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Post-secondary teachers' union seeks injunction against Capilano University board

The funding crisis at Capilano University took another turn on Friday when the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators requested that the B.C. Supreme Court step in to issue an injunction against the university's Board of Governors, which is scheduled to vote on the budget on the evening of May 14.

A news release, posted on the FPSE website, said:

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE), the provincial organization that represents over 10,000 faculty and staff in BC’s post-secondary institutions, is asking the BC Supreme Court to issue an injunction that would force the Board of Capilano University to re-schedule their May 14 meeting to a later date in June. The May meeting is set to approve a budget that would impose close to $3 million in program cuts across many departments at the University.

The injunction application points out that the proposed budget cuts will adversely impact Capilano University students and cause irreparable harm to their education plans. As well, the application notes that the University has the financial capacity to consider other options and should postpone the Board meeting until after the provincial election.

"We think the Board of Capilano University is rushing this budget decision through," says Cindy Oliver, President of FPSE. "So many things about this budget process just don’t add up," Oliver noted. "A majority of the Board is appointed by the Minister of Advanced Education. At the very least, the Board should wait for a new Minister to be appointed -- regardless of which party forms government after May 14 -- to deal with the funding issues at Capilano. We've reviewed the financial statements and think there are far better options than what the Board is rushing to approve on May 14th. That's why we are asking the Court to postpone the meeting until June," Oliver stressed.

Phillip Legg, a spokesperson for FPSE, told The Tyee that the application would be filed at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, May 13. He said the application would include sworn affidavits from students being adversely by the proposed cuts (which would eliminate or "suspend" several departments and programs), as well as a statement by FPSE arguing that the Capilano University Board of Governors has the reserves to consider other options. A postponement, Legg said, would give the board more time to explore those options. He said it would also be more prudent, since a decision to cut would have consequences for the future.

Legg added that he expected the court to respond promptly on Monday, and that FPSE has not "closed the door" on the possibility of a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Capilano University students.

In a related development, Capilano University president Kris Bulcroft spoke with faculty on Friday afternoon, but the meeting ended early when Bulcroft walked out. Faculty association president Mark Battersby told The Tyee the walkout followed an exchange between Bulcroft and an arts instructor.

Battersby described the session as "tense" but a "remarkably civil exchange. Our questions were respectful, even if we didn't like the answers. Our only regret is that she walked out and we didn't get a chance to ask all the questions we wanted to."

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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