QUFA UPDATE: News that Matters

Faculty raise questions over compensation
Principal Williams misled public about budget negotiations, group alleges

By Gloria Er-Chua, News Editor

Following Principal Tom Williams’s report to the Queen’s community Apr. 23, the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) has accused the administration of misleading the public about negotiations to reduce the amount of the University’s budget allocated to salaries.

Compensation costs account for more than 70 per cent of the University’s operating budget; faculty salaries specifically account for approximately 29 per cent of the operating budget. In 2009-10, Queen’s total compensation expense will be $275.4 million. The University is projected to post an $8.3 million deficit.

Principal Tom Williams said QUFA rejected a proposal to close the University for five unpaid days per year to save $400,000 a day and publicly expressed frustration on Apr. 23 about negotiating an early retirement program with QUFA. QUFA President Cathy Christie said Williams only presented half of the story to the public.
“So far, [QUFA] is the only employee group that has been approached to take these unpaid days,” she said, adding that although faculty wouldn’t have to teach during the five days the University closes, they would have to continue out-of-classroom work such as research.

The early retirement program, which aims to reduce the number of faculty by more than 50 positions that won’t be replaced in order to save $5 to 6 million, hasn’t been offered equally to faculty members, Christie said. “The term they’re throwing about is a package that’s ‘mutually beneficial’ for members,” she said. “So if a member declares they want to go and the University wants to keep them, then that gives the University the power to keep them.” She said QUFA would only agree to an early retirement program that all faculty have equal access to.

By not presenting these details clearly, the administration is trying to scapegoat QUFA, Christie said.
“They’re trying to put students against faculty and they’re trying to say to students, ‘If those big, bad faculty won’t take salary cuts, we’re going to have to raise tuition,’” she said. “It’s singling out one group and blaming them for the problems at Queen’s and, quite frankly, deflecting blame away from the Board of Trustees.”

Christie said QUFA has proposed borrowing operating money to give the University time to draft a long-term financial plan and looking at cuts to administrative salaries. Faculty compensation makes up 15 per cent of the University’s operating budget. “Why [the Board is] so focused on 15 per cent of the total when they’re in charge of dividing the 100 per cent … I honestly am puzzled by it,” she said.

The University is also considering layoffs of non-faculty staff next year to reduce the wage bill, Williams said.
QUFA’s collective agreement protects faculty from being laid off. Queen’s support staff aren’t represented by a union, which means they don’t have a collective agreement or standard grievance procedure to protect them from layoffs, Registrar’s Office Registration and Fee Assistant Gillian Berry said. “It’s a really big concern for a lot of staff members here,” she said. The University has been unclear about whether layoffs would target a percentage of staff or a salary range, she said. “They just kind of throw this all out there and leave us all shaking in our boots,” she said. “We’re part of a staff group that aren’t high on the pecking order, so to speak … and it’s a really big concern for us.”

Williams said it may be impossible to avoid layoffs next year if the University doesn’t make progress on cutting other areas of compensation. “When you’ve got over 70 per cent of your budget for compensation, the assumption is that you’ve got to try to do something on that front,” he said, adding that vice-principals and other members of the administration have agreed to freeze their salaries beginning in the 2009-10 academic year. Williams’s salary is $370,000.

Williams said he hopes QUFA will consider re-negotiating parts of the collective agreement, which was signed in June 2008 and expires in June 2011. “We’re trying to ask, ‘Okay, can we get you to change some of the things we agreed to when the economy was looking all rosy?’” he said, adding that there is no deadline for negotiations. Williams said the total wage bill for faculty will increase by 5.5 per cent next year.
“We’re at 1.2 to 1.5 per cent inflation,” he said. “The spending power of that wage increase is a lot more than what a lot of other people in society are getting these days.”
Bill Young, chair of the Board of Trustees, said the Board asked Williams at its May 2 meeting to rework his financial plan—which projects a total deficit of $33.3 million after three years—by targeting compensation costs. “I don’t think we’ve budgeted a deficit in living memory,” Young said, adding that the Board hopes the new budgets Williams prepares over the summer won’t project a deficit in the 2011-2012 academic year.
“The only way to really have an impact with our costs is to deal with the rate of increase in salaries and benefits,” he said. “There’s an ability within our community to deal with this problem.”
—With files from Holly Tousignant


Supervisor loss leaves students in academic limbo. Budget cuts and layoffs claim the University’s only Francophonie specialist

By Rachel Kuper, Assistant News Editor

In the wake of University-wide budget cuts of up to 20 per cent over the next three years, nine graduate students in the French department have found themselves in limbo as they face the loss of their supervisor, adjunct professor Eugène Nshimiyimana.

