The University recently reported a financial surplus of $41.7 million for the 2020-2021 academic year.
The University’s financial surplus is unacceptable, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. Part-time professors have made many sacrifices to adapt in-person teaching methods to an online setting. We have remained resilient, despite limited technological support and training and for inadequate compensation, to provide the best education we can offer our students. Members are stressed, overworked and underpaid.Any surplus should, first and foremost, be used to significantly reduce class size and inequality in our ranks.
To make matters worse, the University refused to allocate funds to our members to purchase the equipment needed to teach a course virtually. Instead, the Association had to draw on its own funds to provide limited support for the reimbursement of technological equipment. The funds were taken directly from the Academic and Professional Development Fund of the Association, which is intended to promote participation in research and other scholarly activities.
It should also be noted that last May, the University again attempted to increase tuition fees by 3% for Canadian students living outside Ontario which could have compromised access to higher education and increased the debt load of students and their families who are already heavily indebted. This was considered by the administration after declaring a financial surplus of $13.8 million for the 2019-2020 academic year. The University of Ottawa Student Union (UOSU) managed to mobilize its members in the middle of the summer term to lobby against and stop the tuition increase.
Our Association recognizes the importance of the student experience on campus. However, we are currently witnessing the University invasion of student spaces to make way for the representation of multinational institutions. One example we deplored is the pervasive takeover of the UCU student lounge by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). The University is also seeking to impose rental fees on spaces occupied by the only recognized student newspapers on campus. Student journalism is experiencing enough financial hardship as is. Imposing rental fees will be detrimental to our students, as it limits their access to important information about what is transpiring on campus. It is also an essential tool to hold the University and other organizations on campus accountable for their actions and ensure transparency in their operations.
It is disturbing to see a post-secondary institution making a substantial profit in a time of pandemic when students and faculties are struggling to have the institutional support to ensure the quality of education. The administration’s financial management is closer to the management of a multinational corporation focused on profit and entertainment than to a university that should be investing in its core mission of providing quality post-secondary education.
We also invite you to read the communication from the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO) which also details the concerns arising from such financial surplus. To summarize, the financial surplus demonstrates that the creation of smaller class sections for the 2021-2022 academic year was far from an unreasonable request.
The APTPUO continues to work in solidarity with the Inter-Union Coalition, which includes unions and associations of students, faculty, teaching assistants, research and support staff, to condemn the lack of collegiality of our central administration and to defend the quality of education at our institution.