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What the 2018 election results mean for Ontario’s professors and academic librarians

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On June 7, the Ontario voters elected a Progressive Conservative majority government led by Doug Ford. This election outcome has a number of important implications for professors and academic librarians in the province and will pose several challenges and opportunities for the university sector over the next four years.

During the election, OCUFA analyzed the higher education platforms of the Ontario PC, NDP, and Liberal parties, posted their responses to OCUFA’s party survey, and produced a report card evaluating the platforms of the different parties. Our analysis was based on a set of assessment criteria that included each party’s approach to university funding, faculty renewal, precarious academic work, and access to postsecondary education.

The Ontario PC platform

The Ontario PC platform was silent on almost all postsecondary issues, and did not provide a plan for postsecondary education in Ontario. It did not include any reference to addressing underfunding for postsecondary education or  the need for a faculty renewal strategy in the province. However, the platform statement did emphasize the PC party’s belief that Ontario has a “spending problem”. Such a statement should be of grave concern when it comes to public funding for all public services, including postsecondary education. Any cuts to university funding in this province would threaten the quality of education available to students, the teaching and research at our postsecondary institutions, and the good jobs and economic benefits universities provide.

On precarious work and fairness for contract faculty, the PC platform did not include any plans or references to how the party would address the problem of precarity on university and college campuses. However, prior to the election period and during the PC leadership race, Doug Ford was on record speaking against new changes to labour law introduced under Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, as well as the plan to increase the Ontario minimum wage to $15 an hour. This approach, coupled with the fact that the PC caucus unanimously voted against Bill 148 at its third and final hearing, is of serious concern to OCUFA.

The one area where the PC platform is clear about its plans for postsecondary education is their promise to mandate that universities uphold free speech on campus and in the classroom. The platform does not expand on this promise or explain how such a mandate would be enforced. However, in previous announcements, the PCs noted their plan would tie government funding for public universities to free speech by expanding the mandate for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) to include a complaints and investigations process to evaluate speech violations on campus.

Moving forward, what can we expect?

We expect the Progressive Conservative government to move swiftly to implement their platform promises, and despite postsecondary education being largely omitted from the PC platform, it is difficult to imagine that some of the cost savings the government is seeking won’t come from education.

There are two important things to keep in mind as this new government’s plans take shape. First, that without a plan in their platform, the Progressive Conservatives were not elected with any firm mandate to make substantial changes to Ontario’s postsecondary education system. Second, that according to a public poll commissioned by OCUFA, a majority of those who voted for the PCs believe that larger class sizes and less one-on-one student-faculty engagement – both symptoms of underfunding – have a negative impact on education quality. The same poll also found a majority of PC supporters oppose universities hiring more contract faculty on short-term contracts instead of full-time professors. These issues will only be exacerbated with further cuts.

These facts alone won’t change the government’s approach, but they provide an opportunity to remind the government that Ontarians of all political stripes support fairness for contract faculty and ensuring universities have the resources they need to provide the high quality education Ontario students deserve.

OCUFA has been a constant and strong advocate for fairness for contract faculty and the need to address the rise of precarious work across Ontario. This work is vital and will continue. We will continue to advocate the government to ensure that measures are taken to protect workers at Ontario’s universities and create pathways to job security for contract faculty.

We will also continue to oppose any plans to tie funding to outcomes or performance. Creating such a system of winners and losers creates scenarios where already well-resourced institutions will thrive and those institutions struggling to keep up are punished. Such an approach ultimately hurts students and threatens the quality of their education at universities from which funding is withheld. Government commitment to robust public funding for postsecondary education is essential for sustaining the capacity needed to ensure these contributions in the future.

In the upcoming months, as the new government is formed and there is more clarity on the government’s agenda, including any plans for the postsecondary system, OCUFA will be offering further analysis and engage in advocacy on behalf of faculty and academic librarians for the high-quality, well-resourced, affordable, and accessible university system that serves our students, our communities, and Ontario.

