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On September 19, 2000 the Ontario Government announced the formation of the Investing in Students Taskforce. 1The Government will release the Taskforces Report in the very near future. As CUPE members in the University sector, we must be ready to take on this governments latest round of privatization of Ontario Universities.

The Taskforce called for proposals to increase administrative effectiveness and efficiencies by examining best practices in administrative operations and related expenditures in Ontario and other jurisdictions. 2 The Ministry is on record as working with institutions to expand capacity through more flexible use of existing facilities. 3

A very narrow view of efficiency lies beneath these optimistic phrases. The Ontario government is promoting what corporations consider to be the best way to administer Universities.

The Taskforce has a mandate to accept proposals that foster private-public partnerships, promote fundamental change in administration, establish ways to measure efficiency, save money, avoid costs and reduce red tape. The Taskforces invitation also states that the government will consider proposals proposing the disposition (selling) of assets. Through this taskforce, the government is looking for ways to privatize University services.

What does the Ministry mean by administration? In their words, administrative operations can include student financial aid administration; facilities planning, maintenance and utilisation; purchasing; human resources; information technology, including data collection and web-based services; retail operations and ancillary services; registration processes and practices; counselling services; finance and reporting. 4

CUPE members work in these jobs but the Taskforce is not interested in hearing our views. Our efforts to communicate with the Taskforce have gone unanswered. This is not surprising. The Harris government of Ontario is introducing fundamental change in the post-secondary education system because corporate investors want in on the massive education industry in Ontario. All in the name of profit.

Weve seen the SuperBuild Fund which bring public-private partnerships into the Universities. The private university bill has been passed in the Ontario Legislature. We know Bill 132 was introduced in the interests of private profits, not the public good.

Weve heard our own employers organization, the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), make a commitment to conduct an annual evaluation of whether to keep or to contract-out ancillary operations. 5 Through the winter, the COU took the lead on coordinating University submissions to the Investing in Students Taskforce through nine working groups.

For CUPE members, the COUs attempt to appear innovative, responsive, efficient and accountable under these conditions threatens public post-secondary education in Ontario. Our rights, and the rights of students and the wider community are undermined as public universities become increasingly privatized, and as private universities open in an anti-union environment.

Suggested Action:

Find out all you can about your employers submission to the Investing in Students Taskforce. Please take a minute to read the attached letter, revise it as you wish and send it to your Vice President of Finance and Administration (or equivalent). Please copy Mary Catherine McCarthy, OUWCC coordinator in on your correspondence.

For Your Information:

As reported in the COU Council Highlights, December 2000, the COU Steering Group which coordinated the proposals of the nine working groups include:
  • Dr. Peter Mercer, Vice-President of Administration and Legal Counsel, University of Western Ontario (Chair);
  • Phyllis Clark, Vice-President of Administration, York University;
  • Nancy Sullivan, Vice-President, Finance and Administration, University of Guelph;
  • Duncan Watt, Vice-President, Finance and Administration, Carleton University;
  • Carole Workman, Vice-Rector of Resources, University of Ottawa.
The October 2000, issue of Council Highlights reported that the following individuals were part of the Steering Committee as well.
  • Dennis Huber, Associate Provost, General Services and Finance, University of Waterloo;
  • Grant Walsh, Executive Director of University Services, Lakehead University;
  • Sally Young, Vice-President of Administration and Services, Trent University.

1.Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, New Taskforce to focus postsecondary resources on students http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/postsec/task.html

2. Ministry of Training Invitation for proposals to increase administrative effectiveness and efficiencies Investing in Students Task Force http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/postsec/taskhme.html

3. Ministry of Training, Backgrounder: Improving the Quality and Accessibility of Post-secondary Education and Training

4. Ministry of Training, Invitation for proposals.

5. Council of Ontario Universities, Brief to the Ontario Legislatures Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs 2000 Pre-Budget Consultations, February 16, 2000.
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