FAUW’s response to so-called “double dipping” legislation (updated)

– Bryan Tolson, FAUW President

“The Ford government is giving itself the power to force post-secondary institutions to reduce the pay of any employees who are also receiving a college or university pension.”

CBC News, April 15

I hope you are all excitedly preparing for a nice holiday weekend with family and/or friends. I am trying to, but this news story, “Ford government stopping university, college profs from ‘double-dipping,’” is getting in my way. Lines like “this includes the power to reduce pay to zero” make me pretty unhappy. Then some of the comments on the story make me just plain grumpy. (For those interested in the legal details, the story refers to the language in Bill 100, pages 116-17.)

This new (proposed) legislation is a serious escalation in the public relations battle the Ford government has decided to wage against Ontario faculty. Any guesses what the Ford government thinks about sabbaticals or tenure? With that in mind, we need to defend ourselves and our profession, and we need your help to do that. Here are four talking points you can use in conversations with your family and friends this weekend and beyond.

  1. At Waterloo, the provincial government pays only 1/3 of our salaries!
  2. Pensions are simply deferred compensation, and, roughly speaking, half of the pension we collect at Waterloo comes from our own contributions. 
  3. The average starting age of faculty at Waterloo is somewhere between 35-40 years old. Think about what that means in terms of the pension implications of such a late career start (not to mention the wait-time to start collecting a career salary).
  4. Any Canadian employee working at age 71 or older is forced by federal law to start taking their pension.
Continue reading “FAUW’s response to so-called “double dipping” legislation (updated)”

What you should know about the Ontario University Pension Plan (video)

The University Pension Plan (UPP) is Ontario’s new multi-employer pension plan for university employees. It has been developed by a consortium that includes the Council of Ontario Universities (representing employers), OCUFA, CUPE and other employee representative groups. Three universities—Queen’s, Toronto, and Guelph—are lined up to be the first participants, with a transfer from their current plans scheduled for 2019. If those transfers proceed smoothly, it is likely that other universities will be encouraged to join the UPP in the future.

On November 16, FAUW hosted Professor Mary Hardy (Statistics and Actuarial Science) for a talk in which she described and critiqued the UPP in terms of affordability, risk, fairness, and adequacy, and reviewed the case for and against membership of the UPP from the perspective of UW (and Laurier) pension plan members and retirees.

We’re happy to make a video of the talk and the slides available to help inform our members and other university employees.

Continue reading “What you should know about the Ontario University Pension Plan (video)”

Responsible Investing Working Group Report Going to Board of Governors on June 5

The Responsible Investing Working Group (RIWG) released its report to the University community for the first time on Thursday, May 31, as part of the agenda package of the Board of Governors (BoG) meeting happening in only a few days (Tuesday, June 5). The agenda contains a motion to endorse and implement the report recommendations.

This working group was formed in response to the strong interest and advocacy of some UW community delegations. It was tasked with making recommendations on whether and how to incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into decision making for the investment of the university’s endowments and your pension funds.

Our members are keenly interested in how their pensions are managed. In a March 28 blog post, we said we would “seek input from members and formulate a response” when the report was released.

As I hope you will understand, FAUW is unable to keep our commitment to you. Four working days is not enough time for the FAUW Board to read and understand the report and then gather feedback on it from our members. As such, we requested that this agenda item be for information only at the June 5 BoG meeting, thereby delaying the vote until the next meeting, in October. This request was denied.
Continue reading “Responsible Investing Working Group Report Going to Board of Governors on June 5”

Updates from your OCUFA Director

Jasmin Habib, FAUW OCUFA Director

Early in February, I attended the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Board of Directors meeting.  Several issues remain high on the agenda, particularly as there is every reason to believe an election will be called in coming months.  I thought I might share some of what I learned at the meeting, below:

OCUFA Pre-Budget Proposal

OCUFA submitted a pre-budget proposal to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.  Among other things, the submission called for a) increased funding to the universities, highlighting the extent to which universities have begun to rely heavily on contractually limited academic staff; b) a collaborative approach to resolving the university sector’s pension crisis; and c) a restoration of cuts to the faculties of education across the province.

Program Prioritization

Reports from OCUFA directors from Trent, Brock, Laurier, York, Nipissing and Guelph all noted the challenges posed by the Program Prioritization Processes (PPP) initiated by their administrations.  Note that several of the OCUFA directors where PPP is in progress reported low morale and serious polarization among faculty resulting from these processes. Our own Provost, Geoff McBoyle, has indicated that we will not be engaging in this process, something we can celebrate, by all accounts!

