Veronica Kitchen’s March 2020 Senate Report

Veronica Kitchen is an Associate Professor of Political Science and an elected Arts Senator who produces a great summary after each University Senate meeting and has agreed to share them here. The reports understandably focus on items relevant to Arts faculty and are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all the agenda items, nor should they be viewed as a substitute for the official minutes on the University Secretariat’s website.

University of Waterloo Senate Meeting, 30 March 2020

Well, colleagues, this was different. The February Senate meeting was cancelled (not enough material). We had an extra-ordinary (but in hindsight rather ordinary) confidential Senate meeting on March 9, and then—well. You know. 

Kudos to Karen Jack, Emily Schroeder, the President & VP Academic, the IT folks in the background and everyone else who managed to pull off a 90-ish person Senate meeting on Microsoft Teams having never done it before. Now that was extra-ordinary. 

Items of interest (to Arts) on the consent agenda

Much of the Senate’s business was moved to the consent agenda in order to make it easier to vote on everything at once. There was an opportunity for Senators to ask to move any individual item onto the regular agenda, but this was not necessary.

  • The Clinical Research Ethics and Human Research Ethics Committees have been renamed Boards, in alignment with common practice at other universities.
  • The MASc in Applied Psychology is to be renamed the MASc in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
  • Final Assessments for English Language and Literature and Italian Studies were approved.
  • For reference, the consent agenda includes the two motions passed earlier this month: to change the academic year dates for the Spring 2020 term, and to allow students to convert a received numerical mark for the Winter 2020 term to CR/NCR easily.
  • A call for nominations for honorary degrees.
  • An interesting report from Johanna Wandel re: the December meeting of the Council of Ontario Universities’ Academic Colleagues meetings.

As always, you can find all of these in further description in the minutes.

President’s Report

As you can imagine, the President’s report was about the university’s response to COVID-19. I captured as much as I could of the discussion and here are (some of) the important bits. There is fuller information on most of this on the University website:

The President and senior response team are in 2x a day phone meetings. Key strategic issues are:

  1.  Continuity for Canadian students (ie incoming first year class, graduates)
  2. Loss of international students and recruitment
  3. Impacts on research
  4. Securing research from cyber threats (phishing)
Continue reading “Veronica Kitchen’s March 2020 Senate Report”

COVID Coping Strategies: Triaging Spring Term

As our members adjust to working remotely, we’ll be featuring strategies that departments and faculty members are using to manage the transition. If you have something to share or want to suggest a person or department to feature, send a brief pitch to laura.mcdonald@uwaterloo.ca.

This is a guest post from Johanna Wandel, FAUW Board member and Associate Professor in Geography and Environmental Management.


The past couple of weeks have challenged us in ways most of us never anticipated. We’re dealing with moving teaching online, fielding questions from students when we don’t have the answers yet, or both—on top of the other stressors and disruptions brought about by the pandemic. Academic units are making tough decisions on very short timelines, with limited information. I’m an associate chair (undergraduate) in a medium-sized unit, and want to share how we’re making some of our decisions.

Course scheduling as of two weeks ago

Undergraduate course offerings are firmed up almost six months before the start of a given term. Once students pre-enroll, the registrar’s office projects demand for courses based on previous years’ data and units decide if they need to add or remove lab sections, increase or decrease course caps, and so on. Once scheduling runs (around the middle of the previous term) rooms and times are added, at which point it becomes much more difficult to change class sizes or eliminate/add a lab section. So that’s where we all were for Spring 2020 as of early March.

Enter COVID-19

In a very short time, we’ve all been asked not only for a plan for finishing our current courses remotely, but to move the entire Spring term online. This week, all the admin teams are asked to indicate, for every course on the Spring schedule: Will it go ahead? If yes, synchronously or asynchronously? Is there a change to the cap? It was clear to my unit that we’d have to triage: Which courses can effectively meet their learning outcomes in an alternate delivery format, and which can’t? The decisions we all have to make must balance the need for a meaningful learning experience for our students with what we can realistically do. Those of us in admin roles also need to consider students who need specific courses to graduate, prerequisite sequencing, and course caps—some courses can handle larger class sizes if we go online, but others cannot.

