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Stable funding, strong universities: OCUFA makes recommendations for 2020 Ontario Budget

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OCUFA has set out its priorities for the 2020 Ontario Budget in a written submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

OCUFA’s 2020 budget recommendations aim to preserve the accessibility and quality of postsecondary education in Ontario through stable, consistent, and adequate funding, as well as improved working conditions for university faculty.

Public funding of universities in Ontario is at record low levels, while tuition fees are high, and faculty in the province are extremely concerned about the impact on the accessibility and quality of postsecondary education.

After years of chronic underfunding of postsecondary education, now is the time to invest in the province’s universities.

OCUFA recommends that the Government of Ontario:

  1. Increase per-student public investment in Ontario’s universities to improve Ontario’s rank among other provinces in per-student funding by 2024-25.
  2. Reverse the unstable and inequitable performance-based university funding model and revert back to the largely effective enrolment-based funding model.
  3. Eliminate the wasteful, ineffective, and unreliable Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and allocate its budget to student financial assistance.
  4. Invest in a multi-year faculty renewal strategy that supports meaningful long-term change. This strategy should encourage universities to undertake additional full-time tenure-stream hiring over and above current planned growth and direct funds towards transitioning existing contract faculty into secure full-time positions.
  5. Drop the appeal of the Ontario Divisional Court’s decision that deemed the “Student Choice Initiative” unlawful. This would save further legal costs and the additional resources universities and colleges require to support the flawed program.
  6. Repeal the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act to avoid a lengthy and costly Charter challenge and, instead, focus on the province’s real problem: the lack of revenue required to adequately fund Ontario’s public services.
  7. Adequately and meaningfully consult with sector stakeholders, especially representatives of faculty, workers, and students, before introducing new government legislation or policy initiatives.

Universities are vital institutions within our communities. They deliver education to thousands of students that expands knowledge, they create vibrant campus communities, they produce thought-provoking and groundbreaking research that drives innovation, and they provide good jobs that support local economies.

A high quality and accessible higher education sector is only possible through robust public funding. It is time for the Government of Ontario to invest in and protect postsecondary education in the province.

Read the full pre-budget submission.

New articles from Academic Matters for January, 2020

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There is more to Academic Matters than just the print issue. New articles are being added to the Academic Matters website every week. Here are some recent articles you might find interesting:

Universities must open their archives and share their oppressive pasts
By Evadne Kelly, University of Guelph and Carla Rice, University of Guelph
“For the first time, a Canadian university — the University of Guelph — is reconciling with its history of teaching eugenics. Few universities in Canada have looked closely at their historical involvement in oppressive research, teaching and practice. Fewer still have made their archives accessible. Through the …”

Universities should stand up for integrity and public trust in university teaching
By Jay Wilson, University of Saskatchewan and Nadia Prokopchuk, University of Saskatchewan
“Recent events at the University of Alberta called into question expectations for those who teach in universities. The university’s student journalism society, The Gateway, reported Nov. 27 that an assistant lecturer, Dougal MacDonald, “made a Facebook post on November 20 … where he said the …”

Should university and college funding be tied to how many students graduate?
By Denisa Gandara, Southern Methodist University
“How many states have adopted performance-based funding and what is the appeal? At least 30 states are using some version of performance-based funding for colleges and universities. Although these policies are widespread, most performance-based models only link a very small portion of …”

The mental health crisis on campus and how universities and colleges can fix it
By Marty Swanbrow Becker, Florida State University
“When college students seek help for a mental health issue on campus – something they are doing more often – the place they usually go is the college counseling center. But while the stigma of seeking mental health support has gone down, it has created a new …”

Legal win doesn’t mean Ontario student associations are in the clear
By David Said, University of Guelph
“The Ontario government’s so-called Student Choice Initiative was recently declared unlawful following a court challenge launched by the Canadian Federation of Students and the York Federation of Students. The Ontario Divisional Court’s decision voids the government’s requirement that post-secondary institutions …”

