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Professor’s Association of Saint Paul University makes governance gains

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The Professor’s Association of Saint Paul University has reached a three-year agreement with their employer. The agreement includes significant advances in collegial governance, including enhanced consultation and information sharing with the faculty association on issues such as supervisory rights and Professor Emeritus status. The association also achieved competitive across-the-board salary increases.

OCUFA makes recommendations for 2019 Ontario Budget

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OCUFA has set out its priorities for the 2019 Ontario Budget in a written submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

Strengthening Ontario’s universities through meaningful investment in university education is essential to support high-quality accessible education for Ontario students, continued strength in research, and fairness for contract faculty.

As part of the consultation process, OCUFA President Gyllian Phillips presented the priorities of Ontario’s faculty and academic librarians to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on January 29 in Toronto.

OCUFA is recommending 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 2020-21.

The state of funding for Ontario’s universities is not on the right track. Since 2008, per-student funding in Ontario has been declining and trailing the rest of Canada by a substantial margin. It is time to break from years of stagnated funding and invest meaningfully in postsecondary education. A sensible plan that begins with investments to enhance Ontario’s per-student funding would put Ontario universities in a stronger position to provide the accessible, high-quality education our students deserve and that our economy needs.

2. Offset the cost associated with reducing tuition fees through an increase to university operating grants.

Tuition fees are a barrier to access that prevent students from pursuing a postsecondary education and OCUFA supports the call from Ontario’s students’ unions that tuition fees should be reduced and replaced with increased public funding for universities. The government’s recent decision to cut tuition fees by 10 per cent in 2019-20 and freeze fees in 2020-21 is a welcome step, but it must be matched with an increase in core public funding to ensure university budgets are not reduced.

3. Ensure that the university funding model does not link performance metrics to funding.

The government’s planned shift towards performance-based funding will create inequities and slowly but certainly undermine the integrity of Ontario’s postsecondary education system. By design, performance funding rewards those institutions that meet specific performance targets and penalizes institutions that do not by withholding the resources they need for improvement. Rather than employing this unnecessarily risky and destabilizing approach, available data should be leveraged to improve policymaking decisions and outcomes.

4. Make meaningful consultation with faculty a requirement in the third round of Strategic Mandate Agreement negotiations.

Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) negotiations must include adequate consultation with the university community and incorporate faculty input into the SMAs. While it is the responsibility of local university administrations to undertake local consultations, the government must take a leadership role and set enforceable standards for the negotiation processes. This will ensure the SMAs reflect the perspectives, experiences, and priorities of the entire campus community – not just administrators.

5. Launch a faculty renewal strategy for Ontario universities that achieves the dual goals of supporting new full-time tenure-stream hiring and creating pathways for contract faculty to more secure positions.

Every student’s learning experience and every university’s capacity to produce research relies on the faculty members who teach, research, and engage in their communities; but the growing gap between enrolment and faculty hiring is putting a strain on the system. By investing in accessible postsecondary, this year’s budget can start Ontario on a path that prioritizes quality education for students, innovative research, and fairness for the province’s contract faculty.

Universities are vital institutions within our communities, delivering education to thousands of students, producing thought-provoking and ground-breaking research, and providing good jobs that support local economies. Government commitment to robust public funding for postsecondary education is essential for sustaining the capacity needed to ensure these contributions in the future.

Read OCUFA’s 2019 pre-budget submission.

Reckless government announcement threatens education quality and students’ rights

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TORONTO – Without increased public funding for Ontario’s universities and colleges, the Progressive Conservative Government’s announced tuition fee reduction is nothing more than an ill-conceived political gimmick designed to distract Ontarians from damaging cuts to the province’s already under-funded postsecondary education system. OCUFA has long advocated for tuition fee reductions but not in the absence of increased core funding and sound student financial aid policy.

OCUFA is concerned that the fee reduction, OSAP cuts, and changes to ancillary fees were announced without consulting any stakeholders at the province’s universities or colleges. This demonstrates a government pursuing a political agenda, not one interested in good public policy or helping students.

The announced OSAP cuts and changes to eligibility criteria mean it will be harder for many students to access postsecondary education. While faculty are reassured that the Minister’s remarks signaled the government’s commitment to not cutting core operating grants for postsecondary institutions, the announced changes mean that universities and colleges will struggle with less funding and students will be burdened with less financial assistance, more expensive loans, and higher debt.

