- Pre-Election Letter to CUFA BC Members - May 10, 2013
- Professors Support NDP Proposal on Needs-Based Student Grants, but Say More Still Can Be Done - April 23, 2013
- CUFA BC Releases E-Book on Academic Governance - April 10, 2013
- UBC-O, UNBC and SFU Professors to be Honoured for Using Their Research in Service of the Community - April 3, 2013
Governance: It's Broken -- Let's Fix It - September 26, 2012
- Published on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 01:00
- Written by Robert Clift
Governance: It's Broken -- Let's Fix It
By Robert F. Clift, Executive Director, CUFA BC
September 26, 2012
For the past 11 months, I've been part of the fight against the changes in university, college and institute governance contained in Bill 18, the Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act (2011). This is no particular surprise -- it's part of my job. What is exceptional is how offended I felt, personally, by the government's legislation, which became law on March 29, 2012.
Certainly, my democratic beliefs and ideals were offended by the obvious attempt to muzzle elected members of boards of governors. But this isn't the first time I've encountered something like this in my 20 years working on behalf of university academic staff.
Nor was I particularly offended by the clumsy attempts of politicians to justify this unnecessary legislation. This is an occupational hazard in government relations work.
What really offends me is the realization that underlying the ham-fisted legislation and the political double-talk is the fact that some politicians, some members of boards of governors and some university and college administrators are so frightened by opinions contrary to their own that they would sacrifice our fundamental freedoms of thought and speech for their own convenience.
It offends me that these timid mice have the power to shape the future of institutions essential to our democracy. Essential not only in facilitating economic and social equality, but also essential in preserving, promoting and exemplifying our fundamental freedoms of thought and speech.
Responsibility for one of our primary democratic institutions has been put in the hands of people that neither have the depth of knowledge nor the depth of commitment to properly exercise that responsibility.
What's even worse is that we handed it to them.
It's understandable that the pressures of teaching greater numbers of students, of chasing shrinking research dollars, and of suffocating under greater administrative loads have distracted us from governance, in its many forms. We thought it was something we could leave safely to others. We thought wrong.
Over one generation, a mere 20 years, university and college administrators have gone from being the people who facilitated the work of academics, to the people who want to control it. Increasingly, this class of technocrats is not even drawn from the academic ranks. Many come from outside academe and attempt to impose their simplistic models of administration and management on our unique organizations.
All because we thought governance was too much effort -- that it would look after itself.
Fortunately, all is not lost. Faculty, staff and students still wield considerable power on campus, if they choose to use it and focus their efforts.
To facilitate what we hope will be a renaissance in university governance, CUFA BC has been investing time and money to develop resources to model academic governance for the 21st century, and to support those people who will take up the challenge of transforming our current, dysfunctional, models.
By the end of October, we will launch academicgovernace.ca - a new website dedicated to putting teaching, research, freedom of thought and freedom of expression back at the centre of university and college governance.
Later in the fall, CUFA BC will launch mini-websites to directly support elected members of university boards of governors and to monitor any questionable activities of university board members appointed by government.
CUFA BC's agenda is absolutely clear -- university and college governance in BC is broken and with the support of faculty, staff and students across our campuses, we're trying to fix it. We hope that you will join us in that effort.
Looking Into the Faces of the Future - September 19, 2012
- Published on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 07:58
- Written by Richard Kool
Looking Into the Faces of the Future
By Richard Kool, President, CUFA BC
Taking on the responsibility of being CUFA BC's president, and being the first president from Royal Roads University, is quite an honour and I'd like to thank my colleagues past and present on CUFA BC Council for giving me this chance to serve the academic staff at BC's research universities. I'm an Associate Professor at Royal Roads University, where in 2003 I founded a transdisciplinary MA program in environmental education and communication. I was also, part of the team that, in 2006, unionized our faculty association and wrested a first collective agreement out of a very intransigent university administration.
