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The University of Ottawa's proposed plan includes a salary increase of over $150,000 for its senior executives. Photo: Jean-Luc Ducamp. 

What does this raise mean for students, support staff?

Ontario universities and colleges have submitted proposals to the provincial government that would allow for pay raises for senior executives.

So far, plans at four Ontario universities have been approved and are posted online for public feedback.

In response to the University of Ottawa’s proposed plan, which included a salary increase of over $150,000 for its senior executives, the Support Staff of the University of Ottawa (SSUO), is “vehemently opposed to the proposals in the program,” according to a March 7 statement.

The SSUO represents over 1,300 support staff members at the university.

Destination 2020, the university’s strategic plan, highlights improving “the student experience” as its main goal. This comes on the heels of the recent Maclean’s University Rankings which place the U of O in last place for “student satisfaction.”

“It is indefensible to suggest increasing executive salaries by tens of thousands of dollars will in any way meet this goal,” said the SSUO in their statement. “And will further degrade the low staff morale.”

Students at the U of O are also concerned about the executive pay raises. Victoria Leigh, a third-year sociology student said that she is worried about how this is going to affect her tuition costs.

“I want to see my money going towards services and not just the university executives,” she shared. “As a student, most of my interactions on campus are with teachers and support staff and I’d like to see things like wait times for services improve.”

The U of O has said that the increase will have minimal impact on tuition costs. “The University manages its budget in the most diligent manner,” says Patrick Charette, director of institutional communications. “Tuition fee increases, if any, are regulated by the province and despite increases in the last years, the University always ensured to mitigate impacts on students by offering one of the most  generous financial aid programs in Ontario, with more than $100M in financial support available to our students.”

The university has also said that despite last year’s increase, its revenues from Canadian tuition fees remain unchanged from previous years, at 36 per cent of the operating fund.  

The SSUO calls the university’s proposal to increase the salary of five executive positions by over $150,000 “insulting to staff who have been suffering under increased workload and stress due to a hiring freeze.”

The U of O’s plan argues that the wage freeze, put in place in 2012, has made pay levels uncompetitive for senior staff. According to the plan, “the pool of top university executive talent is not large… We have had difficulty hiring senior executives and recently lost one to another organization.”

The SSUO argues that requirements for their positions are very specialized, such as a required high-level of bilingualism, but that their compensation program does not take that into consideration.

“Do we not merit an increase in salary as well for this requirement?” they ask in their written statement.