What a joy it would have been to see the University of Alberta’s Central Administration campaigning with great vigour to both the public and the Government over the last year for the need for increased funding for postsecondary education. Instead, it has been announcing for months its plan to proceed to “vertical cuts” to the University, and has now asked its own faculty and staff to re-open the Collective Agreements for 2013-2015, with one request going to the Association of Academic Staff (AASUA) and the other to the Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA). It is extraordinary that Central Administration would take this step, especially after the assurances President Samarasekera has offered the University community that the Collective Agreements will be honoured (as they should be, without question).
Acting Provost Martin Ferguson-Pell declared in yesterday’s Journal that the University’s Administration is, in its attempt to “bring in a balanced budget for 2014-2015,” “looking at whatever we can.” All right. Well, surely “looking at whatever we can” involves the analysis and rationale of the administrative costs of the University that the Association of Academic Staff voted for in a motion passed at AASUA Council in the spring. The motion called for the work to be conducted in part by the Renaissance Committee (negotiated into existence in the last round of collective bargaining) and in part by the Joint Committee on University Planning and Budgets (negotiated for in 2009-2010). It would have been infinitely better for all of us if Central had chosen to fight energetically, in public, for a reversal of the Government’s budget decision of March 7th. But given Central’s choices and the Acting Provost’s declaration in yesterday’s paper, let the University community look forward to hearing from Central Administration how it proposes to reorganize its own staffing and operations to reduce costs and “bring the University to balance.”