WTF? Ryerson not on top of province-wide campaign for university funding


University workers from across Ontario are demanding an answer to the following question: WTF? — Where’s the funding? (CUPE)

University workers from across Ontario are demanding an answer to the following question: WTF — where’s the funding?

But that is except for at Ryerson, where the a large union’s local chapter is struggling to get on board.

This province-wide campaign hopes to address the lack of financial transparency within post-secondary institutions, and raise awareness of facility underfunding. It was launched by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) last Tuesday, but Ryerson workers won’t be participating right away.

Joseph Zboralski, president of CUPE 3904, which encompasses Ryerson, said the chapter has been busy with elections and a bargain agreement for seasonal employees.

The executive elections for CUPE 3904 took place at the annual general meeting on May 5.

“To be perfectly honest, I haven’t heard any details on that yet,” he said. “I know it was launched, but the problem for us here is that first of all, there is a brand new executive. I don’t think we had a representative at the meeting.”

According to Janice Folk-Dawson, chair of CUPE Ontario’s University Workers Co-ordinating Committee, every Ontario university had a representative present during the spring conference, which is where the campaign was developed.

And yet, a number of local CUPE chapters are not ready to mobilize.

CUPE 3902, one of the chapters encompassing the University of Toronto, has also said it’s working on bargaining contracts, and haven’t had a chance to communicate with other regional chapters to co-ordinate the WTF campaign.

“The Executive Committee hasn’t had a chance to discuss yet what our participation in the WTF campaign will entail, but we do believe there’s insufficient funding for the education workers we represent,” Erin Black, vice-chair of units three and four of CUPE 3902, said in an email.

The campaign centres on WTF branded adhesive notes, which most most campuses should have access to, Folk-Dawson said.

The notes will have the WTF logo, and space for people to write personalized messages about the state of campus facilities.

CUPE members are encouraged to place these notes around campus and take photographs of them in overcrowded classrooms and on poorly maintained equipment.

The idea is to use social media to spread images showing the deterioration of post-secondary institutions. Folk-Dawson expects to see a numerous images of water-stained ceilings, mould and other signs of disrepair.

In addition to the notes, the WTF campaign has appropriated the red square — an icon used during the 2012 Quebec student protests to lower tuition fees.

Folk-Dawson isn’t concerned about the association. She said the symbol is not only a sign of solidarity for the tuition movement, but also “acts as a conversation opener.”

WTF’s webpage has information about university administrations and tips on how to read and understand a budget. The second goal of the campaign is to combat a lack of transparency within post-secondary institutions, which aren’t required to make their audits available for review.

“The majority of workers and students on university campuses in Ontario don’t have an understanding of how the board of governors works, how the funding works,” Folk-Dawson said. “Everything is very intertwined.”

The ultimate goal is to enhance conversation about university accountability and transparency.

CUPE’s “Where’s the Funding” webpage includes documents that outline the different levels of government within university administrations. It also has information about how to file freedom of information requests.

By making these documents available through the WTF campaign, CUPE hopes to inform students and encourage political participation.

“We want to create that dialogue where we put in place systems where there is accountability and transparency, so that people understand what’s actually happening on the campuses,” Folk-Dawson said.

WTF will be visiting different universities throughout November and working with student unions to put a strategy in place to increase funding and end the privatization of post-secondary education.

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