KINGSTON Drastic funding cuts, rising and deregulated tuition fees and reliance on corporate sponsorship are creating a two-tier system in Ontarios universities, says Sid Ryan, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario Division.
An interim report on the CUPE Campus Check-Up, released today in Kingston, un-ranks the provinces universities based on factors such as learning and working conditions, funding and corporate influence and the state of facilities, including residences.
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, Ryan said. 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.
Part of CUPE Ontarios Rebuilding Strong Communities campaign, the CUPE Campus Check-Up is a qualitative survey of 13 universities where CUPE represents a total of about 20,000 university workers. It took criteria from the annual Macleans ranking and looked at similar issues from the point of view that communities and families have the right to participate in a fully equitable, accessible and affordable public post-secondary education system.
Un-ranking Ontarios universities is appropriate in 2004 because, when it comes to working, studying and living on campus, every institution is in a sorry state, said Janice Folk-Dawson, chair of the Ontario University Workers Co-ordinating Committee, who visited the 13 campuses. The committee is holding its annual conference in Kingston this weekend.
The CUPE Campus Check-Up found that:
- there are two-tiers in Ontarios universities with almost all new academic buildings and corporate sponsorships earmarked for science and business programs
- there are new buildings on every campus and, in most cases, not enough workers to staff them
- standards for cleaning have been lowered; there are no preventative maintenance programs, and deferred maintenance, currently estimated to be as high as $1.7 billion, continues to grow
- space is at a premium for teachings assistants, for support workers and for students, both in classrooms and residences
- students have difficulty meeting with teaching assistants who may not have offices or telephones or who simply have too many students to see
- students attend classes in rooms and buildings named for Casino Niagara, ScotiaBank, CIBC, Nestle, Hollinger and Campbell Soup.
The provincial government must significantly increase operating funds to universities, especially if it proceeds as it should with a freeze on tuition fees and create a publicly-financed construction fund, said Ryan.
Rebuilding our post-secondary institutions is a critical part of rebuilding strong communities, he said. The McGuinty government must reverse the trend to privatization and commit adequate funding if all qualified students are to have a space in the post-secondary system.
The CUPE Campus Check-Up interim report is available at www.cupe.on.ca.
For more information, please contact:
Sid Ryan, President