“These reckless changes will shrink university budgets, increase class sizes, encourage further tuition fee hikes for international students, and threaten both the accessibility and quality of postsecondary education in Ontario,” said Gyllian Phillips, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “We should be accelerating investment in postsecondary education in Ontario. Instead, this government has slammed on the brakes and put the car in reverse.”

In addition to cutting OSAP funding, the government’s unnecessary and anti-democratic decision to make many ancillary fees voluntary undermines students’ rights on campus and increases administrative costs and red tape for universities. Many of the fees the government has identified as non-essential were introduced by students through democratic votes. Students’ unions in particular are democratically elected, not-for-profit organizations founded by and for students. This is an attack on the ability of students’ unions to represent and support their members.

“Students’ unions provide numerous crucial services and support for students on campus, and, through their advocacy work, they play an important role holding universities and governments accountable for decisions about issues including tuition fees and student financial assistance.” said Phillips. “It is no coincidence that this government is cutting support for students’ unions at the same time they are cutting OSAP. Ironically, this appears to be another attempt to stifle political debate, dissent, and speech on campus.”

Ontario’s universities are vital institutions that produce amazing graduates and research. But maintaining this level of excellence will require that the government actually sit down and talk to students, faculty, staff, and administrators, instead of continuing to make uninformed decisions in secret, behind closed doors.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 29 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit www.ocufa.on.ca.

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

Reminder: OCUFA is currently accepting applications for Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism

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The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is currently accepting applications for the inaugural $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 Friday, February 22, 2019. 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

Latest issue of Academic Matters explores campus speech debate

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Over the past few years, the debate about freedom of speech on university campuses has intensified. Often sparked by high profile and provocative speakers from outside the academy, this debate has focused on expression rights, whether some groups have more privileged rights than others, how exercising these rights can harm certain individuals or groups, and whether reactions to certain speakers or events constitute censorship.

Does inviting a provocative speaker to campus really provide the best test of whether free speech is alive and well at our universities? Does threatening to discipline individuals and cut institutional funding create better speech on campus or silence faculty, students, and staff?

In the latest issue of Academic Matters, we have brought together a stellar group of scholars to consider these questions and what the answers mean for the future of the academy.

 


Free speech and the battle for the university
Speaking from personal experience, Shannon Dea recounts how the Faculty Association at the University of Waterloo responded to a controversial speaker who came to campus. How did the faculty association avoid the “free speech trap”?

 

Understanding the right to freedom of expression and its place on campus
As campus speech controversies flare up in the media, Richard Moon provides insight into the legal landscape of the debate. How can universities foster an inclusive campus that balances the expression rights of different community members?

 

Debwewin: To speak the truth – Nishnabek de’bwewin: Telling our truths
David Newhouse offers a thoughtful overview of indigenous perspectives on truth, academic freedom, and tenure, which have only recently started to be meaningfully reflected in academic discourse.

 

Freedom with limits? The role faculty associations play protecting the speech rights of their members
Although the campus speech debate presents new challenges, Michelle Webber and Linda Rose-Krasnor describe the tools faculty associations already have to protect the rights of their members and support other members of the campus community.

 

A manufactured crisis: the Ford government’s troubling free speech mandate
Examining the directive from the provincial government requiring universities and colleges to develop new free speech policies, James L. Turk questions the political agenda driving these policies and whether they are even needed.

 

The alt-right and the weaponization of free speech on campus
Jasmin Zine provides a compelling argument that, far from providing space for new voices, the free speech debate is actually being used to normalize hate and bigotry and suppress already marginalized voices on campus.

 

We were a strong union before Janus, and we will be a strong union after Janus
Andrea Calver discusses her time working with the California Faculty Association in its efforts to mobilize its membership and build a stronger union in the shadow of a recent US law that weakens union rights.

