Profs overworked and underpaid

By Mary Chan

It was nine pages long and had one message: faculties and departments are still feeling the adverse effects of budget cuts made six years ago.

According to a survey conducted by The University of Calgary Faculty Association, department heads and deans said they have reached the limit in terms of class sizes, administrative workload and faculty departures.

"The results of this survey are incredibly important as we now have concrete examples and ├×gures demonstrating the experiences in academic units," said tucfa President Dr. Anne Stalker.

Twenty-nine of 59 academic administrators responded to the survey, which examined the effects of budget cuts on the quality of teaching and learning; research; faculty and staff; and departments and the university as a whole.

In the area of teaching, respondents expressed several concerns, including increased undergraduate class sizes.

U of C Associate Vice-president Academic Jim Frideres said provincial funding increases have not kept pace with increased in enrolment.

"Since 1980 our full-time equivalent enrolment at the U of C has increased by 85 per cent, but provincial operating grants have increased by 15 per cent," he said.

Respondents were also concerned with student inability to complete assignments due to library cut-backs, and reduced opportunities
for active learning through research and laboratory work.

"I think we’ve known [about these concerns] as students for a number of years," said Students’ Union President Rob South. "It’s not hard to see large class sizes. It’s not hard to see the overworked look in professors’ eyes. It’s not hard to see the lack of available resources to do quality research at an undergraduate level. It’s not hard to see empty shelves at the library."

Stalker added that research has also suffered due to budget cuts.

"Despite the provincial government’s emphasis on research and technology, the survey shows many university departments have a difficult time maintaining world-class levels of research due to lack of funding," said Stalker, adding the problem is compounded by decaying infrastructure and the low purchasing power of the Canadian dollar.

The report also found that faculty were overwhelmed with non-academic administrative work and increased teaching loads. Some members also expressed dissatisfaction with the U of C Strategic Transformation process, saying the increased paperwork interfered with research and instruction.

Frideres acknowledged the increased pressure on faculty.

"We’re quite aware they’ve been asked to do more with less, but there’s a point in time when we’ve exhausted all that we can do," he said. "Now, to start doing more with less is simply not possible under these constraints."

Stalker added that student expectations and concerns were also
important to TUCFA.

"[Students] need to be able to prepare, to engage in the discussion, and to be involved in their own education," she said, adding students’ time is occupied with part-time jobs they get to pay tuition.

The survey results are not a surprise to U of C administration.

"The administration is quite aware of the situation," Frideres said.
"This was an empirical confirmation. This has not gone unnoticed or unaddressed by administration. We’ve been trying to deal with it."

Frideres added senior administration has met with government officials and mla’s, presenting a consistent message regarding the state of affairs at the U of C.

"We’ve given them a vision of where we want to be in the next five years," he said. "We think they’re listening and now the question is whether or not they’ll translate that listening into funding."

A copy of the survey can be obtained from TUCFA by calling 220-5722 or by e-mailing tucfa@ucalgary.ca.

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