ICYMI: Future in focus at President’s Campus Update

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President Jamie Cassels prepares to speak at the President's Campus Update on Oct. 5. Photo by Cormac O'Brien, Staff Writer

President Jamie Cassels prepares to speak at the President’s Campus Update on Oct. 5. Photo by Cormac O’Brien, Staff Writer

Indigenous issues, UVic’s international reputation, and the word “granular” all featured prominently in the Continuing Studies building on Wednesday, Oct. 5, as President Jamie Cassels spoke on a variety of topics relevant to UVic at the most recent Campus Update.

Speaking to a crowd of about 250 members of the faculty and administration, Cassels gave updates on a variety of ongoing initiatives at UVic, as well as answered a number of questions from those assembled.

Cassels was explicit in his desire to stay general and avoid the particulars. (It’s one of the reasons he said “granular” approximately twice a minute.) In doing so, he managed to touch on a large number of topics of interest to the UVic community.

The future played a key part of Cassels’ update, as he chose to focus on initiatives coming down the pipeline for UVic rather than spend time on newly completed projects. He spoke of the importance of reconciliation with UVic’s Indigenous community, the potential opportunities for the university in bettering their global reputation, and the importance of experiential learning for all students at UVic.

Role of universities discussed

In a chipper mood, cracking jokes left right and centre, Cassels stressed the need for understanding the changing responsibilities that universities faced in the wake of globalization.

With there being a greater number of  universities and university students across the world than ever before, their role is changing from acting as elite academic institutions to public services. In response to these changes, Cassels noted the importance of allowing universities to run autonomously and consider the “long game,” but acknowledged that universities had to be “accountable, and not defensive” when it comes to “honouring their social contract”.

UVic’s social contract and reputation praised

As part of that social contract, Cassels emphasized the “great” relationship between the university and its Indigenous community, and spoke at length about university initiatives aimed at reconciliation and decolonization.

“What decolonization and reconciliation means is we have an opportunity to remake our country,” he said. “We are not reconciled . . . we don’t know how to live together yet . . . which makes for a terrifically exciting proposition.”

Cassels noted his “personal excitement” around Indigenous issues, and proudly detailed a new double major degree in the Faculty of Law which would allow students to graduate with a degree in Anglo-Canadian common law as well as Indigenous law.

Finally, Cassels spoke to the effort UVic was making to raise their global reputation to keep with the quality he considered the university to have. He spoke briefly of the role advertising played in that, but focused mainly on what the UVic community could do closer to home to benefit the university around the globe.

“It’s not all about advertising — it’s a small thing — it’s about what we all do together,” Cassels said. “How we work, what we deliver, [and] the attitudes we have.”

Child care cuts come into question

After touching on a few various smaller projects — seismic upgrading, a plan to build a 600-person residence building, and the potential of a new addition to the Engineering/Computer Science building — Cassels opened the floor to those gathered for a question and answer period.

Two audience members — one a teacher and the other a student — called Cassels out on the university’s decision to discontinue its After School Care (ASC) program, effective June 30, 2017. [Read our original report here.]

Cassels emphasized that while talks were ongoing between administration and UVic Child Care Services, the campus update was not the best place to debate the issue. Cassels did, however, stress that the issue was a “resource” one, and that the plan was to “optimize” the ASC while providing more hours for younger children.

The answer was not a popular one, and left the crowd in an awkward silence. Unfortunately for Cassels, his effort to defuse the situation didn’t seem to help.

“I didn’t mean to put completely put a damper on this conversation,” Cassels laughed. “I just don’t want to talk about child care anymore.”

A Vine account by the name of UVic Child Care Alliance, which has only one single post so far, posted a video of that particular quote online. The quote occurs around the 1:11:08 mark of UVic’s campus update video.

The full video of Cassels’ campus update is available at uvic.ca/current-faculty-staff/home/updates/.

Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously quoted Cassels as saying, “I just don’t want to talk about child care.” Cassels in fact said, “I just don’t want to talk about child care anymore.” We have corrected the quote to address this, and have also included the timestamp of the quote in the full campus update video. We regret the error.

We have chosen to leave the Vine, as we believe the creation of a UVic Child Care Alliance account to be newsworthy in and of itself. 

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  • verd02

    The most aggravating part of this – to me anyway – is how the ‘new’ child care hours are supposedly addressing a ‘need’. I think that any parent can tell you that in terms of finding quality group child care spaces, the most difficult age ranges are 12-18 months and 5 – 12 years. The reasons for this are numerous – for infant care, it’s the required group care ratio of 4 children to 1 care worker making it difficult to keep the price reasonable while paying the workers enough for them to endure what is, honestly, a high-stress occupation. For after school care, it’s often finding qualified workers who are willing and able to work variable hours – most days 3-4 hours after school, but on school Pro D days and Winter/Spring breaks.