OCUFA pleased with Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decision supporting rights of older workers

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In 2006, the Ontario Human Rights Code was amended to prohibit mandatory retirement. However, this change was accompanied by new provisions that permitted employers to reduce or stop providing certain group benefits for workers when they turn 65.

In 2012, Wayne Talos, a high school teacher at the Grand Erie District School Board, commenced a proceeding at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal after his health and dental benefits were cut off when he turned 65. He challenged the constitutionality of the provisions that allowed for this, arguing that they violated his right to equal treatment on the basis of age.

As an occupational group, university professors are the most likely to work past 65. Consequently, the outcome of these proceedings were of significant concern for Ontario faculty. OCUFA applied for and was granted intervenor status in these proceedings, along with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and the Ontario Elementary Catholic Teachers’ Association.

On May 18, 2018, the Tribunal released a decision finding that the Ontario Human Rights Code provisions being challenged breached the equality provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and were unconstitutional. While the Tribunal’s decision only applies to the Talos case, it creates an important precedent – especially for grievance arbitration. The decision will still need to be judicially reviewed and upheld for it to substantively impact existing law.

Faculty associations now have a strong basis on which to engage with employers and discuss what steps they are taking to bring their group benefit plans into compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code as interpreted in the Talos case.

OCUFA is very pleased with the decision. We firmly believe that no one should be discriminated against based on their age and the Tribunal’s decision represents a significant victory for Ontario’s faculty. We will continue to defend the constitutional rights of Ontario’s professors and academic librarians.

Read the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s press release.

Read the full decision.

OCUFA’s 155th Board of Directors meeting

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On Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13, OCUFA held its final Board of Directors meeting of the 2017-18 academic year. During the weekend, board members discussed the organization’s current priorities – good jobs and vibrant universities, university funding, and capacity building – with a focus on the postsecondary issues that were likely to receive the most attention in the provincial election. During a special lunchtime reception on the Saturday, board members and colleagues celebrated the winner of OCUFA’s Service Award and the Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowship.

Priorities

OCUFA’s priorities for the 2017-18 academic year were developed to strategically align with those issues most likely to gain traction with the public and political parties in the lead-up to the provincial election. In addition to good jobs and university funding (detailed in OCUFA’s 2018 pre-budget submission), capacity building has been identified as an important means through which OCUFA can support the work of local faculty associations. University governance also continues to be a serious concern.

Good jobs and vibrant universities

One of OCUFA’s established long-term goals is a postsecondary education system where every academic job is a good job with fair compensation, reasonable workloads, access to benefits, and job security. Good jobs are essential for fostering vibrant and dynamic universities. This year, OCUFA has focused on three opportunities for improving the terms and conditions of employment at Ontario’s universities: fairness for contract faculty, faculty renewal, and pensions.

Fairness for contract faculty
In recent years, substantial progress has been made raising awareness about the challenges faced by contract faculty at Ontario universities, and OCUFA hopes to continue building momentum to close gaps in existing labour laws and achieving fairness for contract faculty.

On February 28, faculty, staff, and students from across Ontario participated in OCUFA’s third annual social media day of action in support of fairness for contract faculty and other precariously employed campus workers. Because of our work, the hashtags #Fairness4CF and #15andFairness were trending for much of the day.

OCUFA also participated in this spring’s Fight for $15 and Fairness Provincial Strategy Meeting, which featured many postsecondary stakeholders. Sessions focused on enforcing new equal pay provisions, organizing on campus, and bargaining after Bill 148.

Faculty renewal & panel presentation
In OCUFA’s 2018 pre-budget submission, a faculty renewal strategy was identified as a vital initiative for the government. Ideally, it would support new full-time tenure stream hiring, the replacement of retiring tenured faculty, and create pathways for contract faculty to full-time secure positions. A discussion moderated by Rahul Sapra (OCUFA’s Vice-President) and featuring Gyllian Phillips (OCUFA’s President), Richard Wellen (former President of the York University Faculty Association), Leslie Jermyn (Executive Director of the Queen’s University Faculty Association), and Jeff Tennent (Chair of OCUFA’s Collective Bargaining Committee) reviewed hiring practices at different universities, existing mechanisms for moving contract faculty into the tenure stream positions, the importance of equity when making hiring decisions, and the role of bargaining in determining faculty complement.

