Taking a look at the numbers

Taking a look at the numbers and what they tell us about the state of College education.

The following article was crafted by Sheridan Faculty, Sean Saunders.

You know, I'm a numbers guy. Yes, I'm a math guy, but no, that doesn't automatically make me a numbers guy. In fact, being a pure mathematician at UW, the running joke was none of us could do mental math because we hadn't seen numbers since high school.
But that never really applied to me, because I also love numbers. The Pythagoreans said that "all is number"; Plato believed that numbers were the "gateway to the divine"; Erdos and Ramanujan found "extraordinary beauty" in numbers; and a colleague recently said in a talk that "numbers transcend us, yet bind us together." I've always found that numbers told stories.
How sad for me, then, to see the stories the numbers are telling in this labour dispute. Let's start off with a few about the College system itself (from the 2017 Colleges Ontario environmental scan - http://www.collegesontario.org/…/CO_EnvScan_2017_RESOURCES_…):
  • # of Full-time Faculty in 2015/16: 7667
  • # of Part-time Faculty in 2015/16: 15423
  • --> %FT to %PT Ratio = 33% : 67%
(Not entirely clear which "part-timers" are included here, but this would be the best-case ratio - if CE part-timers aren't included, this ratio goes down even further)
  • # of Full-time Administrators in 2015/16: 2915   (Note: there are no PT admin roles at all)
  • --> FT Faculty to FT Admin ratios = 2.63 : 1    (yes, that's less than 3 f-t faculty members per administrator)

And for reference, from the 2005 Colleges Ontario environmental scan (http://www.collegesontario.org/…/200…/CO_2005_SCAN_CHAP4.pdf):
  • # of FT Faculty in 2004/05: 6576
  • # of PT Faculty in 2004/05: 10774
  • # of FT Admin is 2004/05: 1705

So that gives us the following numbers:
  • Increase in FT Faculty over past 11 years: 1091 or ~16.59%
  • Increase in PT Faculty over past 11 years: 4649 or ~43.15%
  • Increase in FT Admin over past 11 years: 1210 or ~70.97%

Yes, you're reading that correctly - there have been more full-time administrative jobs created in the past 11 years than full-time faculty... which is more than a four-fold increase by percentage. In that same time, 
  • F-T student enrollment has increased roughly 30-35% (harder to get exact numbers for this, but most sources tend to be in/near this range).
So that tells us in the past 11 years, F-T faculty have been growing at half the speed as F-T students, and F-T administrators have been growing at over double the speed of F-T students.

Now for some budget numbers:
  • 2015/16 College Revenue: $4.11 billion
  • 2015/16 College Expenses: $3.97 billion
  • --> 2015/16 College Surplus: ~$140 million

This, despite being told there was "no money in the budget to implement higher F-T staffing ratios". The 50%-50% proposal put forward by OPSEU was costed, by the CEC, at $250 million. Now, I don't trust their costing for a moment, but it does provide an upper bound. Compare that to the $140 million surplus last year, and we're able to make some progress and still maintain a balanced budget. But the CEC shut down any talks on F-T ratios.
Are you starting to get a picture of the priorities of the Colleges? More administrators hired than F-T faculty (both as a percentage and as a hard number); 8-figure surplus not enough to warrant an increased full-time faculty complement?

