(Open letter, July 2, 2019)
Dr. Teri Balser, Interim President, Dalhousie University
First, congratulations on your new position as Interim President. We look forward to working with you in that role until Professor Saini arrives in January.
With that in mind, this letter is addressed to you as the current President and the Provost who will be in charge of drafting the budget in early 2020. You may not know that the DFA and others have been concerned for some time that budgets addressing deficits are drafted and then, shortly afterwards, surpluses are announced. This year the surplus was $6 million, more than enough to erase the .5% BAC cut applied to all Faculties in the 2019-20 Operating Budget and allow a reversal of other austerity measures.
Because the surplus is announced after the Operating Budget is developed, there is no opportunity for a transparent and collegial process. The BAC discussions are retroactively compromised because of inaccurate information, and there seems to be no process through which the Operating Budget can be amended in light of a surplus to reduce or eliminate the BAC cut to Faculties that, every year, means that faculty have to do more with less while students pay more to get less (larger classes, fewer course options, fewer staff to support them, etc.).
The DFA noted six years ago, in a detailed report on Dalhousie’s finances, “The preliminary budgets always predict a deficit, sometimes very large, even though each year returns surpluses, sometimes substantial ones at the same time academic units are told to cut back. Money is being diverted from the academic mission to capital expenditures” (iii; https://immediac.blob.core.windows.net/dfawebsite/images/2019/pdfs/iamdal/dfareviewdalhousiefinances.pdf). This year, as announced in the public portion of the June 25th Board of Governors meeting, only half of the surplus is being directed to academic spending. According to BAC numbers, 62.4% of the budget goes to Academic Expenditures (BAC 68, p. 2). We all know how math works: if only 50% of the surplus goes to Academic Expenditures, $744,000 less than 62.4% of $6m, then the overall share of university spending directed to the core mission of the university will once again decrease.
The percentage decrease may be small, and we’re aware that the different naming of various budget pieces may complicate this picture. But our ongoing concern is the trend: the Academic Responsibility Centre gets a much smaller share of the overall University budget than it did fifteen years ago (nearly 74% in 2002-03), Faculties’ budgets are cut every year, with sometimes significant ERBA variables that undermine long-term planning, while our student body grows and there is increasing pressure to admit more PhD students and secure more research funding.
Dalhousie is the smallest university in the U15, achieving much for the region and the country despite its limited size. But trying to maintain academic excellence while shrinking resources year after year after year is a losing proposition—for our students and our faculty, and for Nova Scotia.
We encourage you to consider a formal process for ensuring that surpluses are, as a matter of high priority, directed towards erasing BAC cuts to Faculties and so supporting our students’ educational experience and the research mission of the only U15 institution in the Atlantic region.
President, Dalhousie Faculty Association
Cc: Candace Thomas, Chair of the Board of Governors
The June 2019 issue of News You Can Use is available here.
NEW! DFA Summer Hours
The DFA office is typically closed on Fridays throughout June, July and August. If you leave a voice message at 902 494-3722 or email any of our staff on Friday, your message will be returned on the following Monday.
DFA's 2019-20 Executive Committee took office after the AGM on Tuesday, May 7. For a listing and contact information for our Executive members, click here. Thank you to the following outgoing Executive for their service and commitment to our membership: Darren Abramson, Darren Abramson, Jason Brown, Melissa Helwig, Susan Holmes, Nancy MacDonald, Kalyani Prithiviraj, and Deborah Tamlyn.
DFA's annual report, DFA Dialogue, is now available. Click here to read about Association activities for 2018-19.
DFA Urges Dal Interim President & Board Chair to Support Ban on Street Checks
Open Letter, April 11, 2019
Dear Peter MacKinnon and Lawrence Stordy
I am writing to express the Dalhousie Faculty Association’s support for faculty concerns about street checks. A recent study has provided significant evidence of what members of the university community and beyond have known for some time: street checks are inextricably tied to racial profiling. (Halifax, Nova Scotia: Street Checks Report, the result of research by Professor Scot Wortley for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, is at https://humanrights.novascotia.ca/streetchecks.)