Pensions
For several years, OCUFA has worked with sector stakeholders on an initiative to build a new voluntary jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP) for Ontario’s universities. The University of Toronto Faculty Association, Queen’s University Faculty Association, and University of Guelph Faculty Association have been working to finalize a JSPP intended to provide a secure and sustainable pension option for interested university faculty associations and staff unions in the province. As the pension environment shifts, OCUFA will continue to organize workshops and meetings to help all member associations reach their pension-related goals and expand their capacity to communicate pension issues at the local level.

University funding

OCUFA has held a long-standing goal of increasing public funding for universities to support high-quality postsecondary education in Ontario. Unfortunately, investment in Ontario’s universities has stagnated in recent years and there was no additional operating funding provided in this year’s budget. This remains a serious concern for OCUFA, and our hope is that the next government will make substantive new investments in postsecondary education to help Ontario close the funding gap with the rest of the country.

The provincial government continues to move forward with its efforts to update the university funding formula. However, it is doing so without any meaningful consultation with Ontario’s faculty. The government’s intent to tie university funding to performance according to a series of metrics is of great concern. OCUFA is focused on pushing back against this move towards performance-based funding and advocating for more substantive faculty consultation as part of the strategic mandate process through which these metrics and targets are being negotiated.

Capacity building

Ontario’s university faculty face serious challenges in their workplaces, including too few faculty to do the work, and too many precarious jobs at underfunded universities. OCUFA continues to support member associations with capacity building strategies that can be leveraged to build stronger unions and a university labour movement able to more effectively tackle these problems. Member engagement is an ongoing process and this year’s election has provided many excellent opportunities for faculty associations to engage their members and work with other campus groups to organize all-candidates debates that raise awareness of postsecondary issues.

Update on 2018 provincial election advocacy

The meeting featured a detailed update on OCUFA’s election work advocating for increased public university funding and good jobs for all academic workers. The discussion included a presentation on the results of OCUFA’s public opinion poll on precarious employment on university campuses and its perceived impacts on education quality, and the publicity tour OCUFA conducted to promote the poll results across Ontario.

Meeting participants were updated on faculty-organized advocacy events, including OCUFA’s annual advocacy day and social media day of action, and the many election events being organized by faculty associations across Ontario, including events hosted by the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association, the Faculty Association at the University of Waterloo, the Lakehead University Faculty Association, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association, the McMaster University Faculty Association, and the Trent University Faculty Association.

Updates were also provided about the election resources being produced for OCUFA’s website, including party platform analyses, questionnaires on postsecondary issues, and the party platform report card.

Following the discussion of OCUFA’s election work, Greg Lyle, President of Innovative Research Inc., provided a comprehensive presentation of new poll results and what they could mean for the dynamics of the provincial election campaign and its possible outcomes.

Creation of Investigative Journalism Fellowship and Grievance Award

At the Board Meeting, members voted to create two new awards: one that will encourage additional investigative journalism focused on postsecondary issues, and another to recognize the work of those who defend faculty rights through the grievance process.

The annual OCUFA/Academic Matters Investigative Journalism in Higher Education Fellowship will seek to encourage in-depth reporting about new developments in postsecondary education. Available to full-time, freelance, and student journalists, each year the fellowship will provide financial support for a project of merit that will explore important or underreported developments in higher education.

The new Grievance Award will recognize the contributions of faculty and faculty association staff who have made remarkable efforts to uphold their union’s collective agreement and defend the rights of professors and academic librarians at their institution. The award will be given on a biennial basis.

OCUFA executive elections

During the meeting, the OCUFA Board of Directors elected the organization’s executive for the 2018-19 academic year.

