Discussion on “WLUFA Denounces Trump Executive Action and Stands in Solidarity with our Muslim Community”

WLUFA has received a number of passionate and eloquent responses (positive and negative) to the statement that we posted yesterday that expressed solidarity with the Muslim community and denounced Trump’s Executive Order.  We’ve kept the statement as is but as one faculty member noted in an email, “The Academy, first and foremost, is a place to have invigorated, passionate, and spirited debate on all issues”.  We’ll add some comments made already and please feel free to continue to discuss these issues in the comments below under “Leave a Reply”.

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Opposition to library collections budget cuts

The “Open letter from WLUFA opposing the library cuts at University of Ottawa” was just published on the WLUFA news site.  It’s important to support our colleagues in other institutions in Ontario, Canada, and around the world, and several faculty have spoken through the petition created to oppose the cuts.  Research and teaching can hardly be well-done in higher education without the “shoulders of giants” for faculty and students to stand on.  This is what the library collection in an academic library provides.  Library acquisitions budgets are often in danger of being the target of cuts and librarians and library staff work hard to both argue for at least the status quo and to make the best use of the budget provided.

How do you feel about cuts to library budgets in other institutions?  In Laurier itself?

How do you feel about the current level of financial support for library collections, here at Laurier and in higher education in general?

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The UFC: Cynicism Versus Optimism of the Will

First slide of UFC meeting in November 2016 saying "University Faculty Council, 14 November 2016, 6:30 - 8:00 pm, Senate & Board Chamber & RCW324".

University Faculty Council meeting, 2016-11-14

By Garry Potter

Until last Monday night I believed that the single biggest problem stopping Contract Faculty from improving their situation was the ignorance, arrogance and egoism of the full-time faculty. Most full-time faculty fail to understand that the institutionalized two-tier, two-class faculty system at Laurier and most other universities is undermining university education; they fail to understand that the very existence of a low paid under-class of professors ultimately works to devalue education and research and indirectly is thus against their own interests. That much, I still believe is true; but I now see a bigger problem.

On Monday night there was a meeting of the University Faculty Council to discuss a collective response to the ongoing governance review instigated by the administration; but also, much more urgently, there was also a motion to cancel all classes in the event of a strike by either bargaining unit. Perhaps many faculty still are not aware that in the event of a strike, the non-striking bargaining unit would be required by law to cross their colleagues’ picket line. I say, perhaps many are still not aware of this; but I wonder why not? Are you not paying attention to what’s going on with the labour issues and educational issues of your country and university?

I spoke to the motion and justified it principally as a matter of fairness to the students. But there was an obvious implication with respect to collective bargaining. Such a policy would remove one of the administration’s most powerful weapons with respect to bargaining: the use of faculty and students as potential unwilling strikebreakers.

So, it was an important meeting with profound and very practical consequences for the CAS contract negotiations.  The problem I mentioned earlier of the ignorance, arrogance and egoism of the full-time faculty certainly manifested itself in terms of the numbers of them who attended the meeting on Monday. Only a small number turned up. But then probably a majority of full-timers care little about their CAS colleagues; some perhaps even think that they deserve their low pay and bad conditions of employment. Regardless, one could say though, it is not they who are likely to be on strike in the near future.

There was, as I said, a low turnout among the full-time professoriate; but there was an even lower (much lower!) turnout among CAS members.

My colleagues at Senate managed to get the quorum for a UFC meeting reduced from a previously ridiculously high number (over 500) to a reasonable ten percent. The quorate magic number was 153. We didn’t even get close. The two motions passed. The second motion, on governance, will probably have some positive effect; its recommendations will be considered. Quorum or not, the numbers of people do not matter so much in this case.

The motion on class cancellations is a different story. Instead of the powerful show of strength and support for CAS that I had been hoping for, it is likely that the administration will read the low turnout as a sign of weakness. So, my CAS colleagues, your staying home has made your bargaining committee’s job much harder. Why didn’t you come?

I have been speculating as to that. I considered fear as one possibility and then ruled it out as a reason. You were afraid that in coming to a legitimate university sanctioned meeting you would somehow be penalized? That doesn’t really make sense to me. No, I have another theory.

I’m aware that you are very busy: marking, course preps, job applications for courses next term, childcare, maybe even some research… if you could somehow squeeze it in. So attending a meeting, any additional meeting, would be difficult for you. I get that. But you know, standing on a picket line watching me and my full-time colleagues and all our students crossing it is going to be difficult too!

No, if you’d thought the meeting was really going to be important you’d have been there! You obviously didn’t. So again why?

First off, let me say that if you thought that the meeting and your attendance at it were not important you are wrong. It will have effects – and effects upon you personally – just not positive effects.  I think you have just gotten extremely cynical. You know your situation here at Laurier is not good. Not to put too fine a point on it; you know you’re being screwed! But you don’t think anything can be done about it. Well, you may be right; after a time it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Antonio Gramsci famously said: “I am a pessimist because of my intelligence but an optimist because of my will.” So, my cynical colleagues, I think you need a bit more optimism of the will!

