Petition Against CECA's Proposed Fee Increase

Why is CECA increasing co-op fees?

On December 5, 2017, at the Co-operative Education Council meeting, CECA proposed to raise student co-op fees for Spring 2018 - Winter 2019 by 2.8% [8] (or $20), which is 33% above the Canadian national inflation. The new co-op fee would be at $729. Many students expect fee increases to be used towards improving student services. Student representatives asked CECA executives why they proposed increasing co-op fees.

CECA's response:

"The increase is just to cover the salary increases" [8]

Over 80% of student co-op fees would be used to pay for CECA's salaries [2]. The proposed fee increase would not be used to enhance student services; they would be used exclusively to increase salaries of CECA staff, some of whom already have salaries of over $160, 000 or whose salaries have risen by more than 30% within the past five years [5].

There was also minimal communication about the proposed fee increase with the student body, as neither the FEDs Student Council, Co-op Student Council, nor the 20,000 students who would be directly affected by the fee increase were informed of it.

Most importantly, CECA's proposal to increase co-op fees comes at a time when there is still an ongoing 'deep dive' investigating the necessity of fee raises and how they are distributed towards staff members. This ongoing deep dive investigation is conducted between FEDS and CECA and had been approved by CECA in an official letter — signed by two CECA executives — sent to the Science Society's Board of Directors in April 2017 [4]. It has also been implicitly endorsed by the Associate Provost (formerly the Executive Director) of CECA in verbal conversations with members of FEDS [3 & 12]. The need for the deep dive came about from greater calls for transparency regarding CECA's financial structure. At the same time the deep dive began, the SciSoc's Student Survey Regarding CECA - May 2017 found that 69% of the 240 respondents rated their overall experience with CECA to be "below satisfaction" or "poor" [7]. Because the purpose of the deep dive is to evaluate the necessity of fee raises, it is expected that fees do not increase until its findings are ready to be discussed.

To uphold its purpose, students urged CECA executives to postpone any fee changes until after its completion so that both students and CECA may have a better understanding of how co-op fees are used. However, CECA maintains its position to raise student co-op fees before the investigation is complete. We acknowledge that while the UWSA Memorandum of Agreement of Staff Compensation 2015 to 2018 recommends salary increases of 1.50% for 2017/18 [11], which is still beyond the proposed 2.8% co-op fee increase, UW staff is not unionized and the memorandum is a recommendation rather than a legally binding agreement between the administration and the staff. To increase student co-op fees while a deep dive investigating the very need for such a fee increase is still in progress undermines the integrity of the deep dive, violates the vital trust between students and the administration, and taints students' beliefs that the University of Waterloo is a proactive institution that strives to address student concerns. Any changes to student co-op fees must be considered only after the legitimate completion of the deep dive.

The University's Board of Governors will convene on February 6 to vote on the proposed fee increase. Their decision will be final. As students who would be paying the fee increase, we believe that CECA's process for rushing through with their proposed fee increase was disingenuous and at the expense of students. Because of the disingenuous process and the number of students who would be affected , we believe this is an issue important enough to take a stance and voice our opposition. Only then would the Board of Governors realize how many students are against the proposed fee increase.

As your fellow students, we need your help to support this petition against CECA's proposed co-op fee increase.

With your support, we will collectively voice our dissatisfaction to the Board of Governors and stop the fee increase. With your support, we can create change.

We've done it before to make WPIRG fees opt-in and to lower fee increases for international students.

We've done it before, and we can do it again.

May we ask you to take a stance with your fellow students and oppose CECA's proposed co-op fee increase?


Background Information

Including the proposed fee increase, student co-op fees would have already risen over $100 per student since Winter 2014 [10]. We have included a list of background information to add context to the proposed fee increase. A more complete listing of information related to CECA is available in the section labeled "Facts Numbers, and Stats".

  • Over 80% of co-op fees are used to pay for CECA staffs' salaries and benefits [2]
  • In 2017, CECA made $39,000,000 directly from student co-op fees [1]
  • 20,000 students would be affected by the fee increase [1]. Few were informed by CECA
  • Out of approximately 240 students, 69% rated their "overall experience with CECA" 1/5 ("below satisfaction") or 2/5 ("poor") on a five-point scale, and 73% of respondents rated that they felt "student issues with co-op are addressed by CECA" to be 2/5 or 1/5 [8]
  • Some executives at CECA, such as the Director of Student & Faculty Relations, have salaries of over $160,000 or have had salary raises of more than 30% within the past five years [5]
  • Student testimonies show there is little accountability on co-op advisors who accost students with unprofessional behaviours, trivialize student complaints, and even blame students for faults that are not their own [6]

Undermines the deep dive investigation

Side Tip! Did you know that CECA's revenue for 2017 was $39 million [1]. It came almost entirely from student co-op fees. Many companies with revenues of $39M are listed on public stock exchanges.

