The UM needs more full-time academic staff, research funding for graduate students, and childcare support: An open letter to President Barnard about the University budget
March 21, 2018
Dear President Barnard,
At this time of year the administration is hard at work preparing the University’s budget. While we’re angry about the government’s decision to reduce the University’s operating grant and shift even more of the financial burden of higher education to students, it has to be acknowledged that tuition increases will likely more than cover the decrease in public funding. Similarly, the Association is once again forced to raise concerns about financial surpluses generated at the University: the financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2017 show that UM’s operating surplus before inter-fund transfers was $102 million. Given these choices and realities we owe it to our students to ensure that our budget priorities see more of our resources go to the University’s core functions of teaching and research and make this university the best place it can be for the entire university community.
To that end, as the new budget is developed I urge you to address three key priorities that I and my fellow UMFA members have strongly and consistently identified over the past two years:
1) Increased hiring of full time, permanent academic positions.
Instructors and professors continue to struggle with their heavy workloads, managing increased class sizes and graduate student supervision, and their service activities. Academic librarians face similar problems, with many librarians doing the work of two or more people. A strong faculty complement means we can provide the best student experience possible while performing the research necessary to advance knowledge in our fields and maintain and enhance UM’s reputation. In last year’s budget $3.6 million was allocated to faculty and support staff renewal in academic units. Nevertheless, members electing early retirement or leaving for other reasons contribute to the chronic under-staffing of our academic units. We ask the administration to make a commitment for faculty renewal as least as large as last year in the upcoming budget year.
2) Funding for graduate students
Competitive and stable funding for graduate students is desperately needed and would be transformative for UM and the members of the UM community. Five years of GETS funding – from 2011 to 2016 – led to a 30% increase in the number of graduate students per research faculty in science, taking us to 85% of the U15 average. GETS funding has since been rolled back, now funding a maximum of one graduate student per faculty member. Furthermore, GETS funding is tied to tri-council funding, which has been underfunded for decades, disadvantages basic science, and is subject to the whims of government (see the Get Science Right campaign at http://science.caut.ca/).
This budget should include a robust program of multi-year guaranteed graduate student funding that is uncoupled from other faculty grant funding and accompanies students’ offer of admission would allow us to: 1) attract talented graduate students; 2) provide our graduate students with a fair and reasonable wage; 3) provide gifted and motivated TA’s to our undergraduate population; and 4) allow our faculty to strike a better balance between doing research versus chasing research funding.
3) Daycare spaces for the entire university community at Bannatyne
As the 2013 report of the UM Childcare Working Group indicated, childcare spaces are
desperately needed to serve the university community. The Fort Garry childcare chips away at that need, but many more spaces are needed and there are no childcare facilities at the Bannatyne campus or even in the surrounding neighborhood. With the construction of new buildings taking place at the downtown campus, now is the time to make space for a childcare facility.
We suggest that the administration create a non-profit daycare centre accommodating 100 childcare spaces to the university community at the Bannatyne campus, and that the premises be provided to the daycare centre by the university for $1 per year. The estimated cost would be $4.5 million in one-time capital funding, approximately the savings realized by the administration in UMFA wages during the 2016 3-week strike.
Cameron Morrill has been appointed by UMFA to be our representative on the UMFA Budget Advisory Committee. He is well versed in the financial situation of the University and the priorities of UMFA members, and we hope will serve as a useful resource to the committee.
cc. Lynn Zapshala-Kelln, VP Administration
Harvey Secter, Chancellor
Tanjit Nagra, President, University of Manitoba Student Union
Carl Neumann, President, University of Manitoba Graduate Students’ Association
Libraries and librarians are essential to a university education. Their work spans disciplines, faculties, and departments, creating an environment for meaningful research and study. Over the next two months we’ll be highlighting some of that work, as so much of it goes unseen.
Join us in acknowledging the importance of librarians on campus as they make research and higher learning possible through their work. We’ll be sharing librarian profiles on our website and social media channels to help demonstrate the wide variety of roles and responsibilities that librarians carry out every day.
There are so many ways that we make the UofM Happen!
Look for more librarian profiles on our social media channels and website over the next few months:
I am writing to provide you with an update on our Unfair Labour Practice complaint (ULP). As you all read in our message sent January 31, the Labour Board agreed with UMFA that the administration acted in bad faith when they failed to inform us that they had received instructions from the government to freeze our salaries and only offer a one-year contract. We’re in agreement with much in the decision, but have asked the Board to clarify and possibly reconsider a few of its points.
As you also saw, the administration in their press release after the ULP decision “respectfully disagreed” with the Labour Board Decision and were “considering their options”. We were disappointed with their reaction because, at the very least, it casts doubt on the sincerity of any apology they might deliver as required by the Labour Board. The admin’s reaction also imperils future bargaining as they evidently would do the same thing again in the likely event that the government continues its bullying behind closed doors. A simple apology can go a long way in repairing relationships, and the administration has now denied that possibility.
The admin has asked the Board to review and reverse its decision. It is painful to see our employer react to the Board’s decision in this way. Even if the Labour Board retracts its criticism of the administration’s actions in the current ULP, surely it will be a pyrrhic victory if these protracted battles and protests from the administration of their “innocence” bring employee relations, and our university, back to 2016.
So, where are we now? The relationship between UMFA and the administration was at a low point in Fall 2016, and I believe both sides had been trying to move forward in small steps since then. UMFA members care about this institution and how it fulfills its academic mission. That was foremost in all our minds as we walked the picket lines. It seems like the administration’s current actions are driven by vanity, and take us two steps backwards. Although this is the third time in ten years that this administration has been found guilty of an Unfair Labour Practice, and the second time in the past year alone, the administration is still hoping to portray itself as an “employer of choice” who has done nothing wrong and bears no responsibility for the 2016 Strike. We believe this attempt will be futile: in the second-last decision against the admin, delivered merely months ago, the Labour Board noted the following:
It is hardly surprising that the Faculty Association was exasperated by the University’s continued failure to recognize its exclusive bargaining rights. The University’s actions transgress upon perhaps the most fundamental principle of labour law. It is the Board’s view that such conduct by the University must stop.
Through it all, UMFA is doing what is best for our members. Often that involves cooperation and collaboration with the administration. But if it requires that we fight, we will.
Check back here for more details regarding the Manitoba Labour Board decision.
For the joint press release from UMFA and the Manitoba Federation of Labour, click here.
For the full ULP Decision, click here.
For a summary of the results, click here.
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Higher tuition fees in Manitoba will reduce university participation of youth from lower-income families, and discourage students from pursuing public interest careers, according to a report released today by the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA).
Key findings of the report include:
With the potential for tuition to more than double over the next 10 years, the detriment to low income students will be great and ultimately cost Manitobans the opportunity to pursue higher education.
To read the full report, click here.