The Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia (CUFA BC) represents 4,600 faculty, lecturers, professional librarians and other academic staff at British Columbia's five research universities. Our goal is a system of publicly-funded post-secondary education that is of high-quality and broadly accessible. We believe that anyone who can benefit from post-secondary education should be able to try and attain that education regardless of economic or social circumstance.
VICTORIA - The 2014/15 provincial budget continues to shortchange students and their families according to the organization representing professors, librarians and other academic staff at BC's public research universities.
"In a time when we should be increasing investment in the people and research necessary to diversify our economy and support local communities, this budget cuts funding to post-secondary institutions and does nothing to help us keep BC's best and brightest at home," said Richard Kool, President of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC (CUFA BC).
"By 2016, per student operating grants to universities, colleges and institutes will have dropped 20% in real terms since the Liberals formed government," Kool added. "Students have already lost support services and learning opportunities due to inadequate funding and these new cuts will shortchange students even further."
"Moreover, we are losing some of the best and brightest BC students to other provinces because we don't have a provincial graduate fellowship program to support tomorrow's innovators," Kool said.
The creation of the BC Training and Education Savings Grant will do little to help students and their families, say the professors.
"The BC Training and Education Savings Grant is completely inadequate", Kool said. "The value of the government's contribution will not even cover the projected increase in tuition fees for one year by the time a child born today reaches age 18. We should be able to do better."
"Using the government's numbers, the value of the government's contribution will fall $473 short of the projected tuition fee increases. Using more realistic calculations, the gap is $754," Kool added. "This is on top of tuition fees that have already doubled under the Liberals."
"Our society and economy demands educated citizens," Kool said. "Simply training people for resource-dependent jobs, as proposed by this budget, ignores the need to prepare people for the social, economic and environmental changes in front of us. The provincial government's narrow focus limits our possibilities and ill-prepares us for an ever changing world."
The Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC represents 4,600 professors, librarians, instructors, lecturers and other academic staff at BC's five public research universities - UBC (Vancouver and Kelowna), SFU (Burnaby, Surrey, Vancouver), UVic (Victoria), UNBC (Prince George, Quesnel, Terrace, Fort St. John) and Royal Roads (Victoria)
Comment: Unionization of Professors Inevitable
by Robert F. Clift
We usually picture university professors as individuals: lecturing in classrooms, debating in seminars, or working on their research. When we picture them in groups, it's typically at graduation, conferences or as part of a large research project.
So reports that University of Victoria academic staff have commenced a union certification drive and that faculty at SFU and UNBC are considering forming unions may, at first glance, seem a bit out of character.
However, throughout the long history of universities, professors have always worked collectively to protect academic freedom, the quality of education and research, and the integrity of the academy.
For the past 30 years in Canada, this collective action has largely taken the form of unionization. Today, approximately 80% of university academic staff in Canada are members of faculty unions.
The idea that this relatively elite group needs to form a union may seem a bit absurd. It's not like they are being forced to work in dangerous conditions for substandard pay.
Professors, librarians and other academic staff are, however, being forced to reduce the quality of their teaching, research and service, and are increasingly being bullied by their bosses.
Long gone are the days when professors enjoyed relative freedom from interference by university managers and government officials. Directly and indirectly, today's professors are constrained in many ways in their ability to provide the high-quality teaching and research that their students, and the taxpayers, expect.
Their professional judgment is routinely questioned, and sometimes overridden, by university managers with little knowledge of the faculty member's academic field. If academic staff resist this managerial bullying, they may be subject to retaliation ranging from petty bureaucratic roadblocks all the way to putting their careers at risk.
Truly hideous cases, such as the persecution of University of Toronto whistleblower Dr. Nancy Olivieri, will make headlines and garner international attention and action. However, small-scale bullying and intimidation is routine and goes on relatively unnoticed. The affected individuals have to put up with the misery or leave their university in hope of finding better working conditions elsewhere.
Unfortunately, managerial bullying is not the result of a few bad eggs. It is the result of political and economic forces driving the universities in particular directions, heedless of the effects on teaching, research and the working lives of academics.
Rather than accept these difficulties as inevitable, professors, librarians and other academic staff have organized faculty associations to act as a brake on managerial excess and to protect the individual and collective rights of faculty members.
For many years, university faculty associations operated in a bit of legal limbo. They were effective only to the extent that senior university managers agreed there was more value in solving problems than in creating conflicts.
However, the changing political and economic landscape has created a new breed of university manager who has traded leadership for 'boss-ship' and who is often more concerned with the bottom line than the quality of the student experience and scholarly output. This new breed of manager would rather impose their will than cooperatively solve problems.
Consequently, faculty associations can no longer afford to exist in a legal limbo. When university managers are increasingly using legal means to enforce their will, faculty associations need access to the widest range of legal tools to protect their members and the quality of education and research.
It's for this reason that academic staff at BC's research universities are considering forming unions. There is no other legal framework that gives an employees' organization more power to protect its members and to solve problems than does the Labour Relations Code.
That university faculty feel they need the protection of a union to properly do their jobs is an indication that the university is operating less like a community of scholars and students and more like a private corporation. Although academic staff will never give up on the community ideal, they can no longer ignore the very real change in the way our universities operate.
To this end, unionization of university faculty in BC is inevitable. I will not be at all surprised if, in the very near future, UVic, SFU and UNBC join UBC, RRU and the vast majority of Canadian universities in forming a faculty union.