Job posting: Assistant to the Executive Director

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Duties and responsibilities:

  • Provide administrative support to the Executive Director and coordinate the work in the Executive Director’s office, including scheduling, travel and oversight of correspondence
  • Coordinate production and distribution of material for OCUFA Board and Executive Committee meetings
  • Record minutes of Executive, with the possibility for voluntary overtime opportunities
  • Maintain and update OCUFA policy archives database
  • Other duties may be assigned from time to time as the needs of the Executive Director’s office evolve

Skills required:

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Excellent organizational, administrative and secretarial skills
  • Proficiency in basic graphic design
  • Advanced skill using Word, Outlook, Excel and file management software
  • Demonstrated ability to work with tight deadlines, frequently changing priorities, and to handle multiple tasks simultaneously
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work as part of a team, with minimal supervision, while exhibiting strong initiative and judgment

Qualifications:

  • A diploma, university degree, or relevant education and experience
  • Understanding of labour relations in a unionized workplace
  • Understanding of and commitment to OCUFA policies, practices and objectives

Experience:

  • Demonstrated experience related to the duties and skills above, including a minimum of 5 years as an executive assistant or equivalent to senior officials

The position is within Level A of the Administrative Category as set out in the collective agreement between OCUFA and CUPE 1281. The annual starting salary for the position is between $61,928 and $65,862. OCUFA also offers a pension plan along with a generous benefits and vacation package.

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 and CV by 4 pm January 18, 2019.

Applications should be submitted as a single pdf document and directed to Michael Conlon PhD, Executive Director at mconlon@ocufa.on.ca.

Auditor General’s claims about OSAP inaccurate and irresponsible

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The recent Ontario Auditor General’s Report on the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) should concern Ontarians. In its analysis, it misrepresents the value OSAP provides to students and families and draws premature and inaccurate conclusions based on incomplete data. Most alarmingly, it dramatically oversteps the expectations of the Auditor General’s office by making recommendations seemingly intended to pave the way for government cuts to student assistance for low-income families.

In response, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations President Gyllian Phillips wrote a letter to the Auditor General detailing why the report on OSAP is both inaccurate and irresponsible.

The grants that OSAP provides help tens of thousands of Ontario students attend university and college without taking on unreasonable student debt that will weigh them down for decades. Programs like OSAP operate as both financial assistance and as long-term policy levers to shift the perceptions and expectations of low-income families.

The fear of taking on more debt is a well-documented barrier for those considering a postsecondary education and any analysis based on only a single year of data (as is the case with the Auditor General’s Report) could not possibly measure the effectiveness of the program.

Contrary to the Auditor General’s flawed claims, there is ample evidence to suggest that, in the long term, increasing the amount and availability of non-repayable grants are the best means to remove the financial barriers faced by students wishing to pursue a postsecondary education.

Further, the Auditor General glosses over one of the defining equity policy goals of the program: to reduce the debt of those students forced to borrow money to afford a postsecondary education. As the previous government came to understand, the high levels of student debt being taken on by low-income students is an equity issue government must address.

The criticism that only two per cent more students are attending university or college because of the new grants programs is also misleading. If the stated goal of OSAP is to increase access for low-income students, properly measuring the effectiveness of this initiative would require dis-aggregated data that demonstrates if the proportion of low-income students has increased. The Auditor General does not have the data to make that case.

In fact, the higher than anticipated uptake for the program signals the opposite. If one were auditing the program based on whether it was achieving its stated policy goals, surely increased uptake would be a positive outcome. Since the program is income tested, it should be inferred that the 25 per cent increase in uptake is, in fact, from families who would otherwise be incurring high levels of debt.

The new grants program was specifically designed to address the fact that Ontario has been a national laggard when it comes to non-repayable student financial assistance. A significant portion of the funding for these new grants was reallocated from existing ineffective financial assistance programs and tax credits. In effect, less money is being wasted on red tape, and more money is being invested in making university and college a reality for thousands of students. That the demand for the program has exceeded expectations demonstrates the real financial struggles Ontarians face paying for a postsecondary education.

Tuition fees in Ontario are the highest in Canada and continue to increase year after year. Each time the provincial government allows tuition fees to rise, they increase the financial burden of pursuing a postsecondary education and create more demand for student financial assistance through OSAP.

The recommendations made in the report on OSAP extend beyond the jurisdiction of the Auditor General’s office, the mandate of which is to conduct audits and value-for-dollar analyses of government programs. As a result, this report veers heavily into policy analysis and encroaches on a public policy debate best left to elected representatives, academic and policy experts, and the communities impacted.

Given the flawed data and inappropriate recommendations, this report represents an ill-informed political pronouncement rather than an expert opinion rooted in the principles of value-for-dollar auditing.

