Please note: This is a static page that will be added to as responses (and permissions) arrive. Responses are being posted chronologically — earliest to most recent. If you wish to add a response, please forward your message to wlufacommunications and CC the email to David Monod.
A Response to WLUFA’s Response to the Laurier Budget Message
On July 18 we received a message from President MacLatchy entitled “Empowering Change: Budget 2020/2021,” which asked us to think of ways to save money / find efficiencies to counter the massive cuts being imposed by Premier Doug Ford’s government. On July 24 we received a response to that request from WLUFACommunications with the not-so-subtle title, “A Skunkweed By Any Other Name: WLUFA responds to “Empowering Change: Budget 2020/ 2021.”” I was relieved to see that WLUFA issued a response to the President’s request as it was sorely needed. However, I was both confused and disheartened by what WLUFA wrote.
Comparing the President’s message (and the cuts it represents) to murder and suicide is irresonsible, extreme and will be offensive to some. No one at Laurier is being murdered or killing themselves due to Ford’s cuts. Beyond the specific rhetoric of the message, there is no actual request or suggestion in WLUFA’s response. The message ends with the following statement: “it is time to bring the battle to Queen’s Park.” There is no signature, other identifying info, or link to follow to learn more about this battle. When are we to take this battle to Queen’s Park? How? And who is involved? Is it COU that is to bring the battle, WLU admin, WLUFA? All of us? Or are we to just do this ourselves as we see fit?
Overall the message is odd and quite incendiary. As such, it’s too easy to dismiss as the rantings of a few disgruntled faculty (something I saw happen on Senate repeatedly in my time there). And this is a shame because the government cuts and WLU’s response to them are very serious affairs. WLUFA missed a good opportunity to address the many problems of the President’s message. These include:
- We’ve done this cost-saving, efficiency-finding exercise already with the IPRM and RCM. And we paid handsomely to do so in the form of consultants’ fees and our own labour. Asking us all to find efficiencies yet again is redundant. IPRM and RCM identified where all the money is and where it all goes and produced reams of data the University said would be essential in making budget decisions. Why are they abandoning all this now? How will information gleaned through this “empowering change” process be any different than that produced from previous processes?
- Ford will be out of government by the time any University exercise has been completed. His approval rating is record-breakingly low. Going through another efficiency-finding exercise as a specific response to Ford is pointless – we’ll come up with new buzz words and metrics only to throw those in the garbage once Ford is gone.
- The President’s request is premised on the idea that we have been holding back our ideas for efficiencies – as if we had key ways to cut costs but decided not to voice them during the IPRM and RCM processes. That’s silly. This type of call might appeal to new faculty that are eager to get involved and make their mark at the University but as we all know, we haven’t hired a significant number of new faculty in a long time. The rest of us can smell make-work projects like this from a mile away!
- The financial matters of the University are the Board’s responsibility. Asking faculty to solve a budget crisis is outside what we’re hired to do. We don’t ask Board members to come up with new academic programs, do research or teach (and we shouldn’t) and we shouldn’t ask faculty to solve the University’s financial problems. The separation of Board and Senate as responsible for the financial and pedagogical aspects of the University, respectively, was made very clear to me as a Senator and is a defining feature of our bi-cameral system of governance.
- Following 4, this is another attempt to promote a false sense of ‘community’ when jobs and livelihoods are at stake. A close-knit collegial community is an old ideal that may have applied at Laurier before the ‘growth is inherently good’ business model we adopted ten-plus years ago, but we are decidedly bigger and less family-like now. WLUFA’s response to “empowering change” is a perfect example of the increasingly fraught relationship between faculty and administration at this university. The University Administration must address this financial problem and take responsibility for the decisions made and the impacts that follow – there is no feel-good ‘from-the-ground-up’ or ‘made-in-Laurier’ solution available here. People are going to lose their jobs and working conditions are likely to worsen.
- This is a COU problem (WLUFA rightly identifies this in their response). All Ontario University Presidents and Boards should be publicly lobbying the government to stop the cuts and re-frame the now dominant narrative disparaging postsecondary education. Unless I missed it, there has been no unified statement from Universities in any major media outlet. That is extraordinary. Rather than asking faculty to find efficiencies (again and again), our Board and Administration should be working with other University Boards and Administrations to create a unified, public front against the cuts. If they are doing that, the President should have made that clear in her message.