Continue reading “COVID Coping Strategies: Triaging Spring Term”

February at FAUW

Maybe it was the Valentine’s Day candy, or maybe it was the coming long weekend, but we got through the February 13 Board meeting in good time. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. We debriefed the recent Council of Representatives meeting. One topic at that meeting was the importance of Faculty Performance Evaluation Guidelines and departmental addenda. These documents are the place to look for information about what’s a “normal” workload in your department, how service is evaluated, or what counts as teaching. Right now is a good time to start working on updating those documents if they need it (new versions must be approved by October 15). Talk to your Council member for more information. Here are some suggestions for things to include:
    • An explicitly defined normal teaching load
    • The expected/normal supervision load
    • A statement acknowledging different types of teaching and teaching responsibilities
    • The ability to submit peer reviews of teaching and solicited comments or letters
    • That participation in CTE and other workshops counts toward teaching
    • The ability to use evidence not just from the classroom and qualitative evidence
    • Direction that student surveys should be considered with caution
  1. We noted some confusion among members about how benefits plan decisions are made. The Pension & Benefits Committee decides what’s covered in our health and dental plans, and that committee is made up of members from all the represented employee groups (FAUW, the Staff Association, and CUPE) and the Retirees Association, plus representatives from the University administration and Board of Governors. FAUW has three out of 13 votes on the committee.
  2. We heard updates from our rep on the Copyright Advisory Committee. If you have questions about copyright in your classes or your own work, read this interview with Lauren Byl, Copyright and Licensing Librarian, to find out how to get answers!
  3. We cleared up an issue about travel to Cuba. University Finance sent a memo last July stating that “international financial sanctions prevent the University from making or receiving payment for products or services related, either directly or indirectly” to certain countries including Cuba and Iran. We had serious concerns about how this might limit opportunities for research collaboration and questions about why the University was implementing American sanctions (Canada doesn’t have sanctions against Cuba). 
    We now have confirmation that the University can “reimburse an employee for travel expenses related to countries subject to sanctions, provided that the employee’s travel reimbursement is to a Canadian bank account and assuming that the travel to that particular country has not otherwise been prohibited under University of Waterloo Policy.” If you encounter any difficulties with claims for travel to countries subject to sanctions, let a FAUW Board or staff member so that we can follow up.”
  4. After hearing that definite term lecturers did not receive an email about nominations for University Senate, we reaffirmed, again, that, lecturers are regular faculty (and eligible to sit on Senate). “Regular faculty” almost exactly overlaps with “faculty represented by FAUW.” Here’s the short version: Regular faculty = lecturers and professors hired for at least one year, except research profs and adjuncts.
    • The slightly more complicated version, as defined in Policy 76 (Faculty Appointments) is that regular faculty means all lecturer and professorial rank faculty with appointments one year or longer, including clinical faculty (e.g. a clinical lecturer or clinical associate professor), but not including any faculty who have some other qualifier in their title to designate a non-regular appointment, such as “research,” “adjunct,” “visiting,” or “special.” (Sessional instructors are not regular faculty; they aren’t defined anywhere, but they all have special or adjunct appointments and are hired on contracts shorter than one year.) We’ll have more on this in a blog post from the Lecturers Committee soon.
  5. As we reported in the fall, the Media Resources office and preview room closed when the person staffing the office retired. The resources are now available through the IST Service Desk located in the Davis Centre Library. We brought concerns about this to the University, and have now heard that things are staying essentially the same. There is a new viewing room available at the DC library. To request new materials, email media.loans@uwaterloo.ca. The Associate Vice President, Academic has promised to keep an eye on this, and we will too. Let us know if the office closure creates problems for you.

Unplugging – How four professors successfully disconnect from work

A couple of months ago, FAUW hosted a panel on how faculty members can “unplug” when away from work. With reading week upon us, we thought we’d share some of the insights from that event.

These are not pie-in-the-sky ideas dreamed up by productivity bloggers or people who don’t sleep. These are real methods for protecting your time practiced by professors at UWaterloo who are approximately as busy as you are.

