Before we dive into our analysis of the challenges relating to mental health at the University of Ottawa, the APUO wishes to extend its deepest condolences to those who knew one of the five students lost in the last months. We encourage members seeking support in this difficult time to connect with the available resources, including the Employee and Family Assistance Program.
We also call on members to share any information they may have on the whereabouts of a student, Jonathan Blanchette, who has been missing since Thursday, with the Gatineau Police Service by calling (819) 246-0222.
In the last months, the University of Ottawa has lost five students by suicide, shedding light on a major problem on our campus and more broadly in our society. In response to media requests, the Central Administration claimed that it is doing “a lot” to ensure that adequate services are in place to respond to the needs of students in distress. A $91.8 million surplus, a shortage of campus mental health resources, and a distressed student kicked out of residence tell a different story. Students and University personnel testimonies also paint a different picture of the reality on campus.
This January marked the 7th edition of the University of Ottawa Wellness Week. Held from January 20 to 24, the Wellness Week offered zootherapy, yoga and meditation classes, and promoted its financial aid program and the Student Academic Success Service (SASS), among other events. While useful, these resources tend to address mental health issues on campus as purely individual issues and to neglect their structural and systemic components, whether it is the pressure associated with the rising cost of tuition fees, the fact that SASS is operating beyond its capacity, poor students-professor and students-librarian ratios, or the increasing workload of professors, librarians, and support staff. Mental health can’t be isolated from its context. In light of the cumulative financial surplus over the last decade, it is clear for the APUO that the Central Administration can and should reconsider its approach to mental health.
During last year’s APUO Listening Tour, members across all faculties have shared that their growing workload has had a negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. Along with the challenges associated with a growing workload, members have expressed grave concerns for the welfare of their students, noting a spike in academic accommodation requests, and in the number of students who appear distressed in their (increasingly large) classes. The shortage of on-campus resources and the long waits to see mental health professionals are only aggravated by limited coverage for mental health services in both the student health plan and in the employee benefits package.
For several years, students and APUO members have been demanding more resources to meet the mental health needs of our community. Last fall, the APUO reached out to the organisers of the Wellness Week and offered to deliver a series of “Know Your Rights” workshops for members who may need workplace accommodations. Our offer was rejected because “it did not fall under one of the seven Wellness Week pillars,” revealing our institution’s narrow perspective when it comes to dealing with the challenges stemming from Mental Health on campus.
We must also express our concern with the fact that the campus Wellness Week was followed up by a strange week-long Scientology exhibition titled “Psychiatry: an industry of death.” The controversial exhibition caused student outrage and protests. Indeed, students expressed concerns about the pseudo-scientific character of the exhibition, which reinforced stigma towards those diagnosed with particular mental health disorders and requiring therapy or prescription medication. The APUO is concerned that the Central Administration allowed the exhibition to take place – especially in the current context – and urges it to carefully consider the consequences associated with welcoming such exhibition on a university campus.
The uOttawa Gazette of January 28 stated that “President Frémont has asked Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs Jill Scott to […] lead a newly created Advisory Committee on Mental Health. The Provost will also undertake a listening tour of the campus to hear from members of the uOttawa community.” We welcome this initiative and encourage the Provost to take all the time needed for such an important exercise. The APUO Listening Tour organized about thirty meetings in academic units and took almost a year. It is difficult to imagine that a listening tour of all the stakeholders on campus could do less than that.
The APUO will be joining the students’ union and other labour unions in the coming weeks to develop a list of demands to be presented to the Central Administration, as well as to discuss our own initiatives about mental health on campus.
 The report of the Campus Action Group on Mental Health and Wellness released in January is also characterized by a narrow perspective that tends to neglect the structural and systemic components of mental health issues.
The APUO is proud to support the participation of its members at the CAUT Equity Conference that will take place on February 21 and 22, 2020 in Ottawa. The APUO will cover the expenses for registration for eight participants. The participants will be expected to participate in the conference in its entirety and to provide receipts for costs incurred.