Nshimiyimana is a specialist in Francophonie, the study of French literature and culture outside of France and Quebec. His research interest is in sub-Saharan African novels. Nshimiyimana begins teaching at McMaster University this fall but he will continue supervising two of his Queen’s students who are the closest to completing their degrees. “I’m leaving students badly in need of a supervisor,” he said. Nshimiyimana said he thinks the University should do more to protect language programs. “Languages are a part of our society and to lose languages is to lose knowledge,” he said. “Queen’s is closing doors instead of opening them,” he said. “Those who make decisions should ask how their decisions will reflect the image of the University. … In this case, I don’t know if the administration can say they’ve made a good decision.”

Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) President Jeff Welsh raised the issue at a Senate meeting on Apr. 23, asking University administration how they would apply their commitment to “engaging the world” to future academic decisions.

Adjunct faculty, who are hired on short-term contracts, usually aren’t allowed to be the sole supervisor for a graduate student because their permanence isn’t guaranteed. In Nshimiyimana’s case, the department made an exception because he was replacing full-time faculty member Lisa McNee, who is on full-time leave and was the only Francophonie specialist in the department, Welsh said.

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said the decision not to rehire Nshimiyimana isn’t a failure on the part of the University to promote internationalization. “It’s really important not to fall into the trap of equating a single instance with the institution’s overall commitment,” he said. “If we are hampered in our progress on internationalization on one front, that may simply be part of the financial reality.” Offering a language program isn’t the only way to expose students to international issues, Deane said. “In some faculties, students have a high level of international experiences,” Deane said, adding that about 70 per cent of commerce students participate in an international exchange. Deane said at Senate that the students will be contacted individually to determine their new supervisors, who will be other professors in the French department.

Assistant professor Stéphane Inkel said he expects to take on two or three of Nshimiyimana’s students, but it’s up to the students to decide who they want to work with in the department. Inkel, who specializes in 20th century literature from Quebec and France, already supervises three students. “I’m not a specialist in African literature so, you know, I can do the job but it won’t be the same,” he said. “When you are doing a PhD on a question, you’re becoming a specialist in that field so you have to be supervised by a specialist.”
New graduate students will no longer be recruited into Francophonie unless the department is able to hire a new full-time Francophonie specialist, he said. Guy Tegomo, PhD ’09, will continue to be supervised by Nshimiyimana because he will submit his thesis this fall. Of the 26 graduate students in the department, nine are studying Francophonie, he said. Tegomo said the decision to essentially cut out a field largely studied by people from minority backgrounds is discrimination. “All nine students are part of racial or religious minorities while there are few other minorities within the department,” he said. “Allowing Francophonie to disappear would be an injustice and racial discrimination.” “Other specialties within the French department have two or three specialists for two to three students,” he said. Tegomo said two faculty members left the department this year for retirement and a position at another university. “Two salaries have therefore become available within the French department,” he said. “It’s true that there is a financial problem [but] the university is making a very bad decision not to replace [Nshimiyimana].”

—With files from Gloria Er-Chua



Reconsider salary increases and invest in the future

I support the proposal by professors Beverly Baines and Ingrid Johnsrude, our faculty representatives at
the Board of Trustees, for reconsideration of faculty salary increases in response to the current financial squeeze at Queen’s.

A faculty hiring freeze, staff cuts or non-replacement of retiring faculty would do more harm to the educational mission of our university than for our faculty salaries to rise at a more modest rate.

My Queen’s appointment began in 1994, during the last great round of public sector budget cutting, and
I remain grateful for the opportunity to return to Canada to begin my academic career. I recall that my salary was cut by four per cent immediately upon arrival (due to provincial constraints) but this seemed immaterial compared to the chance to teach a subject I love at a good Canadian university. My
starting salary at Queen’s was 20 per cent less than my salary as a practicing professional planner, but
the high quality of life and low cost of living in Kingston made this level of compensation seem like a
reasonable compromise.

