Join OCUFA at the $15 & Fairness Campus Assembly on September 15 and 16

Reposted from OCUFA, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, of which FAUW is a member.

OCUFA is part of the Fight for $15 & Fairness, a broad group that is advocating for better labour laws and a $15 minimum wage across Ontario. On September 15 and 16, the first ever $15 & Fairness Provincial Campus Assembly will take place at the University of Toronto. Faculty from universities across the province are invited to attend, and you can register here.

The assembly comes at a crucial time because Bill 148 will be considered in the legislature this fall. There will be discussions and workshops about how to win the strongest possible labour legislation, as well as how to advance the $15 and Fairness agenda on campus through collective bargaining and by uniting students, staff, and faculty. Achieving fairness for contract faculty will be a key focus throughout the agenda.

We hope you can join us! Register today. If you have any questions, or would like more information, please contact Brynne at bsinclair-waters@ocufa.on.ca or 647.226.7184.

FAUW Weighs in on Bill 148 – Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act

Faculty association representatives from more than ten Ontario universities recently presented at hearings on Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, including FAUW’s president, Sally Gunz. Her full presentation is below.

Presentation: Sally Gunz, President Faculty Association, University of Waterloo to Committee, Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, Kitchener, 18 July, 2017

My name is Sally Gunz. I am president of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW). FAUW represents all faculty members at the university except those who are hired to teach by course only. I am a professor of business law and professional ethics in the School of Accounting and Finance, and have worked at the university since 1981. I speak in my capacity as president of FAUW.

Members of the public often think of university professors as well paid, privileged employees. And indeed many are. But few are aware of the prevalence of precarious work on university campuses. My focus is on Bill 148 as it affects the many faculty teaching at the University of Waterloo who are employed solely on the basis of limited term contracts. I note that the university is presently revising its faculty hiring policies and issues around precarious employment are the subject of formal examination.

As background: it is important to understand that there is wide variance in terms and conditions of employment for contract faculty. For example, at the University of Waterloo:

  • Lecturers are mostly hired on one to five-year contracts, but a limited number are hired on an ongoing basis. I focus here on the former.
  • Sessional Instructors are hired by individual course. A distinction here is between those who teach in order to complement another, often professional, career, or to provide post-retirement part time work; and those for whom it is their full-time employment. The goal for many is to become full-time professors. In the meantime, they piece together contracts at Waterloo and often elsewhere, in some cases over very extended lengths of time.

While unstable employment may be used to meet legitimate short term university needs, increasingly such positions are created and sustained in response to real or perceived funding constraints. As university costing models become more sophisticated and transparent, the pressure to maintain flexibility by using temporary positions for high-level teaching tasks appears to be increasing. Let me give you two examples from Waterloo.

  • Case 1: a lecturer hired on one-year contracts for approximately 10 years teaches a range of courses in one discipline. He has received a high-level teaching award and provides strong service to his department, yet his employment remains year-to-year and dominated by no security. 
  • Case 2: in a professional program, instructors are hired to teach multiple sections of courses, sometimes far exceeding a full-time load, but without the benefit of full-time contracts. This denies them a reasonable income, pension, or benefits. The university is reluctant to commit to full-time appointments despite the obvious teaching need in a program in which students pay significantly enhanced fees. 

The use of exploitive hiring exists across universities. The case examples I cite are common. Highly qualified instructors have no employment security, comparatively low pay, and in many cases no pension or benefits. Where educational institutions face funding pressures, the increased use of ‘flexible’ hiring options is virtually inevitable. And while Bill 148 says that no employee shall be paid a rate lower than a comparable full-time employee of the same employer, there are broad exemptions to this rule.[1] What Bill 148 can do, and what I, on behalf of FAUW urge you to do, is to make exploitive hiring options economically unattractive at universities.

To summarize: FAUW is pleased by much of what is in Bill 148. It strongly supports the recommendations OCUFA has made for improvements. In particular it would ask this committee to consider:

  1. Extending the equal pay for equal work provisions to include access to benefits.
  2. Amending Bill 148 to prevent the use of discontinuous contracts as a means of avoiding stable employment. 
  3. Extending the notice period for scheduling of employment to at least two weeks in recognition of the extensive prior preparation needed for assuming a teaching position. 

[1] This rule would not apply where there is a difference in treatment between employees on the basis of: (a) a seniority system; (b) a merit system; (c) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (d) another factor justifying the difference on objective grounds.

OCUFA’s 2017 Policy Exchange report summarizes faculty recommendations for improving Ontario’s universities

Republished from OCUFA.
In May, OCUFA brought together representatives of its membership to identify the policy issues affecting Ontario’s universities that they view as most critical, and to draft recommendations for addressing them. The final report summarizing these consultations is now available online.

