Media Release: Brescia professor wins OCUFA’s Award of Distinction for improving working conditions for academic women

Original release here.

Helene Cummins, an associate professor at Brescia University College, has won the 2016 Status of Women Award of Distinction, presented by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).

The award, sponsored by OCUFA’s Status of Women Committee, recognizes women who have improved the lives and working conditions of academic women and, by extension, their colleagues, families, and communities.

“Helene has been a beacon of leadership for academic women at Brescia University College and across Ontario,” said Melissa Jean, President of the Brescia Faculty Association. “She has been a consistent, strong, and supportive voice, with a deep understanding of the historic and current issues faced by working women in the province.”

Professor Cummins has been a vocal and inspiring voice in her community. When Brescia’s internal governing council considered eliminating the institution’s Equity Committee in 2015-16, she rallied faculty and staff to convince the council of the committee’s critical importance. As Chair of OCUFA’s Status of Women Committee, Professor Cummins travelled across Ontario to hear from women about their experiences working in the academic profession. Drawing on this experience, she worked tirelessly to educate faculty associations and universities about the persistent inequities that women in the academy continue to face and to identify solutions to address these challenges.

“OCUFA is committed to advancing and protecting the personal, professional and academic interests of women in the academy,” said Judy Bates, President of OCUFA. “That is why we are so thankful for Helene Cummins’ leadership, and so proud to present her with this honor for her exceptional commitment and contributions to the struggle for equity.”

Professor Cummins will receive her award at a ceremony hosted by OCUFA in Toronto on February 11, 2017.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 28 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at

For more information, contact:

Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-979-2117 x232 or


Mark Rosenfeld, Executive Director at 416-979-2117 x229 or

Thank You for Your Support

On behalf of the Brescia Faculty Association, thank you to all of those individuals who participated in our letter campaign or sent personalized letters to support our efforts to close the gender wage gap at Brescia University College – Canada’s only women’s university. We are happy to report that in our recent negotiations we were able to secure an agreement that will bring Brescia faculty workloads and salaries in line with those of our peer institutions.

We achieved this historic gain because of the support and encouragement you demonstrated by sending a letter to the Principal and Board Chair. We could not have made these improvements in working conditions for our majority female faculty complement or taken these great strides towards closing the gender wage gap in Ontario without your support.

The Brescia Faculty Association membership ratified the agreement on October 4, 2016 and the Brescia Board of Trustees approved the agreement on October 12, 2016.

Your support made all the difference.

Visit Brescia faculty take strides towards closing the gender wage gap for more information about the agreement.

Tentative Agreement Reached

The Brescia Faculty Association reached a tentative agreement with the Employer on September 28, 2016 after a day and a half of Conciliation.  The BFA began negotiating to renew our first collective agreement in late April and held a strike mandate vote with members voting 94% in favour on September 7.  Wage and work parity with smaller school comparators was an important priority in this round of bargaining.  The entire association is very grateful for the support it received during the letter campaign.

The BFA will hold a ratification meeting on October 4 and the agreement will be presented to the Board of Trustees for their approval on October 12.

Support from Brescia University College Student Council

Today, the Brescia University College Student Council sent a strong letter of support to Brescia’s Principal and Board Chair demanding the Administration “negotiate a fair collective agreement that avoids a strike”. According to the letter, “Students support the BFA Membership being treated with fairness, equity and respect,” and insist that “administration must move to an equal pay for equal work model with Brescia faculty receiving comparable pay to Brescia’s peer institutions, Huron and King’s in particular”. The letter asks Administration, “If the value of our faculty can be set so low, what does this mean about the value of our education?”.

Click here to read the full letter.

Closing the Gender Wage Gap Event


Professors, students, and members of the Brescia University College community will gather on September 22, 2016 from 3:15 to 4:15 in room 303, St. James Building, to explore what Brescia can do to help close the gender wage gap in Ontario. The event will feature exciting speakers and opportunities for questions and discussion.

BFA Update

CAUT Defense Fund Update

On a call yesterday, CAUT Defense Fund Trustees approved a package of benefits and other support for the BFA in the case of a strike. The package includes financial benefits such as daily benefit payments, group insured benefit payments, and a strike support loan as well as support from other Trustees on the picket line. The Negotiating Team will continue to work with the Defense Fund to communicate its needs.

The Negotiating Team and Executive Committee believe that a deal is still possible and will do everything in its power to avert job action. The Negotiating Team will meet with the Employer and provincially appointed conciliator on September 26 and 28, if not sooner.

Save the Date: September 22

On September 22, Linda Davis, member of the provincial Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee, will visit Brescia sometime between 3:00 and 4:30 to discuss the report recommendations. We anticipate media presence at this event, and it is important that we have many members as possible attend. Please save the date and plan to join us.

Find the report here. More details to follow.

Faculty at Brescia hold successful strike vote

In a vote held today, members of the Brescia Faculty Association (BFA) authorized its Executive Committee to initiate a strike action if a fair and reasonable settlement is not reached during the collective bargaining process. Members voted 94 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.

“Today’s vote sends a strong message that Brescia faculty are united in their call for a fair and equitable collective agreement,” said Melissa Jean, president of the BFA. “With our members behind us, we’re looking forward to getting back to the bargaining table to address the important issues still on the table.”

A strike mandate vote is not a vote to go on strike. Rather, it sends a message to the employer that BFA members support the negotiating team and the mandate it has developed through member consultation and feedback over the past year. The vote allows the Executive Committee to call for a strike at some point in the future if that action is necessary to secure a fair deal. As always, the BFA is committed to securing an equitable agreement at the bargaining table.

The collective agreement between the BFA and Brescia University College expired on June 30, 2016. Outstanding issues include equal pay for equal work, reasonable workloads, tuition benefits for dependents, course release for BFA Executive Members, and a faculty complement large enough to ensure a quality education for students.

According to the latest Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents data, the average salary of BFA members is the second lowest in the province, ranking 21st out of 22 institutions. This figure is particularly troubling given that Brescia is Canada’s only women’s university and the BFA faculty complement is 72% women, the highest proportion of women academics of any university in Canada. The BFA is seeking equal pay for equal work to faculty at its peer institutions.

All signs point to Brescia’s strong financial health. Over the past five years, Brescia’s former Principal received two payouts in lieu of leave in excess of $350,000 and the institution has awarded double-digit raises to senior administrators.

“Brescia’s mission is to educate women,” said Jean. “So it must set a better example for its students and for society at large by paying its professors a fair and equal salary.”

The Brescia Faculty Association (BFA) is a certified union representing all 36 of Brescia’s full-time professors. Founded in 1999, its mandate is to promote the professional well-being and academic freedom of our members.