TORONTO When it comes to working, studying and living on Ontario university campuses, every institution is in a sorry state, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario has said in a report presented to the Ontario Postsecondary Review, headed up by former premier Bob Rae.
Members of the CUPE Ontario university workers coordinating committee (OUWCC) met with Rae on October 8 to detail the findings of their consultations earlier this year with CUPE locals representing academic and support workers, other unions, faculty associations and student groups at 13 universities. Their report, Un-ranking Ontarios universities: Final Report from the CUPE Campus Check-up, is available at www.cupe.on.ca.
With cumulative funding cuts of $1.8 billion over the last eight years and increasing reliance on private partnerships and corporate sponsors, were seeing a growing gap between arts programs and science and business, says Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario president. But no matter what theyre studying, students are experiencing crowded classes, reduced access to teaching assistants and other resources, more expensive accommodation and dirtier buildings.
Almost all CUPE locals reported a lowering of standards for cleaning. Preventative maintenance programs are not being followed and deferred maintenance, estimated to be as high as $1.7 billion, continues to grow. Meanwhile, there are new buildings on every campus and, in most cases, not enough workers to staff them.
Even as funding has been cut, a greater portion of the costs have shifted over to students through tuition fees, said OUWCC chair Janice Folk-Dawson said following the meeting with Rae. We engaged Mr. Rae in a discussion about the need for government funding to make our universities safe, high quality, accessible and publicly accountable. We have concerns about some of the directions he has put out, toward increasing student debt and private sector influence, but overall we were encouraged by the reception we received.
The committee will meet again with Rae before his final report is issued next year.
CUPE Ontario is encouraging its members and members of the general public to attend the town hall meetings being hosted by Rae and to participate in CUPEs letter-writing campaign. The main points for letters are that the McGuinty government should help rebuild Ontarios public universities and:
- invest in university operating grants
- halt and reverse contracting out support services
- replace SuperBuild with a publicly financed, accountable construction fund
- halt and reverse commercialization and corporate influence over academic programs
- ensure there are enough fully funded spaces in our universities for qualified prospective students
- reduce tuition fees and end fee deregulation for graduate and professional programs.
Information about how to contact the Rae Review, the Un-ranking Ontarios universities report and CUPE Ontarios campaign to rebuild strong communities is available on the CUPE Ontario web site, www.cupe.on.ca.
For more information, please contact:
Janice Folk-Dawson, Chair, OUWCC - 519-766-8376
Mary Catherine McCarthy, Coordinator, OUWCC - 416-292-3999 Ext. 258 - 416-274-2637 (Cell)
Pat Daley, CUPE Communications - 416-616-6142 (Cell)