OCUFA regularly conducts research, produces papers and briefs, and hosts conversations on targeted policy issues affecting higher education in Ontario. However, the 2017 Policy Exchange conference provided a unique opportunity to have a broad and interactive discussion.

Over the course of the two-day consultation, participants explored issues relating to precarious academic employment, university funding, and university governance and accountability. Through a series of group discussions, they established a clearer understanding of these issues and the steps they believe should be taken to strengthen Ontario’s university sector.

The recommendations collected in the final report of the OCUFA Policy Exchange encapsulate the discussions from the two-day consultation and provide the basis for a policy vision for Ontario’s universities that reflect the goals of the 17,000 faculty members OCUFA represents. What stands out in these recommendations is the clear commitment that faculty share to preserve and protect the core teaching and research mission of universities, and the centrality of this mission to ensuring that our universities and province thrive.

Moving forward, OCUFA will use these recommendations as the basis for further policy work and advocacy. It is hoped that OCUFA members and policymakers alike will see these recommendations as a useful starting point and valuable contribution to policy discussions regarding Ontario’s universities.

OCUFA’s Ontario Budget Recommendations Released

OCUFA’s 2017 pre-budget submission, which sets out OCUFA’s priorities for the Ontario Budget (PDF), is now available.

OCUFA’s recommendations include:

  • Increasing per-student funding for Ontario’s universities to match the average for the rest of Canada;
  • Making a commitment to supporting faculty renewal, including full-time faculty hiring that brings Ontario’s student-faculty ratio in line with the rest of Canada and replacing retiring faculty with tenure-stream positions;
  • Ensuring fairness for contract faculty by strengthening employment and labour laws;
  • Rejecting the use of punitive performance-based funding in the renewed university funding model; and
  • Establishing a new higher education data agency to collect, analyze, and disseminate key information on Ontario’s universities.
  • Providing greater clarity about criteria for solvency exemption to support the success of a multiemployer jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP) for the university sector.

OCUFA President Judy Bates presented these recommendations to the Ministry of Finance on January 9 and to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on January 19.

Source: OCUFA.

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.

News from the OCUFA Director

—Jasmin Habib, FAUW Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Director

The OCUFA Board of Directors meeting that FAUW President David Porreca and I attended at the end of September was intense. While FAUW is engaged in important discussions about, for example, scheduling and the balance between work and home lives, both David and I were struck with the very serious threats that appear to be facing some of our colleagues across the province.

For example:

Major reforms to pension and benefits packages are likely. Some of the richer benefits packages, for example, those that offer post-retirement research allowances (Professional Expense Reimbursements), are likely to be hardest hit.

Program Prioritisation and Planning processes are underway at several universities and it appears they will lead to deep cuts to programs and academic staff.  Reports across the province are that these cost-cutting measures will be made at the expense of pedagogical excellence.

Serious concerns were also raised about a leaked document that sets out the Province’s “Differentiation Policy Framework”. Since we can all agree that our universities are already “differentiated,” at least to some extent, we do not have any clear sense as to why this particular policy has been introduced or exactly how it will be implemented.  As one Director put it: it seems that the Province is finding all sorts of bottom-drawer policies that may not make any programmatic sense (they may even contradict one another) but they just haven’t been tried out yet. What is most worrisome is that it appears – on the face of it – that smaller universities and their programs will be at highest risk.  To date, OCUFA has not been invited to comment on the matter, which is troubling. Nonetheless, they have made a public statement, as follows: “OCUFA will oppose any policy framework that allows government to interfere in academic decision making, properly the responsibility of university senates.”

For those who would like to learn a little more about what OCUFA does, I would encourage you to visit their website at www.ocufa.on.ca or the OCUFA Facebook page. There, you will find reports and policy statements and a link to Academic Matters.

There are several events that the OCUFA Executive, Directors and Committee members will be engaged with throughout this academic year, including:

  • In October, OCUFA arranges to have its Directors and Faculty Association Presidents meet with local MPPs. These meetings allow for a kind of face-to-face interaction that is quite rare but certainly incredibly important, especially as there is every possibility we will be moving into a critical election sometime early in 2014. David will be attending these meetings on behalf of the FAUW.
  • In November, the OCUFA University Finance Committee will be organising a workshop where they hope “to de-mystify budgets and the budget process.” David and I plan to attend these meetings on behalf of FAUW.
  • And, early next year, OCUFA, together with its standing committees (Collective Bargaining, Grievance, and Status of Women), is planning to organise a workshop “After Bill 168: Occupational Health and Safety in the Academy.” I plan to attend this workshop and it is likely that a member of the FAUW Status of Women and Equity Committee and/or the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee will be joining me.

Last but certainly not least: OCUFA will be hosting its annual conference in February. This year’s theme is “Future View”. The focus of panel discussions and keynote speakers will be on how we might re-imagine research, teaching and service in the future. A big concern: how might our practices have to change as governments shift their funding priorities away from our post-secondary institutions? Stay tuned!