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A Tale of Two Professors

Dr. Teechferfude: You know that you’re only part of the university’s supplementary workforce don’t you?

Professor Weery: What do you mean? You mean like CAS? Part-time? No, I’m full-time, tenured; in fact I’m a full Professor.

Dr. Teechferfude: No, no, I don’t mean contract faculty. I’m contract faculty. And it is faculty, not staff; and it certainly isn’t “part-time”. I taught eight courses last year.

Professor Weery: Really! How many are you teaching this year?

Dr. Teechferfude: I don’t know yet.

Professor Weery: You don’t know? But it’s less than two weeks until term starts.

Dr. Teechferfude: Yes, I know. It is often like this. Maybe I won’t be getting any teaching at all this year. But most likely I will get quite a bit; that’s been the case for the last decade anyway.

Professor Weery: Well, there you go then. That’s part-time.

Dr. Teechferfude:  Grr. No, it isn’t. That’s precarity.

Professor Weery: Sorry, I wasn’t trying to insult you; just trying to be accurate.

Dr. Teechferfude: Well, here’s accuracy for you. You are part of a supplementary workforce.

Professor Weery: I still don’t understand what you mean by that?

Dr. Teechferfude: CAS, sessional, adjunct, part-time, whatever implicitly derogatory way you want to refer to us, we are the principal faculty work force in the 21st century University, the main group employed as teachers.

Professor Weery: No, that’s not right. I’m a part of the main faculty group of university employees. You could be gone tomorrow.

Dr. Teechferfude: Well, you are certainly correct about the precarious nature of my employment; but you are also quite wrong about which group is the principal teaching body. We teach a greater proportion of the courses offered and by far the majority of the students.

Professor Weery: So, you’re saying the full time professoriate is a marginal group within the university?

Dr. Teechferfude:  Well, in the future you could easily become so if things keep going in the direction they seem to be heading. But no; I’m not saying that; full-timers are a special group, a special privileged group. It is just that in the new normal for the Neo-liberal University, you are no longer part of the main work force; you are a supplement.

Professor Weery: No, I just can’t accept that. At my university CAS teach only forty percent of the courses.

Dr. Teechferfude: Only forty percent eh?

Professor Weery: Okay, that’s quite a lot. It’s been gradually increasing over the years; but it’s still not the majority of the teaching.

Dr. Teechferfude: The rates vary from institution to institution but forty percent is actually quite a bit below average for North America. According to the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) over seventy percent of all appointments in American higher education are non-tenure track. So, I guess that means that you are probably Canadian.

Professor Weery: Well, yes, I am. And of course things are better here than in the States.

Dr. Teechferfude: I’m Canadian too; and yes, things are better but things aren’t that bloody brilliant for us either. We have health care but that’s just because the government provides it; our job doesn’t provide it. And yes, things are better in many ways for Canadians than Americans; but that just means it’ll take a little longer for things to get as bad here. We are following the twin nightmare paths of the US and the UK. Essentially, we are all on our way to the destruction of decent higher education.

Professor Weery: Sigh. At least I’ll be gone by then.

Dr. Teechferfude: You mean you’re going to retire? We’d get a lot more courses if only people like you would retire. Hurry up then.

Professor Weery: No, I actually meant I’d be dead. I can’t afford to retire. I didn’t start in academia until late in life so I haven’t time to build up a sufficiently decent pension. If I retired it’d be “hello again poverty my old friend”.

Dr. Teechferfude: Well, I’m sorry to hear that. But I don’t have any pension at all! So I can’t feel too bad for you.

Professor Weery: I wouldn’t expect you to. Nor would I expect you to sympathize with my problems in the changing university. You said things would be better if only people like me retired. You’d get more courses. But the more teaching that is done by contract faculty the fewer full-time positions there are. We are not being replaced when we retire. So there will be more employment opportunities for you yes; but that means a greater proportion of my time, or that of those that remain as full-timers, that will taken up with admin. No, don’t say it. Doesn’t the increase in management take the load off of you professors? NO IT DOES NOT! It increases it. They seem to spend their time designing make work schemes for us.!

Dr. Teechferfude: Wow, a flash of real anger. So everything is not green in the full time profs’ garden? Well, well. But I’ll tell you about make work schemes! You applied for your job at your university once right?

Professor Weery: Well, I applied for jobs at other places before . . .

Dr. Teechferfude: Yeah, yeah; but you only applied once for the job you have now. I have been teaching at WLU, as well as some other institutions but that’s not the point here, for ten years. It’s not that I have to apply for my job again every year; no, no, I have to apply separately for nearly every course I teach.  And it’s a full-blown application too; I have to submit a course outline with my application.  So, because I don’t get to actually teach every course I apply for, I have to design a lot of courses that I won’t ever get to teach. Talk about time wasting!