    The new child care hours are for the pre-school (ages 3 – 5) age range, which is a) the most profitable age range, and thus b) by far the easiest age range to find a child care spot for. The child care options at that age range are multi-varied in nature, and plentiful. I don’t know any parent who has gotten stressed out looking for preschool age care for their child. Meanwhile, those of us who need infant and/or after school care are typically on many different waiting lists and – especially in the case of after school care – often find ourselves camped out in lineups to get on said waiting lists. Just this past Spring, I was in a lineup for the Centre 6 waiting list. I got there at 4:00 am, and was third in line. I know of parents at Campus View elementary who camped out overnight only to find themselves dozens of spots down the waiting list for the in-school after school care program there.

    If the Centre 6 closure goes ahead, many of us are going to need to change our work schedules to accommodate. Those of us fortunate enough to have two-adult households will need to make arrangements such that one of us can drop our child(ren) off at school, while the other can pick him/her/them up from school. Personally, I don’t feel like working 6:30 to 2:30 for the next six years, and I’m pretty sure that my unit doesn’t want me to ask to work such a schedule. Single parents – well, exactly what are they supposed to do if they don’t have family/friends who can mind their children? There are no spots

    It seems that Centre 6 is being closed because preschool care makes more money and because, basically, it’s “hard” to find staff. And yet, Centre 6 has been staffed consistently, and is currently staffed, by a set of absolutely remarkable, awesome child care workers. Before I had a child in Centre 6, all (every one) of the parents of kids who had gone through UVic Childcare Services considered Centre 6 to be *the* star service amongst the set of awesome centres we have running down there. It makes us all extremely frustrated that such an amazing service is set to be shuttered, and that there is no recognition being made of its benefit to UVic faculty, staff and students.

  • ouruvccs

    these stories and comments are truly heartbreaking to read. in this moment, i am thoroughly ashamed of our institution. i hope uvic acts swiftly to restore the relationships with some of its most vulnerable and underrepresented members on campus. they should also make services like uvccs a priority. not because it’s what’s best for our bottom line, but because it’s 2016.

  • ouruvccs

    wow. bad optics, this.

  • Concerned Parent

    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.

    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?

    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.

  • LeAnne Golinsky

    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 kid’s life. My kid is already asking about ‘where do I go next year?’

  • Jen

    If this closes, a bunch of families are left out in the cold. The three schools served by the UVic after school care program have 2+ year wait lists. What are these families to do? They have $1.7 million for child care renovations and they are closing the ASC program to make room for 3-5 year olds. Meanwhile, steps away, there are 6 hectares of land with several buildings that are already zoned for childcare that can be used for this expansion. And parent volunteers who sit on an advisory board were told about it in April and forbidden to discuss it or tell anyone until the administration announced it on the last day of school in June.

    So what’s the real story?

  • Anonymous Parent 1

    The backstory on the decision is remarkably disingenuous and simply appalling for a university that preaches good governance, community engagement, and respect.

    1. The parents on the ASC’s advisory board were told to remain silent about the decision directly in contravention of their primary duty – to represent and communicate on behalf of the parents. This amounts to a gag order! Why these parents obeyed is symptomatic of the power dynamic created by the university: you will do as you are told. It is absolutely unethical that these parents were told to remain silent.

    2. The original announcement to close the program was done with precise strategy in ambush fashion on the last day school for for kids. Exactly at the moment when parents and university alike are breaking for the summer and when it would be most difficult for parents to organise any opposition. Think about how deliberately evasive and disrespectful such a strategy is. It was shockingly premeditated to absolutely minimize community engagement in contravention of the universities stated philosophies.

    3. And equally astounding and deeply disturbing is that Uvic announced this as an almost Orwellian piece of misinformation, spining a happy story about child care expansion while in fact ruthlessly deciding in secret to enact a contraction of diversity and a cut to a core element of its childcare services.

    There has been zero community consultation and as of yet there is no indication that the university feels that it has acted in bad faith. Thus us just unbelievably ruthless and terrible governance. Although he mumbled on camera that he is “ultimately accountable” for child care at Uvic, President Cassels doesn’t want to talk about it. Why not? Why not tell your constituency your precise vision for child care at Uvic? Diverse? Holistic? Comprehensive? The best? The worst? Mediocre? At this point, I am going to give President Cassels the benefit of the doubt and hope that he has simply not been fully informed about the innapropriate process, the consequences, and the precedent that is being set. I really hope there will be a rapid change that restores the faith in the university leadership and how it works together with its people. Come on Uvic, be great.

  • UVic Child Care Alliance

    How is the quote “I just don’t want to talk about child care…” an error? Those were Cassels’ exact words. All the “anymore” signifies is the last of several other statements along the same lines. That is, he basically shrugged off questions about child care more than once.

