and by trustees, politicians, and other “Stakeholders.” (Tangentially: I’m seriously considering keeping a stake in my office, and perhaps a collapsible telescopic one in my bag, for shaking at people using that silly term. Dracula, we miss you, come back, there is good work for you here; and you were so much better, more virtuous and honourable and honest, than certain other kinds of blood-sucker. But I digress.) In particular, people playing catch-up with fashions that are some combination of out of date, more complex than the Daily Mail-level version, controversial, sophisticated, nuanced, in various shades; and otherwise skim-read in a news digest, misread, misunderstood. The only thing that seems to have been understood about MOOCS, for example, is
But in this, too, I digress.
Whatever thought does or does not lie behind it–and, in all fairness to the policy-makers and their motives, it is quite likely that there was less thought involved than has been suspected, if any thought at all–the following things are clear.
1. This is insulting to faculty and to their professionalism and collegiality. Also, of course, to their basic human dignity.
2. It is especially insulting to Medievalists: we teach people about these wonderful things called “guilds” and these other marvellous things called “universities.” Repudiating these fine and honourable things through the commodification of education and the commercialisation of institutions, and destroying the very concepts of “learning” and “scholarship”: that’s bad enough. But daring to instruct us in the idea of sharing our stuff? Goes well beyond reinventing the wheel, selling coal to Newcastle, and teaching Granny to suck eggs. It adds injury to insult.
3. Duels to the death have been fought over lesser slights to one’s honour. Reason #2 that I need that collapsible stake.
4. Also, courtesy. Combined with Medievalists. Um. Repeat steps 1-3 above…
If you are teaching at UBC, and use online materials, I would strongly encourage you to do something similar to protect your rights; and also the intellectual property rights of students, in the case of an interactive course–or a whole group project (and pass this on to students too, for their own work be it in groups or individually). That is the situation for FREN 333. It is a crucial part of student development as intellectuals, as intelligent adults, as citizens in a democracy that they learn to see themselves as intellectual beings who create and have creative rights: as adults who are (sooner or later) the intellectual peers of the people teaching them (eventually, who have taught them); that they are all responsible adults and sophisticated thinkers and makers; that they are equals. We don’t treat students as equals and as adults enough of the time; that is bad. Thus: teaching people, teach your students–and students, learn–about your rights as an author, artist, thinker, or any other sort of producer of goods of the mind.
[End of tweak.]
I also went to the Policy 81 site, to “opt out” for courses I am teaching in the future:
and logged in (UBC CWL), and started adding courses to the registry. The form looks like this:
The obvious box to tick is “1”; if you weren’t sure, take a look at the registry… which is I think not publicly accessible, you’ve got to be logged in (with UBC CWL) to see this stuff. Once submitted, you get a record of entries, each of which looks something like this:
and, on the registry proper, like this:
The perspicacious reader will have spotted the problem with that form, and the reason I have not added other courses for next year:
- FREN 101 = FREN101-101, FREN101-102, etc… for 13 sections + FREN101-L1A, FREN101-L1B, etc., for 12 lab groups
= 25 individual entries (note: this course is already there, for the summer 2014 iteration)
- FREN 102 = similarly, 8 sections + 10 lab groups
= 18 individual entries (with same parenthetical remark)
My next step was to go to the bottom of the out-opting-submission form and avail myself of this:
For technical assistance of the website, please contact UBC IT Web Services.
I have just started to register my opting out for courses I teach, and have some comments.
Others have already complained that if one teaches the same course in more than one term, one still needs to add a new entry for every iteration of that course.
The form’s structure further multiples work for courses that include multiple elements. Opting out for every *entire course* that I teach cannot be done in a straight-forward way (ex. FREN 101, FREN 215) because a new entry must be added for every part of that course.
Let us take these two examples, FREN 101 and FREN 215.
For next year’s FREN 215, eight entries had to be submitted: there are two main sections, each of which runs for two terms (= 4 entries) and then there are two labs, each of which run, again, for two terms (= 4 entries).
Completing these entries (plus the more immediately-pertinent ones, for two summer courses) took me about 15 minutes; I have been typing and marking papers for much of today and have tired hands. Do bear in mind that I am not a data-entry professional, too; yet I am one of the less technologically-inept members of my department and faculty. This is going to be even harder and slower work for many others.
I have not yet done the needful for FREN 101 and 102 (and this is needful, from the point of view of legal intellectual property), but they are going to add up as follows:
2014 W1 FREN 101_101-110 + _901-902 (12 sections) + L1A, L1B,…L5B (10 lab groups)
2014 W2 FREN 101_201 (1 section) + _L1C, L2C (2 lab groups)
= 25 separate entries.
FREN 102: 8 sections + 10 labs
= 18 entries.
That’s a total of 43 entries; in addition to the 10 already done; so 53 in total, for 3 actual distinct discreet courses.
Based on 15 minutes for 10 entries, this is going to take me, estimating conservatively, at least 75 minutes altogether.
A repetitive exercise such as this adds to the risk of repetitive strain injuries, which is a Health & Safety at Work issue. At freelance rates in my areas of expertise, I have just wasted at least $150-200. I could alternatively mark one of my class’s assignments in that time. Or prepare a class. Or do some teaching and/or research-related reading: all of which are actual useful necessary parts of faculty work, and parts of the actual necessary work of a university.
For coordinators of large multi-section courses such as these, this whole exercise adds an entirely unnecessary administrative burden to faculty. Unless the idea is precisely that they (a) don’t care, (b) are too jaded and overworked to bother/care, (c) either know no law or don’t care, (d) are generally too tired to think about anything anyway and thus are easier to manage, handle, manipulate, etc.
It would have been much easier to ask people to opt IN to this policy rather than opting OUT, and I see no good reason why this should not have been the case in the first place.
In conclusion, a practical point: I would politely and respectfully suggest that the form be redesigned, to take into account practical considerations such as those outlined above.
- lesson = if you are uncertain what this policy 81 business is about and/or if it affects you: see information and links above
- lesson (2) = if you get repetitive strain injuries easily from data entry and similar pattern-tasks: do not complete these forms yourself. I am considering paying a student to do this for me, and charge the expense to my employers. (It should at least come out of Professional Development money. Goddesses help us, this is supposed to have something to do with us as professionals… )
- moral of the story: t.b.c.
- what that master of the ton beau, Marot, would think and how he would write about it: a known unknown of witty pithy elegance
- and they all lived happily ever after?: unknown and unpredictable given SNAFU.
Any responses to email will of course appear (one must be fair), and will of course be anonymised to protect the identities of those concerned; in accordance with decorum, dignity, and respect for rights… even if this is all FIPPA-requestable, in theory, anyway.
[Ed. If “blistering barnacles” doesn’t seem to do justice, here is the Wikipedia entry for “Vocabulaire du capitaine Haddock” and something similar from the Tintin wiki. You’re welcome, and have a lovely evening.]
UPDATE (2014-03-28, 15:48): I received a very civil reply, as follows:
Thank you for your feedback to improve the system. I have forwarded this to Hugh Brock, the owner of the policy 81 registry project for future improvement.
I responded appropriately, i.e. with brevity and civility. Readers will note with interest the idea of this being a “project” with an “owner”; I believe this derives from the infamous Project Management Handbook, the new Holy Writ of our new ideological, spiritual, and very earthly masters; there will be more on here about this most important and increasingly influential work at a later date.