EDITORIAL: UVic has failed its duty to students if child care cuts go ahead

Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor

Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor

“You’ll have to excuse me,” said Jamie Cassels with a smirk at his latest President’s Campus Update on Oct. 5, “but I’m going to use some ‘Edge’ language here.”

The audience giggled. The “Edge” that Cassels was referring to was UVic Edge, a mix of an advertising campaign and marketing/communication strategy that UVic has been using since 2015. It’s been the subject of some ridicule — mostly by us — making fun of its vague and designed-by-committee language (“it’s a concept — not a tagline” reads the UVic Edge Voice Guideline). And it appears as though that even the administration knows it can sound a bit stupid sometimes.

But a slight bit of self-awareness aside, UVic is investing a lot of time and resources into UVic Edge in an effort to raise the university’s national and international profile. Before the campus update began, administration members fawned over a photo of a 29-foot-long UVic Edge advertisement in a Toronto airport, and Cassels spoke at length about how the advertising campaign would raise UVic’s reputation to be more in line with its perceived quality. Fair enough.

But perhaps Cassels and university administration should spend a little bit more time focusing on the students that are already on campus, and that have problems right here, right now, that aren’t being addressed — specifically, the lack of sufficient child care on campus.

UVic announced this summer that they would be closing the After School Care (ASC) program as part of an overall “renewal” of the child care facilities, much to the chagrin of parents who also study at UVic and rely on the program. When the issue was brought up at the campus update, Cassels was dismissive, saying it wasn’t the time or place to talk about it, but did mention that the issue was one of resource allocation.

Here’s a suggestion from us (and it’s free, too, so don’t worry too much about pulling funds from your lovely ad campaign to hear it): If you want to increase the reputation of your university, treat the people who are already at your university better. Instead of spending goodness knows how many millions of dollars trying to find people who might pay your ever-rising tuition costs in the future, focus on the people who are already struggling to pay them right now while simultaneously raising kids.

If UVic aims to meet the goals of its own strategic plan, which includes being “a diverse, welcoming learning community, with a demonstrated commitment to equity and fairness,” and striving to “actively recruit and retain outstanding students from diverse regions and backgrounds and remove barriers to admission and retention other than academic and creative potential” (emphasis our own), then it needs to reconsider axing the ASC program. If it doesn’t, 48 kids will lose their after-school program next June, and about that many families will be affected by the changes. Those parents will lose sleep, cut costs of their own to find alternative child care solutions, and will ultimately be disadvantaged by the university. It speaks volumes to the university’s priorities when they brag about a poster in an airport while simultaneously disadvantaging a set of parents without even conducting a proper consultation (allegedly) in the first place.

If there’s any way to spin that with Edge language, we’d love to hear it.

21 Comments

Avatar Very concerned parent

There are no other after school care spaces near UVic. This is a huge disruption to the children and families that utilize this program. Though I am upset that this program is being shut down, I am far more concerned with the way in which the decision to do so and announce it was handled. Gagging the Parent Advisory Board, the administration acting like they wanted to give one year notice to families, when they really wanted to give only two months and were pressured to provide the full year, announcing it at end of day on the last day of school, when you have to then wait two months to even get on a waitlist for the over-subscribed ASC programs in the catchment.

But what I really don’t understand is why there isn’t room for both. Yes, expanding child care is important, but this isn’t an expansion. It’s creating spaces for one age group at the expense of other children. Use the money wisely and create new spaces for young children while maintaining the ASC program. If that can’t be done with 1.7 million dollars, then there is a whole lot more wrong here.

Avatar ParentofTwo

The lack of consultation is one of the most heart-wrenching pieces in all this. The administration has proceeded as if they know best and the families at the UVic Child Care must be managed and placated while not actually being listened to. None of this would have happened if Jim Forbes had actually created an effective two-way dialogue regarding the needs and priorities for UVic Child Care. Instead, he intentionally kept the conversation secret until the last day of school, effectively silencing an already vulnerable group of UVic parents. This plan is clearly not well thought-out, but rather creates the appearance of “expanding child care” without actually doing so. Sacrificing stressed-out parents for appearances sake is misleading and heartless. I really hope that the university finally listens to these voices and works collaboratively to create a more sustainable future for the Child Care program.

