Campaigns / Advocacy

Open Letter to the OCAD U Board of Governors

Dear Board of Governors,

Budgets reflect priorities. In recent years OCAD U has adopted an austerity agenda that’s compromised the student learning experience, our academic integrity and working conditions for faculty and staff. OCAD University’s Academic Plan champions the humanist and social dimensions of higher education, but its Operating Budget reflects a cut-throat market logic.

In the midst of a state of crisis, OCAD U’s 2020/21 Operating Budget has allotted over $2 million in a contingency fund, has tucked millions aside for ‘capital assets’, imposed a 13% cut in academic compensation, fails to put resources aside to support students and invests in money losing private ventures like OCAD U Co. that strays far from our public university’s civic mission: To build public knowledge for social good. You can read our primer on the Administration’s budget here, and view OCAD U’s most recent financial statements here.

OCAD U managed to stay open and deliver courses remotely through a global lockdown, in large part because of the labour of contract workers. Even though class sizes expanded and workload increased, faculty and staff persevered to innovate online curriculum delivery. But this crisis response is not sustainable in the long term. Students choose OCAD University for studio based art & design curriculum, our facilities, and the immersive faculty and peer engagement that small class sizes nurture. Students choose OCADU because they understand creativity is fostered through community. We must preserve what makes OCADU unique now and for the future.

We cannot accept a budget that retains a historically large contingency fund while so many of our community is in crisis. We cannot accept that the University hoards resources on the basis that some students may drop out. Underfunding diminishes our ability to provide and receive transformative education at OCADU; this is precisely what will result in a downward spiral of lowered enrolment, lost tuition revenue, and therefore further austerity measures.

Instead of emulating the corporate model, OCAD University can adopt a participatory budget model that is inclusive, accessible and foregrounds that prioritizes the student learning experience. OCADFA has drafted an alternative budget that re-invests in OCAD University’s core mission: Transformative education through art & design.

We need a budget that prioritizes community over capital. The OCAD U 2020/21 Alternative Budget offers concrete mechanisms to do so. It proposes viable changes to the operating budget that re-centres the student learning experience while also contributing to the long-term financial and community health of OCAD University.

The Alternative Budget is supported by OCAD United, a cross-campus coalition of students, faculty and staff at OCAD University, and is endorsed by OCAD’s Faculty Association and the OCAD Student Union.