Canadian Federation of Students’ Campaign: Demand High Quality and Accessible Post-Secondary Education for Fall 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing the ongoing issues at our universities and colleges exacerbated. We need to ensure we address the immediate concerns for students, faculty, and staff for Fall 2020 while taking on the ongoing post-secondary education crisis.

We, the StFX Association of University Teachers (StFXAUT), are joining in the call for students, faculty, and staff to unite in making higher quality and accessible post-secondary education for all by asking for the immediate:

1) Reduction of tuition fees and increase of bursaries for the 2020-2021 Academic year,

2) Commitment to no involuntary layoffs in the higher-education section, and

3) Moratorium on cuts to programs and services.

Add your voice of concern to the Canadian Federation of Students’ campaign by signing the online form or sending a letter (sample below), which will be sent to your MLA, MP, and all Nova Scotia University Presidents (you have the option of deselecting which representatives receive your form letter) to let them know tuition hikes, layoffs, and other concessions are not OK!

Sample letter:

Dear [recipient name will go here],

The COVID-19 pandemic has called attention to the urgent need to strengthen public services and infrastructure to support good health outcomes now and, later, effective social and economic recovery. Universities and colleges will play an important role in both phases across Canada.

In Nova Scotia, institutions of higher education are significant regional employers. They also bring and will bring again, significant numbers of students into the province and continue to offer opportunities to strengthen our public institutions, provide graduates for a wide range of businesses and industries, advance the knowledge we need to protect public health and safety, and energize our economy.

Declining levels of support to post-secondary education in this century have created an over-reliance on tuition revenues, especially international tuition fees. This solution is not available if significant drops in international enrollments are realized under continuing travel restrictions.

Universities and colleges are already hard at work preparing for the fall term and the extra preparation time it will require. Fiscal uncertainty is undermining these efforts. Businesses are being given financial support to help them survive now and recover when the state of emergency is over. But no lifeline has been held out to Nova Scotia’s post-secondary institutions.

We urgently call on the Province of Nova Scotia, the Federal government, and university administrations to support our higher-education sector through this crisis. Help us protect our institutions, our students, and our work for Nova Scotia.

In particular, we call on you to implement the following measures:

  1. Reduce student tuition and increase student bursaries for the 2020/21 academic year. Many students will not be able to secure sufficient savings through summer jobs and federal income supports. Post-secondary education must be made more affordable this year.
  2. Commit to no involuntary layoffs in the higher-education sector. The federal government has already committed to helping businesses by contributing a large percentage of employee salaries during this pandemic. We urge that this policy be extended to universities and colleges.
  3. Do not allow cuts to programs and services. Even with federal and provincial assistance, post-secondary institutions may face significant deficits this coming academic year. Universities and colleges must be given sufficient support to manage this situation without any cuts to or constraints on programs and services.

Nova Scotia’s post-secondary sector is crucial to supporting public health and the economy in the near and long term, and to helping students prepare for a rapidly changing future. Education remains the engine of innovation and ingenuity fuelling our province’s growth and success. It is vital that governments provide the necessary supports to maintain this sector.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to your response,

Sincerely,

[your name will go here]

[your email address will go here] [your location will go here]

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2019 StFXAUT Book Prize Awards

Writing and photographs by Susan MacKay, StFXAUT Executive Assistant, this article appears in the Summer 2018 edition of The Beacon.

The StFXAUT would like to congratulate the 2019 Book Prize Award recipients Hannah Moore (Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours with Subsidiary) and Kenzie MacNeil (Bachelor of Arts with Joint Major with Distinction). 

Each student was presented with a cash award of $200, and Truth and Conviction: Donald Marshall Jr. and the Mi’kmaw Quest for Justice by StFXAUT Member Dr. Jane MacMillan and Educated by Tara Westover. 

Dr. Norine Verberg (Sociology), Kenzie MacNeil, and Professor Barry MacKenzie (History, Catholic Studies)
Dr. Rachel Hurst (Women’s and Gender Studies) and Hannah Moore

The StFXAUT Book Prize is awarded at Spring Convocation to two graduating students who demonstrate a commitment to social justice advocacy and community development on campus or in the community. 

Congratulations Hannah and Kenzie! We wish you the very best in your future endeavours!

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UNIFOR Local 2107

This article, written by Philip Girvan, StFXAUT Communications Officer, appears in the Summer 2019 edition of The Beacon.

The Beacon’s Spring 2018 issue profiled CUPE Local 1636, the Union representing StFX Safety and Security Services employees. This issue profiles UNIFOR Local 2107’s StFX University bargaining unit.

StFX employees from the largest of the eight bargaining units that comprise UNIFOR Local 2107. The R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home unit, Sodexo Food Services unit, the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Martha’s (Bethany) unit, the East Coast Credit Union unit, the Greenway Claymore Inn & Conference Centre unit, and the Mira Nursing Home unit in Truro are the others.