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Much. Worse.
The colleges kept reiterating that they were offering 7.75% over 4 years, for a top FT salary of $115,000 and a top PL (partial-load) wage of $154 per hour. Sounds great, doesn't it?
The problem is, it takes 17 years on the grid to get to $115,000, and with the recent boom of retirees, most current F-T faculty are on the bottom half of the grid, making under $90,000. I'm in year 7 of full-time service and haven't even cracked $80,000.
It gets worse for partial load faculty (those who teach 7-12 hours per week). Since you only get 50% credit for service on the grid, it takes 34 FULL YEARS OF PARTIAL-LOAD SERVICE to get to $154 as a part-timer. And a year is defined as 10 months, so if you only teach Sep-Apr, you don't have enough service to count. And Sep, Dec, Jan, and Apr won't count anyways, because they aren't full months. So each year you could expect to get MAX 4-6 months credit towards your 34 year journey to the top of the grid, making it more likely a 65+ year journey to the top. So... yeah... the grid may exist that high, but no one is earning it.
For P-L faculty, most are earning the very bottom step of $83.79 per hour. But that still sounds great, right? I mean, who is getting paid $83 per hour? Well, consider that for every hour in class, there is typically 2.17 hours attributed to out-of-class work (the magic number given by the colleges - it's probably more than this, but let's roll with it for now). That means we should actually divide the wage by 3.17 (the hour in class, plus the 2.17 hours outside of class): $26.43/hour. It's not a terrible wage, but given that you may only get 7-12 hours per week, and maybe only for 4 months of the year, it doesn't look so nice anymore. And if you get less than 7 teaching contact hours per week, well, you're out of the union now and the hourly teaching wage drops down to around $40-50 per hour, which when we divide by 3.17 is not much more than minimum wage (possibly less when the new $15 wage comes into effect in Jan!)
On the flip side, most administrators make well over $100,000. As a matter of fact, I looked up every single administrator I knew - a list of about 30-35 names - on the sunshine list, and EVERY SINGLE ONE came up on the list, ranging from $116,000 to $495,000 per year, with most hovering in the $120K to $200K per year range. Not bad! But with the number of F-T administrators having increased by 70% over the past 11 years, and the number of new administrators outnumbering the new FT faculty, with salaries that are 2-3 times as much as new faculty salaries, it's no wonder why the colleges are only scraping by with surpluses of $140 million per year!
Here's a more pressing question for me: why did the colleges continue to bring up our top salaries when we had so long ago agreed to their monetary proposals and wanted to discuss items like academic freedom, staffing ratios, and precarious work? Well, remember how I talked about narratives yesterday? Here's a possible CEC narrative for you that might explain why they keep bringing it up (NOTE - this is pure speculation on my part):
"Let's get everyone who is scraping by trying to send their kid to college right now to compare their salaries to the top of the professor grid. Given that the median income in Canada right now is under $50K, it's reasonable to assume that most parents of college students will be making much less than $115K and will have no sympathy for the college profs. As a matter of fact, we can probably pull a slight of hand and get them to think that it's because of greedy professors that the strike is happening if we keep talking about their top salary long enough, and that will get the public on our side, without knowing what the real issues are, or where our money is actually going."

I'll leave you with a few more numbers from this round of collective bargaining, including those in their current offer which faculty will start voting on in a matter of hours:
  • 5 - the number of weeks we have been on strike (the longest college strike in Ontario history)
  • $8,000 - the average salary lost so far
  • $100,000,000 - the approximate amount of money saved by the colleges so far
  • $0 - the amount of money the colleges are offering in tuition refunds to students who have paid for instruction they haven't received (not including what they may be forced to pay by the gov't into the student hardship fund)... and here's why they don't feel the need to issue any refunds:
  • 3 - the number of extra weeks professors are expected to make up when we get back to work
  • 0 - the number of weeks of lost salary we will be compensated to make up those lost weeks
  • 0 - the limit on the number of hours of overtime we can be coerced to work to make up the time lost

Oh, and just to add insult to injury...
$1500 - the average amount of ADDITIONAL salary that will be withheld from our paycheque when we return to work, to accommodate for the fact that we have only missed working days and not vacation days.

And with respect to the real issues that we were bargaining over?

  • 0 - the number of real improvements to academic freedom or any of the other issues we were fighting for (except staffing ratios, which we have gotten agreement with the colleges to have a gov't task-force struck to establish proper ratios - though I'm not convinced this will do anything, at least it's a step).
  • >10 - the number of new concessions in their offer that weren't in our previous collective agreement, that will make working conditions worse for faculty and learning conditions worse for students
  • And 1 more number for you:
  • >8 - the number of days of classes that have been lost because the Colleges abruptly decided on Monday morning last week that instead of returning to the table to finish up the negotiation and get a deal that day and get students back in class by the middle of the week last week, they were going to force an offer vote that would delay classes starting for at least another 2 weeks.

So guess what this all adds up to for me?
A NO vote on their offer.
But then again, I'm a pure math guy so maybe you shouldn't trust my numbers...

Sean Saunders