Tuum Est…Pro Pretio- The University is Yours… For a Price…

The cherry blossoms are blooming once again, which signals the UBC administration to perform its annual ritual of increasing tuition 2% across the board for domestic students. This comes on the heels of a 50% increase in international student tuition over three years approved in late 2015. In announcing the domestic tuition increases (along with changes in non-instructional fees), the UBC administration launched a consultation process where students were invited to submit their comments through an online feedback form. The consultation process concluded on March 22, 2016.

The Executive of CUPE local 2278, representing UBC’s Teaching Assistants, Markers and English Language Instructors, stands in opposition to all of these increases and the current consultation process. We believe that higher education is a fundamental human right, enshrined in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. We understand the challenges UBC has to face to operate as an institution in the midst of ever-increasing austerity from the Provincial Government.  However, BC students currently incur the highest average student debt ($34,886) compared with students in other provinces (according to the 2013 BMO Student Survey), and the Provincial Government charges higher student loan interest rates (8%) than any other jurisdiction in Canada. As students have a right to an affordable education, it is then the University’s duty to protect this right as a provider of education. We are appalled by the actions of the University when its funds are not allocated in ways that directly benefit the lifeblood of the university- its students, staff, and faculty. We are appalled that the quality of education is not  prioritized over other superficial, image-based concerns.

We are also opposed to the current consultation process. We agree with other  concerned student groups that the consultation is not about whether or not the tuition increases should occur at all, but instead where the funds should be allocated once the increase has passed. Consultation with students is not respectful and meaningful when the outcome of the consultation is fixed in advance.

Further, we would like to remind our members that tuition for domestic students is currently capped at a 2% maximum increase per year. This cap was intended to reflect Vancouver’s rate of inflation, but we are aware that there has been lobbying to remove this cap, which serves as at least a modicum of protection for domestic students. We further encourage all stakeholders at UBC involved in these discussions of tuition, especially UBC administration, our members, and other students at UBC, to reflect on the discourse surrounding issues of tuition. Are we a “world-class” university when we are unable to provide an affordable education accessible to students from diverse backgrounds?  When we are told that “the money is not there”, is it only because existing resources are used to bolster UBC’s image instead of using them to deliver a quality education?

Finally, we encourage all of members of CUPE 2278 to learn more about the proposed tuition hikes through sources such as UBC’s consultation website, the Ubyssey, the Talon, and social media; and be involved in activism surrounding issues of tuition.


CUPE 2278 executive condemns bullying and harassment on campus and echoes calls for improved handling of reports of sexual assault at UBC

In light of the publicity surrounding the events of last year and events continuing to unfold on the UBC campus to date, the Executive of CUPE 2278 wishes to share the following statement that was unanimously approved at our last meeting. That a statement like this is even necessary in 2016 is particularly galling and CUPE 2278 condemns all bullying and harassment on our campus and elsewhere.

1. The BC Human Rights Code forbids harassment and discrimination on protected grounds that include race, colour, ancestery, place of origin, religion, marital status or family status, physical or mental disability, sex (including pregnancy, breastfeeding, and sexual harassment), sexual orientation, age, criminal conviction, and political belief.

2. Employment standards declare bullying and harassment are unacceptable in the workplace. An employer must, among other actions, take reasonable steps to prevent where possible or otherwise minimize workplace bullying and harassment. Bullying “includes any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated, but excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment.”

3. All workers at UBC, including members of CUPE 2278, who are reporters, complainants, and respondents in allegations of discrimination, bullying, or harassment should have these allegations investigated and acted on in a timely and fair manner that is survivor-centric and free of bias and retaliation

CUPE National Convention and CUPE 2278 Executive Elections Are Coming!

CUPE National Convention, Vancouver, BC Nov 1-6, 2015


Mark Hancock, President of CUPE BC

CUPE BC President Mark Hancock is running for President of CUPE National at the CUPE National Convention next week! I have worked with Mark for the past three years and he has been a true friend and ally of our local and the Post Secondary Sector in BC. He has mentored me and helped me grow as a labour activist and an advocate for CUPE’s young workers. I wish him all the best as he runs against an equally strong and passionate candidate, Fred Hahn of CUPE Ontario. While I am proud to endorse Mark, I feel confident that CUPE will be in great hands either way. Check out Mark’s campaign site here: http://www.mark2015.ca/.

CUPE 2278 Exec members Molly and Trish with CUPE 2950 President Karen Ranalletta at a BCTF rally in early 2015

CUPE 2278 Exec members Molly and Trish with CUPE 2950 President Karen Ranalletta at a BCTF rally in early 2015

I am also thrilled to support a member of our UBC family, Karen Ranalletta, President of CUPE 2950 at UBC, in her bid for election as a national trustee! Karen is one of the most forthright and steadfast trade unionists I have ever worked with and we will be lucky to have her serving at the national level.

Local 2278 is sending 7 delegates who will help chart the course of our national union for the next two years. We will post updates to our Facebook throughout convention, so stay tuned!