There are no doubt many other points that could be made here – these are the ones that have resonated with me. And while I’m glad that WLUFA issued a response rather than remain silent, this particular response missed a good opportunity to highlight the many problems of “empowering change.”
I understand this is a difficult time but the messaging in this email needs to be better.
While I appreciate WLUFA’s position on President MacLatchy’s email, I was quite disappointed with the comparisons to murder and suicide.
I would expect WLUFA to be more cognizant of this with all the issues surrounding mental health and violence on campus. Quite simply, I would think that the faculty association would chose better and less worrisome comparisons than murder and suicide.
My two cents for what they are worth but I bet I am not the only faculty member dissatisfied with the content of WLUFA’s email.
Tom J. Hazell, PhD
Tom shared his email with me and I wanted to write a short email to state that I am in complete agreement with him. The WLUFA statement in response to Deb’s email was problematic for a couple of reasons. First, I found the comparisons to murder/suicide to be highly insensitive. I don’t think I need to elaborate on why this might be the case. Second, I found the escalation in tone to be completely unnecessary. Unfortunately, this kind of response is one of the reasons I tend not to get too involved in WLUFA in meetings or with my service time. The university and WLUFA have a superordinate problem in Doug Ford and I don’t think it was unreasonable for Deb to ask our opinion about how we might manage this challenging time. I am sure that there will be very difficult conversations to be had with administration over the coming year or so, and I definitely do not agree with many of the directions taken by the university. However, we don’t always need five dollar reactions to perceived nickel provocations.
Mark Eys, Ph.D.
My Fellow WLUFA members
I am writing a response to the email entitled “WLUFA Response to Laurier Budget Message”.
I want to make it clear that I did not find this email to represent my views and I was embarrassed by its tone and its presentation. I did not experience the email as a constructive response to the facts on the ground. The facts: over the next three years of the current Ontario government, university budgets will almost certainly decrease. The actual amounts may not be clear but no one I know disputes some kind of revenue reduction is very likely.
I will bring two aspects of the email to your attention. The discussion of the role of COU was very out of place. COU has very limited power and influence and Laurier has little power and influence within COU. Discussing COU is a waste of time. Second, and more problematically, there is the complaint that members of all campus unions were invited into the budget process to provide ideas on cost reduction or revenue creation. Very colourful language was used about the proposed consultation: “an effort to turn the murder of the university into a suicide.” This seems to me to be very extreme and unhelpful language.
Suppose employees had NOT been asked for their suggestions on spending reduction and revenue enhancement. I can just imagine the email complaining about non-consultation; probably written by the same person(s).
WLUFA, in bargaining on behalf of its members for the contract beginning July 1, 2020, already has a seat at the budget table every three years. This is what WLUFA does and what the other unions do – in their collective agreements; they are participating in the budget process. There is no avoiding being a part of the budget process for the unions that represent their members.
The question is whether the bargaining table is the only place where it is useful for the WLUFA leadership to provide input. I would have to say the answer is not clear to me at this time. If the WLUFA leadership made a formal signed submission to the budget process and their suggestions were taken up, than such a budget would have been created with “support” from WLUFA leadership, then this may be awkward in the adversarial situation at the bargaining table. Perhaps the WLUFA leadership can better serve its membership by not providing formal public input into the budget at this point.
However it is clear to me that there is no harm and some possible good in employees and students offering budgetary suggestions. Suppose a WLUFA member offered up some wonderful way to reduce central expenses that no one else had thought of. That would leave more resources for compensation of faculty and other employees. Why would this be a bad thing?
The administration’s request is an opportunity for members of WLUFA and other university employees to be explicit on “And if that must be done, is our administration willing to provide real leadership by cutting away at itself before it comes after us?” We can suggest to the Administration how to cut itself. We can look to them for leadership in reducing central expenses. They will have no credibility if this does not occur.