CECA claims that there are more students enrolling in the co-op program this year than in past years. This leads to the following two questions, as asked by the Associate Dean of Science, Stefan Idziak: "You have more co-op students paying the fee now, why the need for such high increases?" and "Where do most of the [existing] resources go?" [8]

In answering the Associate Dean of Science's questions, the conversation that followed suite was a little confusing to follow, but according to the Co-op Education Council meeting minutes [8], a CECA executive eventually admitted: "We don’t know yet because the deep dive [an analysis conducted to understand fee structures] hasn’t been completed." This shows that CECA itself doesn't know where most of its existing financial resources go, nor is it able to answer for why student co-op fees must increase.

In that same meeting, the Engineering Society's VP Academic asked: "Would it be possible to postpone the co-op fee increase until the deep dive is completed? Right now students don’t have sufficient data to advocate on behalf of ourselves when CECA increases the fee." After all, why increase student fees if CECA is not familiar with how its own financial resources are currently used. It is reasonable to wait until we know how the current co-op fees are used before proposing to increase them.

What was CECA's top executive's response to this request? As recorded in the meeting minutes, "No", "She doesn't think it's a responsible to do", and "The proposal will cover the staff salary increases." CECA is seeking to raise student co-op fees before a deep dive investigating its own finance structures is completed.

To summarize, CECA is already collecting additional money from more student enrollment. It does not yet know how this additional money is being used. Despite that, CECA proposes to increase student co-op fees. Students then request that CECA first find out how its additional money is being used before increasing their fees, by allowing the deep dive investigation into CECA's finance structure to be completed first. CECA believes it is an irresponsible request and rejects it. As students studying at one of Canada's most prestigious universities, we believe that CECA's proposal to increase student co-op fees without first trying to understand how its existing fees are being used is inappropriate and simply does not meet the minimal standards of accountability.

The 2017 FEDS Council report showed that the Associate Provost of CECA (formerly Executive Director of CECA) had already "agreed that CECA needs to do a deep dive into the co-op fee" and had discussed "about improving transparency about the co-op fee" [3]. Furthermore, in an official letter sent to the Science Society's Board of Directors, CECA executives signed that "a CECA deep dive into the Student co-op fee [is] to be carried out in partnership between CECA ... and FEDs [sic]. An identified need for transparency on the student co-op fee had already picked up momentum" [4].

We call on CECA, in order to uphold the integrity of the deep dive and to assist it in becoming more transparent, that any changes related to co-op fees should be put on hiatus until after the completion of the deep dive. It is important to first understand how existing co-op fees are used before increasing them. Only with proper information could the need for a co-op fee increase be accurately assessed, and for students to have data to advocate for themselves.


Students were barely informed

CECA's proposed fee increase affects over 20,000 students across all six faculties [1]. It's strange that prior to this petition, the overwhelming majority of students were not even aware of the fee increase. Since the fee is coming directly out of students' pockets and is not used to improve co-op services  —  only to further increase CECA staff's own salaries, with some executives already earning over $160,000 [5] — we find it unacceptable to have been neither consulted nor informed.

NO

Was FEDS Council, our representative student government, informed of CECA's proposed fee increase?

NO

Was the Co-op Student Council, a delegation of students involved in co-op related initiatives, informed of the proposed fee increase?

NO

Was the general student body, who would be the ones direcly paying the fees, informed about it or given the oppurtunity to voice their opinion?

Ironically, six months prior to the proposed fee increase, CECA sent an official letter to SciSoc's Board of Directors, signed by two CECA executives  — the Director of Student & Faculty Relations and the Co-op Student Experience Manager  — that wrote "the relationship between FEDs and CECA ... will continue to be a priority for CECA, we are now looking forward to developing a stronger understanding and line of communication with the six faculty student societies directly" [4]. It is unfortunate that despite their written statement of increasing communication with students, CECA appeared to not be interested in communicating the fee raises.