Professor Weery: Yes, I can see that would be very frustrating. Your union should be designing and fighting for a better seniority deal.

Dr. Teechferfude: Huh, you think? But my union is also your union. It’s our union! Except that our union doesn’t do bugger all for me. Well, that’s not entirely true. But they don’t do enough! And they don’t do enough because the full-timers don’t understand that our fight is actually their fight too. They don’t understand that our long-term interest is actually the same as theirs.

Professor Weery: Well, hmm, but as I think I indicated to you earlier I don’t really have a “long term interest.” Whether death or retirement, whichever way it is not going to be that long; and the long term you are talking about . . . well it is to do with a future that doesn’t belong to me.

Dr. Teechferfude: It may not belong to you personally. But what about your children or grandchildren? What about your students?  Are you just a time-server or do you actually care about education? The future of higher education is important; it is important not just as a source of employment to you and me, but to the country, to the world!

Professor Weery: Okay, okay, I get your point. I’ll support you. When are you going on strike?

Dr. Teechferfude: When are you going on strike? When are you going on strike for something other than your pension? When are you going on strike for a change in contract faculty pay and conditions of employment; for the future of higher education?

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Standing with CUPE 926

By Matt Thomas, Library

Tired and a little scared. Those were my feelings as I stood on the sidewalk near 202 Regina, the morning of Friday, July 8th. Tired from standing for so long wearing sandals a little too old for my feet. And a little scared because I’ve never done anything like that before: standing on an “information rally” picket line, letting passersby know about the key issues CUPE 926 custodians and trade workers at Wilfrid Laurier University are concerned about regarding their contract negotiations, delaying people coming in to work and making noise. Sometimes the people we were delaying were a little testy and didn’t control their cars very well. And those Special Constables, though Laurier employees and supposed to help keep me safe, can be a little imposing in their police-like uniforms and police-like powers. It’s not my contract but the custodians and trade workers are my coworkers. And it is my community that’s being affected by whatever comes out of whatever agreement is eventually worked out: the Laurier community of staff, faculty, students, managers and librarians that I work with, and the Waterloo (and Kitchener) community that I and my kids live in.

I’m one of the 20+ librarians who work at Laurier, and, as most librarians do, I care about my library. With this care comes care for the people who work in and around the library and the rest of the university we’re a part of. And not so long ago, the many custodians that took care of the seven floor library I work in were a part of that group of people. For a long time, when I came into work and brought my lunch to the staff room refrigerator, I would see a handful of custodians, already several hours into their shift and taking a much deserved break. I got to know their names, who they were, and hear about their days, and I would invite them to participate in some of the social things we do around the Library. They were a part of the library’s family in my mind. But I don’t see them anymore. There are far fewer custodians in the library now from what I can see, and the building isn’t as clean as a result.

When I heard about Laurier Administration’s plan to increase contracting out of their work, I was more than a little disappointed. There are several important “bottom-line” reasons for why this doesn’t make sense to me, but the most important reason to me is that this pushes an important group of our community out of our community. Fewer people who are taking care of Laurier who are in turn taken care of by Laurier means that Laurier is not as well taken care of. And we can hardly be considered to be “inspiring lives of leadership” if we are following the apparent trend of contracting out some of our responsibilities, or providing an “intimate community environment” if we don’t take care of those most vulnerable in our community, particularly those who take care of that environment.

That’s why I spent my own time standing with CUPE 926 members out on that sidewalk and will continue to do so. I may get tired and sore and hot from standing out there. I may experience a bit of stress, braving the cars that wouldn’t be able to get me while I’m safe in my office or watching our Special Constables furiously scribbling notes as they stand by the picketing crowd. But I don’t want my coworkers, present and future, to worry that their job will be done more cheaply by a company that may or may not treat their workers as well as Laurier can and does. I don’t want my campus to be cleaned by workers who have no personal stake in me or the people around me. I can’t imagine those other workers being able to do as good a job and I can’t imagine them enjoying their work as much. So I will continue to go out when I can, to stand with my coworkers and friends, to hopefully convince Laurier administration’s negotiating team to recognize the value of those people, and to treat them a little better.

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WLUFA Advocate April 2016 4.9

Here’s the latest issue: WLUFA Advocate April 2016 4.9 (PDF)

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WLUFA Meeting & Social

This announcement is from the WLUFA Advocate April 2016 4.9.

WLUFA Annual General
Wednesday, April 20, 1:00 p.m.
Turret  Waterloo Campus

WLUFA Annual Spring
Wine & Cheese Social and Retiree Recognition
Wednesday, April 20, 4:00 p.m.
Hawk’s Nest  Waterloo Campus

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