Over the past decade, I’ve been astonished that my salary has risen at an average annual growth rate of more than seven per cent, to the point where I’m comfortable with my level of compensation. Thanks
to the efforts of our faculty association, my salary now exceeds that of most of my professional planning

However, given the university’s current financial circumstances, we should reconsider our salary growth rates. Of course, its lovely to have a bit more cash each year, but I would much rather have fresh young colleagues to maintain our standard of education and research at Queen’s. Therefore, I support the idea of reopening academic salary issues in our collective agreement. I don’t have a specific proposal, because I’m not an expert on this subject, but I’d be willing to consider ideas such as:
• connecting the base salary increase to the Consumer Price Index, or
• foregoing the scale increase for the next year or two, or
• disconnecting merit pay from the next year’s base salary, or
• adjustments to the Progress Through the Ranks model, or
• allowing lower starting salaries than the $85,000+ currently required by the anomalies side tables.

Savings from moderating the inflation of current faculty salaries could be invested in hiring brilliant new junior professors in departments that need them. There will be excellent recruiting opportunities in the next few years.

I hope that my faculty association will take action on these issues. As a show of my good faith, I
pledge to donate 3.2 per cent of my 2009 annual salary to Queen’s in the event that equivalent savings
are not negotiated in the months ahead.
David Gordon
Professor School of Urban and Regional Planning



Queen’s to break ground on new creative arts centre
85 per cent of funds already secured for multi-million dollar facility

By Holly Tousignant , Assistant News Editor

On May 13, the University announced it will break ground on a $63 million arts centre set to open in downtown Kingston in 2011 once it receives building approval from the city. The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, which will house a concert hall, studio theatre, art gallery and film screening room, will largely be funded by the municipal, provincial and federal governments. The federal and provincial governments have pledged half of the eligible costs of the project, up to a maximum of $15 million each. Federal funding comes from the Building Canada 2007 plan, which allotted $2 billion to post-secondary institutions for maintenance and construction projects, and provincial funding comes from the $32.5 billion pledged for infrastructure over the next two years in Ontario’s most recent budget. The centre will also be funded in part by an $18 million donation from Queen’s benefactors Alfred and Isabel Bader and a $6 million donation from the City of Kingston.

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said the University will fundraise the remaining $9 million.
“I think the case becomes very appealing to donors because of the funding already in place,” he said. “We have 85 per cent of the funds required to build this project.” Deane said that, unlike the Queen’s Centre project, the arts centre won’t use any funds from the University’s operating budget. “From it’s original construction, the Queen’s Centre included the cost of borrowing as part of its costs,” he said, adding that interest on the project loans comes out of the operating budget. “It’s a different situation here.” Deane said building plans are still being finalized but he hopes the centre will become the home for the drama, film and music departments. “These are facilities the University needs,” he said. “In the same way we would try to improve the quality of performance spaces on campus, which are insufficient to begin with, now we have the opportunity to have construction that’s almost fully funded from outside.” Deane said the centre may be rented out to visiting performers, but it will primarily be used by students and local artists. “The vision for the centre has always been that it should be a cultural asset to the University and a teaching asset for those departments, but also that it will be a place where the artistic work of the University meets the artistic activity of the community,” he said.

Clarke Mackey, film and media studies department head, said his department will move into the centre when it’s completed. “We’ve been in the same building for 40 years, and it’s just a big old house on Stuart Street,” he said. “We don’t have a production studio and we don’t have a building that’s really appropriate for the kind of work that we do.” Mackey said the centre will allow for better collaboration between the creative arts faculties at Queen’s. “Music students, for instance, will be doing sound and music for films, and there will be video components to drama productions and that sort of thing,” he said. Mackey said he hopes the centre will make the campus more arts-friendly. “Maybe this is controversial, but to some extent the arts has been a kind of frill,” he said, adding that he thinks Queen’s is known for its business and science programs. “It’s very exciting to us and, I think, extremely important that Queen’s make a statement that the arts is just as important as these other things.” Mackey said he thinks the centre may boost the University’s revenue in the long run. “If we have this really fabulous arts centre down by the lake, it’s going to generate a lot of excitement on the part of students, on the part of the faculty and on the part of the community,” he said, adding that the University likely won’t repeat the mistakes of the Queen’s Centre project.
“After the Queen’s Centre mess, the University has made it very, very clear to us that a shovel will not go in the ground until 100 per cent of the money is in the bank.”