As of July 1, the new executive will be comprised of:

President:
Gyllian Phillips (Nipissing University Faculty Association)

Vice-President:
Rahul Sapra (Ryerson Faculty Association)

Treasurer:
Ann Bigelow (University of Western Ontario Faculty Association)

Members-at-large:
Diane Beauchemin (Queen’s University Faculty Association)
Glen Copplestone (King’s University College Faculty Association)
Sue Wurtele (Trent University Faculty Association)

Chair of the Board:
Kate Lawson (Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo)

Celebration of 2018 recipients of OCUFA Service Award and Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowship

Finally, a special luncheon ceremony during the meeting celebrated the recipients of the 2018 OCUFA Service Awards and Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowship for Excellence in Social Sciences, Humanities, or Arts.

Wilfrid Laurier University Professor Judy Bates and Laurentian University Professor Jean-Charles Cachon were honoured with OCUFA Service Awards for their work strengthening OCUFA and advancing the interests of professors and academic librarians across the province. Queen’s University PhD student Galen Watts was recognized with a Henry Mandelbaum Fellowship for his excellence is scholarship and community engagement.

The luncheon concluded with a special presentation from 2017 Mandelbaum Fellowship winner Laura Jane Brubacher. Laura shared her work studying the challenges faced by pregnant Inuit women who are removed from their families, are forced to travel large distances, and spend months living in boarding houses before giving birth in southern hospitals.

The next OCUFA Board of Directors meeting will be held October 20-21, 2018.

Join the faculty contingent at the June 16th Decent Work Rally

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On June 16, the Fight for $15 & Fairness and Ontario Federation of Labour are hosting a rally for decent work. OCUFA is organizing a faculty contingent for the rally. No matter who wins this provincial election, it is crucial that faculty continue to defend decent work and keep the pressure on government to deliver fairness for contract faculty through the implementation of new legislation and robust public funding for universities. A strong faculty presence at the rally will show our solidarity with workers across the province and support fairness for contract faculty.

What: Faculty contingent at Rally for Decent Work
When: Saturday, June 16 at 1 PM – 4 PM
Where: Ministry of Labour, 400 University Ave, Toronto
RSVP to join the faculty contingent here.

For more information on the broader rally, visit 15andfairness.org. You can also share the event on Facebook. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Mina Rajabi Paak at .

Trent all-candidates debate focuses postsecondary issues

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On May 31, the Trent University Faculty Association (TUFA), CUPE 3908 (representing contract faculty and student academic workers at Trent University), and the Peterborough and District Labour Council hosted an All-Candidates Meeting.

The event was moderated by Marcus Harvey, Executive Director of TUFA, and Hanah Howlett McFarlane, a Vice-President of CUPE 3908. Questions focused on the need for faculty renewal, ensuring broad access to university education, labour and economics relating to good jobs, and local environmental concerns. The NDP, Liberal, and Green Parties all participated in the debate, and the Stop Climate Change Party was also allotted time to specifically address environmental questions and concerns. The PC Party candidate did not attend.

Congratulations to TUFA and their allies for hosting a successful event and keeping postsecondary issues on the agenda for their local party candidates.

OCUFA report card assesses NDP, Liberals, and Progressive Conservatives on postsecondary issues

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A lot is at stake for postsecondary education in this election. There are some important differences in how the major parties plan to address issues that matter for Ontario university faculty. Evaluating statements made in party platforms and OCUFA’s questionnaire on postsecondary issues, we have produced a report card that grades each parties commitments to faculty priorities, including university funding, faculty renewal, fairness for contract faculty, and access.

Read the full report card here.

Ontario poll: Supporters of all political parties concerned about growing numbers of contract faculty

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TORONTO – According to a new poll commissioned by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), 68 per cent of Ontarians oppose universities hiring more contract faculty on short-term contracts instead of full-time professors with better pay and access to benefits. Potential voters for all political parties disagree with the current hiring approach, including 74 per cent of Liberal supporters, 73 per cent of NDP supporters, and 58 per cent of PC supporters.