Since CECA's salaries are paid almost entirely by students, to increase student co-op fees purely to further fund salaries without  informing students or allowing students to voice their opinions is irresponsible. In the words of one Waterloo student:

CECA’s salaries come directly out of my pockets. If they want higher salaries, they should have at least told me about it instead of secretly hiking my fees. If anything, I am signing the petition to take a moral stance against the way CECA treats students
— Anonymous Waterloo student relying on OSAP funding and in student debt

Immense student dissatisfaction

The Science Society's Student Survey Regarding CECA - May 2017, which surveyed 240 students, showed that that majority of students believe their concerns are not addressed by CECA, that co-op advisors are not helpful, and that students have negative experiences dealing with CECA [7]. It is imperative to clarify that students are not against the idea of co-operative education (many students come to Waterloo because of co-op); students are dissatisfied about the organization that administers co-op and its behaviour towards students.

The wide-ranging student testimonies [6a & 6b] have revealed that there is a lack of accountability for co-op advisors who act unprofessionally towards students. This includes trivializing student complaints, dismissing students' legitimate concerns against their employers, and even needlessly blaming students for faults that are not their own.

More serious cases of malaise includes CECA representatives accusing students of being greedy (eg, "you are money-driven, don't care about the job" [6g]) when they inquire about wanting fairer compensation, and threatening students into signing offer letters in which the stated compensations are unacceptably less than what had been verbally disclosed during their interviews. Students have been punished for professionally informing interviewers that they are no longer interested in the advertised positions. Occasionally, CECA co-op advisors have also refused to sign off on jobs whose advertised descriptions did not resemble at all to the interviewers' verbal descriptions. 

Each testimony, when taken in isolation, may not reveal the toxic culture at CECA. But when the dozens of testimonies are considered collectively, especially within the backdrop that 69% of students hold negative outlooks about CECA [8], they show that there is a systemic lack of accountability on co-op advisors. There are seemingly no repercussions against CECA advisors who mistreat students with conduct that could easily fall under Policy 33: Ethical Behaviour if the advisors themselves were students. This double standard is unacceptable.

What words do students use to describe CECA? Here are some soft examples that exclude profanities: "[the] basic assumption that CECA cares about their students is completely incorrect" [6c], "the university won't do anything. CECA doesn't exist to help students find jobs, it exists to help employers find students" [6d], "CECA is not your friend" [6e], and "their first reaction is always to blame students" [6f].

There is one particularly powerful testimony that the writers of this website found it valuable to share. It highlights CECA's insensitivity towards students' well-being, placing employer interests above student interests, exposes the layers of ineffective bureaucracy at CECA, and in this case, the utter lack of concern and accountability of co-op representatives that many students have come to known:

I called counselling services and had a breakdown. Based on my mental health record, previous depression, and suicide attempts, I was strongly urged to do what was best for my health. I called CECA and informed them of all of this (including a letter from my counsellor) stating that this job was unsuitable for my health, not what I signed up for, and not going to work. I was now bound by a lease in a city 6 hours away from my family, with no income as a direct result of a job being misrepresented on JobMine.

I got the typical responses - “you’re not giving it a chance”, “students have liked this job in the past”, etc, etc. I told them I wanted to reach out to my previous co-op employers (I left on good terms and feel they would be able to help me somehow) but that was shot down. The work term support lady was very helpful but other than that most the people were like talking to robots who could only repeat policies. I told them that this was my mental health at risk, as the anxiety was crippling and causing me to be very at risk of self harm.

...

I’d just like to emphasize how frustrated I am with the University. This is not me being unwilling to compromise. This job was straight up not as advertised and causing major mental health concerns to me. The university has documented my prescription, my appointments, and previous suicide attempt on record. Mental health is no joke. I am not proud to be getting my degree from a school that would rather prioritize employer relations of one job rather than the health and wellbeing of one of their students. I am more than just a student number, I am a person with a life and a family and so many things. For them to trap me financially and basically give me the ultimatum of health versus finances is awful. I am now stuck and have absolutely no options. I feel so depressed and anxious. My only option is to risk my mental well being and “suck it up” for this job which I really do not think will work.
— /u/stressedasfudge
Continue reading here

We condemn the representatives of CECA who handled this case and who have plead ignorance to the student's plight. A student with documented suicide attempts and fighting against depression should never have to fight against and be trivialized by university staff. To date, we remain unaware of any measures taken to prevent CECA co-op advisors from trivializing these types of concerns.

At any normal company, should HR receive testimonies like the ones students have shared about CECA, there would be a swift round of investigations followed by either disciplinary actions or terminations. These public testimonies are just the tip of the iceberg; like mental health and sexual harassment, behind each public testimony rests dozens of private ones that are shared verbally or not at all.

