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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 1999

Mount Allison Faculty Walk the Line

Bill Graham
Mount Allison University has seen three strikes in the seven and a half years since Ian Newbould was named president and the praise and adulation heaped on him by Board Chair James Keith can't cover up that dismal record.

The very year after Dr. Newbould was named, contract negotiations broke down and both faculty and librarians hit the bricks. Mount Allison Faculty Association had learned their salaries were well below the average for Canadian universities of similar size.

Then, in 1994 the Mount Allison Staff Association went on a prolonged and bitter strike. Dr. Newbould was reappointed president in January 1995. Now, in early 1999, the faculty and librarians are out once again.

Mount Allison is the only university in New Brunswick to have had a strike of its faculty and librarians. What a record of achievement for its administration and board!

At a board meeting on Jan. 22 the Mount Allison board chair defended the record. "Without Dr. Newbould's nationally-recognized leadership," he stated, "Mount Allison would not be where it is today." And where is that? On the streets.

The faculty are seeking to be compensated in a fair and equitable manner. They are defending the quality of the university of the future. The board further stated it "is also very proud of the excellence of Mount Allison's dedicated faculty and librarians, both in teaching and in the services provided to the university community."

Whatever one thinks of rating systems such as Maclean's, it is clear the President and the board chair take great pride in Mount Allison's consistently high rankings, at or near the very top. But, ask the students why they came to Mount Allison. They will not say that it is because Ian Newbould is President. They will not say it is because Jim Keith is Chair of the Board.

It is because of the excellent teaching faculty and academic programs, and because of the close relationships they have with their teachers and fellow students.

If the rankings are consistently high, why are the salaries consistently low? Mount Allison's reputation for providing excellent undergraduate education cannot last if the university continues to pay substandard wages. On average, sa- laries at Mount Allison rank seventh out of the nine Maritime universities used for comparison by the administration.

In 1997 CAUT commissioned former CAUT president Fred Wilson to conduct an inquiry into governance at Mount Allison because of the history of poor relationships at the school. Wilson concluded that "Mount Allison has a distinguished record. That record cannot be sustained if the current downward spiral of incivility continues."

Paying substandard salaries is a form of disrespect. For the Board of Regents to support an administration with a labour relations history like that at Mount Allison is to sustain incivility.

Just before the strike, Dr. Newbould refused to allow the faculty association to pay the full costs of its medical, dental, life and disability insurance. This was an attack unprecedented in Canadian universities. It placed faculty members, librarians, and their families at great risk.

CAUT Executive Director Jim Turk wrote to the board chair, saying "the university administration has poured gasoline on the coals of discontent by refusing to allow essential benefits to be continued."

Although CAUT was able to arrange alternative coverage for most benefits, Newbould, in the end, relented. He wrote to MAFA President George DeBenedetti that he had been "determined to do everything possible to avoid what we considered to be a needless strike." Thus, he wanted "to impress on your members the seriousness of strike action." Civility, or incivility?

Faculty members and librarians across Canada stand united in support of their colleagues at Mount Allison. Their need is great. Their cause is just.