Two of issues raised in the collective bargaining process according to the OPSEU and the Ontario Employer Council are academic freedom and intellectual property. I have seen these ideas lumped together in the emails coming into my inbox but I want you to know that they are not the same! Let’s take a look at these issues.

geralt / Pixabay

Academic Freedom is our right (or lack thereof) to research, communicate our findings and express our opinions even if they are not favorable to the learning environment without the fear of discipline by the employer.  Can my employer censor this blog? Would I get in trouble for expressing controversial topics like I plan to in the future? OPSEU wants an Ontario wide provision for academic freedom in the current round of contract negotiations. Currently each college has (or should have) their own policies on academic freedom.

Is it worth striking over to have an Ontario wide provision? I guess that depends on the policy where you work. I pulled mine up and it essentially says I can “freely communicate” pretty much anything I want to providing it is “guided by sound evidence.” So, the post I plan to write about feeling inadequately supported in pursuing a PhD within the College system should not result in me getting fired. Sounds good to me. I am curious if statements on academic freedom are acceptable around the province.

PDPics / Pixabay

Intellectual Property concerns the ownership of materials produced by a college employee. This issue is more important to me than academic freedom since I am a little unclear about it’s boundaries. Where I work the policy was made in 2003 so it’s safe to say it needs an update.

This one is really tough because I can see both sides of the argument.

  • I can tell you how hard it is to start from scratch in a course where the previous teacher does not want to share anything, especially for our part time faculty who pick up a course last minute at times. There are certain things, like the course syllabus, learning activities and tests that should, in my mind, be the property of the College.
  • At the same time, there are some activities I would like to engage in (that were even recommended at an event my employer sent me to) that require a lot of effort beyond what is expected to teach a course. Should I own that? Should I have the right to freely share it without my employer’s permission? Should I be compensated for it should I choose to be? Um … yes … those things would cost me time and money. If I want to share those things with the world I should be able to. That is the issue behind my post questioning if contract negotiations are holding back innovation.

The question for me is – should intellectual property rights be negotiated at a province wide level? Would any individual college set limits on their intellectual property rights if the collective agreement doesn’t? I won’t know until after the agreement is signed.

Our university colleagues have ownership of their intellectual property. How is that working for the university community? This is an issue that require more reflection for me. I don’t have the answer and I won’t tell you how to vote on September 14.

Want more information? 

I suggest you visit this new blog I found at – It has links to updates and information from both sides of the negotiation table. My advice is to consider both sides of the argument, read some of the commentary and critically consider your stance on issues before the strike vote on September 14.


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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