On March 27, 2015, it was revealed that Amit Chakma, President of the University of Western Ontario, was paid the third highest salary of all public sector employees in Ontario in 2014, earning $924,000 and an additional $43,255 in taxable benefits. President Chakma’s take-home pay ballooned when he was paid twice his annual salary in lieu of taking the year-long administrative leave that was a part of his employment contract and approved by the Board of Governors in 2009.
The PSAC Local 610 is outraged that the University’s Board of Governors, led by the Chair of the Board, Chirag Shah, approved such an EXTRAORDINARY salary for President Chakma. University professors who decide to forego their research leaves are not compensated at twice their normal salary for working through their sabbaticals. Moreover, graduate students who are forced to relinquish their highly coveted Teaching Assistantships in order to conduct field work are not paid their TA salary while in the field, nor are they permitted to carry over their TAship beyond their normal funding period to make up for the work they missed while away. To us, this is EXTRAORDINARLY UNFAIR and utterly HYPOCRITICAL.
Through its approval of President Chakma’s astronomical salary for 2014, Western’s Board of Governors is sending three clear messages to the university’s Graduate Teaching Assistants and the Western community at large:
First…The Board of Governors is willing to apply the Ontario government’s austerity policies on an ad hoc basis. The Board forces members of PSAC Local 610 and other on-campus employees (such as adjunct professors) and unions (such as UWOFA) – the very university employees that provide the teaching and research that the university is dependent upon in its quest to become EXTRAORDINARY – to struggle for even modest wage increases, yet it is simultaneously willing to pay President Chakma twice his salary for one year of work. Since most live well-below the poverty line, this issue is particularly important for graduate Teaching Assistants. This predicament signals that the Board is inequitably interested in improving the compensation and working conditions of the university’s top administrators, but not the compensation and working conditions of the majority of the university’s teaching and research focused educational workforce.
Second…The Board of Governors has failed to explain why the need “to ensure continuity at [an undefined] critical time” necessitated paying President Chakma twice his salary in a single year. The crisis currently facing Western University is, in reality,
the Ontario government’s reduction of spending on postsecondary education, the drastic increase in university class sizes, the decrease in undergraduate and graduate course offerings, and the significant reduction in tenure track professorships in tandem with a frightening increase in unstable, poorly paid, precarious part-time teaching positions. In what way(s) has President Chakma and the university’s Board of Governors addressed these very crucial issues that bear a direct impact on the quality of education offered by and research possibilities at Western University? And, why are members of the Board of Governors not adamantly protesting against the government’s postsecondary education austerity agenda, demanding better funding for universities, and taking an active role in ensuring it not only offers EXTRAORDINARY wages to the University’s President, but also an EXTRAORDINARY education to the university’s undergraduate and graduate student bodies and EXTRAORDINARY working conditions for graduate Teaching Assistants who provide a bulk of the university’s teaching to undergraduate students?
Third…The Board of Governors cannot be trusted to make prudent and reasonable financial decisions that uphold the integrity and quality of education at the University of Western Ontario and that serve the interests of the university community beyond those of the university’s President. The fact that a diverse segment of the Western community is signing a petition of non-confidence in both President Chakma and the Board of Governors is a significant testament to this sentiment (for more information on the petition, see https://www.change.org/p/western-university-community-and-concerned-citizens-petition-of-non-confidence-in-western-university-s-president-and-chair-of-the-board-of-governors?recruiter=21580075&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive).
The Executive Committee unequivocally calls on members of PSAC Local 610 to write to both President Chakma and the Board of Governors to express your dismay with the disjuncture between Chakma’s exorbitant salary and the priorities of our publicly funded postsecondary institution which claims that it is facing dire financial struggles. We urge you to demand that they redirect their emphasis on increasing administrative salaries towards increasing the university’s funding for teaching and research – the key attributes that will help to make Western truly EXTRAORDINARY.
Our colleagues on the SOGS Executive have developed an excellent letter template that you can use to write to President Chakma and the Chair of the Board of Governors to express your concerns. You can send a letter to President Chakma via email at and to Chirag Shah at the office of the University Secretariat, located in Stevenson Hall, room 4101. You can also comment online on Twitter at @psac610 using the hashtags #UWOpriorities and #Chakmagate.
The PSAC Local 610 Executive Committee