I’d like to begin this message by extending hearty congratulations on behalf of the AASUA to U of A virologist Michael Houghton on jointly winning the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In addition to celebrating Dr. Houghton’s lifelong work and efforts, the prize is also an acknowledgement of the value of academic research and teaching to the public interest. We hope that this award reinforces to the Alberta government that a well-funded and well-supported post-secondary education system has value well beyond the training of young people for the job market.
If you are concerned about the Alberta government’s $216 million cut to the U of A’s Campus Alberta Grant (a cut of 33%), I strongly encourage you to reach out to your MLA, to the Minister of Advanced Education, and to the Premier’s office. The more they hear from people on these issues, the less likely they will be to implement deeper cuts in the February budget.
As you may know, the Alberta government is also in the midst of a major review of the entire advanced education system in the province. This review is currently in the “public engagement” phase, and the Ministry has posted a workbook and a series of surveys to collect feedback. The fact that there is no survey to collect information from faculty and academic staff is telling. I would encourage all our members to submit their feedback through the online workbook tool, as well as through any of the surveys you feel apply to you. AASUA has contributed to the review through the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA), whose President Kevin Kane is representing academic staff on the Alberta 2030 Guiding Coalition.
The NDP Opposition has also launched an on-line survey to gather feedback and recommendations on the future of the post-secondary system in Alberta. CAFA has made an official submission to the NDP review, which is available for members to read on the CAFA website.
I would also like to take this opportunity to provide a brief response to President Flanagan’s post on the U of A for Tomorrow website last week, particularly with regard to his clarification on job losses and to ongoing consultation with NASA and AASUA.
The President clarified that, as a result of the funding cuts by the provincial government, 400 positions have already been eliminated across campus, with 325 more coming next year and a further 325 the year after that. While losing 1,050 positions is indeed sobering and concerning, it does not represent the full extent of what will be lost. The President’s note spoke only of “full time equivalent continuing positions”. What that means is that number does NOT include any precarious or contract employees who might simply not be renewed as a result of the cuts or restructuring. This underrepresentation of the impacts of the cuts and restructuring is unacceptable, and we must be provided with a full counting of ALL positions to be lost throughout the process.
President Flanagan also implied through his message that, going forward, he and Provost Dew would be consulting more closely with both NASA and AASUA about the restructuring and its impact on our members. While it is true that both President Flanagan and Provost Dew have reached out to begin scheduling regular meetings with AASUA leadership, which we appreciate, we do not see those informal meetings as constituting fulsome and meaningful consultation. There is simply no substitute for the type of input and influence we would be accorded with full seats on the Academic Restructuring Working Group and the Service Excellence Transformation Steering Committee. Regardless, we will continue to seek out meaningful data and information about the restructuring to share with you, and we will continue to find ways to influence the process and decision-making on your behalf.
It is clear that pressure by AASUA members both on and off campus has had an impact. University leaders are now more willing to engage in conversation and provide more timely information than they were at the beginning of the process. An engaged and active membership makes a difference, and I thank you for all you have done thus far.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any information, questions, or comments you might have.