By providing this funding, the APUO hopes to build the capacity of its members to promote equity in the academic community. The APUO will meet with participants after the conference to discuss ways to further build and advance our equity agenda, which aims to increase the representation of women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, visible minorities, and members of the LGBTQ2+ community at the University of Ottawa.
Please take a look at the CAUT conference webpage for more details. We invite you to express your interest in participating in the conference by sending a 150 to 200-word motivation to email@example.com no later than January 31, 2020.
On September 30, members received a communication from President Frémont announcing a $91.8 million surplus for 2018-2019. This excess in revenue over expenses is a new record for the University of Ottawa, besting the previous record of $69.8 million from 2017-2018 by $22 million – a 31 percent increase. As APUO members are confronted with a growing workload, and fewer resources to support the educational and research mandates of our institution due to the austerity measures of recent years, we are deeply troubled by this massive surplus.
The impact on our workload
In his communication about the University’s financial results, Jacques Frémont mentions “delays in hiring” as a contributing factor to this financial surplus. The APUO is baffled that the delay in hiring university personnel is spun as a positive factor contributing to this surplus. In our view, this tone-deaf statement by the Central Administration highlights the need for APUO members to continue to mobilize around the issue of workload. Despite raising the issue of our growing workload on numerous occasions through petitions, letters, and meetings, President Frémont’s message once again overlooks the necessity of adopting a new budgetary approach that could reverse the deterioration of our working conditions – which are largely our students’ learning conditions.
While an increase in the number of APUO minimum complement would certainly help to alleviate some of the workload pressures felt by our members, filling existing vacancies in APUO and support staff positions would go a long way in improving our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions. As mentioned in a September bargaining update bulletin by the Support Staff of the University of Ottawa (SSUO) “we are telling the University that the number of unfilled, abolished and contract positions has increased dramatically in the last 2 years and this undoubtedly adds to the stress of the current employees which negatively impacts the students experience.” Furthermore, during a Special Assembly on October 17, the SSUO highlighted that the University’s $91.8 million excess in revenue is equivalent to the total salary mass of SSUO members. Needless to say, the Central Administration could afford to fill existing vacancies, which it budgets for every year, and create new support staff and APUO positions to redress the concerns surrounding our growing workload and its consequences on the wellbeing and health of University personnel. Indeed, part of the $91.8 million in excess revenue over expenditure could have been spent to improve the students to professor and librarian ratios and to introduce additional support services for students.
The University budget: a problem of priorities
The Central Administration has a serious problem of priorities. While there are delays in the filling of vacant positions and a refusal to prioritise investments in additional APUO and SSUO positions, we can’t help but highlight a growing salary mass of senior and middle management positions. Between 2009 and 2016, the senior and middle management to students ratio has more than doubled from 9.8 per 10,000 students to 21.2 per 10,000 students. If the Central Administration can justify budgeting a growing salary mass of senior and middle management positions, it can afford to allocate greater resources to hire key players that directly enhance the student experience: professors, librarians, and support staff.
As is the case every year, the Central Administration ended its communication with a prelude to austerity by announcing that it was anticipating an operating fund deficit of $17.4 million. By adopting a budget on a modified cash basis as opposed to a standard accounting basis, the Central Administration is once again planning to withhold resources from faculties, the library, and student services. With more than half a billion dollars in cumulative surpluses since 2007 ($521.26 million precisely), the APUO is confident in the Central Administration’s ability to afford more tenure-track faculty, librarians, and support staff, a proposal widely supported by students and campus workers alike. However, our priorities are not reflected in the 2019-2020 University budget adopted by the Board of Governors, nor in the narrative promoted by the Central Administration.
