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CAUT Bulletin Archives

October 2001

TechBC Will Stick to the Deal

TechBC president Jean Watters stirred up a hornet's nest with his recent remarks that the three-year-old university was going to stay "creative" and "competitive" partly by working without a senate, without unions and without tenure.

Under significant financial and political pressure, in the face of the B.C. government's core review process, TechBC is rethinking a lease in a new building in suburban Surrey and faces other uncertainties.

The president's remarks caused surprise and dismay at CAUT and its provincial affiliate, the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia. In 1998 the tecnologically-oriented university signed a deal with CAUT and CUFA/BC to end an international boycott of the institution. The agreement called for creation of a senate or senate-like body, guarantees of academic freedom, assurances there would be tenure and an open door to creation of a faculty association at TechBC.

Concerned the university might be backing out of the 1998 agreement, CAUT representative Bill Bruneau, along with CUFA/BC president Darwyn Coxson and CUFA/BC executive director Rob Clift met urgently on Sept. 27 with TechBC officials.

In a press release issued late in the day, Watters reaffirmed his commitment to the objectives contained in the agreement and has agreed to issue a formal letter recommitting TechBC to the 1998 deal.

Bruneau said he was "pleased to see TechBC renew its commitment to the practice of academic freedom, and accept the central role of faculty members in academic decision-making.

"We understand that the institution is on its way towards making secure, continuing appointments of professors."

"TechBC well illustrates you cannot work at the cutting edge unless the people with the knowledge — the faculty — are given the freedom to go where their minds will take them and in doing so, create new knowledge and new curriculum," Coxson said.

B.C.'s government is calling for massive cuts in most public services, possibly as high as 50 per cent. Only health and education are to be spared, and they are unlikely to escape entirely. Yet, British Columbia lags the rest of the country in producing university graduates.

TechBC was the result of an intense public campaign to increase opportunities for university-level education in the South Fraser region, the fastest growing region in British Columbia.

CAUT and CUFA/BC will continue to keep a watching brief on TechBC.

Background: Bulletin reports September and October 1997; January, March, April and June 1998 available at