Avatar LeAnne Golinsky

For those of you who were able to see how the questions about the cutting of the after school care program were handled by the President during the October 5th Campus Update speech, I was horrified.

Cutting the afterschool care program is no laughing matter and I was not amused in the slightest with the casual brush off. I agree the a Campus Update is perhaps not the best place for a discussion about childcare, but I have not been left with the impression that Campus Services is open for discussion on the matter. The first I heard about the closure was the last day of school in June when I was handed my memo. To find out shortly after, that the Parents Advisory Board members were instructed NOT to consult with the very members they represent, literally brought me to tears. It was very underhanded of UVIC Childcare Services, and Campus Services management to sit on that information and wait until literally the last minute as parents are picking up their children on the last day of school from afterschool care to distribute the notice. What a slap in the face! To treat UVIC families with this little respect makes me sick to my stomach. Also makes me want to fight that much harder to keep the afterschool care program open!
Pardon me for getting ‘granular’, but that is the other thing that the upper administration doesn’t appear to understand
is that the after school care program is so much more than that! They also provide care for early dismissal days, full day care for Pro D Days, Spring Break and the days up to Christmas Break. In the Summer months they morph into Summer Adventures day camp. So what President Cassels considers ‘granular’ is a HUGE part of my child’s life. My kid is already asking about ‘where do I go next year?’ Meanwhile a 29-foot banner and more flags on the buildings garnered a great deal of excitment….What?!?!?

Avatar monibel

I’m not sure that I agree that the Campus Update is the wrong venue for this discussion. From the Campus Update website, “Campus Updates are a regular series of town hall meetings bringing university leaders to the podium to brief the campus community on major initiatives, opportunities and matters of institutional interest. The sessions are also an opportunity for campus leaders to hear from you in an open and respectful collegial environment.” This is a matter of as much institutional interest as flags on McKenzie and banners in Ottawa. IF there is a fully thought out, foolproof argument for the closure of Centre 6, why not expound on this new “initiative” at length in the Campus Update?

It’s highly controversial nature, from the beginning (secretive, top-down decision making and gagging of parent representatives) to the end (eventually kicking out a bunch of 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9-year old kids from their after school care place) is what is preventing the administration from wanting to discuss this in a public venue. I did not see anything in the definition of the Campus Update about it only being a forum for fluffy, feel-good stories.

Avatar Jonathan Faerber

Indeed, the President’s invitation to this Campus Update stated the following:

“The Campus Update will also provide an opportunity for me to hear your ideas about how we can further pursue excellence; for example, what are some things we could do better, or are there some exciting new initiatives or programs we could be exploring?

If there are issues that you feel would be of interest to the wider audience at the Campus Update please let me know in advance at pres@uvic.ca. […] Your feedback and suggestions are always important to me.”

So I let Cassels know in advance that child care was certainly an issue of interest to his wider audience. I also made it clear that child care is certainly one of the things that UVic can do better; in particular, UVic should be exploring ways to improve child care with parents like myself.

In response to this e-mail, I was assured that the President hoped to address this issue in his Campus Update. I naively believed that this meant that our feedback and suggestions about child care were important to him. And we all know the rest…

Avatar Centre 6 Parent

Not providing after school care would be a major disruption for UVic faculty, staff, and students with school-age kids. School ends at 2:40 each day. It is almost impossible to get after school care at other places – all programs are over-subscribed. Centre 6 provides an excellent after school program.

Avatar Elizabeth

Great article; thanks for bringing this issue to light. After school programs near the university are already oversubscribed. What is going to happen to those 48 or so families if the after school program is closed as planned? It is definitely a barrier for parents at UVic. UVic needs to do better.

Avatar Max Power

It’s disgusting how UVic administration is handling this issue. They are acting in bad faith by acting like the ASC closure is already going forward – despite the decision being deferred, pending negotiations with the Faculty Association.

Worse yet – and even worse than Cassels’ “let them eat cake” response – is how they’re characterizing this move as an increase to child care spaces. It’s almost Orwellian – telling us that they are increasing spaces while they are decreasing service.

