Monday, May 27, 2013

Tenured Positions Under Threat at St. Paul University

On Saturday May 25, we received the following message from the Professors' Association of St. Paul University in Ottawa.

"The administration of Saint Paul University is threatening to fire an unspecified number of tenured professors to make up a deficit in the budget for the coming year.   Last week they began by firing a professional librarian who holds a permanent appointment.  There is no financial exigency clause in our Collective Agreement that would allow this."

David Porreca, President of FAUW, responded to Mme. Chantal Beauvais, the Rector of St. Paul's with this letter.

Dear Mme Beauvais,

I am writing to you as the President of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo, as it has come to my attention that Saint Paul University is planning to cut a number of tenured faculty positions. I urge you to reconsider this decision, for a number of what I believe to be good reasons:
  1. The principle of tenure precludes the casual firing of faculty members. The basic premise of academic freedom is at stake, and your administration is setting a noxious example that, if adopted elsewhere, sounds the death knell of academia in Canada. In my view, selling physical infrastructure is preferable to firing people, especially people with tenure.
  2. As a result of your administration's recent actions, Saint Paul University finds itself without a professional librarian at this point in time. Consequently, the academic activities of your institution no longer have the support they need, which can only have deleterious consequences on the work of all those concerned: both students and faculty members. Therefore, I urge you to reinstate the Librarian whose position was terminated last month.
  3. The collective agreement your administration has with faculty members does not have a "financial exigency" clause. Therefore, by actively terminating positions, your administration is in clear breach of the collective agreement.
  4. Saint Paul University is well-recognized for the strength of its Theology program, both in terms of the research conducted as well as the teaching and training of new generations of theologians. As a Medievalist myself, I have a keen appreciation for the work that, historically, Saint Paul has done in this field. It is truly a tragedy that your administration has seen fit to torpedo one of your institution's greatest strengths in this manner. Do you really want to be remembered as the administrator who gutted one of the best Theology programs in the country?
  5. At the University of Waterloo, our budgeting exercise is transparent - not as much as we as a Faculty Association would like, but nevertheless enough to allow us to consider critically the manner in which our University is run. From my understanding, there is a lack of transparency in your operations, such that your Professors' Association is unable to assess whether your administration's chosen course of action is really necessary. Instead of firing people, it would behoove you to construct a well-argued case to your faculty members and staff in order to get their support in any restructuring that may indeed be necessary, rather than imposing it by diktat.

From a purely human perspective, I would also urge you to put yourself in the position of those people whom you are terminating: they have devoted their entire careers to making Saint Paul University the excellent institution that it is. Do they really deserve to be treated in such a heavy-handed way? Is there really not a more humane way to resolve your budgetary concerns?

Yours most sincerely,

- David.

For more background on the situation with faculty at St. Paul, you can read this fact sheet put out by the Professors' Association of St. Paul University.

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