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Highlights from the January 30 FAUW Board meeting

Every two weeks or so, we give you a run-down of the major non-confidential topics discussed at our Board of Directors meetings. Here are the latest items:

  1. A new Board member. Patrick Lam (Electrical and Computer Engineering/Computer Science, Director-at-large elected in 2019) has stepped down and gone on sabbatical. Alfred Yu (also ECE) is stepping in until June 30. Nominations for this seat and the six Faculty-specific seats on the Board are open now and due in March.
  2. Climate Justice Working Group. The Board approved a proposal from members to form a FAUW Climate Justice Working Group. Its objectives include building climate justice awareness on campus, creating a community of practice for faculty, and sharing climate justice research with the regional community. You’ll hear more about this new group soon!
  3. Graduate Students Association unionization vote. The GSA Council (similar to our Council of Reps) has voted in favour of “the formation of a union of graduate TAs, RAs, and sessional instructors.” This is a green light for the GSA to explore the option of unionization. There is a detailed explanation on the GSA website. The Imprint has also published a statement from GSA VP David Billedeau.
  4. Our teaching workload project. We’ve collected some information about teaching workload norms and practices from our Council of Representatives. Unsurprisingly, we found wide variation across campus. This is back on the agenda at the Council of Reps meeting on February 5 as we work on narrowing our focus and filling in gaps in the data.
  5. Departmental addenda. Every Faculty has guidelines for performance reviews. Every department has (or is supposed to have) departmental addenda to those guidelines with department-specific criteria (teaching workload norms, for example). These are mandated by the Memorandum of Agreement and they’re important because they set out what the expectations are for your evaluation. We’ll be talking about what to include in these addenda—and why now is the time to update them—at the Council meeting on Wednesday.
  6. Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour. A subcommittee of the Faculty Relations and Staff Relations committees is reviewing the feedback from the Policy 33 consultations.

Indigenization Reading Circle Notebook: Two-Eyed Seeing

The FAUW Indigenization Reading Circle meets monthly to discuss readings relating to Indigenization and reconciliation in the university context.

“Two-Eyed Seeing” by Cheryl Bartlett, Murdena Marshall, and Albert Marshall* reports on a program developed at the University of Cape Breton to increase Indigenous enrollment in science. The article describes and reflects on a learning process that could be used to move post-secondary programs toward a recognition of the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing and those of “mainstream (Western) science.” One key challenge the authors identify is finding the humility to acknowledge the circumstantial relevance of different ways of knowing. Ensuring that the process respects distinct knowledge communities requires institutional participation by Indigenous elders to validate the path taken.

Participants in the reading circle were divided about the value of the “two-eyed seeing” framework. On the one hand, some regarded it as a conciliatory position that dodges more radical concerns about the violence of colonial ways of knowing. Some forms of academic knowledge are not benign ‘eyes to see by’ but reflect practices of dominance. Interpreting the framework closer to its intended STEM field of application, other participants could see two-eyed seeing as a promising generative framework. The co-learning journey described showed a process whereby new knowledge “tools” could be incorporated into a sovereign cultural setting.

Continue reading “Indigenization Reading Circle Notebook: Two-Eyed Seeing”

What’s on our agenda for 2020

Happy new year! Our big priority for this term is to keep moving forward on policy development and research professor representation. Here are some of the smaller (and not-so-small) things we talked about at the January 16 board meeting:

  1. OCUFA’s court challenge. OCUFA has voted to join ten unions representing more than 250,000 Ontario workers to launch a coordinated Charter challenge against the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act—formerly Bill 124—this is the legislation that forces our pay raises to be small for three years.
  2. The FAUW Appreciation Award. We’re starting to consider suggestions for this year’s recipient(s) of the FAUW Appreciation Award, which recognizes people from across the University who have gone above and beyond to improve the lives of faculty members.
  3. Professional licensing fees. We’re doing an environmental scan about how professional licenses are handled across campus. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of variation in terms of who needs to be licensed, how many people in a unit need to maintain their license, and who pays for it. For anyone who doesn’t know what we’re talking about, professional programs (e.g. planning, optometry, engineering) typically need a minimum number of faculty members to hold professional licenses in order to maintain the accreditation for their school/department/program.
  4. The switch from Scantron to Akindi. You have at least three options for digital grading solutions, including Akindi, UW’s new go-to “multiple-choice exam processing service.” One of our board members recommends Crowdmark as a way to reduce your workload. We’re exploring the possibility of hosting a lunch & learn on digital grading systems—let us know in the comments if you’d be interested. Learn more and register for Akindi training on the IST website.
Continue reading “What’s on our agenda for 2020”