University of Ottawa surpluses/deficits
Financial Statements (SAB)
Modified Cash Basis
Standard Accounting Basis (SAB)
2016-2017 financial year
$4.9M operating deficit
2017-2018 financial year
$4.6M operating deficit
2018-2019 financial year
2019-2020 financial year
$17.4M operating deficit
To Be Determined
These consecutive financial surpluses coupled with our increasingly challenging working conditions underscore the need for a more collegial governance model at our institution. It is our view that the Board of Governors, which is mostly made up of external appointees, is out of touch with the reality faced by students and campus-workers. Students, professors, librarians, and support staff have for years demanded greater resources with the aim of improving our educational and research outcomes, and to improve the overall student experience. However, through our current governance model, the priorities of key University stakeholders are overlooked.
For your information, here are a few references to past communications sent by the Central Administration announcing austerity measures:
In May 2015, the Central Administration “adopted a series of measures to reduce spending by $10.4 million, limit expenditure growth and a number of one-time cost reductions.”
In May 2016, the Central Administration implemented more structural and one-time cost-cutting measures which included “a permanent 2% decrease in the base budgets of faculties and services.” 
In October 2016, the Central Administration detailed some past measures that included the “suspension of renovation projects and contributions from faculties and services of 10% of their accumulated surplus.”
In December 2016, the Central Administration implemented new cost-cutting measures including “Construction and renovation projects are suspended, unless required by safety or legal obligations; All discretionary expenses, such as travel, will be restricted; A hiring freeze on all contract or honorarium-based administrative and support staff positions, except in rare cases when approved by the vice-president concerned. A freeze on external job postings and on external hiring to fill temporary or permanent administrative or support staff positions; No retroactive salary adjustments when positions are evaluated or reclassified; No position reclassifications until further notice, except for previously approved unit reorganizations.”
In May 2017, the Central Administration implemented new cost-cutting measures in order to reduce expenditures by a total of $22M.
In September 2019, the Central Administration stated that their surplus was in part attributable to “delays in hiring.”
On September 14, a black student and University employee was carded by a security guard while entering his campus residence. This is the second known carding incident to take place on campus in four months. We condemn in the strongest possible way the carding of Wiliston Mason, and we urge the Central Administration to put an end to this discriminatory practice. Furthermore, we call on the Central Administration to implement the demands outlined in the APUO BIPOC Caucus’ letter of June 16 and to make the agendas and minutes of the President’s Committee for a Discrimination-Free Campus public.
Following the carding incident that took place on June 11, the Central Administration commissioned an external investigation, which found that Jamal Koulmiye-Boyce had been carded as a result of racial profiling, and that protection services’ response was “neither proportional nor reasonable in the circumstance.” The report also underscores the need for Protection Service Officers to receive “nuanced and up-to-date training on issues pertaining to race, including racial discrimination.” We urge the Central Administration to provide the necessary resources to ensure such training is delivered to all officers providing security services on our campus.
Since the June 11 carding incident, Policy 33 – the policy that authorizes Protection Services Officers to request proof of identity from persons on campus – has been reviewed, and interim directives on its interpretation have been put in place. The interim directives allow for the continued practice of demanding identification from community members under specific circumstances. However, these are still at the discretion and interpretation of Protection Services Officers, and leave room for the practice of racial profiling to continue. The APUO is unsatisfied with the interim directives and urges the Central Administration to put an end to the practice of carding altogether.
Racial profiling, carding, and the harassment of black, Indigenous, and racialized students and community members is unacceptable and has no place at our institution. The Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Superior Court of Ontario have, through numerous rulings, labeled the practice of street carding as unlawful and unconstitutional. The APUO, therefore, fails to see why the practice continues to be permitted on campus.
