An ongoing pandemic, provincial budget cuts, Alberta 2030 consultations, Growth Through Focus congresses, pressure to return to face to face teaching, and uncertainty about the university budget. To say that this has been a stressful term cannot adequately capture the working environment academic staff members have experienced as 2021 has unfolded in just the first three months.
In this challenging environment I have been deeply impressed with the responses of TUCFA members. You have continued to deliver quality learning experiences to our students, you made your views on Growth Through Focus clear to the administration, you have supported efforts to identify the negative impact that cuts to post-secondary education will have on Alberta’s future, you supplied our bargaining team with valuable information on your concerns and you have done this with virtually no recognition for the efforts you are making to sustain the University of Calgary.
It has now been over a year since I was elected to serve as your President, and I want to again thank you for this opportunity. As I have told a number of you, being elected to this position by my peers is the highest honour I could have received. This has not been the year I expected, and I have not met the TUCFA executive, Board of Directors, or staff face to face. I am, however, impressed by the time and dedication all of these individuals bring to their roles. For me, the service as President has opened my eyes to the many activities behind the scenes of which most of us are unaware. The work on grievances and investigations is highly labour intensive but is critical for the future of our union and the needs of our members.
When I ran for President one of my key concerns was to increase engagement with members, including providing more opportunities for feedback. To that end we have established a membership engagement taskforce and are continuing to look at ways to improve communication. I hope to have more information on this in our next newsletter. In the interim, we have modified the meetings with Department Representatives so that some of them are focused on issue discussion rather than simply updates. We also organized a town hall on bargaining and plan to have more of those moving forward. We are working to improve the website as a go to source for information. We have increased the number of news and event items presented and want to continue to make more information available in this manner. For instance, there is information on a planned protest on budget cuts at the McDougall Centre on Saturday, March 27, as well as a statement on the provincial budget and requests for support from our colleagues at the University of Alberta in their protests against budget cuts.
We are continuing to work with our colleagues in post-secondary institutions in Calgary to communicate disappointment with the government cuts and the need for stable funding. I am meeting with representatives from faculty, staff and student associations on a by-weekly basis to discuss how to move forward on these issues.
To accomplish our goals all of us must continue to make use of the opportunities available to us, whether this be Growth Through Focus discussions, the institutions of collegial self-governance, or more public actions relating to our interests and needs. The increased turnout in our Board of Directors elections is another way of indicating to the administration that we are deeply concerned about the future of the university. I want to reiterate my thanks to those of you who voted and especially to those who were willing to put their names forward to represent their colleagues.
I know that this is a very busy period with the end of term approaching and the need to complete marking. It is clear that the pandemic and the on-line delivery of courses has substantially increased the workload associated with teaching and academic staff have received very little acknowledgement for the efforts undertaken in this area. TUCFA will continue to make the administration aware of the activities and concerns of our members and we are committed to a goal of seeing that the Administration treats us with respect and responds to our issues. Thank you for your continued support.
David Stewart, President