Cleaners are the largest group in the university bargaining unit. Maintenance workers, including carpenters, electricians, painters, and plumbers and other skilled trade workers, compose the rest.

Sylvia Phee, the StFX University Unit Chair, has a long history of union service. Phee assumed Shop Steward duties shortly after joining Custodial Services in August 2001. Following that service, Phee served on various union committees before stepping back for a period of time.

Left to right: President of UNIFOR Sylvia Phee, the Class of 2018 co-presidents Rachel LeBlanc and Alex Corrigan, and Barry Purcell, Shop Steward and the Skills Trade Representative for Local 2107
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Dr. Teresa MacNeil Profile

This article, written by Philip Girvan, StFXAUT Communications Officer, appears in the Summer 2019 edition of The Beacon.

Dr. Teresa MacNeil describes the Antigonish Movement as being “in my blood”. The Extension Department had a tremendous influence in rural Cape Breton while MacNeil was growing up during the 1940s and 1950s, and its ethos has driven her ever since. In an interview with The Beacon, MacNeil described getting caught up in it:

The whole philosophy of people trying to do something to better themselves because they had no choice really that was the only show in town: that they do something themselves. So as a young person you just got into all that swing. So I went to kitchen meetings when I was a teenager and that sort of thing.It was part of my belief system.

While an undergraduate at StFX (BSc. 1957), MacNeil was involved with the student co-op and also volunteered with the Extension Department. This experience contributed to Father Michael J. MacKinnon, the then Director of Extension, recommending her for the position of Education Director of the Grand Falls Cooperative Society. While in Newfoundland, MacNeil served in this capacity and other roles, including extension work with the Newfoundland Department of Education, before the StFX Extension Department then hired her to work in the Sydney office.

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Avoiding the Train Wreck: Making the Explicit Link between Diversity and Inclusion

This article, written by Joanne Tompkins, Faculty of Education, appears in the Summer 2019 edition of The Beacon.

“Diversity without inclusion usually ends in train wreck” – Robert Wright

At the request of CABSS (Committee for Aboriginal and Black Student Success), the office of the Human Rights and Equity Office invited Robert Wright[efn_note]Robert Wright, MSW, RSW, is a Social Worker and Sociologist whose 29 year career has spanned the field of education, child welfare, forensic mental health, trauma, sexual violence, and cultural competence. He has always integrated his work delivering direct practice clinical service to clients with teaching and supervising interns, and promoting lasting systemic change through social policy advocacy. He also consults, trains, speaks, and comments on a wide range of issues. His pioneering work with colleagues in cultural competence and conducting cultural assessment has received national attention. (http://www.robertswright.ca/)[/efn_note], MSW, to StFX to lead professional learning on cultural competency and on moving equity forward on our campus. I generally seek these presentations out as my teaching, research, and service rest on these two topics and I can say, without a doubt, that Mr. Wright’s session was one of the best and most pragmatic conversations about diversity and inclusion that I have attended.

As suggested by his opening quotation, Mr. Wright declared that to increase diversity in an organization without a deep understanding of inclusion is to court disaster. Mr. Wright made reference to the recent efforts of the Halifax Fire Department to diversify its workforce by increasing the number of African Nova Scotian and female firefighters on its teams. The organization had a poor understanding of inclusion, and within a very short time complaints arose and the force has faced several class action lawsuits from African Nova Scotian and female firefighters who experienced discrimination within the force. Clearly a train wreck!

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Negotiation of the Collective Agreement

This message, published in the Summer 2019 edition of The Beacon, was written by StFXAUT President Mary Oxner.

The Fourth Collective Agreement between the Board of Governors of St. Francis Xavier University and the StFXAUT expired on June 30, 2019.

What happens when the contract expires?
Prior to its expiration, we provided notice of the intent to engage in collective bargaining with a view to negotiate the next collective agreement. The Fourth Collective Agreement will remain in place until negotiations conclude.

Who is responsible to negotiate the Agreement?
In March 2019, the Executive Committee appointed a Negotiation Team which consists of Dr. Charlene Weaving (Faculty-Human Kinetics), Chief Negotiator, Dr. Patricia Cormack (Faculty-Sociology) and Mr. Jamie Powell (Sr. Lab Instructor-Biology); it is the Team’s responsibility to negotiate on behalf of all Members. The Executive will provide oversight and direction to the Negotiation Team both directly and through a Negotiation Advisory Committee.

Currently there are all four collective agreements which have to be negotiated by the University’s administration. CUPE has completed its negotiation. Both NSGEU’s and UNIFOR’s negotiations are in progress and StFXAUT’s negotiation has recently begun.

What is the process for gathering input from Members?
In preparation for negotiation, we engaged Members in broad consultation in various formats. The purpose of consultation is to allow for the identification of issues that should be addressed in the negotiation process. Consultation allows Members to have a voice in the process, it allows our Executive committee to consider the various priorities of our Members, and it allows our Negotiation Committee to prepare appropriate proposals for negotiation to address those priorities.