I've been a registered student at three of our member institutions: UBC (MSc from the Institute of Animal Resource Ecology), SFU (summer program for educators at Outward Bound) and UVic (a wonderful course in qualitative research methods), and have instructed as a sessional at UVic and as a TA at UBC. So UNBC is the only institution of our five in which I've had no formal involvement.
I plan, over the course of my two year term, to write to faculty association members on a regular basis about things that are on my mind when it comes to the realm of post-secondary education.
And while there are many important things to talk about as I look forward to my two year term -- things like the issue of power, academic governance and collegial decision-making, funding issues and our concern about student access to higher education and the issue of affordability, issues around academic freedom and the attacks by governments on "inconvenient" knowledge -- I do feel that September is the time of year when we renew our vows, so to speak, and welcome students back to school: into the library and our offices, labs, rehearsal halls, art studios, seminar spaces and lecture halls. At the start of the school year, I am often reminded of a line from late Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers' beautiful song about Prairie farming, Watch the Field Behind the Plow, where Stan sings "put another season's promise in the ground." Every year, we get to touch the lives of young (and not so young) people; "another season's promise."
There is a great honour and privilege in this work of being an academic. We are the carriers of a long history of knowledge-creation, both theoretical and practical, of artistic creation and performance, of critical philosophical and social insights, of deeply felt arguments as well as the means of resolving them. Our work as scholars and educators is done from a place where we honour those whose shoulders we stand on, while looking into the faces of those who may choose to stand on ours. In fact, it's shoulders all the way down.
Teaching, to me, is a faith-based activity. We do what we do with the faith that it will make a difference in our student's lives even if we never know what that difference might be. September, for me as a teacher, is always about looking into the faces of the future.
Minister Yap, We Need to Talk - September 10, 2012
- Published on Monday, 10 September 2012 13:57
- Written by Robert Clift
Minister Yap, We Need to Talk
Joint News Release
September 10, 2012
Faculty and staff from across BC's public post-secondary education system call on new Minister to convene a summit to deal with the funding crunch at colleges, universities and institutes.
The representatives of close to 30,000 faculty and staff who work and teach in BC's colleges, universities and institutes along with the representatives of BC's post-secondary students are calling on the new Minister of Advanced Education, John Yap, to convene a summit of post-secondary education stakeholders to deal with the ongoing funding crunch in BC's post-secondary education system.
"Post-secondary education is critical to BC's future, but unless we can identify ways to improve access and affordability, that future is looking more uncertain," said Cindy Oliver, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators. "The new Minister has an opportunity to chart a new course and this summit could be a positive step in that new direction," Oliver added.
"Students are feeling the pressure of higher tuition fees and increased student debt," said Katie Marocchi, BC Chair of the Canadian Federation of Students. "Unless we find a way to address those problems, the opportunity of a post-secondary education will become more expensive and more restricted," Marocchi stressed.
"Whether it is in areas of student support services or technical training, our members are told to do more with less," added Darryl Walker, President of the BC Government and Services Employees' Union. "You can't strengthen, let alone sustain, our post-secondary institutions following that path," Walker noted.
"The funding crunch in our institutions creates problems in our communities as well," said Barry O'Neill, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees BC. "Our post-secondary institutions play critical roles in every community where they operate, so under-funding problems extend into those communities," said O'Neill.
"Our research universities are critical to BC's long-term success, but those universities are constrained by current funding arrangements," stressed Dr. Richard Kool, President of the Confederation of University Faculty of BC. "If we under-fund those priorities, we are going to short-change BC's future and that's not something that people in BC want to see." Kool noted.
A copy of the letter to Minister Yap calling on him to convene a summit on post-education can be found here: http://www.cufa.bc.ca/files/J-Yap-Letter-September-7-2012.pdf
A copy of the letter from institution Presidents to the Minister of Advanced Education can be found here: http://www.cufa.bc.ca/files/N-Yamamoto-Letter-From-Presidents-February-28-2012.pdf