Last year, the administration first notified CUPE local 3903 that they had devised a plan to "shift existing contract faculty jobs to incoming Master's students. As the union representing contract faculty, teaching assistants, and graduate assistants, CUPE was deeply concerned that this job shift was effectively going to terminate hundreds of tutorial leaders--many of whom have years of extensive teaching experience.
If it goes through the proposed job cuts to CUPE 3903 contract faculty could affect 500 tutor jobs. As these jobs are given to incoming graduate students, many of whom will be at the Master's level, those who gave years of service to the university will be effectively terminated without any regard for their livelihood or well-being. Currently, Unit 2 tutorial leaders represent more than a fifth of the total number of tutorships at York, and are some of York's most experienced and valuable tutors.
Besides being a terrible way to maintain relations with the workforce,the termination of experienced tutorial leaders will also be seriously detrimental to the quality of undergraduate education at York. For example, a contract faculty may have many years of experience teaching a tutorial, may have prepared many valuable lesson plans, or may have a specific academic background that enhances the learning enviroment of the tutorial. All these qualities will be lost when these contract faculty tutorial leaders are terminated.
Why? Because the administration wants to increase graduate enrollment for next year and they are targeting Master's enrollment. The administration is aiming to increase Master's enrolment by 530 to meet their Multi Year Agreement targets with the province. All universities in Ontario have signed onto multi-year accountability agreements that cover a three year period between 2006-2009. And if universities meet these targets, then they are awarded extra money from the province. In addition to receiving extra money for meeting these targets, the administration wants to save money by offering these jobs to incoming master's students as their teaching assistantship funding. And they will save money. They will save money because half the money that the university pays out to the graduate student TA will come back to the university in the form of the tuition that that graduate students pays back! So, it is cheaper to pay the incoming master's student than it is to maintain a more experienced and track-proven contract faculty tutorial leader. In the eyes of the administration, the contract faculty costs more. Even though each Master's student is worth $21,000 in provincial grants and university tuition fees, the administration is looking to squeeze even more money out of them. If they get them to be tutorial leaders, then half their salary that the university pays out can come back to the university in the form of tuition. And, as a financial side benefit, existing contract faculty can then be terminated. The university can get new money while simultaneously saving money through job cutting. It is a devious plan.
In most departments, Masters students do not currently teach for their funding, both because of academic standards for tutorial jobs in the hiring units, and because graduate programmes recognise the importance of funding Masters students in ways that allow them to concentrate on their own work. With the administration's proposed plan the added pressure that leading and teaching tutorial groups will put on incoming master's is considerable. The extra pressure of being first time teachers will have a negative affect on their time to completion.
But this issue does not just affect contract faculty and the incoming master's students. As well as affecting Unit 2 contract faculty and incoming master's students, this issue is also of great concern for Unit 1 PhDs, especially those in the latter years of their study. If these jobs are successfully shifted to incoming master's students, then the future opportunity for upper year PhD.'s to take on Unit 2 tutorial work may be closed off. For example, many PhD candidates who drop down to part-time status after their 6th year will no longer have the option to apply for Unit 2 tutorial work. With the administration's new plan to fund incoming master's students this option will no longer exist. This will have a significant effect on the informal 7th year funding currently available to PhD candidates (note: 6 years of funding is typically given to PhD's). PhD students who are currently Unit 2 contract faculty and finishing their doctoral work may no longer have paid employment, potentially extending their time to complete their degrees.
CUPE 3903 has urged the administration to review this shortsighted plan and work with CUPE3903 to devise a better plan to fund graduate student growth in a way that will not harm the livelihood of contract faculty or the quality of graduate and undergraduate education. However, the administration has be reticient to collaborate or share their plans. They are approaching this matter in a very secret and un-consultative manner.
Since the beginning of this academic year, the administration has informed CUPE3903 only twice of its plans. The first was in November 2007 where Brian Abner (Associate Vice President, Academic Resource Planning) informed the union that they would like to grow the intake of Master's students by 530. However, none of the details regarding the plan to increase graduate enrollement nor the shifting of jobs was provided. This is critical information because when dealing with proposals to drastically enlarge graduate population and severely diminish contract faculty positions "the devil is in the details." The second meeting was in March 2007 where Barry Miller (Executive Director, Empolyee Relations) informed CUPE 3903 that the administration still did not know much more than it did in the previous year. Although major decisions were to be made concerning the termination of hundreds of contract faculty, Barry Miller simply stated that such details were still not available and that decisions were only half made and being further studied.
During the last Senate meeting, February 2007, four different Senators pressed the president to disclose and discuss the re-structuring plans. Speaking on behalf of an absent president, Sheila Embleton (Vice-President, Academic) stated that these were "appropriate" questions but that she would get back to these Senators at the next Senate meeting. It was appalling that the administrator in charge of academic planning could so easily shrug off and defer an issue of such mammoth importance to the next meeting. Such secrecy and anti-consultative behavior with legitimate stakeholders (i.e. Senators) is cause for alarm.
In response to the York administration's tactics of delay and stone-walling CUPE 3903 has taken it upon themselves to begin a campaign against these job cuts! An online petition (http://www.petitiononline.com/CUPE3903/petition.html) is available for people to read and sign and a blog (http://cupe3903.blogspot.com/) has been created where visitors can view video testimonials explaining the deep and personal impact of such job cuts. In the coming weeks, much will be decided as various departments will be sending out letters of acceptance to Master's student applicants. These letters will detail the funding structure under which these Master's students are accepted. Will the administration reach their desired target of 530 new Master's students? Will the province reward the university with the promised funds? Will these master's students be given jobs as tutorial leaders? Will hundreds of contract faculty be terminated? Will the quality of education at York university be further degraded? Stay tuned.