Following the June 11 carding incident, the Office of the President has struck a Committee for a Discrimination-Free Campus. The APUO is concerned with the very opaque manner in which this Committee is conducting its affairs. This Committee, which lacks adequate stake-holder representation, does not hold public meetings or publish agendas and minutes. While this, unfortunately, does fall in line with the general lack of transparency we observe in our Central Administration’s decision-making processes, members of our community who experience racism have the most valuable insight to challenge systemic racism on campus. In fact, several BIPOC members of our community have already taken the time to reflect on racism at our institution and provided the Central Administration with demands that could foster a safer and more inclusive environment for BIPOC students and campus workers. Many of these demands were echoed by the University of Ottawa Student Union (UOSU), the Black Student Leaders Association (BSLA), and several other student groups, demonstrating a general agreement among our BIPOC community on steps that could be undertaken to address systemic racism at our institution. We urge the Central Administration to set up an inclusive and transparent consultation process and to listen to these voices.
In the spring, the APUO expressed concerns regarding an addendum to the Budget Bill that gives the Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities the power to interfere with collective agreements to impose regulations that would reduce, including to zero, the salaries of members who work while collecting their pension.
Since then, the government has launched a consultation and claims – falsely according to our analysis – that senior members working and collecting a pension are preventing faculty renewal. The policy proposals outlined in the government’s consultation document fail to consider the fact that professors and librarians often start their careers later than most other workers. Furthermore, this is clearly a case of age-based discrimination, with negative repercussions on gender equity as well.
The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association (OCUFA) and many other faculty associations across the province share our concerns with regards to the potential outcome of this consultation process. Please read the OCUFA’s submission and the APUO’s submission for this consultation.
The University of Ottawa ranked 13th among U15 universities in terms of diverse representation among Deans. Eighty percent (80%) of Deans at our institution are white male, while twenty percent (20%) are white women. Indeed, there is a complete absence of members of Indigenous Peoples and visible minorities among Deans. In our last round of collective bargaining, the APUO advocated for changes to the collective agreement that would allow us to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion among our membership. The lack of equitable and diverse representation within key leadership positions, such as Deans, presents a barrier to achieving this goal.
The University of Ottawa ranked 11th in terms of diverse representation among “Presidents’ leadership teams or cabinets.” Two thirds (66.7%) of our President’s leadership team is made up of white men, while one third (33.3%) are white women. Once again, the complete absence of members of Indigenous Peoples and visible minorities is striking.
The APUO must highlight the potential of introducing shared governance as an avenue to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion at the University of Ottawa. While APUO members supported a series of proposals to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion among professors and librarians in our latest round of collective bargaining, this progress is limited by the fact that these goals are not necessarily prioritised nor reflected in the make-up of key decision-makers at our institution. A shared governance model would allow APUO members to push our equity, diversity, and inclusion agenda beyond the bargaining table by having a greater influence in the appointment of our University’s leadership, more opportunities to raise equity, diversity, and inclusion issues, as well as a greater say in the decision-making processes affecting these issues.
The APUO reasserts its support for the seven recommendations presented in the 2018 Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (EDIC) report and is prepared to cooperate with the Central Administration on their implementation.
Collect data and report on progress annually.
Develop equity, diversity, and inclusion targets related to gender, race, disability, and indigeneity and make them public.
Provide bias reducing training to hiring committees.
Appoint trained APUO members to serve as Equity officers on all hiring committees.
Make funding available for professors to integrate equity content into course content.
Put the University of Ottawa forward as a pilot institution for the “Dimensions Program” formerly known as the “Made in Canada Athena SWAN” (Scientific Women’s Academic Network).
Incorporate the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, and consult with Indigenous communities for all diversity and equity initiatives at the University.
According to the report, Presidents’ leadership teams or cabinets “are constituted differently at various institutions but generally include all of the vice-presidents, principals, legal counsel, and the like.”
The APUO Executive Committee is deeply disturbed and outraged by the incident of racial profiling, carding, and harassment of a Black student and the involvement of Protection Services on campus last week. We condemn the actions of the Protections Services members who harassed and handcuffed Jamal Koulmiye-Boyce in the strongest possible terms.