“This poll confirms that fairness for contract faculty has broad support,” said Professor Gyllian Phillips, President of OCUFA. “With the provincial election next week, it is time for all political parties to commit to fairness for contract faculty. Their supporters certainly believe in it.”

The poll of 600 Ontarians over the age of 18 shows concern that a lack of job security for professors impacts the quality of student learning experiences. When asked, 60 per cent stated that forcing professors to work contract-to-contract, with no job security, has a negative impact on education quality. Contract faculty often lack dedicated office space and their working conditions make it difficult to make time for engagement with students. Of those surveyed, 63 per cent believe less one-on-one student engagement also negatively impacts education quality.

“Ontarians understand how difficult it is to provide students with the high-quality education they deserve when we’re forced to work contract-to-contract with little or no support,” said Kimberly Ellis-Hale, Chair of OCUFA’s Contract Faculty Committee. “Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions, and that’s why it’s important we have job security, fair pay, and benefits.”

Poll participants were also asked how they feel about the current level of government investment in Ontario’s universities. The province provides the lowest per-student funding in Canada, with public funding making up less than 50 per cent of university operating revenues. When asked whether government funding should make up a higher, lower, or similar proportion of university revenues, 49 per cent said the proportion should be higher than it currently is, with only 8 per cent believing the proportion should be lower.

“It’s time to invest in a fair future for Ontario’s universities,” said Phillips. “With strong public funding for our universities, more full-time faculty hiring, and a commitment to fairness for contract faculty, we can make that future a reality.”

The telephone survey was conducted by Innovative Research Group from May 23rd to May 29th, 2018 and included 600 randomly-selected Ontario residents, 18 years of age or older. After weighting a sample of this size, the aggregated results are considered accurate to within ±4.0 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 29 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information and the full poll results, please visit www.ocufa.on.ca/ontario-election-2018.

–30–

For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or
OR Mark Rosenfeld, Executive Director at 416-306-6030 or

OCUFA’s analyses of the Liberal Party and Progressive Conservative Party platforms

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On May 26, the Ontario Liberals released their platform online. This was followed by the Progressive Conservative platform release on May 30. OCUFA has taken a look at both documents and provided analysis on how they address issues that are important to faculty, including re-investing in universities, supporting faculty renewal, and delivering fairness for contract faculty.

The Liberal platform addresses funding for universities only in the context of providing targeted funding for specific projects, leaving stagnating operating funding unaddressed. Continued commitment in their platform to recent labour law changes that will bring more fairness to workplaces is welcome. However, the equal pay provisions include loopholes and exceptions that employers will use to get around their obligations to pay part-time, contract, and temporary workers fairly – including contract faculty. There are no commitments in the Liberal platform to address faculty renewal, with neither full-time faculty hiring or improving job security for contract faculty being part of their agenda. Read the full OCUFA analysis of the Liberal platform here.

The Progressive Conservative platform leaves funding for universities, faculty renewal, and fairness for contract faculty unaddressed. The platform statement that Ontario has a “spending problem” is a concern when it comes to public funding for all public services, including postsecondary education. Any cuts to university funding in this province would threaten the quality of the student experience, as well as the quality of teaching and research at our institutions. Read the full OCUFA analysis of the PC platform here.

The NDP platform was released in mid-April and OCUFA’s analysis is available here.

Waterloo all-candidates debate focuses on postsecondary education

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On May 16, faculty worked with campus partners to host an all-candidates debate in Waterloo. Attended by over 150 members of the community, the debate focused exclusively on postsecondary education issues. Local candidates from all major parties participated in the debate, including incumbent Catherine Fife (NDP), Dorothy McCabe (Liberal), Dan Weber (PC), and Zdravko Gunjevic (Green), and the event was moderated by local CBC Radio host Craig Norris. The debate generated a lot of great discussion and demonstrated that election-focused events are a great way to put postsecondary education issues squarely on the agenda.