Women in engineering: Barriers remain 30 years after École Polytechnique shooting
By Wendy Cukier, Ryerson University
“The 30th anniversary of the Montréal Massacre is an opportunity to reflect on what has changed after three decades of advocacy on violence against women, on gun control and on women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Three years after the massacre, the Canadian …”

Ontario’s high school e-learning still hasn’t addressed students with special needs
By Pam Millett, York University
“Among the issues for Ontario secondary public school teachers who walked off the job for a one-day strike on Dec. 4 is quality of learning for students, including class sizes and mandatory online learning. For months Ontario families have been on tenterhooks about …”

$10,000 Fellowship for Higher Education Journalism accepting applications

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The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is excited to announce the second annual $10,000 OCUFA Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism.

In recent years, there has been a marked shortage of informed investigative reporting on Canadian higher education issues in the Canadian media. The OCUFA Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism is intended to help address this gap and support those wishing to pursue in-depth journalism on higher education.

The Fellowship is open to full-time, part-time, and freelance journalists (including students) who wish to pursue an investigative research project in the area of Canadian higher education. Applications focusing on any topic within this area are welcomed, including public policy, labour relations, the academic labour market, governance, financing, teaching, research, librarianship and information management, demographics, education quality, free speech and academic freedom, equity and diversity, indigeneity, and reconciliation.

The deadline for applications is March 23, 2020. The Fellowship is valued at $10,000 and administered by OCUFA, with the first half payable at the start of the project and the second half upon completion. The winner will have to complete and publish and/or broadcast the project within a year of being granted the Fellowship. OCUFA will not exercise any editorial control or judgment over the work produced.

To learn more about the fellowship and to apply, please visit: https://ocufa.on.ca/awards/journalismfellowship

If you have any questions about the Fellowship, the application process, or require further information, please contact Ben Lewis at blewis@ocufa.on.ca.

OCUFA joins labour coalition challenging constitutionality of Ford government’s violation of workers’ rights

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Toronto, Jan. 13, 2020 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has voted to join ten unions representing more than 250,000 Ontario workers to launch a coordinated Charter challenge against the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act – formerly Bill 124. This Ford government legislation unduly interferes with the rights of workers to free and fair collective bargaining. It threatens pay equity and benefits for contract faculty and other marginalized workers, and will erode the foundations of Ontario’s important public services – including our outstanding public education system.

“This legislation violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and cannot be allowed to stand,” said Rahul Sapra, President of OCUFA. “Ontario’s faculty will work shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues across the public sector to ensure this unfair legislation is struck down.”

Ontario’s university faculty and academic librarians firmly believe in the right to free and fair collective bargaining. It is through this process that equity is fostered; ensuring that good jobs and fair pay are provided to traditionally under-compensated groups, including women-identified, racialized, and contract faculty. In addition, OCUFA will be making the case that this legislation undermines university autonomy and independence by imposing a province-wide regime of bargaining.

The joint Charter challenge has been launched by a coalition of unions, coordinated by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), representing workers across the broader public sector, including: AMAPCEO – Ontario’s Professional Employees; the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE Ontario); the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 636; the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC); the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC); the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Healthcare); the Society of United Professionals (IFPTE) Local 160; the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 175; and the United Steelworkers (USW).

Ford’s attack on the rights of public sector workers is part of a broader anti-worker agenda as evident by his earlier actions that reduced Ontario’s minimum wage and stripped away basic employment rights from the province’s most vulnerable workers.

“Doug Ford doesn’t believe in fair labour laws or workers’ rights,” said Sapra. “He has manufactured a fiscal crisis to create a race to the bottom where Ontario workers have fewer and fewer rights and Ontario’s public services have fewer and fewer resources.”