  • Jonathan Faerber

    “Cassels emphasized that […] the campus update was not the best place to debate the issue.”

    For the record, I agree with Cassels. It’s true that the campus update is not the place to discuss child care, but after everyone else has ignored my concerns and dismissed my e-mails (Jim Forbes, Jim
    Dunsdon etc.) bringing it up in this forum was a last resort. And for the record, in a response to an e-mail to the President about whether he would address this issue in this forum, instead of telling me that his campus update “was not the best place” to bring it up, I was assured that: “The President hopes to be able to address these issues during his update…”

    As you can see from the above, it turns out that Cassels’ method of addressing the issue is to shrug it off and state that he doesn’t want to talk about it. Well, neither does anyone else I’ve tried talking to. I don’t want to talk about this with the President of our university at his Campus Update either, but there really hasn’t been any other alternative.

  • Jonathan Faerber

    Cassels emphasized that while talks were ongoing between administration and UVic Child Care Services, the campus update was not the best place to debate the issue.

    For the record, I agree with Cassels. It’s true that the campus update is not the place to discuss child care, but after everyone else has ignored my concerns and dismissed my e-mails (Jim Forbes, Jim
    Dunsdon etc.) bringing it up in this forum was a last resort. And for the record, in a response to an e-mail to the President about whether he would address this issue in this forum, instead of telling me that his campus update “was not the best place” to bring it up, I was assured that: “The President hopes to be able to address these issues during his update…”
    As you can see from the above, it turns out that Cassels’ method of addressing the issue was simply to shrug them off and state that he doesn’t want to talk about it. Well, neither does anyone else I’ve tried talking to. I don’t want to talk about this with the President of our university at his Campus Update either, but there really hasn’t been any other alternative.

  • hugo

    Cassels’ comment on child care basically sums up his attitude of the last ten years. He’s gone through the motions of setting up a steering committee and documenting reports on expanding child care at UVic, only to ignore recommendations in 2009 and 2011 calling for expansion and improvement of child care services. Of all the student services on campus, child care is his lowest priority. Here’s a fun fact: in the 24 years UVic Child Care Services has managed the service on campus, they’ve only expanded once, to add 24 spaces in 2001. Expanding at a rate of one child per year, and then cutting programs next year without warning, against the recommendations of every external review on UVCCS so far–that’s part of Cassels legacy as VPAC, and now as UVic President. And then to dismiss serious questions in public after effectively ignoring them in private is nothing short of disgraceful–it is, at any rate, disrespectful to people facing tough challenges as parents and students. The last thing we need from our President after the last ten years of inaction is a sneering, snickering “I just don’t want to talk about child care”. Yeah, we know that. We get it. That’s the problem. That’s what we need to change. Please listen to your community. Talk to parents. Even if it is to tell them you’re cutting the only campus service they really need. Don’t tell them fewer child care spaces on campus is a significant improvement when they’ve been telling you otherwise for years. Tell the truth.

    • monibel

      At the same time as they are “creating” all these hours (not spaces, see, it’s somehow hours), they are abruptly ending a total of 58,000 hours per year in childcare for university parents with 5-12 year-olds. These children attend the schools in the UVic neighborhood, and this includes children from the University’s own Family Housing, children of students and staff who live in the neighborhood, or children from outside this area who are enrolled in these schools so that they can be close to their parents’ place of work or study. Whoever thinks that kicking a set of kids out the door so that they can make space for another set of kids is “expansion” needs a good head shake.

      And yes, I found most disturbing that the President is gushing about some UVic banner in the Ottawa airport, that all politicians will now see, and in the next minute he says “I just don’t want to talk about child care”. Why not? Let us talk about childcare! Let us show everyone that we are an inclusive university. Let us be inclusive of mature students, or students who had a child early in life, of parents with small children, or single parents. Let us help parents return to work after parental leave, and let’s help them solve their childcare problem in the long term, so that they can work and study at this university. Let us be better than SFU and UBC in this area. Seems like a more worthwhile message to me than impressing on Ottawa politicians that UVic has money to spend on airport advertising.

      • hugo

        I`ve seen the Pearson advertisement, and it looks ridiculous. It`s a horrificly, uselessly photoshopped image with hardly any information of use to any audience. It`s the sort of branding that makes a mockery of our institution and damages our image and reputation. It does more harm than good.

        I assume marketing and communications did not bother finding feedback on their marketing campaign; UVic`s cuts to child care is also the sort of thing that comes from ignoring their community. UVic and its President seem to have forgotten that their primary job is supporting, facilitating and improving teaching and research at this institution. We are a university, after all. Focus first on being a good university, and your image and reputation will improve. Stop the cosmetic changes and focus on substance. The top 10 universities in this country or the world did not get to where they are by hanging banners in airports. Get real!

        • monibel

          Speaking of “optimizing resources”…