Since much of the job of the Executive is to compartmentalize what is happening across the membership, we have decided that over the next 7-10 days, we will update you on all of the goings on that you may not be aware of from the past year. We will be posting daily (or near-daily) updates here. If you would like a notification of when an updated is posted, please add yourself to our 'All Things CUE' mailing list if you are not already on the faculty group list.
Concern: Recent Staff Restructuring [posted 23-04-12]
Impact on students, faculty, ASOs, & CUE as a whole: no counseling services available for stressed students at end of semester | access to the NEOS catalogue, interlibrary loan services, and consortial database licences may be in jeopardy | students are not being well served and the integrity of the University is undermined
On March 7, 2023, Concordia University of Edmonton Administration announced a staff restructuring. Around a dozen people were terminated (although 1 was offered another position at the University) and contrary to the sentiment of preserving the student experience, the majority of those terminated were student-facing roles that are central to supporting Concordia students in their studies and life on campus.
Some of these positions included: student counsellors, wellness, housing, peer support, and a library technician who operated communications and social media presence of the library. Students were told there were no longer any counselling appointments available for the remainder of the semester, with final exams right around the corner. Off-campus, low-cost or free options were suggested, but these are incredibly hard to get appointments in a timely manner with and generally only allow for 1 or 2 free sessions.
Additionally, the Library Director was also terminated and walked off of campus after over 20 years of service to Concordia. Although this was not a student-facing position, the loss of this position could have ramifications for student and faculty research at Concordia. Without a qualified library director, Concordia's commitment to local, provincial, regional and national library consortia that have directly benefited CUE students and faculty, is called into question. For instance, access to the NEOS catalogue, interlibrary loan services, and consortial database licences could all be in jeopardy.
We are concerned that without key student-facing staff and without a library director, students are not being well served and the integrity of the University is
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Concern: CAQC Program Requirements and Cyclical Review Recommendations Are Not Being Met [posted 23-04-13]
Impact on students, faculty, ASOs, & CUE as a whole: integrity of programs compromised | students are not being well served and the integrity of the University is undermined
At least 4 programs are so short staffed they are not meeting the basic threshold for CAQC accreditation (3 faculty for a 4-yr Bachelor; 2 faculty for a 3-yr Bachelor; 6 for PsyD). These programs include:
- Biology [there are hires promised]
- Environmental Sciences
- Political Economy [posting was cancelled in February]
At least 5 other programs, although not in contravention of CAQC standards, recently completed cyclical reviews in which external reviewers made clear that additional faculty were needed for the integrity of the programs to be safeguarded. As of today, there has been no indication that any of these hires will be made:
- Religious Studies
As with the layoffs noted in Concern Bulletin #1 above, the choice not to fill these positions is a disservice to fee-paying students and risks undermining the integrity of the university.
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Concern: Excessive and Inconsistent Use of Disciplinary Measures [posted 23-04-14]
Impact on students, faculty, ASOs, & CUE as a whole: no student, staff, or faculty member is safe | student-facing positions have suffered while private investigation and consultant staff have been hired | administration abdicating responsibilty | students are not being well served and the integrity of the University is undermined
While the previous bulletins have noted how the lack of support of programs resulting from financial issues, which may or may not be out of control of the university leadership, this bulletin addresses something that is a direct choice of the leadership: the excessive and inconsistent use of disciplinary measures by the senior administration against Concordia employees.
Point 1: Over the last 12 months (since the end of the January 2022 strike) the senior administration has pursued what could be described as excessive and inconsistent use of disciplinary measures against Concordia employees.
- Since the January 2022 strike there have been 7 new disciplinary cases (around 9% of our membership).
- Addendum - posted 24-04-19: There have now been 8 new disciplinary cases (around 10%) of our membership since the January 2022 strike.
- This is a rate of disciplinary action that is far outside the normal rate for Concordia and other Alberta universities.
- The average from other universities in the province is around 2%.
- For Concordia: there were 2 the previous year and 1 in the preceding 3 years.
- Faculty are not alone in feeling the effects of this zeal.
- At least one sessional instructor has been put through a full disciplinary process and will no longer be receiving contracts notwithstanding over 19 years of service to Concordia as a sessional. Instead of being offered a potential performance plan, as has been offered in other sessional cases, this was a full process with a private Investigator. This sessional has never even met the person (not a student) who filed a complaint against them, on hearsay. There is no standard policy for dealing with sessional complaints at Concordia, so the Deans and the VPA just make it up as they go.