The candidates answered questions on key postsecondary issues starting with whether they are committed to re-investing in public operating funding for universities and colleges (Ontario has the lowest level of per-student funding in Canada). Next, candidates were asked how they would address rising tuition fees since Ontario’s undergraduate university tuition fees are 76 per cent higher than the average tuition fees across the rest of the country. The third question sought commitment from each party to provide mental health services and support on our campuses. The fourth question was about fairness for contract faculty and what their parties would do to deliver job security, equal pay and access to benefits for contract faculty. The debate ended with a question about how each candidate planned to support international students, who are currently not covered by OHIP and pay exorbitant tuition fees.

The candidates answered each question respectfully, and it was great to see discussion of these crucial issues. The Federation of Students at the University of Waterloo prepared a summary of the debate outlining the candidates’ responses to each of the five questions, which you can read here.

The Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA) and Faculty Association at the University of Waterloo (FAUW), along with a new cross-campus coalition that included the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, Laurier Managerial Group, Wilfrid Laurier University Staff Association (OSSTF), University of Waterloo Federation of Students, Waterloo Staff Association, Wilfrid Laurier University Graduate Students’ Association, Conestoga College Faculty (OPSEU Local 237), Conestoga College Staff (OPSEU Local 238), and Conestoga Students’ Incorporated, worked together to take on the challenge and host this event.

OCUFA would like to congratulate WLUFA, FAUW, and their coalition partners for hosting a very successful all-candidates debate. This work will prove to be a strong foundation for further collaboration in Waterloo.

If you missed the debate and want to hear the candidates’ complete answers, you can watch it online thanks to the Laurier Students’ Union.

Postsecondary education the focus of election events in communities across Ontario

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Faculty associations across the province have been busy hosting election-related events that are putting postsecondary education on the agenda in their local ridings. A lot is at stake for higher education when voters go to the polls on June 7. Commitments to strong public funding, faculty renewal, and fairness for contract faculty are needed to support high-quality, accessible university education for Ontario students.

University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association – “On the issues: Oshawa riding town hall”

On May 23, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association (UOITFA), along with the Durham Region Labour Council, CUPE Ontario, Unifor Local 222 Retirees, and We Are Oshawa, hosted a town hall focused on healthcare, education, and affordability. Invitations were sent to all parties but only the NDP and Libertarian candidates responded. The town hall featured a panel of experts on several issues, including Pam Frache on affordability, Nour Alideeb on postsecondary education, Gerard O’Neill on elementary education, and Edgar Saul Godoy on healthcare. The event was moderated by UOITFA’s Mike Eklund.

Queens University Faculty Association – “Quaff with QUFA”


On March 23, the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) hosted a question and answer period with candidates from the PC, NDP, Green, and Trillium parties. The Liberal candidate was not available. At the event, Jordan Morelli, Chair of QUFA’s Political Action and Communications Committee, moderated questions from faculty and students.

Lakehead University Faculty Association – Meet and greet


On February 26, the Lakehead University Faculty Association’s (LUFA) Contract Faculty Committee hosted a meet and greet with Dr. Lise Vaugeois. Dr. Vaugeois is a contract faculty member at Lakehead University who is running to represent the riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North.

Green Party responds to OCUFA’s election questionnaire

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To find out where each of the major parties stands on issues that matter to faculty across Ontario, OCUFA prepared a questionnaire that was sent to the leaders of each party.

You can read the Green Party’s response here. Responses were previously received from the NDP and Liberals.

We hope you will review these responses to see where the parties stand on OCUFA’s three priority areas to support high-quality postsecondary education for students: investing in strong public funding for universities, supporting faculty renewal, and delivering fairness for contract faculty.

The Progressive Conservative Party have not yet responded to the questionnaire. When they do, it will be posted to the OCUFA website.

Further analysis of the party platforms, including commentary on the party leader questionnaire responses, will be released in the coming week.