Ontario currently has the lowest per-student and per-capita funding in the country and constraining collective bargaining rights will only deepen that crisis. OCUFA will work with our colleagues across the education and broader public sector to hold the Ford government to account and defend the rights of all workers to fair pay, safe working conditions, and job security. We will challenge Ford’s attacks on workers’ rights in the courts and work in our communities to show the Ford government that Ontarians reject its austerity agenda.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario. OCUFA can be found online at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca

OCUFA stands in solidarity with ETFO and OECTA as they stand up to Doug Ford

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OCUFA stands in solidarity with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) educators and support staff as they stand up to Doug Ford and escalate their job actions this week.

Ontario’s university faculty believe in the importance of a strong, publicly funded provincial education system – from kindergarten through to university. All children in Ontario deserve a high-quality and safe education in classrooms with the resources students need to thrive. This vital foundation for learning is threatened by the Ford government’s deep cuts to education.

Teachers and support staff are the heart of public education, and today these workers are escalating their efforts to defend public education in our province. Ontario’s university faculty firmly support our fellow educators and education unions in rejecting Ford’s cuts to Ontario’s important public services.

For more information about the job action being taken be Ontario’s public elementary and secondary school unions, follow the following links:

Are you an Academic Matters reader?
Take our short survey and enter to win a free e-reader

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Do you read Academic Matters, OCUFA’s journal of higher education?

As the Editor, I want to take a moment to encourage you to spend a few minutes filling out our reader survey.

Given your interest in postsecondary issues, your feedback will meaningfully improve the Academic Matters magazine and website.

The input you provide will help ensure Academic Matters continues to focus on those postsecondary issues that are important to you.

As a sign of gratitude, two individuals who complete the survey will be randomly selected to win a Kobo Clara HD e-reader.

Click here to begin the survey.

Thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate it.

Ben Lewis
Editor-in-Chief, Academic Matters

OCUFA stands in support of legal challenge to Ford government’s attack on workers’ rights

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Toronto, Dec12 2019 – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations stands in solidarity with our colleagues in the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens as they launch a legal challenge of the Ford government’s new legislation capping public sector wage increases. ThProtecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act fundamentally undermines the constitutionally protected right to free and fair collective bargaining, threatens pay equity and benefits for marginalized workers, and will erode labour relations in the public sector. 

University faculty and academic librarians firmly believe in the right to free and fair collective bargaining. It is through this process that equity is fostered, ensuring that good jobs and fair pay are provided to traditionally under-compensated groups, including women-identified, racialized, and contract faculty. Instead of attacking hard-working Ontarians, the government should be investing in the province’s public services and education system to ensure smaller class sizes for students where positive relationships can be fostered and learning can thrive. 

It is unfortunate that this court challenge is necessary, but the Ford government has consistently rejected opportunities to lead constructive conversations about the future of education in Ontario.  

As this legal challenge proceeds, OCUFA will continue to support our colleagues across the education and broader public sector to hold the Ford government to account, and defend the rights of all workers to fair pay, safe working conditions, and job security. OCUFA is also studying its legal options as they relate to the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act and will continue to work to protect our members’ collective bargaining rights. 

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Michael ConlonExecutive Director at 416-306-6030 or mconlon@ocufa.on.ca 

OCUFA statement on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

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Today marks 30 years since the December 6, 1989 anti-feminist attack at Montreal’s École Polytechnique that resulted in the murder of 14 women.

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations honours the memory of these women whose lives were taken because of their gender and we stand strong against any form of gender-based violence on our campuses and in our communities.

We also acknowledge that the violent events of December 6 are not only historical, but are of significant concern right now given that gender-based violence continues to be experienced by women and members of the trans and non-binary communities on a daily basis. This sexist and transphobic violence is compounded by colonialism, racism, poverty, ableism, and homophobia, resulting in those who experience multiple forms of oppression being disproportionately impacted.

In March, the Ontario government released the results of the 2018 Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey. Over 63% of university students surveyed disclosed an experience of sexual harassment in the 2017-2018 academic year, and 75% reported that they have witnessed a form of sexual violence within the same period.

These results point to the substantial amount of work still needed to create campuses and communities free of gender-based sexual violence.