-Trish Everett-Kabut, President CUPE 2278


CUPE 2278 Executive Elections Nov. 19, 2015

Members of the CUPE 2278 exec at a screening of the film "We are Wisconsin"

Members of the CUPE 2278 exec at a screening of the film “We are Wisconsin”

We will be holding our Executive Elections on Nov. 19! All Department Representatives are requested to join us at 4:30 to elect your Chief Shop Steward and General Members are asked to join us at 5pm to vote in your new Component I Executive Committee.  The location is still TBD, but will be posted here and on Facebook as soon as it is confirmed with Room Bookings at UBC.

Interested in joining us?  There is plenty of room on the Exec and we could use the help! With bargaining finished for the most part, the big projects for the coming year will be the job reclassification evaluation to address wage disparities and anachronistic positions as well as work to establish our financial hardship/tuition fund won in the last round of bargaining. Day to day operations of the union, assisting with grievances, political action, campus action and member engagement/outreach/socials will also be ongoing. Working on the executive is about a 1-2  hour per week commitment and there is a $400 stipend per semester for your service.  Other possible perks include travel for union business/conferences/conventions and the warm and fuzzy feelings of helping fellow TAs and making UBC a more equitable place!

If you would like to nominate yourself, please email a brief bio (about 400 words or so) detailing your skills and why you are interested in a position to administration@cupe2278.ca before election day on Nov. 19.  As nominations are received, they will be updated here.

Response to comments by Physics Prof Jenny Hoffman

Admittedly distracted by the second longest federal election cycle in Canadian history, I only today ran across a Ubyssey article, now two weeks old, containing a truly disappointing piece of bizarre commentary that decries the very existence of CUPE 2278, the UBC teaching assistant’s union.

Why would I care? Well, after seven years of graduate work, I finally received my PhD in Mathematics this past May from the University of British Columbia. As a graduate student, especially in the Department of Mathematics, teaching was an integral part of my work life. I worked as a teaching assistant for all seven years in the department, and for several years before that as I attended graduate school and completed my undergraduate degree at other universities. I have also served for three years in varying capacities on the executive of CUPE 2278. Today, I am a sessional lecturer in the Department of Statistics at UBC, and a member of the Faculty Association, who works closely on a regular basis with UBC teaching assistants.

The salvo in question comes from the mouth of someone who should most certainly know better: Jenny Hoffman, former Harvard faculty, a new UBC faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and an exceptional scientist. She is profiled in this Ubyssey article from October 6th, discussing her passions inside and outside of the workplace. But oddly, Dr. Hoffman also seizes the opportunity to attack the UBC teaching assistants’ union. Per the Ubyssey’s article:

Hoffman emphasizes that she is grateful to be here. But the scientist chafes at UBC’s teaching assistants’ union, a point she raised early in the interview.

“TA-ing should be considered a course not a job. There should be no union to try and reduce their hours,” Hoffman said. She added that she saw the attitude of CUPE 2278, the TA’s union on campus, as a cultural difference. “I’m coming from a place where people love their jobs,” she said.

Ironically, I borrow from the great physicist Wolfgang Pauli when I categorize Dr. Hoffman’s statement as so off-base, it’s not even wrong. Is she seriously suggesting that TA work is not a job? Conducting lectures and tutorials; marking papers, exams, and lab reports; meeting with students; assigning grades; teaching. According to her glowing Ubyssey profile, she “sees her primary commitment as being toward students,” and I am confident in inferring that she considers that commitment part of her job. Or is it only a job once you have a PhD?

When declaring that no TA union should exist “to try and reduce their hours”, Dr. Hoffman seems completely oblivious to the fact that she is a member of the UBC Faculty Association, “a voluntarily recognized union” with a collective agreement that outlines all manner of relevant issues, including the dynamics between remuneration and hours worked. Is this union somehow different in its claim to legitimacy than the TA union in Dr. Hoffman’s eyes? To her, it seems, I was but a lowly TA last academic year, but now I have been granted legitimacy by the initials “Ph.D.” after my name, and lo, when I step into the classroom tomorrow I will be justified, a real teacher, not merely a scholar in training.

I can’t help but settle on the conclusion that Dr. Hoffman seems to be insinuating that work is only real work once you’ve been granted the proper credentials. And only real workers deserve a voice; any graduate and undergraduate TAs who think otherwise are just people who dislike their jobs apparently. This kind of crass elitism is why some people harbour the perception that academics are out-of-touch, and are so singularly minded that they can’t be bothered with reality outside the confines of their own laboratory. Claiming that the collegiate culture at UBC is so different from Harvard, “a place where people love their jobs,” just feeds this narrative of clueless elitism

What Dr. Hoffman misses here is that teaching assistants do love their jobs, and that’s why they want to protect them. Groups of workers with like interests do not form a union because they dislike their jobs; they do so because they want to be able to support themselves in those jobs. They want to be remunerated appropriately, they want to be respected for their labour, they want to rest assured that their jobs will not vanish tomorrow on the whim of a superior. They want to support themselves doing work that they love. That’s why UBC’s excellent Faculty Association has secured things like minimum salaries, transparent promotion and tenure procedures, and pension benefits for its members. CUPE 2278 has every much a right to secure for its members minimum wages, terms of appointments and reappointments, and maximums on hours worked.

