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Acadia University faculty rejects latest contract proposals

Student Union calls for rally this Thursday

by Robert Devet

Acadia faculty rejected the university's latest offer and wants a better proposal. It's about the number of permanent jobs and money, says spokesperson Andrew Biro, but also about the quality of education. The student union shares those concerns but doesn't want to be caught up in a conflict between faculty and administration. Photo Acadia University
Acadia faculty rejected the university's latest offer and wants a better proposal. It's about the number of permanent jobs and money, says spokesperson Andrew Biro, but also about the quality of education. The student union shares those concerns but doesn't want to be caught up in a conflict between faculty and administration. Photo Acadia University

KJIPUKTUK, HALIFAX - Ray Ivany, President of Acadia University, is not seeing eye to eye with faculty staff on some important issues that speak to the quality of education at the respected Wolfville institution.

Contract talks have gone into conciliation, and last Thursday the Acadia University Faculty Association (AUFA) rejected the Board of Governors' latest offer. This was not a strike vote. AUFA wants the university administration to return to the table with a better offer.

The main point of contention is the number of teaching positions that are permanent, Andrew Biro, spokesperson for the AUFA, tells the Halifax Media Co-op. Tenured and tenure-track positions have decreased from 182 to 144 over the last five years.

“We've had something very close to a hiring freeze, and the Board's latest offer reduced that number even further, down to 140,” says Biro. “We just don't think that we can successfully meet our academic mandate with only 140 permanent faculty at Acadia.”

Students are directly impacted, says Biro.

“One of the obvious ways that this plays out is in class sizes,” he says. “As enrollment has gone up 17 per cent in the last 4 to 5 years, classes are getting bigger and students receive less personal attention.”

Continuity is the other issue, Biro believes. Non-permanent staff tends to not stick around, and students deserve better.

“We cycle through a high number of faculty on one-year contracts. Students really like them, and then they're not coming back next year, that is really disappointing,” Biro says.

But staffing complements aren't the only issue. Salaries also are a point of contention.

During the last contract salary increases did not keep pace with inflation rates. The offer tabled by the University administration will leave us with lower salaries than any similar institution in the region, Biro says.

“It is a significant difference. It is difficult if you want to be one of the best undergraduate universities in Canada and you can't attract and retain high quality faculty here,” says Biro.

“We're not asking to be the best-paid professors in the region, we are asking for something to bring us a bit closer to the norm,” he says.

Students have been relatively quiet as negotiations proceeded, but no more. After meeting with about 100 students last week the Acadia Student Union (ASU) is organizing a rally this Thursday.

“We will be advocating to get back to the table and reach an agreement, but specifically an agreement that promotes the type of education we’ve come to love here at Acadia, with small classes and a personalized experience, and one that does not burden students financially, both present and future,” the ASU writes.

“We don’t want our tuition to go up because of this agreement, but we also want that real Acadia advantage we’ve come to love,” the statement concludes.

The ASU statement includes animated gifs of cats, old people on a roller coaster and happy game show winners.

The Board of Governors, in a press release without animated gifs, says that it is waiting for the conciliator to file a report, but will return to the table if that is what the report recommends.

 

 Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

 

 

 


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