—With files from Gloria Er-Chua



Queen’s gets $58 million

Queen’s University is getting a new school of medicine. The federal and provincial governments announced yesterday that they were chipping in nearly $58 million of the cost of a new $77-million medical school on campus.

The official announcement will be made Friday, but the university has tapped into a major infrastructure investment the governments are making both to improve the quality of post-secondary education and to stimulate local economies with construction and other spinoff jobs.

“We’ve been working on this with the two levels of governments for the past two years,” said Queen’s principal Tom Williams yesterday.

The school only found out this weekend that its application had been approved and that the lion’s share of the cost of constructing and equipping the new building would be covered.
The university will be responsible for the other $19.2 million, but both Williams and David Walker, the dean of the health sciences faculty, say the university began a low-key fundraising campaign around the time that it began planning for the building. About $11 million has already been either donated or pledged.
Walker said the existing medical school space is too small, outdated and housed in a variety of buildings.
He contrasted it with faculties such as the school of business or the school of law, which both have self-contained and identifiable buildings.

“If you were to ask most people where the school of medicine is actually located, they would have a hard time telling you,” he said. “The fact is, the Queen’s school of medicine has expanded to the point that it has outdistanced our physical facilities.”

There are more than 900 doctors in training at the school, and besides bringing the medical school’s administrative offices and classrooms together under one roof, it will also house the medical simulators that students use to practise their skills before trying them on an actual patient.

The site for the new school is the parking lot behind Abramsky Hall, near the corner of Stuart and Arch streets near Kingston General Hospital. It will incorporate the Abramsky building. In March, a university committee approved a recommendation to hire the team of Diamond and Schmitt/Shoalts and Zaback Architects to design the new building.

Walker noted the school is a also regional one, offering training to doctors from around this part of Ontario.
Construction of the new building will begin as soon as possible. As part of a major nationwide spending package worth nearly $1.5 billion over the next two years, the two levels of government announced a series of eight-figure investments at colleges and universities across the country. Ottawa will contribute $587 million in federal funds and Ontario promises to commit $641 million to create jobs for engineers, architects and trades people. Other benefactors to colleges and universities, and the institutions themselves, will kick in another $248 million to pay for the projects.

Many announced yesterday, like the one at Queen’s, are for renovation and construction of new medical schools, life sciences centres and bioresearch facilities. A second round of funding announcements will be made later this week. St. Lawrence College was not included in yesterday’s funding package, but it has also been lobbying the government to address its own infrastructure shortcomings and improve its facilities.


Abandon markets, fundraising: CAW official

By Paul Mayne Thursday, May 21, 2009

Universities have become too dependent on the stock market, says Canadian Auto Workers chief economist Jim Stanford.

Jim Stanford

“Universities have gone along with the trend towards relying on the stock market for directional funding and the economic base of what they do,” says Stanford, invited to speak by the University of Western Ontario Staff Association. Endowments at Canadian universities are down substantially – closing in on $11 billion, he says. Western is projecting an expected investment income revenue loss of $46.25 million over the last three years of its four-year plan from non-endowed investments. Reliance on corporate and individual donors is “creating a set of risks and compromises for universities,” Stanford says, first because they pursue private money and second by investing in the stock market.

Vice-President (Resources and Operations) Gitta Kulczycki says the university invests endowed funds and a portion of non-endowed funds in a mix of assets in a long-term portfolio including 60 per cent equities, 35 per cent fixed income, and five per cent alternative investments. “Endowment funds are created to provide a perpetual income stream, and we have the same intention with that portion of non-endowed funds that we put into the long-term portfolio,” she says. In the past 85 years she says Canadian equities would have averaged 9.7 per cent annually, compared to long-term government bonds at 3.5 per cent. “Our intention is to generate maximum returns with a reasonable amount of risk, knowing that we have a very long time horizon and that there will be market downturns from time to time.” Kulczycki says investing in equities returned $45 million from the non-endowed long-term portfolio over the past 20 years, compared to what would have been earned in 30-day treasury bills.

Still, the downturn has helped the university refine how it spends stock market returns. “What the recent market downturn has reinforced is that returns on non-endowed funds in the long-term portfolio are better directed to one-time expenditures versus ongoing costs,” says Kulczycki.

Stanford was critical of universities relying on investment income, arguing they should not have to depend on whether “financial speculators are having a good day or not.”
Stanford says members of society must ask how much they want to depend on financial markets for the economic and social future of important institutions. In the context of recent developments, Kulczycki says the university will review how it invests funds with the Investment Committee. “We do examine our policy and strategies regularly, and it is appropriate that we do so again in the context of the recent extraordinary global market developments.”

