Constance Adamson, President of OCUFA and Academic Librarian, sent a letter to Chantal Beauvais, Rector, St. Paul University, on behalf of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.
The letter goes further than just the termination of the librarian however and mentions three further firings of staff members and the threat of professor terminations.
Dear Rector Beauvais,
I am shocked and disappointed by your administration’s decision to terminate Alice Constantinou. As you know, the St. Paul University library has a world reputation for its collections. There are professors and scholars who visit or choose to live in Ottawa because of access to the St. Paul library – specialists in patristics, classics and late antiquity for example. Without librarians, scholarly access to the collection will be diminished, as will the collection itself.
Five years ago, St. Paul hosted the American TheologicalLibraries Association (ATLA) conference here in Ottawa. It was only the fourth Canadian institution to do so – by this measure, St. Paul ranked in the company of Trinity College and the Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto. This is quite stunning for a university the size of St. Paul. This coming June, I will be attending the ATLA conference in Charlotte, N.C. where I will deliver a paper detailing how both St. Paul and University of Ottawa faculty and students collaborated in building a demand-driven collection of e-books in religious studies and theology. I will also be making a public announcement to your peer institutions and the representatives of international theological libraries that St. Paul University has terminated one of the last two librarians on the payroll although technically the other librarian is no longer on the payroll either right now as she is on parental leave. I’m fairly certain that this will make you unique among your peers.
As librarian for Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, I have worked very closely with the staff of your library to develop services and collections that support professors and programs because St. Paul’s budget had been declining and staffing had been an issue. As an example, I have, in every year since 2006, offered Masters and PhD students in the Faculty of Theology library research courses. I had also more recently extended collection development to areas that were exclusively the domain of St. Paul University such as pastoral studies, theology, religious counselling, ecumenism and so on.
In light of your decision to terminate Alice, I am putting a full stop on all support to your institution, including its professors and students, effective immediately. Should members of St. Paul contact me, I will be obligated to inform them that I will not be functioning in a way that enables you to cut your librarian staff and create a reliance on the University of Ottawa that is detrimental to the community and library at St. Paul University.
It is unfortunate that I have to withdraw my support for your community. I have received scores of thanks over the years – far more than I would have ever expected or imagined – indicating that your professors and students value my role. Each time I refuse to assist someone from St. Paul, rest assured that you will be notified and requested to reinstate Alice Constantinou.
Jennifer Dekker, Librarian
L’Association des professeures et professeurs de l’Université Saint-Paul
The Professors Association of Saint Paul University
FACT SHEET as of May 23, 2013
On Tuesday March 26, 2013, the Saint Paul University Director of Human Resources, André Lacaille, orally informed the President of the Professors Association that the University needs to reduce its operating budget deficit by between $750,000 and one million dollars. The way that this budget deficit would be filled would be to reduce the number of professors in Theology by as much as half, or ten professors, out of a total University corps of 60 professors. Theology has a lower professor-to-student ratio than the other faculties, although the ratio in other faculties at Saint Paul is no higher than 1 to 11, while the provincial norm is 1 to 20. Lacaille said that if not enough Theology professors could be found to retire early, leave voluntarily, transfer to administrative posts or lose their limited-term contracts, that the University would begin to fire tenured professors in Theology until it reached its goal of saving one million dollars.
On March 28 the President informed Lacaille that the union would defend its members.
On Wednesday April 10 the Profs Association President announced this to the members at the annual general assembly. At that point two fulltime contract professors in faculties other than Theology had had their contracts terminated, and another prof had moved into administration.
On Wednesday May 15 Alice Constantinou, a professional librarian with a permanent appointment, and also a member of the Executive of the Profs Association, was terminated. The stated reasons included the University’s budget deficit and the operating costs of the Library. She was allowed to return to her office briefly to retrieve some belongings, then her key was taken from her.
At present there are no professional librarians working in the Saint Paul University Library. There is no Chief Librarian. The last librarian is slated to return from maternity leave in late June.
The following day, May 16, a letter from Hélène Carriere, Vice-Rector of Administration, to the University community, announced the approval by the Administrative Council of a balanced budget for which a reduction in expenses of two million dollars, not one million, was necessary.
As of May 22 the Faculty of Theology had had one professor commit to retirement, two made arrangements for retirement and return on part-time contracts, several more were working on possible transition arrangements, three staff members were terminated, and two and one-half professors transferred to a different faculty. The administration believes that none of these significantly affects the target dollar amount.
The Professors Association expects one or more tenured professors to be terminated in the very near future.
Susan K. Roll
President, PASPU / APPUSP
Susan requested that concerned librarians to send an Email, a letter or a phone call of protest to the Rector of Saint Paul, Mme Chantal Beauvais, at email@example.com, (613) 236-1393 ext 2241.
Thanks to all who participated in the second half of library council last December. The subject of discussion was the cuts to LAC, NADP, Science, Statistics Canada, Federal Libraries etc… and the impact of these cuts on Canada’s information infrastructure. Here is a brief capsule of the discussions. Notes are also being distributed as part of January’s council package.
