January Senate meeting addresses major governance and budget issues

Dear YUFA members,

YUFA considers matters of collegial governance vital to the goals of the Association. York Senate’s meeting on Thursday, January 25, 2018 addressed a number of key issues related to governance. We provide a brief summary to our members.

Collegial governance and search procedures

Several senators disapproved of the Administration’s recent open letter to CUPE 3903 members regarding the labour dispute, and of the radio ads that bring disrepute upon the University. YUFA President Richard Wellen criticized the Administration’s interference in the internal decision-making of a union, the Administration’s false claim that it is not seeking significant concessions in the current bargaining process, and the Administration’s suggestion that it is negotiating in good faith while the union is not. See the response to York’s letter from the York Cross-Campus Alliance (CCA) here and from CUPE 3903 here.

Senate Executive informed members that it has rejected the request from three senators who are members of the York Cross-Campus Alliance (CCA), representing all campus unions and major student groups, to discuss procedures for future senior administrative academic appointments. Executive will bring the matter of guidelines for the presidential search to a future Senate meeting at an unspecified date. “Recognizing that decanal and vice-presidential staffing matters are within the jurisdiction of the Board and delegated to the President,” Executive rejected any discussion of procedures for such appointments other than presidential updates, reinforcing YUFA’s concern that the the Administration and Senate Executive appears to be willing to allow collegial governance bodies to be reduced to mere information sessions announcing managerial decisions.

An example of this approach ensued. President Lenton informed Senate that she had concluded a revision of decanal search procedures. Yet she had not advised Senate of her intention to revise these guidelines, she had not sought feedback on a draft, and the new procedures were not included in the agenda package.

Revised guidelines include a two-year trial of the possibility of opening the search process to an in-camera consultation by Faculty Council with the shortlisted candidates. These searches would be open to input by faculty members only on the condition that all shortlisted candidates indicate to the Administration’s search consultant that they are willing to engage in such a process. While YUFA applauds any step to open the search process, we have repeatedly called for shortlisted candidates to appear before Faculty Council as a matter of standard procedure.

Ontario Chamber of Commerce

President Lenton informed Senate that she has decided not to agree to a request raised in an earlier session of Senate, also raised by various constituencies in campus, that York terminate its membership in and financial support of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). Some senators feel that membership in this organization, whose sister organizations lead regressive policies around the world, does not fit the values and principles that York claims to uphold. Although President Lenton defends her decision by arguing the OCC represents small businesses, this organization led the political advocacy against Bill 148 (the legislation that raised the minimum wage and implemented a number of other improved labour laws) and has refused to defend some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.

SHARP and the University budget

Senate heard a report from Carol McAulay, Vice President Finance and Administration, and Lisa Philipps, Interim Vice President Academic and Provost, regarding budget context and planning, and the implementation of the new SHARP budget model. YUFA members have raised many questions:

  • Why does the Administration claim a deficit when the University’s own audited financial statements show continued operating surpluses and a healthy overall balance sheet? Is the Administration using deficit fear-mongering as a restructuring tool, for example, to justify course cutting and program reductions or to justify a hardline at the bargaining table with York’s unions? By the end of the discussion in Senate, the Administration did not deny that the overall operating funds of the University were in surplus.
  • Why is there a substantial carryover deficit among the Faculties (the largest of which is in LA&PS), while the Vice Presidents’ offices have large carryover surpluses? Is this an accounting tool to transfer additional resources from teaching and scholarship toward administrative bloat?
  • Some programs are engaging in budget-driven restructuring that may be at odds with academic considerations. Although there has been an effort to address these perverse incentives, serious concerns remain. The question of how to assess the “value” of graduate students and programs that are not a substantial source of revenue has not been adequately resolved.
  • The Administration claims that SHARP would make the allocation of resources more transparent. So far, it has not. How does the SHARP model distribute budgets below the Faculty level, to the departments and units? President Lenton announced that she is creating an All-University Budget Advisory Committee composed exclusively of Vice Presidents and Deans.
  • The Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) with the Government of Ontario continues to be a risk factor in York’s budget, and drives the spreading use of funding tied to indicators. There is growing evidence of the damage that results from tying academic activities to metric indicators. In earlier years, the Administration insisted that metrics would remain restricted to its dealings with Government regarding the SMA process, but now it appears to be signalling that internal funding allocations (among Faculties, for example) will be tied to the metrics in the SMA. Faculties will prepare Quality Plans to advance overall performance based on priorities and metrics, and some funding will become contingent on such metrics. YUFA encourages members to reject vigorously the introduction of metrics and performance indicators across the continuum of teaching and research.

A number of colleagues have contacted YUFA to express their concerns about the impacts of SHARP implementation and the current budgetary and metrics context. We are actively exploring ways to move forward with these concerns. If you have questions or suggestions or would like to get involved, please contact YUFA by email at yufa@yorku.ca.