Given CECA's known attitude towards students, is it fair that they receive a salary increase at the expense of the very students who have been marginalized by them? Many students have been slighted, some belittled, and a few hurt by the actions (or inaction) and words of CECA representatives, who continue to be held unaccountable for their behaviours. Later in the year, these same representatives receive bonuses and benefits, which are paid by students. In receiving a constant stream of paychecks, bonuses, and benefits regardless of their actual performance, CECA representatives have little incentive to reform themselves, and so the cycle repeats.

When faced with CECA's mistreatment, many students felt they did not have the power to fight back or to stand up against CECA. But this petition is a way to voice your dissatisfaction. It is a means for us to stand up en masse against the way CECA treats students. Individually, we may just be a single drop of water in a limitless ocean, but collectively, what is the ocean but a multitude of drops? For whatever reason — moral, practical, personal, on behalf of a friend or even anonymous strangers — we urge you to take a stance and sign the petition.


Facts, Numbers, and Stats

  • Based on student co-op fees and the number of co-op students enrolled in 2017, CECA's revenue was over $39, 000, 000 [1]
  • Over 80% of student co-op fees pay directly for CECA staffs' salaries [2]
  • The salaries of CECA representatives who disclosed their salaries, as mandated by the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act (1996), have been increasing linearly year over year at a much faster rate than both fees and inflation, with some salaries increasing from ~$105,000 => $140,000 over five years (30% increase) and ~$102,000 => ~$167,000 over 10 years (61% increase) [5].
  • From the Ontario Sunshine list, the salaries of several CECA executives in 2016 follows [5]:
  • Co-op fees are not covered by OSAP. Placing the fees in context, a typical Engineering student who has mandatory enrollment in the co-op program must pay the fee every academic term (even if their subsequent term is not a co-op term), for 8 payments of $729 totaling $5836. This represents almost $6000 of non-tax-deductible costs that cannot be covered by OSAP.
  • The first failed attempt to build WaterlooWorks costed "approximately $3million over three years." Said "first attempt was funded through co-op fees". The final launch of WaterlooWorks costed $2,792,000. [9] Overall, WaterlooWorks costed close to $6 million and took over 5 years of development. When finally launched, the usability of WaterlooWorks was so frustrating that students have resorted to building their own Google Chrome plugins to make it more functional, not something one would expect from a $6 million project that took 5+ years to build.
  • The SciSoc's Student Survey Regarding CECA — May 2017, which surveyed 240 students across all six faculties, asked students to rate their levels of satisfaction with CECA-related services on a five-point scale, with 5/5 representing the best score and 1/5 the lowest [7].
    • 69% of respondents rated their "overall experience with CECA" as either 2/5 ("below satisfaction") or 1/5 ("poor)
    • 61% of respondents rated the "helpfulness of...CECA co-op advisors" as either 2/5 or 1/5
    • Almost 1/3 of respondents rated the "professionalism of...co-op advisors" to be either 2/5 or 1/5
    • 73% of respondents rated that they felt "student issues with co-op are addressed by CECA" to deserve 2/5 or 1/5
    • 71% of respondents rated their experience with "JobMine or WaterlooWorks" to be 2/5 or 1/5. Ironically, this counters the reputation of the University of Waterloo as an internationally renowned institution for technological innovation.
    • Any customer-service oriented business with this much dissatisfaction would swiftly see its top executives and middle-managers replaced. A suggestion is for the next student survey is to use similar performance evaluation criteria as the ones that CECA has employers use on students. It may lead to interesting results
  • Co-op fees have risen nearly $100 since W2014 ($616). Although not nearly as much as the steady up-shoot of co-op executives' salaries, co-op fees since W2014 have also been rising year over year. "Is there a cap or limit to the Co-op fee? It will have increased almost $100 (with the new proposed co-op fee) since I’ve enrolled here?" asked EngSoc's VP Academic. CECA's response was almost suitable for a thriller movie: "There’s no cap to the co-op fee" [8]
The salary of the Director of Student & Faculty Relations was over $160,000 in 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile, 73% of students feel student issues are not satisfactorily addressed by CECA [7].

The salary of the Director of Student & Faculty Relations was over $160,000 in 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile, 73% of students feel student issues are not satisfactorily addressed by CECA [7].

Student testimonies show that students believe CECA vastly favours employer interests over student interests [6]. Interestingly, the compensation for Director of Student & Faculty Relations is almost the same as that of the Director of Employment Relations.

Student testimonies show that students believe CECA vastly favours employer interests over student interests [6]. Interestingly, the compensation for Director of Student & Faculty Relations is almost the same as that of the Director of Employment Relations.

The red trendline is based on a moving average calculated with the fee of the current and previous term. There has been a steady increase in co-op fees since W14 ($616). The proposed increase for S18-W19 would place the co-op fee at $729.

