Budget Cuts UBC Academic Programmes

We encourage you to bring you questions and concerns about the UBC budget cuts to an informal Town Hall meeting, in conjunction with Lorne Whitehead, Vice-President Academic and Provost. The meeting will be held on

Thursday, June 29, 2006
from 5 pm to 6 pm
Buchanan A-202

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the financial situation of the University, as well as any other issues that members wish to raise. Lorne Whitehead and I will facilitate the discussion. We hope to see you there.

Brenda Peterson
UBC Faculty Association

In the middle of a growing UBC real estate boom and growing private sector donations UBC has decided to cut away at the teaching and academic side of the University. What’s happening? Growth and expansion at UBC is taking place at a rate that rivals the early 1990s growth led by David Strangway, the university president of the day. Strangway’s building boom occurred at the expense of regular maintenance for already existing building. The current building boom is being led by a developer friendly/dominated Board of Governors. Many are wondering whether the current building boom and pre Olympic frenzy is partly to blame for cuts to classroom support that is currently taking place.

Concerned faculty across UBC are calling upon the administration to take pro-active action, not fall back into an earlier approach of fiscal retrenchment. See statement below:

Statement on UBC Buget cuts
Signed by: Jennifer Chan (EDST), Jo-Anne Dillabough (EDST), Frank Echols (EDST), LInda Farr Darling (CUST), Don Fisher (EDST), Mona Gleason (EDST), Garnet Grosjean (EDST), Don Krug (CUST), André Mazawi (EDST), Charles Menzies (ANTH), Charlene Morton (CUST), Linda Peterat (CUST), Stephen Petrina (CUST), Wendy Poole (EDST), Ken Reeder (LLED), Leslie Roman (EDST), Kjell Rubenson (EDST), Pierre Walter (EDST)

(please feel free to add your name to the list of signatories, if you like)

How can public education at UBC become more enriched or its access and equality of conditions and opportunities broadened to reach the least advantaged? Surely, for some, a vision of liberal public education for all would be carried over into the current policies and times. A decision in May 2006 to dramatically cut the operating budget of academic programs at UBC leaves concerned Deans, faculty and students in the dark of our fiscal policies. UBC is facing serious cuts to courses and resources to its academic programs. Faculties are facing 2% cuts, which are resulting in the loss of already limited cushions of discretionary funds, reductions of administrative and graduate FTE, and hiring freezes. The Faculty of Education, for example, is forced to give up $452,000 from an already constrained operating budget. The libraries are struggling with cuts to journal acquisition and renewal, and there is talk of lay-offs. UBC faculty members and librarians in Kelowna and Vancouver anticipate that even the wealthiest faculties will be scrambling to keep a modicum of academic integrity within their programs.

Our concern goes deeper than the effects for the wealthier Faculties. We all know effects of budget cuts are distributed unevenly. Students, whom are touted to be “customers” who know best, may now find some of their urgently needed courses cancelled, programs reduced and their faculty and instructors demoralized. The demoralization and the downloading of these cuts will not be evenly distributed across the Faculties. Thus, certain Faculties will feel more stress, increase in workloads and their students will suffer the loss of any enlightened vision for public university education. Student ‘customers’ will not only be scrambling to find that the Aisle Nine Blue light registration closed, but the general offerings greatly thinned. We can see several scenarios following from the status quo of these trickle down financial cuts, all of which speak to the jeopardy public education faces at UBC with such cuts.

Academic operating budgets are not cut in isolation. Cuts made in one place benefit other priorities. As doors close to diverse socio-economic groups of students who may not be able to afford rising tuition costs, a few others may benefit from the large ongoing expansions of building and real estate operations. Recall that in 2002, the BC Government cut and slashed social programs, lifted the freeze on post-secondary tuition costs and deregulated tuition increases. Across the social sector of BC, the cuts were gendered, with women’s wages and work reduced, and with increased difficulties for women’s access to higher education. Provincial expenditures on post-secondary education have been stagnant for well over a decade and universities are relying more and more on tuition increases to cover operating costs.There are several ways this story could be re-told.

Vision One: Deans of all our Faculties unite in common cause, with faculty members on-board, to raise the urgent question of why ACADEMIC rather than other budgets (namely, expensive occasional use buildings) are to be sacrificed? The Deans and faculty members rise up and make their voices heard in a critical concerted way to ask questions about the current misplaced priorities. Concerned faculty across the campus rally in tandem to support their Deans and together with the Faculty Association, CUPE, CUFA BC, other unions and student groups, town hall meetings and public service announcements go out with concerned voices being heard as they spell out the human costs of making real estate a top priority at the sacrifice of academic programs.

Vision Two: Deans and faculty members cave-in as they scramble in a divisive context to save the bare minimum of their academic programs. To whit, program cuts are rarely reversed!!! This scenario further inscribes existing academic hierarchies of the sciences over arts, and leaves all professional faculties such as Education, Nursing and Social Work at the bottom of the heap. It also closes the doors that have been hard won to open for diverse students. The campus begins to look like a gated community and is further isolated from the rest of the city’s dwellers. Our children graduating from UBC cannot speak of having an enriched liberal education at a world class university.

