16 Mar UPEISU Statement Regarding UPEI and UPEI Faculty Association Negotiations
Dear UPEI students,
As you might be aware, the UPEI Faculty Association (UPEIFA) and UPEI administration are currently engaged in negotiations over a number of issues. Since some of you may be confused, the UPEI Student Union (UPEISU) would like to give you some background and explain what this entails for students.
The UPEIFA is a labour union representing the Faculty at UPEI. They represent tenured, probationary, or term Professors, Associate Professors, Assistant Professors, or Lecturers. They are able to take part in collective bargaining, which is a legal process and a right that workers have as part of their belonging to their labour union. These negotiations result in multi-year collective agreements that govern the conditions of employment of the employees within the Union. There are several other labour unions on campus and across Canada, such as CUPE 1870, which includes most other employees at UPEI.
The UPEIFA collective agreement expired last year, and they have been engaged in negotiations with UPEI since May of 2022. The two sides have thus far not reached an agreement.
The UPEIFA has now set a strike deadline of March 20. This means that should UPEIFA and the UPEI administration not reach an agreement by Sunday, March 19, the Faculty will go on strike on March 20 and will stay on strike until an agreement is reached.
The UPEISU hopes to see the UPEIFA and UPEI return to the table and come to an agreement that they are both satisfied with. We recognize the important improvements that have been brought to working conditions in Canada thanks to labour unions, many times aided by strikes. As a union ourselves, we know the power in numbers. As students, we also recognize that a strike will lead to a disruption in student schedules, especially as we near the end of the academic year. This can have detrimental impacts on students’ mental health and academic performance while causing additional stress.
Additionally, many students have requested the UPEISU to publicly support one side over the other. While we understand the students’ desire to see us take a non-neutral position, there are some points to keep in mind:
- The UPEISU is a legally and fiscally separate entity from both the UPEIFA and UPEI administration. Although we work and collaborate with both parties, the UPEISU’s sole responsibility is to the students; to represent and work for students to the best of our ability. In light of this, it would not be appropriate to use our resources (that students pay for) to work for or represent either the UPEIFA or UPEI.
- Neither the UPEIFA nor UPEI proposals fully benefit or harm students. Thus, while we can speak out in agreement or opposition to specific points in these proposals, we cannot wholly endorse either party.
- We encourage students to do their own research and come to their own personal conclusions on whom they feel should be supported. While we cannot and should not make this decision for you, below are the UPEISU’s stances with regard to specific points in the proposals of both sides.
The UPEISU is in favour of the following propositions:
Smaller Class Sizes
- The UPEISU is in favour of smaller class sizes, as smaller classes are proven to enhance the learning experience for all students. Additionally, we are in support of creating more course options. The solutions to these proposals are likely to hire more professors/instructors, which we recognize could cause tuition to rise. Ideally, we hope to see smaller class sizes with as little financial impact on student costs as possible.
Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigenization
- The UPEISU is in favour of enhanced EDII training as part of hiring committees at UPEI, as well as Indigenization across the institution. The UPEISU is also in support of establishing further measures to enhance EDII. The University has seen a huge growth in the number and diversity of students over the last few years, and it is important for all UPEI staff to know how to interact with students in a way that is respectful. We also support hiring Faculty as diverse as the students, and EDII training would support this.
Improvement to Teaching and Lab Space
- It is important for university infrastructure to modernize to meet rapidly evolving needs and standards. For UPEI students to be competitive in research and for UPEI to continue to offer them the best possible opportunities, it is important that students have access to the technology to make it happen.
The UPEISU however opposes the following propositions:
A Minimum 4% Increase in Tuition Prices for all Students and a 6% Increase for Students in the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC)
- The UPEI administration released a statement to students on March 8th, 2023, in an email entitled, ‘Message from the UPEI Vice-Presidents; Update on Budget and Tuition’. The email stated that tuition is increasing by a minimum of 4% for all students and 6% for all AVC students, with the implication that it may be a larger increase depending on the results of the negotiations and by how much salaries will rise.
- The UPEIFA has alleged both on their website and on social media that UPEI would be able to garner additional funding from other areas to avoid increasing tuition, such as “increasing fundraising”, “seeking greater support from the province” and “innovative strategies”.
- Additionally, a prior email was sent out by the University on February 8th, 2023, entitled ‘UPEI Student Update #2: Learn more about University-Faculty Association negotiations’ with a notice of the state of bargaining. In that email, the administration claimed that the requested salary increases the Faculty has put forward would cause tuition to increase by a percentage that is “well into the double digits”.
- Whatever the case, the UPEISU stands staunchly opposed to the current tuition increases and will be lobbying the UPEI administration to reconsider. We have also released a separate statement that you can read here.
Removal of Mandatory SOTS (Student Opinion of Teaching Survey) Scores from Tenure Track Applications
- Currently, in order for a professor to move up a step in the tenure-track process, they must submit their SOTS average scores in their application. At this time, this is the only student voice that is included in the tenure-track application process. Making this requirement optional would remove that voice entirely. In fact, the UPEISU has been advocating for the last 10 years for the SOTS to have a heavier weight when it comes to tenure-track applications. We believe the students should have a greater say in which professors are granted tenure, not a lesser one.
- The UPEISU has already written to the University Administration, as well as the UPEI Faculty Association, about our opposition to this proposal and will follow up as necessary.
As UPEI and the UPEIFA go through this process, the SU requests they keep in mind the 5000+ stakeholders most impacted by their decisions. We hope that both parties take part in this process with an open mind, and in a way that does not negatively impact the students.
We also believe that there are ways to improve the UPEI experience without causing tuition increases to students at a time when inflation is the highest in the country by percentage and the cost of living is already astronomical.
Should the UPEI administration or the UPEIFA like the UPEISU to support them in any way, by facilitating student consultations or other communications, we are more than happy to help.
The UPEISU will be sharing information on how to best prepare for a strike in the near future.