SFUFA’s President Message, March 2011

Dear Colleagues,

At the recent ‘Forum for Presidents,’ which CAUT hosted in Ottawa in January (for understandable, but unfortunate reasons, it’s a shame it couldn’t be held in, say, Maui, or Costa del Sol, in January), there were a number of themes and ‘hot issues’ that were presented and discussed. Among them were two in particular that have special significance for this month’s newsletter.

The first has to do with universities having to rely more and more on sources of funding other than public (ie, government) funding. In some quarters this is collapsed to the labels of ‘corporatization’ or ‘privatization,’ and to the extent that those pressures come to bear on the workings and values of a university, they are of course to be closely scrutinized and debated. But the wider issue, one could say, has to do with a simple arithmetic due to this decline in ‘traditional’ sources of funding. By CAUT’s own account, as recently as the 1990s some 80 percent of funding for universities came from the public purse. Now, we are told, it is in the range of some 50 percent and dwindling. These trends are, of course, not solely limited to SFU, nor to Canada, but as we know (from the government’s actions and subsequent protests in the UK late last year, for example) a world-wide phenomenon. The need to find ‘alternate’ sources of revenue some see as a cold reality of our times, even a necessary and an inevitable (if not entirely desirable) one, while others caution that such trends may have significant repercussions for what many think of as the very idea of a university. SFUFA is engaged in examining this whole issue of how a university in these times, and under these circumstances, is funded, and is ever mindful of both the realities and the various opinions about them.

Most of you will likely know of the concerns that have been expressed by individuals and collectives around the Goldcorp donation to SFU’s Downtown campus, specifically to the School of Contemporary Arts. SFUFA has been in discussion with the Senior Administration about this donation, and others, and with regard to the Goldcorp case in particular, we asked if we could see the Donation Agreement itself. This request was granted and the Administration has provided a copy to SFUFA. We will keep a copy in the office, and if anyone is interested in looking at the document, they are welcome to make an appointment with Jenny, our Executive Assistant, (778.782-4676, or, [email protected]). Our Executive continues to discuss this matter, and to hear from various groups interested in the Goldcorp donation.

A second theme of note at the CAUT January meetings was one concerned with the viability and sustainability of Faculty Associations all across the country. It is often being mentioned at these meetings that it can be difficult to get people involved in their local Associations, whether at the Executive level, doing committee work, or even attending General Meetings. Understandably, a good amount of this may well be due to increasing workloads, and other life demands on people. But as we all know, our cherished notion of collegial governance in the university setting depends so much on participation and active engagement, as any participatory democracy does. The thought has struck me on more than one occasion that if in time we are not able to sustain ourselves as democratic entities, we may be compelled to become ‘managerial’ ones, where we outsource the management and maintenance of an organization. And so, I want to invite and encourage you to consider taking part in SFUFA, in whatever way you can, whether it is running for a position on the Executive, working on committees, or simply coming to the Spring AGM. As you’ll see elsewhere in the newsletter, we are at that point of the year when we are seeking nominations for SFUFA Executive for 2010-2011. If you are interested in serving, please have a look at that section of the newsletter to get more information. As well, if you are interested in committee work, or simply finding out more about what the Association has to offer, and how you might contribute, please don’t hesitate to contact me ([email protected]), or Doug Thorpe-Dorward, our Executive Director ([email protected]). Our Spring General Meeting will be held on Monday March 28, from noon to 2pm, with a special guest from CAUT, Mariette Pilon, coming to speak with us about Freedom of Information and Intellectual Property issues.

All the best, everyone.