University Differentiation Policy in Ontario

OCUFA completed a research discussion paper entitled “University Differentiation Policy in Ontario” in response to the release of the Ontario government’s “Differentiation Policy Framework” in December 2013. According to OCUFA Executive Director Mark Rosenfeld “The document outlines the principles and components that comprise its differentiation strategy as well as the metrics that [can] be used to assess and promote their vision of differentiation.”  He notes, as well, that with each iteration of “transformational change” (that is the language used by the government to describe this process), the government seems to be backing away from actually directing universities to incorporate its vision.  That said, there is serious “[concern] that the government’s plan will discourage real, organic institutional diversity in favour of a limited, top-down vision of differentiation.”

Strategic Mandate Agreements

Negotiations over the Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs) continue, with the Minister expected to visit every campus across the province.  There is concern that we are increasingly seeing a shift in the degree of control taken by universities’ administrations and out of the purview of their senates.  Unlike many other universities, our own SMA passed through the UW Senate last month.  What we still do not know is what effect these agreements will have on future funding. That is, we are not sure what “levers” the government will or can use. It is not at all clear that program approvals will be linked to funding, but of course we need funding to mount new programs.

Satellite Campuses

The Ontario government released its “Major Capacity Expansion Policy Framework” in December.  Many think of this as the “satellite campus policy” because it was

If new campuses are supposed to offer students the full range of undergraduate education, then this guideline runs against a differentiation policy which is meant to encourage universities to build distinct programs.

developed to guide those universities that have proposed or are considering proposals for expanding their existing campuses or building satellite campuses. In the main, these campuses are supposed to offer undergraduate education to underserved geographical areas.  Several people noted that there are contradictions embedded in this policy when one compares it to the “differentiation” policy (as above).  If new campuses are supposed to offer students the full range of undergraduate education, then this guideline runs against a differentiation policy, which is meant to encourage universities to build distinct programs. A key consideration for OCUFA in all this is to ensure that faculty members at these campuses enjoy the same rights and privileges as their colleagues do at the centre or main campuses.

Online Ontario

In January, the Ontario government announced that it would launch “Online Ontario” in the 2015-16 academic year.  The plan is to offer students access to online courses that will be transferable across the province, and to “optimize enrollments” across the province.  Of special note: there is no faculty representation on the governing board of this new institution.  Kate Lawson, President of OCUFA (and a faculty member from the Department of English Language & Literature at the University of Waterloo!) outlined a series of issues and concerns that have been raised by the range of proposals, including but not limited to:

  1. The question of intellectual property rights (that is, who owns these online courses?);
  2. The revenue sharing model is yet to be determined (that is, would a dean want to cover costs for a professor to mount a course for Online Ontario?  What would be his/her incentive for doing so?);
  3. Ever-present workload issues (especially as several reports indicate that online courses may be far more labour-intensive than campus courses with, for example, many students requiring one on one responses to their inquiries);
  4. Academic freedom regarding course content and design;
  5. Problems that may arise for students.

The above serves to highlight that the government does not have a clear vision for this entity. There appears to be a lack of any meaningful discussion about the governance structure of Online Ontario, as well as questions of scale, though we know that it is not likely to be a degree-granting institution. We understand that there

“How can one represent just 20% of a painting?!”

is funding for start-up but what thereafter? The government may see this as a money-saving venture but there is evidence to show it can be more expensive to run these courses well, when compared to campus-based university instruction.  Those who teach using images (for example, courses in art history, visual culture and film, digital media) also noted that the rights to publicly display such images are inordinately expensive. Best line:  “How can one represent just 20% of a painting?!”

Pensions

Pensions, pensions, pensions. This was the topic of very long and complex discussions and I am sorry to say that I did not understand some of the technical discussions at all.  Of interest is that OCUFA, along with the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), is engaged in the development of a straw model for a joint sector pension plan (JSPP).  This collaboration will enable the university sector’s stakeholders to respond to the Ministry of Finance’s technical working group, which is advising the Ministry on pensions in the public sector.  On a related front, in January the government appointed Paul Martin to advise on retirem
ent income sustainability. OCUFA supports the government’s “leadership on CPP reform”.

Trends in Higher Education

Several Directors reported on trends that should raise some concern:

  1. An overall loss in the number of full time faculty (10% and more with no plans to replace retirees at some institutions);
  2. An increasing number of tenure denials;
  3. Budget cutting processes that put small programs at risk of disappearing;
  4. An increase in the number of teaching stream positions, and with them inordinately high teaching loads (5/5 teaching was just one example from a settlement is expected to be ratified);
  5. 2-tiered bargaining strategies so that new hires may get different workloads and fewer benefits. One can imagine how this sort of splitting can have a deleterious effect across campus;
  6. Online teaching evaluations have been adopted by several universities and all of the Directors who reported on this process have given it a big FAIL.  It is so problematic that at some institutions the administration has conceded and allowed tenure stream faculty to have paper and in class versions of evaluations because the submission rates have been so low (20 to 30% max) for the online versions. This has placed vulnerable faculty at increased risk.  Several faculty – including a member of the OCUFA Status of Women Committee – noted that there is growing evidence that teaching evaluations – whether online or not — can have a disproportionately negative effect on members of marginalized communities. All in all, it appears the move to online evaluations can lead to unanticipated and disastrous consequences;
  7. Last but not least: there is an erosion of collegial relationships across some campuses as budget cuts take their toll and administrations take a more managerial approach to running universities and pay less attention to the needs and voices of both faculty and students.