Robert F. Clift is the executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC and a PhD candidate in higher education policy at UBC.
Pre-Election Letter to CUFA BC Members
Friday, May 10, 2013
Colleagues and friends,
As we approach Election Day on Tuesday May 14th, I’d like to offer some thoughts about the impact of the last twelve years of the BC Liberal government on universities and academic staff from the perspective of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC.
At the end of their first mandate and into the beginning of their second, the Liberals under Gordon Campbell were very supportive of the public universities. There were no huge increases in funding, but the government provided funding that was adequate and predictable. The Liberals made smart investments by increasing the number of student spaces and expanding medical and nursing education throughout the province. While students had been burdened with substantial tuition-fee increases during Campbell’s first mandate, by 2005 these had leveled off and their future growth was limited to the rate of inflation. We also saw periods of intense facility construction on campuses during the Campbell years. Although there were strains between the government and the universities during this earlier period, generally the relationship was professional and productive.
All of this changed dramatically in 2008 when the Campbell government announced a surprise cut in promised funding for universities and colleges two weeks before the start of the new fiscal year. Although CUFA BC and others managed to persuade the Campbell government to restore the cut just before the 2009 provincial election, the productive working relationship had been shattered.
Overall, what is the legacy of the past 12 years, beyond new buildings?
When we consider constant dollar values, the Liberal government’s per student support for post-secondary education has decreased by 14% since 2001. During the 2009 provincial election, the Liberals quietly axed provincial funding for forestry research, creating significant problems at the University of Northern BC. They tried to kill the Therapeutics Initiative at the University of BC, have been uneven in their support for the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and have promoted an “accounting mentality” that strangles our university administrations, increasing by 30% the number of reports that have to be filed annually since 2001. Moreover, the Liberal government botched the opportunity they had in their hands to plan for the future of BC post-secondary education during the Campus 2020 initiative in 2006/07.
Since Christy Clark became Premier in 2011, the province’s universities have not been on the government’s radar screen at all. In the nine months I’ve been president of CUFA BC, we’ve had three Ministers of Advanced Education and only one of them had even a slight interest in meeting with us. The only significant post-secondary policy initiative of the Clark government was to pick an unnecessary fight with faculty associations in 2011/12 over which faculty members were eligible to be members of the board of governors. Their goal seems to be management without consultation: a position fundamentally at odds with the collegial principles on which BC’s universities were established.
We have seen our institutions further pushed by the Clark government to increase the number of undergraduate students without any increase in funding for those added placements. A successful graduate fellowship program was discontinued in 2011, leaving us with no provincial support to help us in the competitive world of attracting and keeping excellent graduate students. In having no provincial graduate fellowship program, we remain far behind Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. This puts our universities at a significant disadvantage to those provinces in attracting graduate students and in supporting the best BC students to remain in the province for their graduate programs.
We have seen nothing from the Clark government to address the growing levels of student debt as tuition costs continue to rise. After adjusting for inflation, university tuition fees have increased by 54% since 2001, and now constitute a considerably higher proportion of university operating revenue than they did in 2001.
There has been nothing substantial offered by the BC Liberals in terms of needs-based grants to help first-generation university attendees or Aboriginal youth both get to university and to support them once they are there.
The relationship between the provincial government and the universities has deteriorated to such a point that even our university presidents, who have reasons to be friendly to any sitting government, have publically criticized the Clark government’s post-secondary education directions.
Your local faculty association’s efforts to work within the constraints created by the Liberal government while ensuring you receive competitive compensation, fair working conditions and the maintenance of a collegial governance system are constantly stymied by the Public Sector Employers’ Council (PSEC). The Council, which operates under the direction of the Provincial Cabinet, predetermines what our employers are allowed to bargain with faculty associations. Consequently, there is no opportunity to use the give-and-take of bargaining to try to solve local problems. Rather, PSEC creates a lock-step bargaining structure that fails to deal with the unique aspects of our profession and promotes conflict between faculty associations and university administrations.
That’s the Liberals’ record. But what of the future?
The Liberal party has not offered anything of solid interest to universities during this election campaign. Indeed, in the 2013 budget the Liberals announced that if re-elected, they will enact a $50 million cut to university and college annual operating grants over the next three years. Money that would have been used to operate all those new buildings constructed over the past decade, amongst other things. There is unanimous agreement in the post-secondary sector that the so-called “administrative savings” the Liberals have claimed this cut represents are fictitious. If this planned cut goes ahead, students are going to feel the effect in the classroom and in the support services available to them.
In looking to Mr. Dix and the NDP to see what they would do differently, we are heartened by their commitment to a $100 million needs-based student grant program, which will help pay part of post-secondary education costs and reduce student debt load for those who need assistance the most.
We remain concerned, however, that the NDP have not yet committed to cancelling the planned $50 million cut to university and college operating grants over the next three years. Nor have they commented on proposals to create a BC Graduate Fellowship Program, to restore provincial government support for forestry research, or to provide predictable funding to the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.
While we need to see more clarity from the NDP and Mr. Dix about their intentions towards higher education, nothing we have seen indicates the NDP could or would be more obstructionist or uninterested in universities than the present Liberal government.
It is in this context that I encourage you and your colleagues to vote on Tuesday May 14th.
Richard Kool, Ed.D.
Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC