March 2024 – Volume 31, Issue 1
BUFA Voice

BUFA Voice

Executive News and Views

Message from the President

Michelle Webberby Michelle Webber

It is Brock election season. Nominations are now open for the University Senate and nominations open for the BUFA Executive on March 6th. A strong and active Association relies on the participation of its membership.

The following positions are to be elected for the 2024-2025 BUFA Executive: Vice President(1.0 FCE release), Treasurer (0.5 FCE release), Equity Officer (0.5 FCE release), Communications Director (0.5 FCE release), Professional Librarian Representative, Non-tenured Faculty Representative, and two Member-at-Large positions. Nominations will open for candidates to run for the 2024-2025 BUFA Executive on Wednesday, March 6th and will close at noon on Wednesday, March 20th. Each candidate requires 3 email nominations to be sent to the BUFA office at [email protected]. The election will be Thursday, April 4th through Friday, April 5th on the Simply Voting platform. Successful candidates will assume their positions on July 1st, 2024. Full details will be sent to the membership ahead of the call for nominations.

A strong participatory Senate is also needed in order to preserve the things we cherish most about university governance, such as shared academic decision-making. BUFA members’ concerns about terms and conditions of work often intersect with issues of education policy that are debated at Senate. The University needs Senators who understand the importance of faculty and professional librarian voices in collegial governance. The recent unilateral action of the Administration concerning graduate student intake and Senate’s subsequent response is an example of how effective Senate can be in the creation and oversight of academic policy matters. BUFA members have a wealth of academic expertise and pedagogical experience to contribute to Senate discussions about the visioning, planning, reviewing, and prioritizing of academic policy matters.

Nominations for the 2024-2025 Senate close on Monday, March 11th, 4:30 p.m. Electronic voting will begin on Friday March 15th, 8:30 a.m. and continue until Monday March 25th, 4:30 p.m. More detailed information about the Senate election process can be found at the Senate election website: https://brocku.ca/university-secretariat/senate-election/.

Members who are interested in learning more about Senate and its Committees are invited to attend the Demystifying Senate session being hosted by Michelle Webber and Larry Savage on Thursday, March 7th at 11:00 a.m. on Zoom. Please reach out to [email protected] with any questions.

I hope members will give serious consideration to running for a position on Senate or the BUFA Executive or both!

2023-2024 BUFA Graduate Scholarship Awards

Each year, BUFA awards $1,000 scholarships to five undergraduate and two graduate students. These BUFA awards recognize excellence in academic achievements, as well as significant and on-going dedication to community service.

How to apply: Download and complete the application form, email to [email protected] with a copy of your unofficial transcript. The application deadline is March 31, 2024.

Since 2014, BUFA has offered awards to students who have a minimum average of 80% and who show commitment to community service. Awards are $1,000 each. Five scholarships are awarded to undergraduate students and two to graduate students. These awards will be made to two current graduate students who have completed as least one semester of graduate study with a minimum average of 80% and whose community service focuses on equity and social justice issues. Applicants will be required to provide a one-page outline (approximately 500 words), giving evidence of their commitment to community service focusing on equity or social justice issues. Applicants are also required to submit a statement of their grades (an unofficial transcript is acceptable).

The graduate awards will be administered by BUFA. Applications for the undergraduate awards are due later in the spring and are made through the University’s OneApp System.

Questions can be directed to the BUFA office at [email protected].

Scheduling Review

by Liz Clarke

The Jointly Appointed Course Collection and Scheduling Review Committee has been meeting since the Fall of 2023 and has now completed its consultations with key stakeholders, including faculty, chairs, and administrative staff who assist with the tasks involved in scheduling courses annually. We at BUFA know the frustration that many of our members have regarding the processes around scheduling courses and the resultant timetable. The last round of collective bargaining took place almost immediately after the release of the 23/24 schedule, which saw an unprecedented number of members scheduled to teach night courses—despite their units having requested different timeslots. We successfully strengthened the contract language around the University’s responsibility to ensure time preferences are met and consult with units about proposed changes. In bargaining, BUFA proposed overlapping time band preferences and rank order preferences. The University rejected our proposals, asserting that “the software cannot do that.” Given the University’s response but not wanting to leave the scheduling issues unaddressed, we proposed the LOU committing the University to strike a joint committee, with BUFA members, to review and propose changes to the scheduling and course collection processes. Ideally, changes can be made to improve the process immediately after the review is complete. If the University refuses to implement positive changes, we can address in our next round of bargaining, with the Committee’s recommendations in hand.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the focus groups and completed the survey. Faculty response rate to the Provost’s survey was exceptional and incredibly useful and participation in the focus groups was strong. Faculty have demonstrated that scheduling is both a labour issue and an educational quality concern.

Since the evening teaching push that began when the 23/24 schedule was released, BUFA has argued that Brock is too rigid in its adherence to the Ontario Universities’ space utilization guidelines. The guidelines suggest that universities should not exceed a 70% usage of classrooms during high-demand teaching times, leaving lots of space open for contingencies. The consultants who engaged in the scheduling review discovered that, unlike Brock, comparable universities have classrooms in use for 90-100% of high-demand hours. Armed with the consultants’ recommendation, BUFA will continue to push the Administration to increase their utilization of teaching spaces. The consultants also recommended that the University revisit the “back to in person” push that followed our emergency-online year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With units able to make informed decisions about whether some classes might be well-suited online, the space constraints of scheduling could be less acute. We will continue to advocate that units know best whether in-person or online delivery is suitable for their programs and courses. Again, we maintain that units should have the final say in scheduling but can be aided by the Registrar’s Office in making informed decisions about the timing of courses that address the wishes of units and constructing conflict-free schedules for students.

Finally, many of the recommendations that emerged from this review will help to streamline and make transparent the processes of course collection. This will benefit chairs and, more importantly, our academic administrative staff members who work tirelessly to input a multitude of courses and scheduling preferences. These may not be changes that you will see firsthand if you are not involved with course collection at the unit level. However, with a clearer process, we hope that scheduling with our students in mind and our pedagogical needs at the forefront will be easier for all moving forward.

BUFA ANNUAL GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING

May 7, 2024 at 9:00 a.m.

CAUT defence fund update

by Kareen Brown

The CAUT Defence Fund provides financial assistance to Canadian academic staff unions in matters regarding strikes or lockouts. At its annual meeting on October 14, 2023, the CAUT Defence Fund passed a motion to increase the baseline dues effective December 1, 2023. As a result, we expect a $1.50/member increase in the dues that BUFA pays to the Fund this year.

OCUFA Updates and Social Media

by Tim Ribaric
Email first and always

Thank you to all members who participated in our social media survey. With the recent transformation of Twitter to a platform now known as X, the role social media plays in our daily online lives has been flipped upside down. To be clear, there are many different platforms beyond X, but its stunning fall from grace has caused some individuals to take a closer look at how they consume information online. A recent piece published in Variety explores the dynamics of this change, the reduction of 15% in monthly active platform users, the loss of half of its value, and how the platform now sits around an evaluation of $20 billion.

BUFA itself has been experimenting with new venues by creating accounts on Mastodon as well as Bluesky. There is no intent to alter how BUFA routinely communicates with its members; we will continue to use email as our primary communication tool. Calls to action, important information, and event details will always be delivered to your inbox.

OCUFA and Blue-Ribbon Panel

In March of 2023 the Government of Ontario commissioned a “blue-ribbon panel” to provide advice and recommendations for “keeping the postsecondary education sector financially stable” and ensuring that the post-secondary sector focuses on “providing the best student experience possible”. This panel was struck as a response to, at the time, the developing financial crisis and subsequent use of the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) at Laurentian.

The final Report was released on November 11th, 2023 and perhaps of little surprise is the fact that the report recommended a series of measures that included calls for more government spending and less recissions in the value-for-money realm. The Report called for an immediate raise of 5% to tuition, along with a subsequent raise of 2% in the following three years.

Seeing this as a great opportunity, OCUFA filed a pre-budget submission to the government that directly addresses the contents of the Panel’s report and provides four concrete recommendations that go above and beyond what the Panel recommended.

RECOMMENDATION ONE: OCUFA calls for compounding annual total provincial university funding increases of 11.75% for a period of five years to reach the national average.

RECOMMENDATION TWO: Instead of increasing domestic tuition, OCUFA echoes the call of student groups for government to enhance the student assistance budget and convert loans into grants.

RECOMMENDATION THREE: OCUFA calls for a review of Ontario’s provincial funding formula, including the corridor model, with an embedded goal of supporting domestic enrolment growth.

RECOMMENDATION FOUR: OCUFA calls for reversing the planned implementation of the performance-based funding scheme.

Just recently the Ontario Government responded to the situation by earmarking $1.3 billion over three years for post-secondary institutions but this funding is less than half of what the blue-ribbon panel recommended.

Pre-Senate Caucuses

A briefing document entitled “Reclaiming your Senate: A primer on pre-Senate caucuses” was addressed during the recent OCUFA Board meeting. This document described the utility and purpose of pre-Senate caucuses of faculty association members as a method of ensuring collegial self-governance principles are upheld. Discussions highlighted how useful these meetings are and how they represent a best-practice. BUFA has been holding such caucus meetings for years. If you are a Senator please consider attending this meeting that happens immediately before each session of Senate.

BUFA COMMITTEES

Check your email for a full list of the BUFA and University Committees with upcoming positions needing to be filled and a description of their mandates.

The Collective Agreement specifically acknowledges service to the Union as equal to service to the University (Article 21.06) and that such service may be included in your Annual Report.

Contact: Liz Clarke, BUFA Vice President or BUFA by April 3rd, 2024 if you are interested in a committee or have any questions!

Special thanks to all of our valued 2023-2024 committee volunteers!

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