Margin Notes – Redux: National Discussion about CAS

For those of you who have been following, the ‘Margin Notes’ blog of the online website for the AUCC’s University Affairs magazine, will know that the original column and my initial response, have had a series of other responses (they do bear reading for clarifying some of the different understandings of the situation of Contract Academic Staff or CAS at Laurier in particular, but also more generally for CAS or contract faculty across the country).

Most interestingly, the Administration’s leading PR spokesman, Kevin Crowley, provided a response to the blog (which you can check out in full online or read my clarification of his questions).

I think what is most revealing about Crowley’s online response is that the Administration now calculates that 45% of students are taught by CAS. Of course, they are not admitting to the 52% that our research has identifed (more below).

This in itself is a significant admission, I think, by the Administration.

Now, we just need to get the Administration to recognize that spending a mere $9,000,000 out of $230,000,000 (i.e. 3.3% approximately) on 45% or 52% of Laurier students’s educational experience is out of whack with the raison d’etre of Laurier’s educational mission (it is meant to be a university, after all, isn’t it?).

The rest below is my response to Kevin’s posting.

Kevin Crowley’s response begs clarification. Let me explain.

He points to the Full-Time Faculty (FTF) Collective Agreement (CA) agreed to by both the Administration and WLUFA, and says “the total number of courses taught by CAS members cannot exceed 35% of the courses offered in an academic year”.

(1) What he neglects to mention is the list of “exceptions”.

Just two examples should suffice: (a) all online courses are excluded from the official “35%”; AND (b) all the courses taught at Laurier between May and August, except for those taught in the School of Business and Economics, are excluded.

But, this lack of clarity begs a second question:

(2) Does Mr. Crowley’s “45%” of students include all the “exceptions” in the Administration’s calculations OR is it only based on the official “35%”?

This becomes an important distinction because he wants to claim the lesser figure in contrast to the 52% that WLUFA’s research has identified (which is up from 38% in 2007, by the way). If these exceptions were NOT included, that “45%” would likely become much greater, wouldn’t it?

I suppose the Administration needs to put the best “spin” and therefore want to claim the lesser figure, especially since it cost only 3.3% of total revenue last year to pay CAS faculty to teach 45% of students than if it is for 52%.

If we accept the Administration’s claim, then it would mean that the numbers indicate that CAS professors teaching “35%” of courses have larger classes overall (i.e. if it is “45%” of students in their courses).

(3) Third, I would point out that Mr. Crowley uses the word “courses”, which is not the same thing as “classes, labs, tutorials and seminars”. When we account for all the places (or “student spots”) where Laurier students are engaged by faculty to do their best, that is where we find at least half, if not (a slight) majority of students – the 52% – who are taught by CAS as opposed to FT Faculty.

(4) Finally, Mr. Crowley claims the Administration is committed to getting what is in the “best interests of the students and the institution”.

How is it in the “best interests” of students to spend 19.3% more in tuition fees over the last four years for a 44% increase in management and only a 7% increase in FT faculty AND while student enrollment increased by 23% over the same period? (By the way, these are taken directly from the Human Resources reports for Laurier.)

Is 3.3% of revenues really appropriate for paying those who are teaching 45% – let alone 52% – of the students?

Even with the added salary burden of 44% more senior administrators and managers, the total costs of salaries at Laurier has actually decreased, as a percentage of total expenditures, from 51% in 2008 to 47% in 2012. (These figures contradict the public’s perception that faculty salaries take up most of the costs of university finances – at least at Laurier, but this could well be true of other Ontario and perhaps Canadian universities.)

What students (and their parents and the public, too) might want an answer to is: If the Administration is committed to the “best interests” of students, why have their tuition fees increased by 19.3% over the last four years, if so little is spent to teach about half of them?

Herbert Pimlott

This entry was posted in Brantford Campus, CAUT & OCUFA, Contract Faculty, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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