The Report shows that bias in street checks is getting worse, not better, despite years of vocal community concern and public policy in support of diversity and inclusion: “The Black street check rate is now 6.1 times greater than the White rate . . . [and] people of Arab/West Asian background went from being under-represented in street check statistics (Odds Ratio=0.91) to being slightly over-represented” (p. 105). FASS Faculty Council voted yesterday to express FASS’s concern about street checks, and Dalhousie faculty have also participated in other actions to call for an end to the practice.
We ask you both to join with the DFA in 1) condemning street checks in light of Professor Wortley’s report and repeated expressions of concern from the community, and 2) urging the Minister of Justice Mark Furey to ban street checks. Street-check bias directly affects our students, staff, and faculty, and is inconsistent with Dalhousie’s goal of inclusion and a safe, respectful environment for all, so we cannot be silent on this matter.
Cc: Dr. Teri Balser, Dal Provost; Dr. Ivan Joseph, Dal VP Student Affairs; & Mark Furey, Minister of Justice, Province of Nova Scotia
The DFA office will be open from 7:30 am to 3:30 pm (Monday - Friday) between Tuesday, April 2 - August 31, 2019. As always, you can drop in during office hours at 1443 Seymour Street, call us at 902-494-3722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier this week, the DFA submitted this message to Dalhousie’s Provost and Vice-President Academic Dr. Teri Balser. We have made similar submissions in the past but this represents our first opportunity to engage with Dr. Balser on the topic of the university budget. The Board's budget rhetoric often highlights the increasing costs of employing people to do the work of the institution. Academic staff compensation is often explicitly or implicitly identified as a "problem" that justifies, at least in part, perennial increases in student tuition. This is misleading, and only serves to divert attention away from the real problem. Our analysis shows that the dominant trend has been an increase in compensation costs for non-academic staff and the diversion of operating funds to back capital projects such as new buildings. In other words, increases in student tuition have been used to fuel the bloat of central administration and to erect new buildings, while the academic staff at the front-line of the university's academic mission are forced to do more with less every year. Since 2010, annual BAC cuts have led to a cumulative cut to Faculty budgets of more than 20% while enrolments have grown. Now that the building boom is nearing completion, it is time to reinvest in teaching and research - we need to reverse the trend of cuts to academic unit budgets.
Please take a moment to read our submission – it is important for all of us to understand the university’s budgeting process and financial practices as they impact our ability to deliver on the academic mission of the university.
This letter to the chair of the Board of Governors reflects the DFA's ongoing concern with the lack of open collegial process in appointing senior administrators - a concern echoed by colleagues across the country. Our collective voice and scholarly expertise should be respected in such important decisions. The principle of collegial governance is enshrined in our Collective Agreement and we will not stand by and watch it erode.
Dave Westwood, DFA President
Click here for the letter sent by the DFA on January 28, 2019.
On Tuesday, November 27, Jason Brown, Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, presented Math & Music: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!. Jason and a live band performed some favourite hits, brought to you by the DFA and the Halifax Public Library.
DFA's Public Speaker Series is an opportunity for our members to share with the community their research and areas of expertise. Presentations are bi-monthly, alternating between Truro and Halifax. Our next session is Wednesday January 30 in Truro. Dr. Deborah Stiles will present on Frankenstein, Frankenfood and the Forgotten Farmer at the Truro Public Library.
Tuition fee hikes and cuts to faculty budgets are not a financial necessity. They are a choice by the administration to direct money towards capital expenses and increasing non-academic costs. Click here for the updated review of Dalhousie's finances from 2002-2017. (verifed by a forensic accountant).
Submit Your Health Claims via Mobile App
As a Medavie Blue Cross subscriber, you are now able to submit health claims via a mobile app. Details available at https://www.medaviebc.ca/en/members/medavie-mobile.