Please find a letter written by the APUO Black, Indigenous and People of colour (BIPOC) caucus about the incident here. The APUO BIPOC caucus is a closed space intended for APUO members who identify as BIPOC to come together, socialize, and share their experiences. For more information, please contact the APUO at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of our campus community are currently invited to sign on to the following letter. You have until the end of the day on Tuesday, June 18 to sign onto the letter.
On June 5, the Ford government introduced Bill 124, a bill that imposes a one percent cap on public sector wage increases for three years. The following is a summary of its implications for the APUO and its members.
Salary, progress-through-the-ranks, and benefits
Bill 124 does not apply to collective agreements ratified before June 5, 2019. APUO members can expect the two percent wage increase negotiated and approved in our collective agreement last year.
Our collective agreement expires on April 30, 2021. From that date, if passed, Bill 124 will have an impact on APUO members. Based on our interpretation of the bill and the information available, the one percent salary cap will apply to nominal salary and benefits. In other words, in our next round of collective bargaining, all monetary proposals adopted cannot exceed a one percent increase.
We would like to point out that Bill 124 imposes a wage reduction on public sector workers. Indeed, a one percent increase is below the annual increases in the cost of living. The APUO finds it deplorable that the Ford government is attacking public service workers instead of delivering a solution to its revenue problem to balance the province’s finances.
Gender pay gap
During the last round of collective bargaining, the APUO signed a letter of understanding with the Central Administration to create a joint committee tasked with investigating gender wage gaps and proposing possible solutions to rectify this injustice. As per our interpretation, we do not expect Bill 124 to be a barrier to ensuring the committee can fulfill its mandate.
Although Bill 124 seems to have very few implications for APUO members in the short term, we will continue to monitor it closely. Bill 124 will not be adopted until the fall when the legislative session at Queen’s Park resumes. In the meantime, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and the APUO will fight Bill 124, and we encourage you to do the same as APUO members and as citizens
The government shared the following questions to frame the consultation:
Elements of collective agreements could help or hinder our overall ability to achieve sustainable levels of compensation growth; and collective agreement provisions that work well in one sector may have unintended consequences in another. Are there aspects of the collective agreement(s) in your organization(s) that affect the ability to manage overall compensation costs?
Potential opportunities to manage compensation growth could take different forms, for example, growth-sharing, as identified in the September 2018 line-by-line review of government spending. Are there any tools to manage compensation costs that you believe the government should consider?
While no decision have been made yet, the government is considering legislated caps on allowable compensation increases that can be negotiated in collective bargaining or imposed in binding arbitration. We wish to engage with you in good faith consultations on this option and invite your feedback. What are your thoughts on this approach?
Many different approaches to managing compensation growth and overseeing collective bargaining are in place in other jurisdictions, including other Canadian provinces. Are there any tools applied in other jurisdictions which you think would work in Ontario? If so, what is the proposal and how would it work? (Treasury Board Secretariat, April 4, 2019)
On April 15, the APUO held its Annual General Meeting and presented its 2018-2019 Annual Report. For those of you who were unable to join us, you can find the full report here.
OCUFA, along with other post-secondary education sector partners is hosting a Worldviews on Media and Higher Education 2019 Conference from June 12-14, 2019 at the University of Toronto. “The three-day conference will focus on democracy and the changing power relations of higher education and the media in the global north and south – specifically examining the concept of expertise in a “post-truth” world and the types of voices amplified by emerging technologies.” For more information please consult the following link.
Post-secondary education sector funding
On April 11, the Ford government tabled its first budget. The budget included several significant changes that will affect the post-secondary education sector as a whole, and bargaining units on campuses across the province.
The most drastic change is the move to tie 60 percent of institutional funding to ten still vaguely defined performance metrics by the year 2024-25. The change in funding allocation will roll out in 2020-21, tying 25 percent of overall funding to performance, increasing by 10 percent annually for the following three years, and then by 5 percent to reach the 60 percent target for the 2024-25 academic year.