- A student employed as a library staff has also faced what can only be described as excessive discipline for expressing his concerns that Concordia spends money on a mansion but not on the student experience.
- Much of this new regime of disciplinary zeal has been enabled by paying for a private investigator (a former police officer) to spend time on campus collecting evidence and interrogating faculty, sessionals and students.
- From what has been observed, this investigator is not neutral but rather working to appeal to the people that are paying him (the administration). Thus, he:
- Picks and chooses evidence for his report;
- Does not accept sworn statements as legal document;
- Ensures every single case has come down on the side of the Administration, who pays his bills;
- Does not allow FA consultation on who will run investigations.
Point 2: Oddly, this discipline has been inconsistently applied. Different types of investigations for different people - even with same/similar complaints against them:
- seemingly wanting to make “examples” of some troublesome members of the community while allowing others about whom there are concerns to continue teaching.
Point 3: Not surprisingly, the Faculty Association (as the only protected labour force on campus) has found grounds to file grievances against administration for almost all of the disciplinary cases against faculty members.
- To date the Administration has abdicated responsibility for dealing with these cases:
- The Administration has proven to be unwilling to work through grievance issues at the Informal Resolution level - meetings average around 5-10 minutes.
- President Loreman has chosen to delegate all responsibility to take on the Formal Grievance process or to meet with an FA representative to work through issues before they go external to University.
- The Faculty Association has offered potential resolutions after these internal processes have failed, to avoid having to take issues to arbitration.
Point 4: In the midst of this disciplinary action, administration has also abdicated responsibility to deal with labour relations more broadly:
- The Administration has now hired a full-time Labour Relations Consultant to run investigations.
- He now sits on the Joint Committee (the committee at which administration and FA negotiate shared concerns) and deals with Grievances. This means the VPA no longer has any in-person or personal dealings with the Faculty Association (as detailed in the Collective Agreement and precedent). Her only role is to make the final decisions along with President Loreman.
- This is akin to lighting a building on fire and then walking away.
Many of us - and the vast majority of students - enjoy CUE, and remain here, because of the strong sense of community in classrooms, at gatherings, and across the campus; indeed the marketing campaign of the university focuses on Concordia's sense of 'belonging'. With this excessive use of disciplinary proceedings, this sense of community is now at a breaking point. Despite the release of the "Reconnecting CUE" strategy in July 2022, Concordia is more disconnected than at any other time in our 102 year history.
In an April 13, 2023 television interview, President Loreman said that, "We need leaders showing empathy in how they think and demonstrating how we should treat one another in the world." We, as a Faculty Association, agree.
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Concern: Non-Collegial Governance [posted 23-04-18]
Impact on students, faculty, ASOs, & CUE as a whole: devolving into private corporation where administration managers shape outlook and operation of university and faculty | blocked or no flow of information between faculty/ASOs & the BOG | meaningful debate at GFC stifled | faculty expertise removed or ignored in academic programming and hiring | students are not being well served and the integrity of the University is undermined
Collegial Governance is a cornerstone of any university. It is a system of governance, common across academia, that depends upon the participation of faculty members in decision making in the academic system. We are considered a bi-cameral system, with both the General Faculties Council (GFC) and the Board of Governors making the decisions in the best interest of the University. Over the past number of years, we have seen collegial governance dismantled at Concordia, to the point that it is now a nearly dead letter on the campus.
Here is a list of evidence bearing this out:
Point 1: Communication with, and representation on, The Board of Governors (BoG)
- In a functional bi-cameral governance model there should be a transparent flow of most information between GFC and the Board. At Concordia, however, this is no longer the case.
- In Spring of 2022 two faculty board members resigned from the board after being disciplined by the board chair for raising substantive concerns about the status of faculty-administration relations at Concordia.
- Since that time, the board changed their bylaws last May to remove both the GFC and CUEFA representatives from the Board. These were members elected by the Faculty to the BoG to represent the views and concerns of the Faculty to the Board. While this change was framed as a way to be more inclusive, the results have been to silence the flow of information from faculty to the Board.
- According to these new bylaws Faculty members can now apply directly to be vetted by the Board.
- Moreover, it is made clear that these Faculty board members are not on the board to represent Faculty-wide issues or concerns (as per Board bylaws and Dr. Loreman). Instead, they are individuals who serve as Board Members who happen to be Faculty.
- This has led to a scenario in which there is no clear line of communication between the faculty and the Board.
- Faculty can only communicate with the Board through the intermediary of the University Secretary or the Board Chair.
