NSCAD University’s Board of Governors has ratified collective agreements for its faculty and technician bargaining units at its meeting on Thursday, November 26.
The two agreements, for FUNSCAD Unit I, representing faculty and librarians, and FUNSCAD Unit II, representing technical, library and gallery staff, were ratified by the union memberships on October 28.
The new agreements cover the period from January 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018, and include salary increases of one per cent in the first year, one per cent in the second year, and a half per cent in the first half of the third year. The new collective agreements essentially roll over all other provisions of the current collective agreements, set to expire Dec. 31, 2015.
FUNSCAD President Alvin Comiter said the parties took a “slightly unconventional approach” to bargaining this time, working outside of the formal process described in the Trade Union Act. In so doing, the union and the university were able to come to an agreement before the expiry of the current agreement, and without the confrontation and rancour of previous years.
“This approach allows NSCAD to deliver on the commitments outlined in the Framework for Sustainability and achieve a balanced budget in 2016-17,” said NSCAD President Dianne Taylor-Gearing. “We look forward to making progress on significant projects in the coming months, the focus being upon NSCAD’s core business—learning, teaching, and research—as well as developing our facilities’ strategy.”
With a desire to bring fairness to NSCAD’s tuition system, NSCAD University’s Board of Governors considered a one-time market adjustment for tuition at its meeting on Thursday, November 26. However, the meeting was adjourned before a decision was made.
Approximately 50 NSCAD students and representatives of the Canadian Federation of Students greeted NSCAD Board Governors as they arrived for the meeting at 4 pm, engaging them in conversation and waving creative, handmade placards. Then, after waiting outside the meeting room, they entered and lined the perimeter as they listened to presentations. However, when asked to leave the meeting as per governance meeting protocol so the board could discuss further, they refused, and the meeting was subsequently adjourned, at approximately 7:45 p.m.
The adjustment, allowing universities to charge similar amounts for similar programs, was announced by the Province of Nova Scotia through its 2015-16 provincial budget. Further, a tuition reset was requested by NSCAD in its Framework for Sustainability, passed unanimously by the Board of Governors in 2012.
The market adjustment would allow NSCAD to rectify its relatively low tuition rates; NSCAD’s tuition is the lowest for an arts education compared to all other Nova Scotia universities. As a highly specialist visual art and design university, the studio model at NSCAD is more expensive to deliver because classes are smaller, with enviably low student-to-faculty and student-to-technician ratios, while facility and equipment needs are greater.
After consultation—including three sessions with students throughout the fall—the university decided the best approach was to move away from the flat fee tuition model. Currently, full-time undergraduate NSCAD students pay the same tuition per semester whether they are taking 12 credits, 15 credits or an overload of 18 credits per semester. By way of background, typical classes at NSCAD account for three credits per semester, although the more intensive studio-based classes in the upper years can be six or nine credits.
“We have taken a principled approach to our student tuition model. The flat fee model doesn’t work for NSCAD and this market adjustment is our opportunity to bring fairness and accessibility to the system so students pay for the number of credits they decide to take,” said Professor Dianne Taylor-Gearing, NSCAD President. “The majority of students—approximately two thirds of the student population—will not be affected by the tuition reset.”
Under the proposed new structure, students would begin paying for credits they choose to take above 12 credits per semester, phased in over three years. That means students taking 15 credits both semesters in 2016-17 would pay an additional $579 each year for three years— a 9.1 per cent increase in the first year. By 2018-19, NSCAD’s tuition will be in line with other Nova Scotia universities in its comparator group.
However, part-time students taking three to nine credits a semester or full-time students taking 12 credits would not be impacted by the move away from the proposed market adjustment. Currently, a majority of students (62 per cent) take 12 credits or fewer per semester.
NSCAD also proposes an increase to graduate student tuition, which has been held to the same amount as undergraduate tuition since 2005. In any other university in Canada, graduate students pay more for tuition than undergraduates, although there are more teaching and research opportunities and scholarships available to them.
The proposed market adjustment would increase graduate student tuition by 30 per cent to $8,270 for Master of Design (MDes) and Master of Fine Art (MFA) students, and $8,900 for the proposed Master of Art Education program.
The proposed market adjustment for tuition is consistent with NSCAD’s Board approved Framework for Sustainability, which was created as a response to the Howard Windsor Report and presented to the Province in March 2012.
Citing the demands of her growing business along with a young family, Julia Rivard-Dexter submitted her resignation from the Board of Governors at its Nov. 26 meeting.
Serving as one of two alumni representatives since 2010, Julia has been a roll-up-your-sleeves governor. One of her major accomplishments during her five-year tenure was shepherding the Strategic Framework 2015-2020 through countless consultation sessions with NSCAD stakeholders through to its approval by the Board of Governors last February.
“We started on the heels of a very trying time for NSCAD. We were between presidents and under scrutiny by government. The idea to think in a visionary way was so hard at the time,” said Julia, senior partner of the business Norex.ca, an award-winning web design firm based in Halifax. “But I felt the community really pulled together, through the retreat we had in Lunenburg, the pancake breakfasts for students and faculty, the numerous surveys and interviews. We had such positive feedback because everyone respected the conversation and were passionate about the future of NSCAD.”
Always an entrepreneur, Julia founded the Queen Street Studios after her graduation from NSCAD with a Bachelor of Design degree in 2003. That led to Norex.ca, which led to SheepDogInc., a Google partner, and now to Eyeread, a predictive reading assessment tool which uses eye natural inputs to help students with reading while offering teachers and parents analytics to track their success.
Recently married, Julia has four children, including one-year-old Madeleine, Oscar, 13, Max, 11, and Phoenix, 11. An Olympic athlete, she competed as a Canadian sprint canoer at the 2000 Summer Olympics held in Sydney, Australia.
“I am very sad to step down but with business ramping up and running full speed I just can’t come up with the extra hours,” said Julia, who paid tribute to fellow board governors, NSCAD staff, faculty and students. “I continue to be committed to the success of NSCAD locally and on the international stage and feel confident that we’re in a good place with great leadership.”