The red trendline is based on a moving average calculated with the fee of the current and previous term. There has been a steady increase in co-op fees since W14 ($616). The proposed increase for S18-W19 would place the co-op fee at $729.

The salary of the Director of Operations has increased over 30% from 2011-2016.

The salary of the Director of Operations has increased over 30% from 2011-2016.

The Associate Provost of CECA (formerly Executive Director of CECA) had previously agreed "that CECA needs to do a deep dive into the co-op fee" [3] but denied our request to postpone the fee increase until after the ongoing deep dive is completed [8].

The Associate Provost of CECA (formerly Executive Director of CECA) had previously agreed "that CECA needs to do a deep dive into the co-op fee" [3] but denied our request to postpone the fee increase until after the ongoing deep dive is completed [8].


Sources

[1] CECA Annual Report 2017. CECA's annual revenue was calculated by summing the total co-op fees students paid (fee x students enrolled) during the Winter, Spring, and Fall terms. https://uwaterloo.ca/co-operative-education-annual-report/

[2] Co-op Fee Proposal for Fiscal Year 2018-2019. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1F91hEEquviYK86qbf2JPi6i_W_dAG5Sl/view

[3] FEDS Council Meeting Minutes - Jan. 2017, including CECA's agreement to a deep dive and to increasing transparency. https://feds.ca/sites/ca.feds/files/uploads/files/agenda-council-15jan2017.pdf

[4] Official Response of CECA to SciSoc's Survey - May 2017, including initialization of a deep dive. https://uwaterloo.ca/materials-nanosciences-society/sites/ca.materials-nanosciences-society/files/uploads/files/ceca_formal_response_letter_to_scisoc.pdf

[5] Ontario Sunshine List, which reported the annual salaries of top CECA executives, including the Associate Provost, Cooperative Education & Career Action; Director of Student & Faculty Relations; Director of Operations; and Director of Employment Relations. http://www.ontariosunshinelist.com/

[6a] Search for Testimonies. https://www.reddit.com/r/uwaterloo/search?q=ceca&restrict_sr=on.

[6b] Highlighted testimonials. https://www.reddit.com/r/uwaterloo/comments/7h0y64/ceca_issues/dqnb5mk/

[6c] Quotation extracted from "How can CECA wear mental health awareness shirts when they constantly [redacted] over students and cause mental health problems". https://www.reddit.com/r/uwaterloo/comments/59j4ou/serious_how_can_ceca_wear_mental_health_awareness/d98txku/

[6d] Quotation extracted from "Considering writing an open letter to the President of UW to voice our displeasure with CECA and ask for a CECA reform". https://www.reddit.com/r/uwaterloo/comments/5a1wqs/serious_considering_writing_an_open_letter_to_the/d9d18z6/

[6e] Quotation extracted from "Are You Satisfied with CECA?". https://www.reddit.com/r/uwaterloo/comments/622o54/are_you_satisfied_with_ceca/

[6f] Quotation extracted from "CECA Bureaucracy and Red Tape is a Pile of [redacted]". https://www.reddit.com/r/uwaterloo/comments/5a1cgj/ceca_bureaucracy_and_red_tape_is_a_pile_of_shit/

[6g] Quotation extracted from "CECA being unprofessional". https://www.reddit.com/r/uwaterloo/comments/7g827l/ceca_being_unprofessional/

[7] SciSoc's Student Survey Regarding CECA - May 2017. https://uwaterloo.ca/materials-nanosciences-society/sites/ca.materials-nanosciences-society/files/uploads/files/finalizedreport_scisocsurvey.pdf

[8] VPA Meeting Notes: Cooperative Education Council #4. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1h_WV1e4Rz6vljGpnsojwg-Rrs8Uigi6-/view

[9] WaterlooWorks Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Request. https://imgur.com/a/KAH0p

[10] Historical Co-op Fees.https://drive.google.com/open?id=135nLqEGrbX_KX_7IESfFm7EbzYelRgJ-rXFSVPr_pSY

[11] UWSA Memorandum of Agreement Staff Compensation 2015 to 2018. https://uwaterloo.ca/secretariat/sites/ca.secretariat/files/uploads/files/staff_salary_recommendation_2015-2018_-_vpap_approved_0.pdf

[12] In insider's view of the Feds 2017 election, in which a former FEDS Board of Director said, regarding the deep dive, " The idea has been suggested to us, even, by the executive director of the CECA". http://uwimprint.ca/article/an-insiders-view-on-the-feds-2017-election/


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