The various forms of consultation included an online survey which invited Members to identify and prioritize issues, meetings with various Member groups for more specific discussions of priorities, discussions with our Executive Committee Members, the Chief Grievance Officers, etc. The Contract and Benefits Committee designed and launched an online survey, collected data and language from various sources including comparators’ collective agreements on a large set of issues, and will continue to collect data specific to the requests of our Negotiation Team. Fueled with the information from the surveys and data collection, our Negotiation Team met with our Chief Grievance Officers to better understand issues in the Collective Agreement that concern our Grievance Committee and also met with Members of the Executive Committee to identify additional issues voiced by our Members for consideration. Finally, our Negotiation Team organized a series of meetings (“Coffee, Conversations, and Cookies”) to receive direct input from our various Member groups.

Based on that extensive consultation process, our Negotiation Team, in conjunction with the Executive Committee, prepared a set of proposals for presentation to the University’s administration.

When will negotiations begin?
As of the end of June, the Negotiation Teams had met twice, once to discuss the protocol for negotiations and once to exchange proposals. Negotiations begin in earnest in mid-July.

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President’s Message

This message, published in the Summer 2019 edition of The Beacon, was written by StFXAUT President Mary Oxner.

Dear Members,

As summer begins, we reflect on highlights observed from the most recent academic year. A significant list of tenure and promotion announcements, numerous research presentations and panels on campus, successful hiring processes, presentations by guest speakers, migration of LTAs to tenure track positions, new discoveries, and innovations in classrooms and labs across campus reflect our Membership. All of these highlights were occurring in a context of effective mobilization of Members to support Coady employees, redevelopment of a policy on sexualized violence, unwarranted pressure on Departmental hiring committees to prioritize candidates early in the hiring process, unilateral decisions on timelines for submission of teaching assignments, departure of senior administration including President Kent MacDonald and Vice President June Webber, and the packing up of offices in Lane Hall for a move to new surroundings.

As we pack away course files and dust-off research papers needing attention, we turn our attention to the next round of negotiations. We have an impressive Negotiation Team to advance Members’ issues and priorities, a committed Executive to offer oversight, and an engaged Membership to provide input about issues affecting them. All of us have been asked to participate in this process.

An overriding theme of this year’s negotiation is Collegial Governance. Collegial Governance is the governance system by which Universities are both defined and effective. At this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) our guest speaker was Dr. Julia Wright of Dalhousie University who has published and researched on the topic of Collegial Governance. Dr. Wright provided insight about the importance of Collegial Governance in our work environment and our role within it.

I hope this academic year eases its way into the next without much of a fight!

Mary O.
StFXAUT President

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Masters Thesis Supervision Teaching Credit

The following was sent to StFX University Faculty on Thursday October 10, 2018.

Dear Colleagues,

A Committee to examine Master’s Thesis Supervision Teaching Credit has finished its work and made recommendations to the University and the AUT. We thank Richard Isnor, Petra Hauf, Ranke de Vries, Mike Melchin, and Russell Wyeth for their consultation and contributions.

The University and the AUT agree, through a Letter of Understanding, that Master’s thesis supervision teaching credit shall be awarded one-third (1/3) of a three-credit course per completed thesis across all Faculties retroactive to July 1, 2016, the start date of the current Collective Agreement.

Sincerely,

Kevin B. Wamsley for the University and Mary M. Oxner for the AUT

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Your 2018-2019 Executive Committee

Mary Oxner, President
email: mmoxner@stfx.ca

Rachel Hurst, Vice President
email: rahurst@stfx.ca

Brad Long, Past President
email: blong@stfx.ca

Clare Fawcett, Secretary
email: cfawcett@stfx.ca

Martin van Bommel, Treasurer
email: mvanbomm@stfx.ca

Ken MacAulay, Co-Chief Grievance Officer
email: kmacaula@stfx.ca

Christie Lomore, Co-Chief Grievance Officer
email: clomore@stfx.ca

Chris Frazer, Member at Large
email: cfrazer@stfx.ca

Karen Kenny, Member at Large
email: kkenny@stfx.ca

Kris Hunter, Member at Large
email: khunter@stfx.ca

Martin Sastri, Member at Large
email: mmsastr@stfx.ca

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2018 Fair Employment Week: October 22-26

Opportunity. Security. Respect.

An increasing number of teachers at Canada’s colleges and universities are trapped in precarious contract and part-time work. Contract and part-time work has quietly gone from a short-term stepping stone to a career-long condition. Many earn less than a living wage.

Thousands of professors are denied the opportunity each year to participate in (and be paid for) all aspects of academic work – research, teaching, and service. This has serious implications, not only for contract academic staff, but for students, their regular academic staff colleagues, and the integrity of post-secondary institutions.

We can change this, by improving the working conditions and job security of contract academic staff.

Fair Employment Week is October 22 to October 26, 2018. CAUT members across Canada are hosting events on campus to support fair treatment of all academic staff.

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