Stanford is urging workers to push back and promote economic progress that depends on doing more work, generating more productivity and less on a ‘buy low, sell high’ outlook he says has dominated the last quarter century. “I think socially we should make much more logical, more secure and cost effective choices, which is simply to say we need these universities and the stuff they do,” he says.


When poverty becomes respectable

As unemployment begins to affect average people, they see the poor in a new light
May 17, 2009
Judith McCormack

As painful as the current economic crisis may be, it does at least provide us with some valuable insights.
Now that the threat of poverty has suddenly landed on the doorsteps of so many ordinary, hard-working people, it forces us to see this particular problem in a new and clear-eyed way. In fact, many of the myths about poverty have gone up in smoke, much like Bernard Madoff’s investments.

Try as we might to cling to the outdated idea that poor people are lazy or dependent, we’re now face to face with the evidence that layoffs, economic restructuring and market forces can quickly push any of us into dire straits. We’ve lost our ability to pretend that poor people are “them.” Alas, it turns out they could be us, or our neighbours, friends and relatives. This uncomfortable revelation has the effect of highlighting the ways in which we normally stigmatize the poor, and the punitive nature of our social policies toward them.

Much as the Great Depression of the 1930s led to a shift of public opinion on poverty, a defining moment is upon us again. Then, as now, the macroeconomic causes of unemployment and homelessness were suddenly visible, undermining the idea that poverty was caused by individual failure or character defects. The soaring unemployment of the Dirty ’30s and the tens of thousands of people on government relief produced a significant change in public consciousness.

It became apparent that the economy was too unpredictable and contingent to make the ability to find a job either a prerequisite for the necessities of life or the primary criterion for social worth. Poor people, previously considered moral outcasts, began to emerge as fellow human beings who had simply lost the economic lottery. And attention shifted to social programs to ameliorate the harsh impact of market forces. This was the climate in which many of our modern social programs had their genesis, including unemployment insurance and family allowances.

Fast forward to 2009.

We now know even more about the complex structural causes of poverty – not only the economic dislocations that eliminate jobs, but other factors such as low minimum wages, systemic discrimination, and the lack of affordable housing. We know even more about the effects of poverty, the social exclusion that accompanies it and the price tag attached – not just in terms of individual misery, but also through the increased costs it creates in the health-care, education and justice systems as well. And we know even more about the unequal impact of poverty, where the poor include disproportionate numbers of people of colour, the elderly, people with disabilities and single parent families.

But the current economic crisis is a startling reminder that few of us are invulnerable. With this realization also comes an opportunity for some public soul-searching, as well as a chance to redefine the role of our social programs. The soul-searching has to do with the lingering effects of notions of moral censure and charity that still dominate some of the public debate on poverty. This has contributed to a situation where homelessness is more of an epidemic than swine flu, and where more than 700,000 people in Canada are forced to use food banks each month – half of them families with children.

At the same time, our social programs have all too often been miscast as frills, boondoggles or handouts to the undeserving. Now that more and more of us are forced to turn to employment insurance and welfare, those myths are also in some disarray – much like the shrinking programs themselves. This is a hard way to learn a lesson, but it does at least clear the way for a more sophisticated understanding of the role of social programs, one in which they are closer to the core of what it means to be a society.

Rather than being simply ameliorative, these programs embody a form of social citizenship in which all individuals are entitled to food, clothing, education, health care and full participation in society – not as a matter of altruism or compassion, but because these are rights that flow from the inherent dignity of personhood.

Much the same reasoning applies to the outdated notion that these programs are somehow peripheral to the mainstream. In fact, they form an essential part of the backbone of a society, something central to the very idea of society itself. In this sense, intelligent social investment is a fundamental aspect of the social glue that holds us together, a reflection of the essential interconnectedness of people occupying the same turf.
As a result, allowing social programs to deteriorate has implications not just for the individuals who are deprived of them, but for the structural integrity of society as a whole.

Going forward then, this perspective has the potential to inform the development of social policies in a way that is more coherent, knowledgeable and comprehensive. And there is no better time to develop more enlightened social policies than now – when we think they might apply to us.

Judith McCormack is an adjunct professor and the executive director of Downtown Legal Services, the community legal clinic of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.

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