OCUFA’s analysis of the NDP Platform

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The New Democratic Party (NDP) was the first out of the gate with their platform in the 2018 Ontario Election. It contains important commitments, including support for faculty renewal, that will impact faculty working conditions and support students at universities across the province:

The Ontario NDP platform promises to end the stagnation of operating funding for the province’s universities and colleges. Their platform commits to an additional investment in university and colleges operating grants of $101 million in 2018-19, $203 million in 2019-20, $308 million in 2020-21, $415 million in 2021-22, and $523 million in 2022-23.

Many years of inaction and inattention to public university funding has put Ontario in a difficult position, where sweeping change is needed to make up for lost ground. Recent budgets have seen operating funding for universities stagnate, resulting in real cuts after accounting for inflation, and leaving Ontario with the lowest per-student funding levels in Canada. To return to 2008 levels of per-student funding and start to close the funding gap with other provinces, OCUFA has estimated that it would require an investment of $2.1 billion over the next three years. The NDP’s proposed $612 million investment over the first three years of their mandate definitely falls short of what is required to close the funding gap between Ontario and other provinces, but is a step in the right direction.

The Ontario NDP platform promises to launch a faculty renewal strategy at Ontario’s universities and colleges to support contract faculty becoming full-time professors and instructors, and to invest in more tenure-track faculty positions, supported by an $80 million investment in 2018-19, followed by $160 million in 2019-20, $240 million in 2020-21, $240 million in 2021-22, and $240 million in 2022-23.

This is the first time faculty renewal has been included in a major party platform. This investment is in line with OCUFA’s call for the establishment of faculty renewal as part of a broader government commitment to reverse the rise of precarious work and support good academic jobs at Ontario universities. These investment figures mirror OCUFA’s pre-budget recommendations for 2018-19; however, OCUFA’s proposed figures were limited to supporting a university faculty renewal strategy and did not include investment in faculty renewal at colleges.

The Ontario NDP platform promises to turn all provincial loans for postsecondary students into grants, so any student who qualifies for OSAP can graduate free of provincial debt. It also promises to retroactively forgive all interest for anyone currently carrying provincial student loan debt, and to end the practice of government hiring private debt collection services for student loans.

The promise of turning student loans into non-repayable grants is a welcome reform that would help many students and their families cover the costs of high tuition fees. OCUFA has long argued that tuition fees are a barrier to access that prevent students from pursuing a postsecondary education and should not be relied upon as a foundation for university funding. We support calls from student groups to freeze tuition fee levels. The NDP platform does not include measures to address rising tuition fees for university students.

You can read OCUFA’s full analysis of the Ontario NDP platform here. The other major parties have yet to release their platforms. As they are released, OCUFA will prepare analyses of those platforms and post them on our website.

NDP and Liberals respond to OCUFA’s election questionnaire

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To find out where each of the major parties stands on issues that matter to faculty across Ontario, OCUFA prepared a questionnaire. The questionnaire has been sent to the leaders of all the major political parties.

So far, we have received responses from the NDP and Liberals. We hope you will review their responses to see where they stand on OCUFA’s three priority areas for the 2018 provincial election that will support high-quality postsecondary education for students: investing in strong public funding for universities, supporting faculty renewal, and delivering fairness for contract faculty.

We will post responses from the other parties as they become available. The questionnaire could also be sent to local candidates, and inform questions for candidates at the door or at all-candidates debates in your riding.

Further analysis of the party platforms, including commentary on the party leader questionnaire responses, will be released in the coming week.

OCUFA’s new 2018 provincial election website is up

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The Ontario provincial election on June 7, 2018 is fast approaching. OCUFA’s election campaign webpage is designed to keep you informed about how postsecondary issues are being approached throughout the campaign. We’ll be posting responses to questionnaires from major party leaders and preparing platform analyses to explore what’s at stake for faculty across Ontario in this election. We’ll also be reporting on how faculty associations are engaging with candidates in their own ridings, and providing resources for faculty wanting to get involved.

