Monday, October 7, 2013

News from the OCUFA Director

Jasmin Habib, FAUW Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Director

The OCUFA Board of Directors meeting that FAUW President David Porreca and I attended at the end of September was intense. While FAUW is engaged in important discussions about, for example, scheduling and the balance between work and home lives, both David and I were struck with the very serious threats that appear to be facing some of our colleagues across the province.    
For example:

Major reforms to pension and benefits packages are likely. Some of the richer benefits packages, for example, those that offer post-retirement research allowances (Professional Expense Reimbursements), are likely to be hardest hit.

Program Prioritisation and Planning processes are under way at several universities and it appears they will lead to deep cuts to programs and academic staff.  Reports across the province are that these cost-cutting measures will be made at the expense of pedagogical excellence.

Serious concerns were also raised about a leaked document that sets out the Province's “Differentiation Policy Framework”. Since we can all agree that our universities are already “differentiated,” at least to some extent, we do not have any clear sense as to why this particular policy has been introduced or exactly how it will be implemented.  As one Director put it: it seems that the Province is finding all sorts of bottom-drawer policies that may not make any programmatic sense (they may even contradict one another) but they just haven't been tried out yet. What is most worrisome is that it appears – on the face of it - that smaller universities and their programs will be at highest risk.  To date, OCUFA has not been invited to comment on the matter, which is troubling. Nonetheless they have made a public statement, as follows: “OCUFA will oppose any policy framework that allows government to interfere in academic decision making, properly the responsibility of university senates.”

For those who would like to learn a little more about what OCUFA does, I would encourage you to visit their website at www.ocufa.on.ca or the OCUFA Facebook page. There, you will find reports and policy statements and a link to Academic Matters.

There are several events that the OCUFA Executive, Directors and Committee members will be engaged with throughout this academic year, including:
  • In October, OCUFA arranges to have its Directors and Faculty Association Presidents meet with local MPPs. These meetings allow for a kind of face-to-face interaction that is quite rare but certainly incredibly important, especially as there is every possibility we will be moving into a critical election sometime early in 2014.  David will be attending these meetings on behalf of the FAUW.
  • In November, the OCUFA University Finance Committee will be organising a workshop where they hope "to de-mystify budgets and the budget process."  David and I plan to attend these meetings on behalf of FAUW.
  • And, early next year, OCUFA, together with its standing committees (Collective Bargaining, Grievance, and Status of Women), is planning to organise a workshop "After Bill 168: Occupational Health and Safety in the Academy." I plan to attend this workshop and it is likely that a member of the FAUW Status of Women and Equity Committee and/or the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee will be joining me.
Last but certainly not least: OCUFA will be hosting its annual conference in February. This year's theme is "Future View". The focus of panel discussions and keynote speakers will be on how we might re-imagine research, teaching and service in the future. A big concern: how might our practices have to change as governments shift their funding priorities away from our post-secondary institutions? Stay tuned!

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