- However, even this process is ineffective as we are unsure if any information we send is disseminated to the rest of the Board.
- For example, we do not know if the Board was apprised of the request for a meeting we sent in our letter of March 24, 2023. We would venture to guess not.
- Instead, the president is the only person reporting from GFC to the Board.
Point 2: Limits on debate at GFC.
- GFC is meant to be the highest governing body overlooking the academic affairs of the university. This should be a venue where open debate about programming and directions of the university are discussed. At Concordia, this is no longer the case.
- GFC agendas are too large, and GFC meets too irregularly to have any meaningful debate about issues.
- When debate is undertaken, Faculty members on the GFC are accused of collusion for discussing GFC issues before and during the meeting. If members show similar concerns for items up for discussion (such as Student Evaluations and their continued use and importance to the Administration), they are dismissed and conversation is quickly shut down.
Point 3: Patterns of overreach by deans and VPs into academic programing that should be dealt with through a process of collegial governance.
- Associate VP Research and the Research office has unilaterally reinterpreted aspects of policy.
- Insisting that all approved Course Releases for Faculty are subject to a successful external grant application - which is not true and was announced AFTER the process was underway.
- Only granting one-year course releases, not multi-year releases, even though the committee approved some multi-year.
- Some Faculty were told they could not apply for tri-council funding since there was no space for new equipment or research student office space. This contradicts the current Academic Plan and all other messages from our Administration regarding research at Concordia.
- Placing all lab technicians under the AVPR office instead of reporting to their respective Department Chairs as they have for decades. This erodes the working relationship between these important staff members and their Departments.
- The Office of Research Services (ORS) has misrepresented their role.
- The ORS's function at Concordia is to provide support for researchers, NOT to intrude into academic planning or deciding IF a Faculty member can even apply for a specific grant.
- ii. The ORS has also been denying that applications have been submitted.
- The VP Campus Life (formerly Student Life & Learning) has overreached the office by interfering with the functioning of an academic program on campus.
- There are serious issues with interference in the PsyD program.
- More will come on this later this week as we explicitly cover some of the core issues and overreach in this program.
Point 4: Hiring without faculty involvement.
- Hiring Committees for Administrative roles
- One of the major components of Collegial Governance is the ability of Faculty to have a say in the hiring of Administrators at a University.
- Faculty used to have a significant role in the hiring of Administration - for example, there were Faculty who had a say on the hiring committee of our previous VPA.
- As of December 2022 (or November in the surprise backdated Hiring Policy), Faculty may serve on a committee to hire a new Dean, but no longer has a say in the hiring of a new Academic Dean. The Deans must be able to work with the Faculty and without the trust that the person hired is the best for the job, as opposed to simply being favoured by the Administration, that integral relationship is not there.
Point 5: Some Faculty Councils are also dysfunctional sites of failed collegial governance.
- Some Faculty Council meetings are being canceled with the note that no agenda items exist when Faculty members themselves have sent agenda items to their Dean. Agenda items are rejected without reason by the Deans.
- Action Items and substantive items bypass some Faculty Council meetings: major academic decisions are still being made by the Deans, but with little or no input from the Faculty Councils. This is a distinct example of the failure of collegial governance.
- Some Faculty Councils rarely meet or do not have the full required complement (as per the terms of reference) of Faculty members sitting on them.
- Requests for information from some Deans are routinely ignored or deflected.
Why does Collegial Governance matter? Because without it the university is not a university in which discipline experts (faculty) shape the inner workings and content of the curriculum and operation of the university. Instead, the university devolves into a private corporation in which managers shape the outlook and operation of the university and the faculty - and their academic expertise - are ignored. While a university must operate In a fiscally responsible way that follows elements of modern corporate practices, its inner structure must be guided by the values and practices of truly collaborative collegial governance. Without this, the integrity of the university is undermined, and the degrees students attain are undervalued.
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Concern: Finances [posted 23-04-21]
Impact on students, faculty, ASOs, & CUE as a whole: financial health rapidly declining over past year-18 months | finances unclear with no transparency | property acquisitions and costs rising | failure to fundraise and build community/donor relations | students are not being well served and the integrity of the University is undermined
Point 1: CUE current finances are unclear; from what we do know, CUE’s financial health has declined rapidly over the last 12 to 18 months.
- As of 2021-22, CUE was in a healthy financial position:
- Enrollment was up over previous years.
- The university president publicly celebrated that the university had a surplus of $5.5M (11.5M in 2020-21, 7.78M in 2019-20 and 4.7M in 2018-19).