Or if Dr. Hoffman really thinks I’m wrong, maybe she is prepared to follow through with her volley and question the legitimacy of the Faculty Association to which we both belong? Surely though, if she takes a minute to think it over with PhD in hand, she will recognize that this proposition too must be classified as not even wrong.


Edward Kroc

Sessional Lecturer

Department of Statistics, UBC

AGM recap

1.Roll call of officers and members

2.Summary of previous meeting minutes

  • At the previous meeting of local 2278 held in February, 2015, the budget was approved, the CGEU constitution was ratified, the bargaining plan was approved and the contract committee was elected.

3.EXECUTIVE REPORT CUPE 2278 Oct 2015 (click to download PDF)

4.New business

  • The Federal Election and you
    • Please go vote! Advance voting is on now and election day is October 19! see elections.ca for more info
  • Opening of CUPE 2278 Executive Nomination Period
    • If you are interested in running for a Comp I Executive seat, please send your name, a short bio and the position you are interested in: President, Secretary-Treasurer, Recording Secretary, Health and Safety Officer, One year trustee, Member at Large (10 positions available)

5.Good of the Union

Committees needing people are listed below. Please contact president@cupe2278.ca if you are interested.

  • Presidential Search Committee
    • interested in finding UBC’s next president?
  • Hardship Fund Committee seeks members
    • interested in helping us plan how to administer our new hardship fund?
  • Job Reclassification Committee seeks members
    • interested in helping us reimagine what TA positions look like?

AGM is today!

We look forward to seeing folks at our AGM today in DMP 310. For those who cannot make it, we will post the Exeutive Report and meeting minutes here when they are available.


1.Roll call of officers

2.Summary of previous meeting minutes

  • At the previous meeting of local 2278 held in February, 2015, the budget was approved, the CGEU constitution was ratified, the bargaining plan was approved and the contract committee was elected.

3.Executive Committee Report

4.New business

  • The Federal Election and you

5.Good of the Union

  • Presidential Search Committee
  • Hardship Fund Committee
  • Job Reclassification Committee

Apologies for the delay! The AGM will be hosted in Dempster Pavilion room 310 tomorrow (Thurs Oct 8) at 5 PM. If you missed your department’s union orientation, we will be hosting a catchup orientation at 4:30 in the same room.


Agenda includes the President’s annual report, an overview of how to vote in the Federal election on Oct 19, and opening nominations for the CUPE 2278 executive.

October 8, 2015 AGM

ANNUAL GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING! We will be holding our Fall AGM on October 8th beginning at 5 pm. For anyone who missed their departmental orientation we will also be holding a general orientation session just before the AGM at 4:30 pm.

Location still TBA, but will be announced when we hear back from campus room bookings.

CUPE 116, 2278 and 2950 issue joint letter to UBC BoG Chair John Montalbano

The Presidents of the three CUPE Locals at UBC issued a joint letter to the UBC Board of Governors Chair, John Montalbano, demanding greater transparency surrounding the situation that led to the Board’s recent announcement about the resignation of UBC’s President Arvind Gupta.  We believe that as a publicly funded entity, the public has a right to know why the President of UBC resigned 13 months into a 5 year contract. The search process (estimated to have cost about $430,000 according to internal sources), contractual payouts, interim presidential salary and the hiring of PR firm Kirk and Co to handle the media fallout from this situation (and related issue of alleged violations of Academic Freedom- see below) are hugely expensive in a period of supposed austerity. As tax payers and tuition payers, we feel we are owed a more substantial explanation from the Board and an end to the rampant speculation that is both embarrassing and demoralizing for those who live and work at UBC.

Read our full letter here: CUPE @ UBC letter

On the Academic Freedom piece of this controversy (see links below), we believe it is vitally important that UBC be a place where students and faculty can research freely without fear of punitive action by the administration or government hushing critical opinions. As such we look forward to the University’s transparent and thorough inquiry into this situation. In the mean time, here are some important readings on the subject that help frame our understanding of the situation.

Jennifer Berdahl, UBC Profesor in the Sauder School of Business

Jennifer Berdahl’s 1st blog post “Did Arvind Gupta Lose the Masculinity Contest”

Jennifer Berdahl’s 2nd blog post alleging Board Chair violates academic freedom

Reactions from the UBC Faculty Association and UBC BoG

August 19: UBC Faculty Association Executive calls for Mr. Montalbano’s resignation

August 18: Montalbano speaks in his own defense

August 18: UBCFA Correspondence to Angela Redish, Acting President and Vice-Chancellor, Provost & Vice-President Academic pro tem

August 18: Media Statement from the Chair of UBC, John Montalbano

August 17: Link to UBCFA Notice from the Executive to the Membership, August 17, 2015

August 14: Read the response to the UBCFA’s concerns from UBC’s Board of Governors here.

August 10: In reaction to President Arvind Gupta’s sudden resignation, UBCFA President Mark Mac Lean sent a letter to all of our members on August 10th. View the UBCFA’s correspondence by following this link.