UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 14 | Dec.
Five Questions for Richard Anstee
BY Erica Smishek
The UBC Faculty Association represents about 2,500 members,
including full- and part-time faculty, lecturers, librarians,
program directors and sessional lecturers. UBC Reports caught
up with Richard Anstee, president of the UBC Faculty Association
and a professor of Mathematics.
By the year 2005, a large percentage of faculty will retire.
What do you think the university should do to renew our human
The number of retirements is large. Unfortunately the same
is true across North America. The university should plan for
unsuccessful searches and allow units to hire as opportunities
arise. We must keep our standards up in these difficult times.
The Early Termination Agreement program was established
in the early 1980s during difficult financial times at the
university. With little faculty turnover back then, the program
-- initially funded by the provincial government -- was designed
to free up money for the university. The program was cancelled
by the administration earlier this year.
What is your position on the cancellation of the Early
Termination Agreement program and what it means for faculty
The cancellation of the ETA program was received
with hostility by faculty. The program was viewed as an entitlement.
The cancellation will not speed renewal and faculty will on
average delay their retirement closer to 65. Of course the
ETA plan was instituted (in the early 80s) to achieve
savings for UBC and I suspect this has not been the case for
How should UBC stay competitive in the national and international
market to attract and retain outstanding people?
Those units hiring must be aggressive in their recruiting;
ads will be insufficient. We have much to offer at UBC including
excellent colleagues and excellent students. We need to share
successful recruiting strategies.
Our starting salaries are competitive in Canada but are not
always competitive on the world stage on which we operate.
Salaries to continuing faculty are less competitive. If the
job market heats up substantially then retention issues will
dominate. Preemptive actions are crucial; once people begin
to look elsewhere then you probably have lost them.
An FA survey in 2001 identified a large percentage of faculty
who might look elsewhere for jobs. The good news since then
of increased funding at UBC will assist in retention, but
action on salaries will also be needed.
In this years Macleans Magazine annual ranking
of Canadian universities, we fell to 15th from 14th in the
category of Classes taught by tenured faculty.
How can the university improve this?
I would only be focused on the quality of teaching at UBC.
We have sessional faculty and lecturers doing excellent teaching.
I would recommend making more of these people permanent at
UBC since they will devote more effort to teaching if they
dont have to worry about their next contract.
Macleans identified class size for undergraduates
as one of our biggest problems. What should the university
do to address this problem and ensure the integrity of the
I agree with Macleans that class sizes are an issue
at UBC. I have seen a large increase in class sizes in my
time at UBC in Mathematics. Past first year, limits of 60
were in place but averages were much lower.
As the cutback years squeezed the slack out of the system,
the averages climbed until essentially every class was full.
Now our limits are 100 and most classes are full. Statistics
bear out that this experience was not limited to Mathematics.
The classroom experience is lessened. Some but not all faculty
teach effectively to large classes. The students choice
and flexibility are compromised. Technical innovations and
online education augment but will not replace faculty in the
The so-called productivity gains of a larger
ratio of students to faculty needs to be reversed. We need
a much larger faculty complement or fewer students. This must
be established as a long-term goal for UBC.