Due to its historic independence and vigilant accounting, the office of the Auditor General has garnered a great deal of respect, influence, and trust. This latest example of the Auditor General blurring the lines and expanding her mandate into areas outside her jurisdiction undermines this trust and distorts an important policy discussion.

Brescia Faculty Association consolidation approved in nick of time

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Congratulations are in order for the Brescia Faculty Association (BFA). The BFA managed to organize Brescia contract faculty and get them consolidated into the main bargaining unit just two days before Bill 47 passed. Introduced by Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives, Bill 47 wiped consolidation language from the Ontario Labour Relations Act.

The previous Ontario government introduced the now deleted consolidation language in 2017. It made it easier for the province’s unions to streamline and strengthen their bargaining units. Despite the objections and delay tactics of the Brescia University College administration, the Ontario Labour Board determined that the BFA’s application was in order and approved the consolidation of the existing unit with the new unit.

The BFA follows the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Faculty Association (UOITFA) as only the second faculty association granted consolidation between the passing of Bill 148 in 2017 and Bill 47 in 2018. All new consolidations can only result from negotiations with the employer.

Both faculty associations saw an opportunity and, by moving quickly, were able to organize new contract faculty members into their existing bargaining units.

UWOFA makes progress on use of SQCTs and fairness for contract faculty

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The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) has reached a four-year agreement with the Western University administration. The agreement includes significant advances towards expanded job security provisions for contract faculty and important improvements and clarifications on the uses of Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching in the faculty appointment, evaluation, tenure, and promotion processes. The union also achieved across-the-board salary increases competitive with other faculty associations.

Les professeurs s’inquiètent de l’annulation soudaine de l’université de langue française

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Le récent énoncé économique du gouvernement de l’Ontario en automne dernier a révélé que les progressistes-conservateurs ne financeraient plus ni n’iraient de l’avant avec l’université de langue française devant être construite à Toronto. Dans le cadre d’une tendance devenue inquiétante pour ce gouvernement, l’annonce a été faite sans discussion avec les intervenants du secteur, notamment les professeurs et les étudiants et, ce qui est encore plus inquiétant, sans consulter la communauté francophone de l’Ontario.

Le Conseil de planification pour une université de langue française et le gouvernement provincial précédent avaient passé plusieurs années à consulter les Ontariens et à élaborer une vision pour la nouvelle université censée être un établissement autonome créé par et pour les francophones. L’« Université de l’Ontario français » devait avoir pour but de servir le centre et le sud-ouest de l’Ontario, là où la population de francophones de la province connaît la plus forte croissance.

L’annulation du projet de l’université de langue française est surprenante, en partie parce que Doug Ford lui-même avait promis pendant sa campagne électorale que le projet irait de l’avant. Après l’annulation du financement de trois campus d’expansion et une directive menaçant de réduire le financement des universités qui ne disciplinent pas les voix dissidentes sur les campus, le gouvernement progressiste-conservateur de Ford remet en question son soutien aux universités publiques dynamiques de l’Ontario, à la liberté d’expression et à la population francophone de la province, qui compte plus de 600 000 personnes.

Il est très inquiétant que ce gouvernement annule l’université de langue française qui avait été promise, sans consulter au préalable les étudiants, les parents et les professeurs francophones. Cette décision témoigne d’un manque de respect envers la population francophone minoritaire de l’Ontario, et la frustration des francophones est justifiée.

En réponse à l’annonce de Doug Ford, les délégués réunis à la 85e assemblée du Conseil de l’Association canadienne des professeures et professeurs d’université (ACPPU) ont adopté à l’unanimité une résolution condamnant la décision du gouvernement conservateur ontarien d’annuler le projet de l’Université de l’Ontario français sans avoir consulté la communauté franco-ontarienne. Une lettre par l’ACPPU a été envoyée au premier ministre ontarien Ford qui souligne ces inquiétudes. 

Les professeurs de l’Ontario s’inquiètent du fait que le gouvernement continue de prendre des décisions de cette ampleur à huis clos et en secret. L’annulation de l’université de langue française fournit une autre preuve que le gouvernement de Doug Ford n’est pas disposé à écouter les Ontariens, mais qu’il s’est plutôt engagé à poursuivre un programme idéologique malavisé et irresponsable.

