OTTAWA, Ontario--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A coalition of students, academic staff, teaching assistants and research assistants at the University of Ottawa today took the unprecedented step of raising their concerns about the quality of education to the Board of Governors as one group.
“Budget cuts at the University of Ottawa are seriously downgrading the quality of learning in each university classroom,” said Luc Angers, Vice-President, Membership Engagement of the Association of Part-Time Professors.
The group is sounding the alarm as budget cuts damage educational quality and cut programs, in moves that prioritize revenue over learning experience. They affixed a list of proposals to correct the situation to the doors of Tabaret Hall, where the Board of Governors meeting was taking place.
The list is available here: https://2626.ca/cupe-2626/
Their main concerns centre on the closure of services such as the Academic Writing Help Centre (AWHC) and the suspension of programs particularly within francophone and bilingual departments such as the School of Translation and Interpretation as well as arts and social sciences departments; cancellation of small-group seminars by lumping together students from different departments in large lectures halls; five percent budget cuts across departments and faculties; drastic cuts to funding packages for graduate students; ever-increasing tuition fees for international and out-of-province students; and the university’s stated goal of not replacing professors who retire and no longer offering tenure-track positions.
“By closing down our bachelor and masters programs, the university is sending a clear message: translation isn’t important, communication between anglophones and the francophone minority isn’t important, adequate services towards francophones and other linguistic minorities aren’t important. Ultimately, the University is going against their so-called commitment towards the Canadian Francophonie by cutting these programs,” said Astrid Aprahamian, a graduate student representative in the School of Translation and Interpretation.
The cuts come at a time when the University of Ottawa has a $14.4 million surplus in its operating budget before interfund transfers. The school is justifying its cuts by fabricating a deficit. The Central Administration transferred $43.4 million from the operating fund to other funds, with $31.6 million going to the Capital Fund. The result is an apparent deficit of nearly $29 million.
The 2022-2023 consolidated budget is not simply the result of a downturn in financial markets, rising inflation, pandemic uncertainty and four years of government-imposed tuition freezes, as the university claims. Rather, the labour and student groups say it shows a pattern of misleading accounting practices that diverts funds out of the operating budget and underestimates revenue and surpluses at the expense of students' learning and the working conditions of professors and teaching assistants.
“People making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year are making decisions that directly affect the lives of students without concern for their well-being,” said Catherine Larocque, president of CUPE Local 2626, which represents student workers, lifeguards and residence life workers at the university. “There is a student homelessness crisis on campus. We have members contacting us regularly that they have nothing to eat, nowhere to live, and can’t secure employment.”
Student associations and labour unions at the University of Ottawa are calling for the implementation of smaller class sizes and the development of an action plan to improve the ratios of students to professors and teaching assistants, a full reinstatement of graduate student funding packages, and a transparent budget that prioritizes education.