OCUFA News

A random survey of faculty on other campuses who were asked to indicate how they would like to receive information from their faculty association indicated that they prefer electronic and email newsletters and email updates by a very wide margin (76.2% and 68.3% respectively) over Facebook (2.5%), Twitter (2.4%) or blogs (18.6%).

OCUFA is working with all faculty associations to develop a campaign website should an election be called. Watch for analyses on their site.

To Provost or Not to Provost?

David Porreca, FAUW President

Well, as many of you already know, our institution had a heart attack last week. Dr. Sallie Ann Keller resigned from the position of Vice-President Academic and Provost (VPAP) after nine months on the job.

Quite understandably, this topic dominated the discussion at the Faculty Association Board of Directors’ meeting this past Thursday. This sort of development tends to lead to speculation about what might have gone wrong. In this post, however, I would like to highlight some of the significantly positive developments – from the Faculty Association’s perspective – that have occurred under Dr. Keller’s leadership:

  • UW did the right thing in not signing on to Access Copyright’s framework. Instead, we have developed our own set of copyright guidelines that are described in full in the UW Copyright FAQ.
UW Dubai Campus
UW Dubai Campus
  • UW’s satellite campus in Dubai is closing. The opening of this campus was actively opposed by the Faculty Association from the get-go for a variety of good reasons, including the lack of a credible business plan for the project, and the impossibility for all UW policies to apply on that campus (e.g., an openly gay faculty member would be committing a capital offence the moment they set foot off the plane in the United Arab Emirates).

Although the manner in which the closure has proceeded has generated no small amount of controversy, the facts that a) enrolment never met expectations; b) resources were deployed whose opportunity cost for main campus operations were recognized to be deleterious; and c) concerns over equity for participants in activities at the Dubai campus were never adequately addressed, have all made the Faculty Association cheer its closure. In fact, it has been difficult to resist loud shouts of “We told you so!!”

  • Inequities surrounding benefits for couples who are both UW employees have been resolved.
  • The railroading of a new scheduling system with inadequate communication and inadequate consultation with key stakeholders had been slowed, such that all interested parties can get their concerns integrated into the deployment of the new system over the next year or so.
  • After unconscionable delays and consequent mushrooming of costs, the construction of a consolidated daycare facility for the university community is finally going ahead.
There are other files around which we have seen significant progress:
  • The approaching resolution of issues around the collection and retention of confidential medical information from those applying for Short-Term and/or Long-Term Disability benefits.
  • Implementing regular, systematic checks for faculty salary anomalies and their adequate resolution.
  • The oversight and governance of Senate-approved centres and institutes, so as to avoid in the future the controversy surrounding the governance of the Balsillie School of International Affairs

All of the above being said, we recognize that there are still some issues that are the source of significant concern for our membership that we still need to push forward:

  • Per diems. Reports keep coming in that other institutions (e.g., the University of Toronto and McMaster University) have managed to retain their per diem systems for expense claims despite the apparent imposition of provincial regulations. Investigations are ongoing on the applicability of the systems deployed at those institutions to UW.
  • Senate Long-Range Planning Committee oversight of satellite campuses. We are aiming to set in place regulations that will prevent the occurrence of future debacles such as our Dubai campus. Defining satellite campuses is a key component of this issue.
  • Pensions: Not everyone is happy with the changes to our pension plan that were put forward last year for implementation in 2014. Efforts are ongoing to improve the situation through broader consultation.
  • The Work-Life Balance Report authored by DeVidi, Parry, Collington, Clapp and Brown contains a number of sensible recommendations to improve our working conditions. The exact mechanisms for the implementation of the Report’s recommendations are still under discussion.
  • Concerns over the inadequacy of UW’s provisions for compassionate care and bereavement leave have been raised and distilled into a report for FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee. The implementation of this report’s recommendations is also under discussion.
  • Having biennial evaluations for tenured faculty members is an issue that has been raised many times over the years which we will be looking into more closely.

Well, there you have it: the good, the “in progress” and the “yet-to-do” lists. The length and significance of the first two are a testimony to the good working relationship the Faculty Association had with Dr. Keller. We look forward to having an equally productive relationship with Dr. Geoff McBoyle who will be returning as the interim VPAP, as well as with his eventual permanent successor.