Academia in the Age of Austerity

Part 2 – The view from other situations

I return you to the scene: 120 conference attendees, absorbing a talk on the decline of the university as a centre of critical thought and human development, while using a spoon to chip away at a perfect sphere of hyper-frozen desert effectively unsupported on a flat plate without (a) making too much noise; or (b) launching the sphere across the table at a colleague.

Borg adapting to phasers
After lunch, more discussion on the austerity excuse to rewrite Ontario labour legislation brought home the scary point that the government might adapt its strategy based on lessons learned through the zero-zero ‘consultations’and the various fights with big unions such as the ones representing teachers (in my mind, I think of the Borg response to phaser fire in Star Trek).  The most extreme case would be US-style ‘right-to-[be-exploited-in-your]-work’ legislation to cripple all collective bargaining.  Many of our neighbouring states have it already. 

Britt Hall - National Education Association, Director for Wisconsin
Britt Hall –
National Education Association,
Director for Wisconsin
When warned by Wisconsinites in May 2011 at CAUT Council, that we had one to three years to avoid taking their path, I’m sure many thought such things would be unthinkable in Ontario.  At that time, we were told that the hard-right-wing message is well scripted and revolves around a simplistic “power back to the people” message of (a) eliminating collective bargaining; (b) removing Rand formulae; and (c) requiring constant recertification.  It is a strategy of divorcing both the public and association members from association leadership.  The moral of the story, as told to us, was to learn to fight now, not after it starts, and to use every means to get and stay connected with our members.  A look back at the polling data mentioned in my previous post will convince you of how easily such legislation could slide past the Ontario public.
Maybe this is a good time to point out that if FAUW manages to get you, just once, 0.5% more scale increase than the university/government wanted to pay you, your dues are pretty much covered for the rest of your career.
A session on student perspectives was very enlightening.  We could learn a lot about organizing political dissent from the Quebec student example.  They seem to have made masterful use of decentralized support building and clear messages attuned to the general public’s sympathies.  What got lost somewhat in Ontario news reporting was that the protest was not all that much about money, but rather the forced effective change of higher education from a social good to an individually consumed service.  The metamorphosis in Ontario has been more gradual and is already much farther along, so the Quebec uprising didn’t gain much traction here. 
However, students told us they are very worried about tuition levels which result in too much debt and as many as half of all students are working too many hours at outside jobs during school terms.  They argued that tuition should be zero but I think this ignores some perverse incentives and moral hazards that might enter the picture with that much imbalance between the government and individual investment.  Still, if a university (or college) education is increasingly the franchise for adult life, then it clearly is a social good and saddling the student with an undue fraction of its cost can be viewed as a ‘youth tax.’  Tuition may yet become the galvanizing issue for dissent even in Ontario.
The last half day of this conference focused on international perspectives.  England is always a bracing example.  Recently, government there cut teaching support to universities by 80% (yes, that says eighty percent) and allowed massive increases in tuition, implementing a near instantaneous ideological shift.  They expect an average student to accumulate about $70k (Canadian) in debt and take 20 to 30 years to repay it – essentially education via a mortgage.  One effect this year has been a sharp drop in enrollment.  Whether a student carrying that much debt might go on to graduate studies remains to be seen and was not part of the consideration by government.  England is also way, way down the metrification path and, curiously, universities themselves appear far more interested in rankings than do funding agencies, students, or government.  Perhaps the next time rankings are justified in Senate, we should ask for verifiable proof that these things matter to anyone but us?
From the US perspective (courtesy of Jeffrey Williams,Carnegie Mellon), we heard about what was called a deliberate policy shift over the last few decades.  Students have been reconfigured as objects of private profit (customers).  Faculty have been reconfigured as minority players – only one quarter or less are permanent employees.  Administration has grown and become corporatized.  Buildings and grounds exist largely for self-accumulation with enticing things like luxury dorms and fitness centres.  Two-thirds of students accumulate on the order of $30k of education-related debt by graduation, essentially a form of indenture.  Universities play a role in class sorting and the class divisions which plague the country.
According to panelist Eleanor MacDonald (Queen’s), much of the cutting in Ontario since 1990 was absorbed not just in tuition hikes but in quality degradation and workload increases in universities.  We require less of students in the form of fewer assignments with less participation and less critical t
hinking, if only due to the sheer number of students in each class.  In addition to this, the corporatization and branding activities in universities are leading to subtle and not-so-subtle disavowal pressures to not talk about the deterioration.  We all are meant to be promoters and marketers of our individual units and schools.  She believes we should get involved in the democratic processes and start to talk more openly.  Since this is precisely what FAUW tries to do, I couldn’t agree more.
George Freeman