By Kenny Yum
Students, faculty, administration. The school, as an entity, is made up of these three parts — a triumvirate, if you will. In theory, the machinery of education only functions if all three parts work in equal momentum.
The students are the consumers, providing the institution with its raison d’etre — without us, there is no need for Ryerson Polytechnic University.
The faculty are the mentors, providing us with the crucial skills — the tools — needed to make this institution a success.
The administration builds and maintains the infrastructure, the hallways we commute in are the highways, the classrooms our destinations.
In theory this three-way relationship sustains our university as a strong, viable educational facility.
The recent negotiations between the administration and the Ryerson Faculty Association (RFA) show there is a power struggle, much like other skirmishes fought recently in the Grade school arena. Administration, with a mandate to balance its budget while improving education, is at odds with the faculty, who want salary increases and better working provisions to reflect those of their peers at other universities.
Ryerson’s teaching staff, on average, make less than their peers at universities like Trent and Brock while bigger institutions like U of T dwarf us in faculty compensation. The gap could be as high as 20 per cent for our higher paid staff.
If Ryerson is to keep its place as the nation’s top hands-on-school, it must pay its professors, at the very least, the going rate — the danger of not doing so is to suffer a brain drain. It is very likely that other institutions will become more like Ryerson, sensing that the demand for a polytechnic education will heighten.
Our teachers are unique to the North American university circuit. Many of our professors — probably a large percentage when compared with other post-secondary schools — are form the working world, and bring experience and contacts to our classrooms. Faculties like business, fashion, and journalism are lauded for having links to their respective industries, and for not being too close to the often dry and conservative academic world.
We have, it would seem, a good mix. A winning formula.
While Ryerson continues to adjust to being a university, it has to maintain some of that business sense it wants to teach us. Ryerson’s v.p. of staff and faculty affairs, Michael Dewson, acknowledges that part of the evolution from a polytechnical institute to a polytechnic university involves a pay increase for faculty.
It will not be an easy task for the folks in Jorgenson Tower to dole out more cash. In addition to meeting the RFA’s demands, the university will have to consider that it will need to develop graduate programs, a proposition which will bring in money and clout but will strain our resources as we search for high-priced teaching talent.
Whichever way the negotiations move, students have a stake. Higher pay means more strain on the administrations’ budget, which in the future will affect our fees. But if the school decides to maintain the status quo, and fails to build a strong partnership with its faculty, then our education — and this school — will suffer.