After a Budget Town Hall held by the previous provost and vice-president, I chose to provide explicit feedback on spending at the centre of the RCM model. I did point out that there needed to be credible cuts at the centre to generate any support for the budget process. I repeated that feedback in the recent Administration request for budget ideas.
Here were my four explicit suggestions on spending at the “centre”:
1) Replace the three “dean-like positions” at Brantford with one Dean. There seems no purpose in have three decanal-level administrators for a campus of Brantford’s size.
2) End the subsidy to the BSIA and SIPG programs. From the Town Hall comments my memory is that this subsidy is somewhere between two and three million dollars a year. * There are very few students in the SIPPG / BSIA programs. In my judgement, the work done in this unit is also done in other places in Canada and around the world. In my judgement, other programs at Laurier have fewer resources because of a recent poor administration decision to extend this program for 10 years. The WLU faculty members in that unit can return to cognate departments who are already paying their salaries (I believe). The PhD students can be funded to the end of their funding period in cognate departments. The Master’s program could end. This would be less expensive than the current subsidy and move talented people to be exposed to teach more students in other programs. * https://lauriercloud.sharepoint.com/sites/finance/budget-and-planning/Documents/budget-report-2019-20.pdf has some information on the net revenue and cost position by faculty unit. In that document (page 34) SIPG reports there revenue of $1.3M – direct costs of $1.5M – no contribution to shared expenses of $1M – and with their faculty costs born in Arts, Lazarides and Science totalling $2M. SIPG is listed in the same document as having roughly 40 FTE graduate students.
3) Carefully study Laurier’s expenditures on undergraduate scholarships. How much should this total expenditure fall in this area since tuition has been reduced by 10%? This is mentioned in the budget document above. Are scholarships going to students with the highest financial needs or are they poorly targeted? Do we know very much about the role of entrance scholarships in attracting students? As an example, even the best students in Engineering at the University of Waterloo receive almost no scholarship money.
4) End all central spending related to Milton – even the explorations. It is clear this government will not support the Milton campus in the next three years. It would seem that whatever has already been done on the Milton project can sit in files for the next three years.
I am not an Administration toady: anyone who watched me on Senate and the Board would say quite the opposite. That experience left me with quite a complicated relationship with senior administrators. I hope we both learned from each other.
We would all benefit from a better run university. All organizations have room to improve. The act of asking for ideas around the budget is perfectly reasonable and if you have a good idea, you should participate.
Let’s have constructive conversations as we work together to spend the resources entrusted to us by student tuition dollars and taxpayers. In my opinion, the email was not part of a constructive conversation.
Your overuse of pathos is sickening. Referring a budgetary need to find efficiencies as “suicide” and “murder” is repulsive, and this type of rhetoric is far too common in communications coming from WLUFA.
The author didn’t even sign it.
WLUFA should be encouraging members to take part in the process, put pressure on the government for change, and work with the university to ensure the successful delivery of quality education for all its students.
It wouldn’t hurt to take part in the broader discussion of improving teaching and learning in the 21st century either.
Dear David and WLUFA,
Although your response to the recent correspondence from the University about governmental cutbacks was rather strongly worded, it was exactly what was needed. I appreciate your willingness to endure the unsavoury missives lobbed in your direction. Please be assured that many of us are indebted to your efforts.
Name withheld by request
Fellow union members,
I am dismayed at many of the responses to the WLUFA Executive’s message to the membership. I thought the message was not only quite well-written but more importantly . . . important! Some faculty members apparently thought just the opposite. Ford has launched an extreme attack, not just upon higher education, but upon all the education sectors in Ontario. Ford has launched an extreme attack upon our right to collectively bargain. But apparently to some, that’s not what is really important; no, it is our union President’s extreme rhetoric. I believe extreme situations sometimes call for extreme language. Regardless, what is required now is not a debate about rhetoric. The key question, as always, is: what is to be done?
Figuring out what should be done is in part a process of determining what should not be done. The sensible response to extraordinarily bad government policies is not how can we best implement them. As Jonathan Finn pointed out in his message, we have been down this “look for cuts and efficiencies road” before. Nonetheless, this is the pathetic administration response, which sadly some faculty members think is the only appropriate course of action. What is actually required, however, is to collectively fight this government’s policies.