Group 1: Cuts to LAC
With respect to the National Library, there was a recommendation to read the English report presented to Sheila Copps 1998 which recommended the merger of the two autonomous organizations, the National Library and the National Archives into a single institution. The merger created an environment that made it easier for cuts to the amalgamated organization to happen. The report recommended however, that government records be kept separate from the collection so as not to overwhelm the new institution.
Some disturbing facts:
- ILL service will be fully cut off before the new service (which is a process of digitization on demand) is offered; this won’t happen until end of 2014.
- No new analog materials will be accepted by LAC as of 2015 despite the statutory obligation of legal deposit.
- LAC has withdrawn from the international network of national libraries (but it was noted that BNQ is represented, so there is a Canadian presence).
- No universities were consulted in the development of the Pan-Canadian Documentary Heritage Network (PCDHN) despite their having research collections of significant cultural value.
- LAC’s consultative processes have not been effective; it has been consulting with the wrong stakeholders.
- The Gatineau Preservation facility is empty and available for others to use.
- There has been a suggestion from some members of CARL to recreate a conference similar to the one held in Montreal in 1968 (called “Libraries for Tomorrow” which had been organized by AUCC). The purpose would be to have an open dialogue with important stakeholders on the purpose and future of the LAC. But not all CARL members feel that there is a need for this discussion to take place.
In response to the question, “Is the LAC in danger of failing in its mandate because of these cuts?” The answer was Yes, Yes and Yes.
Group 2: Impact of cuts to NADP
The NADP program cost 1.7 million dollars, so clearly the cancellation of this program was not only about money; that amount just isn’t significant in the overall budget.
The cancellation of the program signals a change in the way that government views its role in the area of culture. It is a program of decentralization (evidenced by the creation of the PCDHN, and also possibly in the way that the Canadian Museum of History will be organized). Government just doesn’t see itself as in the “culture business.”
The group mentioned that Canadians should be urged to hold their government accountable to the goals of the PCDHN and make sure it fulfills its commitments under that program.
The most vulnerable groups to be affected by these cuts are archives with a less strong community engagement because now they will have to find funds for projects from their communities and possibly even partner with business.
Group 3: Campaigns against the cuts
This group felt that CLA had been passive in its engagement with LAC and its reaction to the cuts. There isn’t any information on the cuts on its website, or any real indication of what is happening.
Some of the smaller associations may not have all of the information they need to react effectively – they are not powerful or mobilized, and not having the information renders them even less so.
There was mention of CAUT’s Canada’s Past Matters and Save LAC campaigns. But it was felt that CAUT could be doing more to mobilize academics and faculty associations. A unified response to the cuts (more power in numbers!) would be more effective.
Student associations could be mobilized; their access to research will be compromised as well.
Group 4: Federal Libraries and Research Funding cuts
This group felt that the cuts were too quick and too complete for librarians to react to effectively. There was a sense that we’ve been assaulted; we’re in shock. But as one group member noted, this can be a useful government tactic when the government does not have the support of its citizens. The book referred to was Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. Essentially its thesis is that if you shock people repeatedly and quickly enough, they become submissive and passive. It started with the census, it’s affecting scientific research and it’s affecting culture and libraries.
There was a feeling that the campaigns against the cuts such as to the census or to scientific funding were not making it outside of the academic community; that citizens were not concerned. But while the effects might not be felt today, they will be felt in the long term.
The group suggested a 5 C’s approach:
Coordinate: With all groups, especially outside of the library and the university.
Communicate: Start talking about the cuts, writing about them, writing to your MPs, writing to newspapers and other media.
Campaigns: This is the overall activity of raising awareness.
Consistency: This is going to be a long term activity. Keep up the pressure.
Collaborate: Let’s not rely on CLA to be our advocates. Let’s be creative in our connections with other groups, find similarities and work together for action.
Group 5: Association Responses to the cuts
This group made reference to Michael Geist’s social media campaign on copyright reform. It was incredibly successful and impacted legislation and built a grassroots response to an issue of concern.
The group felt that CLA had been too traditional in its response; perhaps it was in a difficult situation because LAC is a member. There was discussion about the specific cuts to reference service and digitization and how digitization is not without its limitations. It also mentioned the problematic nature of the PCDHN. The group also felt that the LAC has been on a long downward spiral and that these budget cuts were the final nail in the coffin. Advocacy is critical. “How to move forward as a community?” was a lingering question.
“As we come to the end of a sad year for a once proud organization it has to be said that not all the blame for the LAC’s situation can be laid on the organization management. Heritage Minister James Moore clearly doesn’t care and acts as if he has no responsibility for this organization which part of his ministerial portfolio. As another Caron, the NDP Heritage critic put it, Moore is “washing his hands” of the situation and referring all questions to public servants. It’s not good enough.”