While the specifics regarding the application of this new funding policy remain unknown, the government announced the following ten performance metrics:
Skills and competencies
One related to a particular institutional strength or focus
Funding from industry
Funding for research
Two institution-specific measures:
one for economic impact;
and another for community impact
Tying core funding to performance metrics overlooks the unique realities faced by each post-secondary institution in the province. In the case of the University of Ottawa, it does not consider the bilingual nature of our institution, its mandate to serve the Franco Ontarian community, or the fact that our French programs often compete with similar programs offered in Quebec for a third of the cost. Along with pitting colleges and universities against one another, the new funding formula could jeopardize the survival of specific programs, and favour certain disciplines and types of research over others.
While the government is framing performance funding as a “transparency and accountability measure” for the sector, the APUO is concerned that this new policy may become a pretext for future public funding clawbacks. Indeed, our funding is now tied to the political whims of the government of the day, and their own perspective on our University’s performance.
In light of this new and deeply concerning reality, we urge the Central Administration to use every tool at its disposal to avoid austerity budgets, should funding cuts arise in the coming years. One of these tools could be to tap into the $429,46 millions of cumulated surpluses over the last decade, or to adopt deficit budgets. Furthermore, we urge the Central Administration to engage in a meaningful consultation with campus labour and student unions about our members’ needs before renegotiating our funding agreement with the province next winter.
The APUO is very disappointed to note that the budget did not include a strategy for renewal, that is, a strategy to hire more full-time, tenure-stream professors and librarians. Rather than delivering a plan on renewal and tackling the rise of precarious labour on campuses across the province, the government has launched a distraction campaign targeting faculty, librarians and other college and university personnel over the age of 65.
The Ford government is making the claim that the higher average retirement age is holding back the hiring of junior faculty, librarians, and personnel. Its response is in Bill 100 (the Budget bill). Section 18 (1) of Schedule 39 gives the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities the power to “make regulations governing the reduction, limitation and alteration of compensation due to an individual” who “has started to receive a pension under a pension plan” while being “employed or otherwise engaged by a post-secondary institution.” Moreover, Section 18 (2) states that a regulation may “(a) establish and govern procedures, rules and methods that a post-secondary institution shall use to reduce, including reducing to zero, limit or alter the amount, form or timing of compensation due to an individual referred to in subsection (1).”
The APUO views these measures as rooted in age-based discrimination and as an attack on gains made through collective bargaining. Persons over the age of 65 are valuable members of our academic community and deserve to be compensated for their work and service to the University community, even if they are collecting the pension for which they have invested a portion of their salary for the duration of their career. The APUO is working closely with the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) on this issue and will keep you informed.
Right to collective bargaining and public sector compensation
The Treasury Board is currently engaging in a consultation with public sector employers and bargaining agents about achieving “reasonable public sector compensation growth.” This consultation is raising red flags for the APUO and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). We fear that the government may attempt to introduce centrally mandated bargaining for the public sector, including colleges and universities. This could imply that moving forward, collective agreements could only be negotiated within a framework established by the provincial government. As OCUFA notes in its budget analysis, “any attempt by the Ford government to interfere in university collective agreements and bargaining practices would violate university autonomy and the constitutionally protected rights of faculty and staff.”
The budget also included the creation of an “expert panel,” which could be comprised of representatives from the “post-secondary, industry, innovation, venture capital and investment, banking and finance sectors, as well as from medical research and intellectual property legal expertise” to maximize “commercialization opportunities specifically in the post-secondary education sector.” This is a direct step towards the further privatization of academic research and it could have severe impacts on “less lucrative” but nonetheless invaluable research.
In conclusion, the Ford government’s first budget, coupled with the government’s announcement in January, can only exacerbate the pressures felt by a sector that has been chronically under resourced for the last two decades. Political mobilization is essential to resist such pressures. The APUO and its partners are evaluating their options.