Faculty concerned with abrupt cancellation of French-language university

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The Ontario Government’s recent fall economic statement revealed that the Progressive Conservatives would no longer be funding or moving forward with the French-language university set to be built in Toronto. In what has become a disturbing trend for this government, the announcement was made without any discussion with sector stakeholders, including faculty and students, and, more distressingly, without any consultation with Ontario’s Francophone community.

Conceived as an autonomous institution that would be created by and for Francophones, the French-language University Planning Board and previous provincial government had spent several years consulting with Ontarians, and developing a vision for the new university. The “Université de l’Ontario français” was meant to serve central and southwestern Ontario, home to the fastest growing population of Francophones in the province.

The cancellation of the planned French-language university was a surprise, in part, because Doug Ford himself had promised during his election campaign that the project would go ahead. Following the cancellation of funding for three extension campuses and a directive threatening to cut funding from universities that fail to discipline dissenting campus voices, Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has called into question its support for Ontario’s vibrant public universities, free speech, and the province’s Francophone population of more than 600,000.

It is deeply concerning that this government would cancel the promised French-language university without first consulting Francophone students, parents, and faculty. The decision marks a distinct lack of respect for Ontario’s minority French-speaking population, and Francophones are justified in their frustration.

In response to Ford’s announcement, delegates attending the 85th Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Council meeting this past weekend unanimously adopted a motion condemning the Ontario Conservative government for canceling plans for the Université de l’Ontario français without consulting Franco-Ontarians. The CAUT has written a letter to the Ontario Premier expressing these concerns.

Faculty across Ontario are alarmed that the government continues to make decisions of this magnitude behind closed doors in secret. The cancelled French-language university is further evidence that the Doug Ford government is not interested in listening to Ontarians, but is instead committed to pursuing an uninformed and unaccountable ideological agenda.

Announcing the OCUFA Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism

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The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is excited to announce the $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 January 25, 2019. 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

York University faculty associations secure commitments to equity and benefits in new agreements

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The York University Faculty Association (YUFA) has reached a three-year agreement with the York University administration. As part of the settlement, YUFA achieved a commitment from the university to hire six Indigenous faculty over the life of the agreement, and to work with the faculty association to undertake an equal pay exercise for women, racialized and Indigenous faculty members. YUFA achieved across-the-board salary increases competitive with other faculty associations and benefits improvements for active members and retirees. Additionally, the faculty association secured a commitment to index long-term disability and pensions to the Consumer Price Index, improved parental leave provisions, and increases to their Trans Health Fund.

The Osgoode Hall Faculty Association (OHFA) reached a three-year agreement with the York University administration. OHFA gained increases to the anomaly fund and a commitment from the university administration to review faculty salaries with the goal of addressing disparities for self-identified females, members of racialized groups, and Indigenous faculty members. The faculty association secured benefits improvements for active members and retirees as well as long-term disability and pension indexation to the Consumer Price Index. Finally, OHFA also achieved across-the-board salary increases competitive with other faculty associations.

Advocacy Day introduces new MPPs to faculty priorities

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On November 13, faculty from across the province gathered at Queen’s Park for a day advocating for stronger public funding for postsecondary education, fairness for contract faculty, and good jobs.

The day started with a breakfast reception attended by numerous MPPs and their staff. The reception featured remarks from David Piccini, the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities; Chris Glover, the NDP critic for colleges and universities, and Mike Schreiner, the Leader of the Green Party.

During the day, faculty met with more than 35 MPPs representing all political parties, many of whom have universities in or adjacent to their ridings. With a new government in place and many new faces at Queen’s Park, this fall’s advocacy day provided an important opportunity for MPPs to learn about faculty priorities, including:

  • protecting and expanding public funding for postsecondary education in Ontario to promote quality and accessibility;
  • delivering fairness for contract faculty and committing to supporting good jobs on university campuses; and
  • moving away from punitive university funding models based on performance metrics and urging greater consultation with faculty about university funding frameworks.

As in previous years, faculty gathered in advance to strategize and prepare for their meetings. OCUFA representatives also had a strong social media presence throughout the day, reporting on their meetings with MPPs and the issues they discussed.

Advocacy Day facilitated many important conversations. It is hoped that these conversations with MPPs will continue, not just at Queen’s Park, but also in the ridings where faculty live and work.