Report of the Vice-President, University and External Affairs, 2015–2016

April 26, 2016
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As Vice-President, University and External Affairs, I represent UTFA on the Board of OCUFA and on the Ontario caucus of CAUT. Both organizations have vigorously pursued the concerns of faculty and librarians this past year, especially around issues of contingent faculty, the casualization of teaching, and confrontation of sexism and sexual violence on campus. These themes, plus the implications of (welcome) leadership change in Ottawa, dominated the agenda of the CAUT Council meeting in November. 

I liaised for UTFA and OCUFA on three provincial initiatives:

  1. The Changing Workplaces Review, with Special Advisors C. Michael Mitchell and The Honourable John C. Murray: UTFA was represented at the Toronto consultation on September 18, where UTFA Equity Chair, Terezia Zoric, made a formal presentation for UTFA. The presentation was developed by Terezia, Cynthia Messenger, and me, with OCUFA’s Donna Gray and Brynne Sinclair-Waters. A March 17 conference call brought us up to date on the report, now due for completion in November; 
  2. The University Funding Formula review: this is currently under way; and
  3. Ontario’s Action Plan to Stop Sexual Harassment and Violence: this was released on International Women’s Day, March 8. 
  4. March 8 was also OCUFA’s annual Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park, at which I represented UTFA on three issues: 
  5. Hiring more full-time faculty as a counter to Ontario’s rising student:faculty ratios (30:1), already the highest in the country; 
  6. Support for creating an arm’s-length higher education data agency with stakeholder participation as a counter to the awarding of funding on the basis of performance metrics; and
  7. Achieving gender wage-parity through legislation and anomaly processes at universities: this is already in place at 12 Ontario universities. Of note on this front is that the 2014–2017 Salary, Benefits, Pensions and Workload settlement with the University of Toronto administration establishes a working group on anomaly adjustments. 

We met with Peter Tabuns, NDP MPP for Toronto—Danforth, Yvan Baker, Liberal MPP for Etobicoke Centre and Parliamentary Assistant to the President of the Treasury Board, Han Dong, Liberal MPP for Trinity—Spadina and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and Gila Martow, PC MPP for Thornhill.

University Affairs

The U&EA Committee has the pleasure of recommending UTFA student award recipients. Considerations for both awards included financial need and demonstrated academic achievement. The winners of the Al Miller Award for full-time PhD students are Brian Law, 4th year Computer Science, and Jacob Nerenberg, 6th year Anthropology. Our Tuition Bursary Award goes to Oscar Chen, 4th year Trinity College, Computer Science, and Helen Shen, 4th year, Finance Specialist/Economics Major, Writing and Rhetoric Minor, University of St. Michael’s College.

As VP-U&EA, I serve on the Joint Committee that brings together UTFA and senior Administration officials to confer on ongoing operational and policy issues. I also serve on the leadership team of the University of St. Michael’s College unit. Representing UTM Teaching Staff, I will commence my second three-year term on the Academic Board of Governing Council, and have served for two years on the Planning and Budget Committee.

Along with UTFA staff, notably Marta Horban, Chris Penn, and Aylwin Lo, and in particular, Membership Chair, Judith Taylor, I helped organize, then MCed, the 2016 C.B. Macpherson Lecture. The lecture, Anger and Revolutionary Justice, was presented by Martha C. Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, Philosophy Department and Law School, University of Chicago. 

Monthly community meetings coordinated by Deborah Cowen, Geography – The List – have been one positive upshot of the 2015 strike of CUPE local 3902, Unit 1. With Deborah, I organized and moderated a February 25 evening on Science at the University of Toronto. The panel included Patricia Ocampo, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, on tri-council funding; UTFA Executive member Paul Hamel, Laboratory Medicine, on medical research and governance in Medicine; Robert Fajber, PhD student, Physics, on graduate student funding and workload; and Geoffrey Scott, Post-Doctoral Fellow (PDF), Mathematics, on the politics of locating a PDF, life as a PDF, and employment prospects for PhDs after completing one or more PDFs. On this evening, as usual, participants brought a breadth of perspectives seriously needed for critical evaluation of our research and training models.

Last, I thank fellow UTFA Executive members for their support and ideas, with special thanks to members of the University and External Affairs Committee. I also thank Terezia Zoric, Judith Taylor, and Connie Guberman for responding with their expertise to my interest in building UTFA involvement in the revision of the University policy on sexual harassment.

Linda Kohn
Vice President, University and External Affairs