Vision Three: Dead silence. Business as usual. Serious decisions at UBC happen just as the Summer begins and most Faculties operate with reduced academic offerings. Education for the few is enshrined. We return to a gated community.

We vote for Vision One and here are some steps to invite all Deans and the larger public to increase involvement over and visibility of these issues.

  • We wish to convene a Town Meeting to be covered by the local press with selected and volunteer speakers. The President and the Board of Governors are asked to lay out in a transparent fashion the academic budget priorities in relation to other operating budgets for UBC. The Town meeting offers a public forum for debate over how diverse constituencies are affected by these priorities and cuts are called into question. In advance of the Town Meeting a few other public cultural events are held to draw attention the issues:
  • We invite visitors to please drop by our shrine of consumption, a performance arts/theatrical memorial to the K-Mart Aisle Nine of World Class Education (get a theatre performance group to do public mock up shopping at the registration for closed courses with the signs for the Olympic priorities for buildings and shrunken opportunities for a liberal education- good old fashion popular street theatre demonstration forms and cultural-political forms. This includes a campus walk-about to the impoverished daily educational and work places that seem to get little attention, etc).
  • Other suggestions are welcome for a couple of day’s worth of events appropriately timed to get maximum attention.
  • Juxtapose the academic budget cuts against the revenue that UBC derives from leasing property to corporate sponsors (e.g., Shoppers Drug Mart, Starbucks) and from the ultra-opportunistic expansion of real estate development of UBC Properties Trust.

Vancouver School Summer Closure to be Permanent???

Vancouver School board seems to be getting ready to close their schools. But this isn’t the normal summer closure. A quiet facilities review that has been underway appears poised to initiated permanent school closures. Questions remain as to what will happen to the school property. Previous Vancouver School Boards have sold or leased closed schools. But even more important is the impact that closing a neighbourhood school might have for the children and families that form it’s community.

Update, June 23, 2006:
Garabaldi School parents met with VSB staff June 22 to discuss a possible school closure with VSB staff. Tom Grant, district staff member responsible, gave the parents a “heads-up” that the Trustees will likely commence to “community discussion” starting in September (although they have not confirmed this). The meeting with the parents is reported to have gone reasonably wel. It is hoped that the community will start working on recruiting more students to the school to keep the numbers high enough to “sustain” the school. It sounds like the kindergarten classes in the next two years are slated to be on the higher side.

VSB closing Garibaldi Elementary School by subterfuge: Vancouver Elemtary Teachers Association press release.

“Vancouver elementary teachers are very upset by the Vancouver School Board’s planned closure of Garibaldi Elementary School,” says Mary McDermott, President of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association.

Parents of Garibaldi School have been invited to a special meeting tonight with VSB management to discuss the future of their children’s school.

“The VSB is doing this by subterfuge,” says Mary McDermott. “There is a proper, six-month process whereby trustees can close schools after consulting with parents and the public. Instead, management is being sent out ahead of time to offer their assistance in ‘facilitating’ children’s transition to another school. What parent would keep their child registered in a school that is likely to close? This circumvents the whole process.”

Mary McDermott says that the VSB should be making every effort to keep Garibaldi open. “This school is in a safe neighbourhood location, with a warm and welcoming staff, and ideal class sizes. The programs are built around personal, friendly relations between children, parents, and staff. We need to maintain and support our small, community-minded schools – not dismantle them.”

Garibaldi has a significant ESL and aboriginal population, and has close ties to the community.

VESTA President Mary McDermott is worried that other school closures that have been hinted at taking place in Vancouver over the next few years will also circumvent the process. “Major decisions like this which affect children and families need to be made transparently, with the best interests of children in mind. Education needs to be funded properly so that excellent learning facilities like Garibaldi stay open.”

Source: CNW Group

Test Scores and Social Compliance

The issue of lost time due to bathroom, coffee, or lunch breaks is one that many industrial work places combat on a daily basis. From a management perspective breaks to meet human bodily needs represents lost time and money. In schools, the testing mania has taken this same concern down to our children’s classrooms. As reported on “Where the Blog Has No Name,” some Washington D.C. area students are earning grades for holding it in. They are able to redeem their unused bathroom passes for extra credit to bump their grades up (read the full entry here).

Want to see who else blogged the Washington Post story on bathroom breaks vs grades? Take a look here

Students aren’t the only people in schools who are forced to forego bathroom breaks. Teachers’ working conditions often make it difficult –if not impossible- for them to take a break in the course of the day (see, for example, article in Vancouver Courier). Reports from accross North America document the problems in working condidtions for teachers. In a recent (May 9, 2006) Dayton Daily News commentary it was reported that 50% of new teachers quite the profession within 5 years. A related Washington Post article describes the situation that confrounts the teaching profession. For a list of links discussing the Washinton Post article look here.