Throughout the election campaign, OCUFA’s work will continue to focus on our three advocacy priorities:

Strong public funding for universities is necessary to support excellence in teaching and research. On a per-student basis, public funding for Ontario’s universities has been on a downward trend since 2008 and our universities receive the lowest level of per-student funding in all of Canada. A re-investment in public universities is long overdue.

Launching a faculty renewal strategy will support quality education through additional full-time faculty hiring, replacing retiring faculty, and creating pathways for contract faculty into secure, full-time positions. In the last decade, student enrolment has increased seven times faster than full-time faculty hiring at Ontario universities. This has left Ontario with the highest student-faculty ratios in Canada, resulting in larger class sizes and less one-on-one engagement between students and their professors.

It’s time to deliver fairness for contract faculty. A growing number of faculty at Ontario universities are being hired on short-term, precarious contracts. OCUFA estimates that the number of courses taught by contract faulty has doubled since 2000. Recent research from the Council of Ontario Universities shows that over 50 per cent of university teaching is done by contract faculty. Government must take leadership to set a standard of equal pay, access to benefits, and job security for contract faculty.

Resources for faculty associations that are available online now include:

  • A party leaders’ questionnaire that has been sent to all major party leaders, and which can also be sent to local candidates or used at all-candidates debates.
  • A summary of OCUFA’s recent public opinion poll that shows the public believes fair university workplaces are key to high quality education and overwhelmingly support fairness for contract faculty. Please feel free to use these results in your local materials and outreach work.
  • A communications toolkit on strategies and tips for crafting key messages and getting media coverage, including how to prepare media releases, op-eds, and letters to the editor.
  • A meeting the candidates toolkit that includes a lobbying primer and tips on how to plan an all-candidate event.

As the election campaign continues, further resources will be posted on this website. To stay in touch, sign up for OCUFA Report.

OCUFA hiring new Executive Director

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OCUFA will be hiring a new Executive Director. The job advertisement follows:

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations is the voice of 17,000 university faculty and academic librarians in 29 member faculty associations across Ontario. OCUFA is a key force in the postsecondary education sector, advocating for quality university education and advancing the rights and aspirations of faculty. OCUFA is a progressive and dynamic, member-driven organization whose work combines service and support for individual faculty associations, with advocacy that brings faculty issues to government, the media and the public. This work supports the vision that OCUFA and its members have for the social and economic roles played by universities and faculty in Ontario.

The Executive Director will provide leadership in fulfilling and executing this vision for the future of Ontario universities and the advancement of faculty rights. The ED communicates regularly with member associations to ensure that they receive appropriate information, services and advice and works with the President, Executive and Board to ensure the smooth running of the organization. In addition, the ED responds to the ever-changing forces of government and labour trends across the province, maintains relationships with sector stakeholders, and works with partner organizations and allies to advocate for quality postsecondary education and promote faculty issues. The ED also coordinates a team of eleven unionized staff in a collaborative and self-directed working environment and is committed to ensuring a focus on equity at every level of the organization.

The ideal candidate is someone with demonstrated success in leading a political advocacy organization; knowledge of the postsecondary sector and an understanding of postsecondary policy issues; experience in advocacy work and government relations; an academic background; and experience in the labour movement. The person we are looking for is creative, dynamic, responsive, collaborative, and an excellent communicator. French-English bilingualism, experience working with a unionized staff, and experience in budget development and oversight would be assets.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. OCUFA welcomes and encourages applications from qualified individuals from equity-seeking groups, including women, members of racialized groups, Indigenous persons, persons with disabilities, persons of any sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

To receive full consideration, submit a letter of application, a CV, and the names of three references by June 29, 2018. Tentatively, interviews will be held the week of August 13-17, 2018. The position comes with a competitive salary and benefit package and starts October 1, 2018, subject to board approval.

Applications should be submitted as a single pdf document and directed to Gyllian Phillips, OCUFA President at

Download a copy of this posting here.