Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gendered salary inequities

Note: This blog represents my personal views. As I've said before, I'm not writing on behalf of the Faculty Association in this or any other post. I sit on their executive, but the FA has a formal communications process (in which I participate), and the FA's page is where you should go for the FA's view on any particular issue.
One might think that universities would be places where merit and potential are judged blindly: where men and women start with similar salaries, get promoted at the same rate, and see comparable salary changes over time. It's meant to be an evidence-based environment, but the studies keep showing otherwise. Gender inequity occurs lots of areas, and it turns out that universities, indisputably, are no different.

Every university is different, so every one of them needs to look closely at the differentials in salary, promotion, status, and so on. Here in Canada recently, it was very big news among postsecondary institutions when UBC announced they'd be implementing a 2% pay increase for all female tenure-stream faculty, retroactive to July 1, 2010. The university's Equity Office looked closely at the numbers, and then the university negotiated with its Faculty Association to come up with an agreement to redress the average of $3,000 per female faculty member that couldn't be otherwise accounted for.

Here at UVic, as you might expect, the response to the UBC announcement has been a bit complicated.  We're all very pleased for UBC's female faculty, but "Why not us?" has been a common refrain. The Academic Women's Caucus has been watching over and talking about a gendered salary gap around here for a long time, and let's just say that UBC's move didn't relax anyone at UVic with gender climate concerns, especially if those concerns had to do with salary.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


A short post today: now that this blog is getting a heavier readership, and now that some posts are getting some traction, I'm hearing that some readers are a little worried about me.

Boiled down, the worries come down to, "Aren't you worried about what your school's executive* will do to you for blogging about your school's administrative issues?"

In brief, no.

But before this statement gets interpreted as willing martyrdom or something ("I'm my own hero!"), you need to understand this blog's current mission. All I'm doing at this point is asking for transparency. I want my university's executive to renew its commitment to the principles of collegial governance trumpeted in its strategic plan. This principle has been part of UVic's fabric since the 1970s, and since it was part of the consultant's brief for hiring a new president to start in 2013. That's hardly revolutionary.

Sure, I disagree with some of the executive's apparent goals and methods, and I'm blogging about those here as well, but that's a separate issue. Right now, I'm most upset simply that they won't talk to the university community. Interspersed with this core principle are assorted other disagreements, but that's not an issue. What community doesn't have its dissenters, and what university can't accept polite, reasoned dissent?

People seem especially anxious about my posts about the definition of "administration," about smart growth, and on the question of faculty representation, so let's take as a representative example my post on UVic's smart growth initiative.

The executive hired a consultant on smart growth, David Attis from EAB, who told them many things after (and presumably before!) he spoke with about a hundred different people across campus. One of his key comments was that faculty members needed to be engaged with, or they'd be likely to resist change; this risk has been identified in every change initiative ever undertaken at any university anywhere ever. Somehow, faculty members across campus remained unaware of the very existence of this restructuring process, and indeed the larger university community remains under-informed about, maybe even unaware of, UVic's investment in Smart Growth.

My reaction to the executive's apparent program of change is largely irrelevant to the objections I've made in this area. At bottom, I just want the executive to talk openly about its restructuring process. If they gave us some detailed numbers, explained their vision, and showed a willingness to talk, then we'd be talking about actual issues. They haven't, so we're not.

So, no. I'm not worried about blowback from my executive. I'm affirming here my commitment to a principle of collegial governance that the university's strategic plan describes as integral to the school's future. I'm sure they'd rather all of these kinds of conversations happened inside the walls, so to speak, rather than visibly, but genuine collegiality can't draw those kinds of lines.

I'm going to keep talking, because it's time for a conversation. Join me, won't you?

* And yes, I'm trying to use the term "executive" where we'd be more likely to use or hear the term "administration." A commenter helpfully pointed out that if I'm at pains to distinguish between "the administration" and "administrative tasks," maybe I need to identify more clearly when I'm talking about the executive specifically.

Monday, February 4, 2013

100,000 reasons to smile

Dear UVic executive,

I see that the lead story today on the UVic News page is "Alumni Week: 100,000 Reasons to Smile," and frankly this has broken me. We've all recognized for some time that you seem to be misunderstanding some fundamental things about the mood of your university community, and as of today, I've had enough.

We're living through constant fear of budget cuts. Staff are being laid off (in CUPE and in PEA, which has just had its second round but seems not to deserve a press release or official statement). We're seeing job non-offers to theoretically non-continuing faculty and staff with several years of service.

And you have the gall to lead your News page with "100,000 Reasons to Smile"? A phrase, mind you, that DOESN'T APPEAR IN THE RELEASE ITSELF.

As you may know, I've blogged obliquely, more than once, about your failure to explain credibly how the province's 1.5% transfer cut (to the 60% of our budget they provide) justifies a 4% cut for each and every unit across campus: see the fourth paragraph here, for example. We're all still waiting to hear how the math works in the Administrative Services Building, to translate a 1% government cut to a 4% university cut. That's not my point today, but feel free to provide a detailed, evidence-heavy explanation. Take your time.

I'm also not talking about CARSA, the parkade and athletics facility whose cost continues to rise before constructions gets started, though I've got some opinions about that, too.

No, my point today is that clearly, you just don't understand what we mean when we say "administration."