One has to wonder what UVic’s endgame is in all of this. If I was to hypothesize, it would be to reduce its overall funding contribution to childcare services. If they were really concerned about need, they would increase infant and toddler care, rather than 3-5 year old (I.e., preschool) care, for which the private sector more than provides adequate space. 3-5 year old spaces are the most revenue efficient and subsidize more expensive care options, like infant and toddler spaces. By adding higher revenue generating spaces, UVic child care becomes more reliant on user fees and less on UVic’s funding contribution.

I’d be convinced that they were so Machiavellian – except UVic Childcare administration haven’t demonstrated that it is intelligent enough to have such forethought and cunning.

Avatar Concerned Parent

Closing the ASC program will be hugely detrimental to the families involved and the logic behind this move is questionable at best. There’s $1.7-million earmarked for child care renovations, and yet you’re cancelling the after-school program to make way for younger children?

This message to parents — that their opinions don’t matter, that their children don’t matter, is an outrageous violation of the trust that they have in the university community.

I fully support creating more daycare spaces as we all know they’re at a premium in this city, but to do that at the expense of the school-age children is ludicrous with six hectares of land and several buildings already zone for childcare that can be used for this expansion.

It’s time to rethink this decision – now.

Avatar monibel

At the same time as UVic spends 1.7-million to actually reduce the number of available childcare spaces, the UBC and SFU child care services come up with creative ideas to use every dollar they can get to create more spaces. Both schools have done so multiple times over the past decade, while UVic child care services is actually contracting. At this point, UVic has less than half the childcare spaces, per student, compared to the other two institutions.

Avatar Sheryl Donner

There are a lot of ways in which UVic has decided to make itself stand out in its efforts to be transparent and consultative. It is one of the most important reasons why I left my job at another university to come here. However, the way in which this decision was handled has started a trend of heavy handed, patrionizing, administrative stomping that gives me pause to wonder if it was all smoke and mirrors. First the questionable way in which they handle their Computer Science faculty issue and this bully tactic to get more money instead of doing something simply because it’s the right thing to do for the campus community and their children. What have I gotten myself into?!?

Avatar Angela

As a former grad student and now parent of a school-age child, I am deeply distressed by these changes. This is not fair, not to parents and most of all not to the kids!

Avatar children on the edge

I expected that UVic was capable of coming up with a better thought-out solution to its child care crisis than throwing out school-aged kids stranded, just to replace them with fewer younger children. But then again, people in university admin are better educated than I am, so they must know what’s best for me – after all, I’m just an undergrad who doesn’t know what’s best for myself.

Avatar ouruvccs

ah, yes. yet another classic case of white middle class male privilege qualifying the powers that be to make our child care choices for us. what’s next? mandatory baby-sitting classes? automatic expulsion as a consequence of our own reproductive choices? just amazing.

Avatar children on the edge

Well, this decision DOES basically amount to an automatic expulsion as a consequence of me having a 3 year old right now. Luckily, I have full time care for him now at a private day care, but I found out I can’t waitlist him for the other ASCs in the neighbourhood until the year he starts kindergarten, and their waitlists are so long it’s basically impossible to get ASC for at least the first year. (And I wonder how much more competitive it’s going to be if UVic closes their ASC!)
I just don’t get it. Are they actually trying to help us students? Because really, this is NOT helpful.

Avatar ouruvccs

if it’s any consolation, once uvic scraps 0-12 care and focuses exclusively on day care, they won’t have any advantages left over the private sector day cares we already use. their waitlists also mean that people with 3 year olds will never get in anyway. an all the children that do get in will be without care for years once they start kindergarten at age 4. uvic is ultimately hurting them too. i just wish they would have asked for our consent!

Avatar children on the edge

I just don’t want to talk about child care anymore.

Avatar monibel

Funny that you mention the juxtaposition of the Ottawa airport poster and the cuts to child care. It struck me as well. The words Corporate University keep coming to mind – is there a hashtag for that? As a parent in particular, the change in the president’s demeanor when discussing (or refusing to do so) the two topics was, frankly, demoralizing.

Avatar monibel

Nicely said. A university’s reputation is generated by the people already there, not by the outsiders looking in. Treat them wisely.

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