Previous Testing Mania Enteries

Foundational Skills. May 9, 2006
Testing as mechanism of social control. March 17, 2006
Article on the ‘Promise and Peril of High Stakes testing.’ February 10, 2006

Teachers vote “yes” for strike

Yes 25,698
No 4,469
Spoiled 35
Total 30,202

BCTF Press Release: Teachers back strong salary case with huge yes vote

Teachers across British Columbia have voted overwhelmingly to back their bargaining demand for a fair and competitive salary increase.

A total of 85.2 % of teachers voted yes in a province-wide strike vote conducted June 7 and 8, 2006. In all, 30,202 teachers cast a ballot, of whom 25,698 voted yes.

“This vote sends a strong message to the government and the employer that teachers are serious about their need for a significant salary increase,” said Jinny Sims, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation.

“Our salaries haven’t kept up with inflation, nor have they kept up with colleagues in other provinces. The finance minister’s own research showed that BC teachers are 20% behind Alberta and Ontario.”

Sims said the strong yes vote once again demonstrates that teachers are united behind their bargaining goals and ready to take action to achieve them.

“Last fall our members took a courageous stand to achieve improvements in students’ learning conditions and a significant salary increase,” she said. “We went back to work based on government’s assurances that they would deal with our concerns. To some extent, they have addressed the issues of class size and composition with Bill 33 but there has not been an adequate response to our need for a fair salary increase.”

The BCTF has tabled an opening position of 24% over three years, while the BC Public School Employers’ Association has offered 8% over four years. Many teachers consider that offer to be insulting because it does not keep up with inflation and widens the gap between teachers’ salaries in BC and other provinces.

The current contract, the second one to be imposed through legislation, will expire June 30, 2006. Sims emphasized that teachers will continue to seek solutions at the bargaining table.

“We are ready to work 24–7 to reach a negotiated settlement prior to June 30,” Sims said.

From CBC: Teachers ready to strike for more money
Last updated Jun 9 2006 11:27 AM PDT
CBC News
B.C.’s public school teachers have voted 85.2 per cent in favour of strike action to back their contract demands.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s current contract expires at the end of the month, and the union is prepared to begin strike action this September. Download full story here

Canoe News Story: Teachers Vote to Strike
VANCOUVER (CP) – British Columbia teachers voted 85.2 per cent Friday in favour of going on strike in the fall if they are unable to negotiate a new contract with school employers.

The strike vote was taken amid contract talks that have been hung up over wage demands.

More than 30,000 teachers voted. Download full story here.

B.C. teachers vote 85 per cent in favor of a strike

Last fall BC teachers walked out on a two-week illegal strike with strong backing from the public. As the deadline looms for completing negotiations on a new contract, teachers have voted 85% in favor of a another province wide strike unless the employers give them a significant salary increase. (Source: Where the Blog hs no Name)

Messages from BC’s Deputy Minister of Education

Current deputy minister messages are focused on issues of salary and bargaining. In the June 2nd issue is a rather interesting analysis of teachers’ salaries as compared to education administrator salaries. However, the two tables are not quite directly comparable. In the principal salaries we have the minimum and dived by elementary and secondary. In the superintendent group we have min/max as per size of school district. However, the teacher salary table (which gives us the ‘third highest’ is, according to the deputy minister “adjust[ed] for what actually happens.” Unfortunately there is no explanation for how the salaries have been adjusted, nor is there an explanation of “what actually happens.” What we are left with is an interesting document that could be used effectively in a applied skills math course or a critical thinking class in which the subject is numeracy and the ways in which ‘evidence’ can be massaged to assist our ‘understanding’ of current issues.
Here are the most recent messages:
Download June 2, 2006
Download May 26, 2006
Download May 19, 2006

Previous messages from the Deputy Minister

Parents Spend More Time With Kids

Are Parents Investing More or Less Time in Children: Trends in Selected Industrialized Countries – Policy Brief (4 pages)
Anne H. Gauthier and Others
Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy

Contrary to popular belief, parents these days are actually spending more time with their kids than their predecessors in the 1960s – about one more hour per day. Time use data from Canada, the U.S. and several other industrialized countries illustrate that fathers in particular have increased the amount of time spent with their children. The researchers also noted that paid work did not appear to impinge on parental time.

Source: BCTF Information Services.

BCTF/BCPSEA Contract Talks -what’s up?

Teachers across BC are voting in a strategic strike vote June 7th and 8th. In advance of this vote the BCTF submited a counter proposal to the BCPSEA (the employer) on June 5th. For the BCPSEA response click here.

Perhaps the most significant turn of events is that the BCTF have lodged a formal complaint against BCPSEA for bargaining in bad faith at the Labour Relations Board. Download LRB submission.

CBC news story dated June 7th, 2006. Download file