As a community of academics and educators we are committed to working towards an end to gender-based violence on our campuses and in our communities through education and prevention, while advocating for good public policy, resources, and support for survivors.

New articles from Academic Matters

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There is more to Academic Matters than just the print issue. New articles are being added to the Academic Matters website every week. Here are some recent articles you might find interesting:

University strikes in the UK: Why they’re happening and what you need to know
By Heather Connolly, University of Leicester
“Eight days of strike action announced by academics will run November 25 until December 4. After that, industrial action will continue with academics working to contract – this means they will be unable to cover for absent colleagues or reschedule lectures lost to strike action …”

Capitalist creep on campus: the largest, quietest privatization in UK history – it’s why we’re striking
By Martin Parker, University of Bristol
“For the next week and a half, many UK university lecturers will be on strike again, but who outside of academia really cares? After all, university academics have great jobs. Indeed, every June to September, I get asked whether I am now on holiday …”

OCUFA workshop develops skill of faculty association staff

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On Friday, November 22, faculty association staff from across Ontario came together for OCUFA’s 2019 Faculty Association Staff Workshop for a day of learning, sharing, and skills-development.

The day was energized by robust discussion. Morning highlights included an opening plenary focused on the challenges facing faculty associations under the Ford government and a workshop on staff can more effectively deal with difficult behaviours in the workplace.

The afternoon featured a skills-sharing roundtable where individual staff shared their own tips and tricks, a breakout session where staff could discuss shared interests in smaller groups, and a presentation on how staff can use digital tools to help their faculty association with member engagement.

University Finance Workshop focuses on impact of performance-based funding

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On Friday, November 8, the annual OCUFA University Finance Workshop brought together faculty association members and staff from across Ontario who regularly review university financial statements. The day’s focus was on how the province’s new performance-funding framework could impact university finances.

The morning featured a briefing on the latest developments in provincial funding and a discussion of what it might mean for equity within the academy. This was followed by a review of sources and methods of financial analysis that can be used to assess potential impacts of performance-based funding on university finances.

After lunch and a robust discussion about the implications of performance-based funding, a presentation on strategic communications demonstrated how faculty associations can effectively communicate information about their university’s finances. Participants then divided into break-out groups to analyze real university data and develop strategic messaging that could be used to persuasively engage their members and the public.

OSSTF to hold province-wide, one-day walkout

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OSSTF, the union representing teachers and support staff at Ontario’s high school, has announced a one-day strike/walk-out on Wednesday, December 4. OSSTF has spent much of the last year pushing back against the Ford government’s demands for increased class sizes and mandatory e-learning credits.

If you have some time, please join a local picket line and show solidarity with Ontario’s teachers and education workers. OSSTF members will be picketing in front of high schools and MPP offices in most districts. For more information about the picket line(s) in your area, please check the website for the OSSTF local in your district or contact them directly: https://www.osstf.on.ca/about-us/districts-and-bargaining-units.aspx

New agreements reached at Trent, Western, and Wilfrid Laurier universities

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Several faculty associations reached new agreements with their employers in the recent weeks and months. Please find summaries of notable changes below.

Trent University Faculty Association

Trent faculty were able to successfully negotiate several changes to their pension plan, which will facilitate their work towards joining the jointly-sponsored University Pension Plan. The faculty association has also agreed to create a new joint-committee to explore potential improvements to the benefits package, and another benefits sub-committee to determine possible equity, diversity, inclusion, and indigenization improvements.

University of Western Ontario Faculty Association

Western University’s Librarians and Archivists have a new four-year agreement that adds a new equity representative on selection committees and uses gender-neutral language throughout. The agreement promises new office space for Librarians and Archivists and establishes a Librarians and Archivists Forum to facilitate discussion of their priorities with the university administration. Further, a Memorandum of Agreement includes new voluntary retirement incentives with a guarantee that these positions are replaced.

Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association

Wilfrid Laurier’s contract faculty have negotiated a new agreement in which significant gains were made in terms of job security for members holding Standing Appointments. The three-year appointments are now renewable indefinitely and both the minimum number of appointments and the minimum guaranteed teaching loads have increased. The new agreement has also increased the number of members who are eligible to participate in improved plans for extended health and dental benefits. Further, there were substantial increases to Professional Expense Reimbursements and to the Professional Development Fund to which all contract faculty have access.

Update on the Ford government’s attempt to cap public sector wage increases

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Under new legislation passed by the Ontario government, Doug Ford is attempting to cap wage increases across the public sector at one per cent each year. Introduced in June, Bill 124 was passed on November 7, 2019. Before it was passed, the bill saw some minor amendments summarized here and in an updated FAQ on the OCUFA website.

There were two areas of amendment impacting faculty. First, parties who reached an agreement or received an arbitration award on or before June 5th will have their moderation period begin at the expiry of that collective agreement. Further, the Minister now has regulatory power to set the moderation period to begin following a collective agreement or memorandum of agreement that expires no later than December 31, 2021.

Second, amendments were made to add several exceptions to the definition of “compensation.” These are:

  • Payments made in accordance with a voluntary exit program that has been approved by the Management Board of Cabinet.
  • Increased compensation provided in exchange for increases in member required contributions that occur as part of the conversion from a Single Employer Pension Plan to a Jointly-Sponsored Pension Plan.
  • Increased compensation for the purpose of reducing the growth of compensation costs over the long-term, if specifically exempted by the Minister.

For more information about the impacts of this legislation, please read OCUFA’s response to the legislation, OCUFA’s analysis of the legislation, and the newly updated FAQ document.

Faculty applaud court ruling that strikes down Ford government’s unlawful “Student Choice Initiative”

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Toronto, Nov. 22, 2019 – Ontario faculty are pleased to see that the Ontario Divisional Court has struck down the Ford government’s controversial “Student Choice Initiative” (SCI), finding the directive both unlawful and a violation of university autonomy.

The Court found that Ford’s Cabinet and the then Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities overstepped their authority in requiring universities and colleges to make certain ancillary fees optional – including democratically determined students’ union dues. The Court found that the SCI’s requirements were inconsistent with the laws governing Ontario’s universities and colleges, and interfered with university autonomy and student democracy. To quote the ruling: “There is no statutory authority for Cabinet or the Minister to interfere with democratic decisions taken by students respecting their student association membership fees.”

“This ruling affirms that the principles of institutional autonomy and academic freedom are fundamental to the functioning of Ontario’s universities and the rights of faculty and students,” said Rahul Sapra, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “Through its numerous uninformed and reckless policy directives, the Ford government continues to threaten the integrity and quality of Ontario’s universities. These policies include the anti-democratic SCI that sought to silence student voices critical of the government, the massive cuts to OSAP that have made postsecondary education unaffordable for many, and the new performance-based funding model that will cut funding from institutions that need it most.”

This is only the most recent legal defeat for the Ford government, which has established a pattern of introducing bad legislation and policies with no consultation, and then losing when those pieces of legislation and policy are challenged in court.

The ruling confirms the essential contributions students’ unions make to collegial governance structures at Ontario universities. Further, it confirms the central role of academic freedom and institutional autonomy in ensuring universities are able to operate effectively, free of political interference from government. The court references these as being “bedrock principles on which Ontario universities have been governed for more than 100 years.”

“Ontario faculty have a great deal of respect for students’ unions and the important services and advocacy they provide for their members. We congratulate students across Ontario on this significant victory,” said Sapra. “Students’ unions are a vital part of the campus community and we will continue to work with them to advance our shared goal of fostering vibrant universities that provide accessible, quality education and innovative, ground-breaking research.”

If Doug Ford truly wants to save students money and reduce barriers to postsecondary education, he should consult with the students, faculty and staff who understand Ontario’s postsecondary education system. Collectively, we have long called for increased public funding for Ontario’s universities that would allow the government to responsibly lower tuition fees and abandon its dangerous plans for performance-based funding.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario. OCUFA can be found online at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca