Andrew Boden: APSA Executive Director

Budget Cuts and Your Stories, Part II

March 6, 2024

Last month, in this space, I asked for your stories about the impact of the budget cuts on you and your teams if you lead a team. First of all, I’d like to thank each of you who sent in a story for our survey or sent me a message personally. Your stories were heartfelt and, frankly, heartbreaking. 

I was especially struck by how many of you are afraid to lose your role and don’t feel that your role is valued by SFU. In a word, many of you are suffering: not only job-security-wise, but also in terms of feeling devalued, despite your professionalism, diligence and loyalty to SFU’s mission.

“I have been with SFU for nearly nine years and this is the first time I fear for my job security. . . . I feel now more than ever that my at role at SFU is not valued and not secure.”

“People are very, very nervous right now and wish to know the decisions sooner so [they don’t] have to suffer the emotional and mental pain any longer.”

“We’re all feeling the emotional heaviness which makes it challenging to bring our best selves to work on a daily basis for the faculty, staff and especially the students.”

And many of you appear to be rightfully angry with the senior administration:

“I’m angry that the University is cutting positions that it actually does need, simply because of weird financial mismanagement that they are pinning on unprecedented expenses that were somehow, despite our various financial experts and innumerable consultants, impossible to anticipate.”

“If SFU kept up with the divestment mandate and knowingly put staff’s livelihood and pension at risk, it’s unacceptable and should have legal consequences. If you truly represent APSA members, you should address this with the University.”

And yet, despite the drip feed of bad news from SFU’s senior administration, you’re still trying your damnedest to serve your faculties, colleagues, and students and, generally, support SFU’s mission. Generally speaking, this looks like people doing two or three jobs or the job of the person they once reported to because that person has now left and is not being replaced. It’s unclear how the senior administration is accounting for the workload demands being placed on so many of you or what they plan to do about it.

Some of you also expressed your shock at the frugality recently imposed on you. Some of you reported having to buy your own office supplies to do your job and being denied reimbursement. Many of you reported having to return your work cell phones and being required to use your own cell phone for work. One member reported having to dumpster dive for computer peripherals because the person’s unit couldn’t afford them. This is all hard to comprehend, given that SFU remains a wealthy post-secondary institution and a wealthy property developer.

Who we’re losing and under what circumstances don’t appear to be taken into account by the leadership at SFU. From a twenty-plus year employee:

“My position is eliminated as of [date redacted], leaving [unit redacted] with no leadership and the expectation that the current staff can take on that workload! Everyone is telling me I am leaving at a good time. However, it is the WORST time ever at SFU, and I have seen some hard times here!”

The last comment resonates with me, not because your other comments aren’t equally powerful, but because I’ve been working for or working at SFU since 1987. I have seen some hard times here: I’ve known what it’s like to fear for my then grade four CUPE role and my wife’s APSA role. I have never seen SFU in the state it’s in now, however. I’ve never seen morale so low; I’ve never seen so much fear manifesting as so much frustration, friction and breakdown of SFU’s culture. I’ve never seen so many APSA members so despairing.

And I don’t know how much of SFU’s present situation is self-inflicted and how much is beyond its control. It’s not at all clear that the University has been fully transparent with the community. What is in the University’s control is to act responsibly when it comes to impacts on members like you and your families. No matter what, we will continue holding SFU to account — and to account to all of us.

As always, if you need support, please reach out to me or my team. We’re here to help you. Speaking with us is 100% confidential.