The 2022-23 academic year is now well underway, and I want to extend my wishes for a productive and safe year. This will be my final year as your President and I want to thank you for the advice and support you have provided, and I look forward to working on your behalf this year. This is obviously a period of some change at the University, I am now dealing with my third Provost in my 27 months as Faculty Association President and we are working to set up an effective working relationship. There have been other administrative changes within the University that have affected our working relationships and may well have delayed some of the work that would normally be conducted more expeditiously. As an example, we continue to wait for the University Administration to get back to us on items that were considered as housekeeping matters in the new Collective Agreement.
I appreciated the opportunity to speak to the new academic hires in early September and was happy to take questions. It was clear from the questions that there are continued concerns about the nature of the remuneration contained in the new Collective Agreement. The Faculty Association will continue to work on these issues and will make clear that a top 5 university deserves top 5 salaries, benefits, and workloads. (Statistics Canada reports we are currently in the bottom third of U15 Universities.) Please take the opportunity to share your views on these matters with your Deans.
Throughout the upcoming year, we will be working formally with the University Administration on joint committees dealing with assessment, benefits, and workload issues that I know are important to us all. The Association’s Executive, Board and Department Representatives will be briefed on these items, and I look forward to working with them moving forward.
As I indicated in an earlier newsletter, I reached out to the candidates for the UCP leadership asking that they commit to changing legislative provisions relating to secret bargaining mandates. I heard back from only two candidates or campaigns, and both indicated a desire for an improved working relationship but provided no assurances on the legislation. We will shortly have a new premier and cabinet and we will be asking for meetings to raise our concerns directly.
We continue to ask for support on this and other issues from the Board of Governors, which as you know, now has a new chair. We congratulate him on his appointment and would welcome an opportunity to discuss common approaches related to secret mandates and the funding of the post-secondary sector. Concerns about the budget continue and it appears that the Administration is planning a more transparent approach on this important issue. My understanding is that they will consult GFC for advice on budget parameters and I hope that they will be willing to bring budget proposals to the GFC for advice before it is submitted to the Board of Governors. This opportunity is expressly permitted under the Post Secondary Learning Act and would allow the Board to get a better sense of the concerns held by academic staff and the impact of the decisions they make. I hope you will join me in pressing for this step to be taken.
In an effort to improve our provincial collaborations, the Executive Director and I met with our counterparts from the University of Alberta to discuss ways in which we might jointly advance our shared interests going forward. We were also very pleased to receive a letter of appreciation from our colleagues in the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association who we supported in their difficult strike last spring. We are committed to working with other Faculty Associations on issues of mutual concern.
We are currently working on reviewing our communications and hope to have changes in our website and social media presence in place as soon as we can. I appreciate your patience as we work to improve in this area.
Finally, our offices on campus are now open part-time as our staff are working on a hybrid basis. Our office will now normally be open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday although most of our meetings will continue to take place via Zoom.
David Stewart, President