Dialogue with government: It’s time they listened more

Every year Presidents' Council devotes a full day session to meeting with MLAs in Victoria. Our objective is to give both opposition and government MLAs a firsthand report on how our public post-secondary system is doing.

Over the last eight years, it hasn't always been easy meeting with government-side MLAs and Cabinet Ministers. Openness and accessibility have not been hallmarks of their operating style.

Despite those problems, we were able to schedule eight separate meetings with government MLAs, meetings at which local presidents described how funding problems are undermining the true potential of their institution. We presented the MLAs with polling data showing the strong public support for investing in post-secondary education. We also provided them with copies of a Ministry of Advanced Education drafted discussion paper that describes how funding shortfalls are impeding something that benefits every institution-collaboration.

For many government-side MLAs the information was something of a wakeup call. The polling data reminded them that governments that alienate voters only add to their problems, never diminish them. The document on collaboration showed the MLAs, in rather stark terms, that continued underfunding of the system has impacts that reach far beyond program cancellations or growing wait lists. Underfunding prevents institutions from working collectively to meet the needs of students.

Although there were no commitments to change current policies or funding choices, our lobbying effort in Victoria has signaled to government that post-secondary educators are not going to remain quiet. We are going to speak up for our system, our students and our colleagues. We will continue to press our case and build support across all our communities. Hopefully, common sense and active listening will replace the closed thinking that has created the problems we see today. Stay tuned.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.