- Rising enrollments allowed CUE to bank approximately $40M - most of the cost of the new academic building.
- The University had also spent $1.8M on the purchase of the Magrath Mansion in the summer of 2021.
- As of the Spring of 2023, the situation had dramatically changed:
- The president announced the university has "budget shortfalls".
- The reasons for this have been variously linked to declining enrollment, to increased maintenance costs due to inflation, and to modest increases in faculty pay as a result of the new CA.
- Enrollment is down approx. 10% this year, next fall looks even higher. While first year usually lags until mid-summer, our retention rates have dropped significantly for next fall.
- Most of the surpluses from the last 3-4 years have been transferred to the capital fund for building and purchasing new property. This capital fund is not counted as a part of the "operating funds" (although maintenance of those properties does).
Point 2: Without full transparency about finances, we can only speculate where spending has gone (and where the surplus went).
- Because CUE is not a public institution, CUEFA cannot file a "Freedom of Information" request with the Government of Alberta - regardless of the taxpayer money that is invested by the government each year.
- CUEFA has requested financial clarity from the Administration regarding current budgetary concerns and the state of the university.
- Our requests have been refused.
- Even the Board likely doesn’t know the full details of the financial picture.
- Other than general numbers, only the Financial committee sees the financial information for the university.
- Thus, we only receive basic information each fall during the "State of the University" address and the amalgamated information in the financial statements in the Annual Report. Donations are not a stand-alone source of revenue, they are pooled with designated fees and non-governmental grants.
Point 3: Spending and financial information that is accessible reveals a pattern of spending choices that are not supporting the core operations of the university.
- Legal, investigative and consultant fees remain unknown. However, the number of grievances and the use of investigators for the discipline cases suggests costs are significant.
- Costs of the new academic building are likely beyond what was budgeted, given that:
- Construction is way behind schedule;
- Building costs have ballooned over the last few years, both materials and labour.
- The university has been spending money on buying new land near the university for as yet unclear purposes.
- 6th house on the corner.
- CUE has been slowly acquiring the 6 houses on the corners of 112 Avenue and 111 Avenue, bordering 73 Street for a new student residence. CUE owns at least 5 of the 6 lots and has offered well over market price to acquire the final house.
- Costs to maintain the mansion continue to grow while the mansion fails to generate any substantial revenue and remains peripheral to the university's core programs.
- Costs to maintain the mansion are various:
- Property taxes at residential rate--between $45-$50K a year;
- General maintenance and security (which would be especially expensive given the special needs of the building);
- There is little indicate on how this property will ever generate revenue.
- The community is fighting rezoning of mansion from "Residential" to "Institutional Use". Without this rezoning, the hopes of using this property for revenue generation (renting out for weddings for example) is unlikely.
- Property CUE thought it might acquire for free, will cost at least $1.8M. it remains unclear if this amount was budgeted for, or what costs have already been spent in relation to this particular piece of property.
Point 4: These financial pressures have been acutely affected by decline in enrollment because the current leadership has not succeeded at fundraising.
- One of the main roles of a university president is to build relations with alumni and community partners to raise money for the university. According to the President’s job description, the president is directed to "build strong ties with all levels of government and other potential funding sources, and develop sound strategies to enhance income that will enable the University to realize its vision and potential".
- Fundraising initiatives by the current leadership have not been successful. Financials are not good in terms of fundraising.
- Over the past 5 years, CUE has raised just $1.8M from donors and non-governmental grants.
- Failure to raise funds is perhaps most evident in the fact that even though the University just celebrated its 100-year history, it raised less than $200,000 in cash donations in 2021-22. (Part of the cost of the mansion was donated to the University. $1.425M was a donation; this is the equivalent of around $673,229 in donated land value as noted in the Annual Report.)
- There was a failure to get a corporate donor attached to the Allan Wachowich Building. This represents a failure to build relations with donors outside the university. There is every indication that the new Academic building is likewise supported through revenue generated from tuition and substantial bank loan, and not through donations to a capital fund.
- Alumni should provide the university with its most reliable source of donations. Yet, there are nearly no alumni relations initiatives, and a nearly non-existent alumni association, indicating that the university has failed to build relations with alumni.
- Finally, that the university continues to have fractious relations with the local neighbourhood underlines that the univesity is not building relations, and thus possible donor pools, locally
Financial choices and lack of transparency regarding finances are a disservice to fee-paying students and Alberta taxpayers. This undermines the integrity of the university, as does the failure to build broad community relations.
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