There are many possible strategies to do so. They are not mutually exclusive. The legality of the government interference with collective bargaining is questionable. The CAUT has lawyers, OCUFA has lawyers, WLUFA has lawyers. Let’s mount some legal challenges.
When bargaining for the full-time unit commences, the WLUFA team should make it clear from the outset that 1% simply won’t do unless they make huge concessions in other areas.
Now, though the WLU administration’s response to the Ford attacks is disappointing, the issue goes way beyond Laurier. As said before, it concerns the entire education sector. WLUFA should be preparing with OCUFA, other higher education unions – and the teachers’ unions – how to coordinate a unified and vigorous action campaign to commence in September.
By action campaign, I mean strikes! A series of one day or one week strikes should be organized. Parents and students need to be mobilized, so a media campaign is also required.
Is the language too extreme to assert that education is under attack and that we, as educators, need to fight for it!
Dear David and WLUFA,
Thank you for doing the vital work of the union that may counter the employer’s unilateral decisions.
The WLUFA Communications Team has identified a gap in WLUFA members’ views on recent communications from Laurier’s president concerning future budget cuts: “going too far” and “not far enough. Quantifying the arguments can contribute to bridging the gap in WLUFA members’ understanding.
Concerning the recent information about budget cuts, is it possible for WLUFA to conduct (or commission) an economic analysis? Also, republishing and recalculating the growth of administration compared to faculty would be useful data for future arguments. Can WLUFA address in a financial analysis where and how much Laurier expends on administration in human resources and other areas such as salary plus taxable benefits that members of the administration have received, as well as capital expenditures? At least one new manager was created recently in the area of capital projects.
Can WLUFA present to the members the following data for 2008-2018 in graphs or tables:
– year by year number of staff (not CAS/Faculty), particularly line managers, vice-presidents, and president compared to the number of faculty members (two lines on a graph one for Full-time and one for CAS)
– comparison of the change in expenditures over the past decade: (1) How much has the faculty salary expenditure changed over the past decade (e.g., is it 2% per year?) and (2) how much has the managerial, executive/senior advisor, vice-presidents, presidents changed.
Also, is it possible to clarify whether the government funds only one-third of Laurier’s operating budget? Using the percentage received from the Ontario government, can WLUFA quantify the rate of cuts proposed by administration that will be faculty vs. administration vs. capital projects? For example, is the administration proposing that WLUFA members absorbed all of the reduction in the one-third or will administration also be reducing expenditures?
Thank you for considering providing numbers to the WLUFA members.
Name withheld by request
Though I haven’t taught at Laurier for a couple years, WLUFA’s recent response to the Ford government’s austerity measures against higher education gave me hope and courage. As a postdoctoral fellow and sessional instructor, I sometimes wonder whether the necessary changes can be spearheaded by tenured faculty and their associations, even though such workers and groups are witness to he way neoliberal governments are using universities as testing grounds for aggressive austerity and exploitation. It seems that the hierarchical privileges and divisions of the academy often work against the forming of solidarities that could put an end to the gross exploitation of such a highly trained work force. In this light, I found WLUFA’s call for solidarity across staff, professorial and student groups heartening; this is exactly what is needed at the current dire juncture.
As a successful but precariously positioned academic worker who has long grappled with anxiety, depression and mental care, for both myself and friends and colleagues, I was in no way offended by the use of murder and suicide as figures for describing the current state of affairs in the academy. The pressures being put on academic staff and students do have repercussions that can be life-threatening, especially when combined with other factors. If anything, these strong images made me relieved that an association in a position of influence had the courage to use clear and powerful language to describe the affective realities of our collective plight.
Rhetorical choices are important, and sometimes figures get used inappropriately and in ways that can cause harm and disrespect. However, I felt that in this context these images captured the feelings of desperation, fear and anxiety that attend trying to make a living in the contemporary university. WLUFA’s statement made me feel less alone, less disheartened, and helped stoke an empowering, fighting spirit in a context that often excels in individualizing and personalizing what are in reality structural injustices. It made me think that change is possible.
Please accept my gratitude and support for WLUFA’s assertion of leadership in these difficult and desperate times.
Department of English and Film Studies
University of Alberta